Sex with discounts

Roberta (not her real name) is the youngest of three Brazilian sisters working in an immense brothel in northern Catalonia, near the French border. She had moved to Spain recently to earn money in prostitution, hoping to have some ten clients per day. “But mostly there are only two or three. That’s quite not enough”, she complains in her glittery outfit. A couple of men in dress shirt tried unsuccessfully to bargain for the services of her colleague Julia, a Romanian sex worker. In Spain, men buy sex more than in any other EU country. The economic crisis has hit hard the huge sex industry and may lead to worse conditions for sex workers, organizations warn. The sector is valued at 18 billions of euros with 300 000 sex workers. There is more competition as more Spanish women, unemployed and with difficulties in finding any other work, are heading to the sector. The public image of the brothels has been damaged by investigations relating brothels to illegal immigration and human trafficking. “Every woman here is free to come and go and to work whenever they want to. We don’t touch their income”, says Nico, a former farmer turned into brothel manager, hosting 160-180 women every day.
Published in Helsingin Sanomat in 2011.

photo by stefano buonamici