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A day in the life of a prostitute

Imagine waking up one day needing some extra cash and having no way of getting it. There’s no food in the fridge, you have bills to pay, you have a job, but it doesn’t pay nearly enough for your costs and each breathe you take is accompanied with the worry and the realization that you might not make it through another day. Getting an extra job is just a bandage on a situation that is getting worse, considering that because of your lack of education or networking skills you’ll most likely be stuck flipping burgers or asking some shopper at the super market if they are paying cash or credit. Or imagine for a minute you’ve been told from the time you were young that the only way for you to get out of the barrio is finding some guy with big pockets to pay your way. Having the idea entrenched in your psyche that your brains aren’t good enough to make it through, but rather low cut shorts and revealing outfits are an easier an more lucrative ticket out of a situation. For some these scenarios aren’t far from reality. They are situations lived by those unfortunate people on the other side of town, on the other side of the city or on the other side of the border. Prostitution seemingly affects most people from afar. Only when husbands get caught with their pants down by their ankles or their neighborhood politician gets caught in a police sting do we confirm that this "vice" exists in our society, but even then we don’t recognized or visualize the extent and severity of what happens when men and women lay down on random beds, in random places for paid sexual encounters.

Rarely do we consider what a prostitute feels as she is being solicited by men, and or women, or what they feel as the encounters begins. Even more truthful is the fact that we don’t consider what a prostitutes feels when he or she is in the middle of a sexual act and how they feel at the end of it all when they are paid for their "services," and are dispatched into the night, as they prepare to do it again and again. Sure, there are some prostitutes who for a variety of reasons have become numb to the lives they lead. Drug use, selective memories or even justifying it to oneself are all tactics that "street walkers" use to make it through.

Prostitution, at least in the DR, can be divided into four general categories. The first would be the prototypical image of a woman walking the streets, standing on a corner or hanging out at a disco, casino or hotel lobby, waiting for some guy to stop by and make an offer. The second type of prostitution, though somewhat more hidden is that which goes on in the brothels around the country. These brothels aren’t highly publicized yet they receive most of their business through word of mouth. The third type of prostitution in the DR, though some would not consider it as such, it a growing sub culture of "beeper chicas," or young women who can be from either poor or well to do families who provide sexual favors in exchange for gifts and other things. This third form of prostitution is masked behind the simple fact that money isn’t always exchanged directly. The women are showered with gifts and other lovelies, the men get sexual favors and rarely is love, at least from the woman, ever involved. Adding to the denial of this third type of prostitution is the concept that since cash, and a pre determined sum for sexual favors have not be determined, it is not prostitution. Instead, it is just a man who wants sex and "chooses" to give his partner these gifts. Finally, we have the sanky panky, the Dominican version of a gigolo. This phenomenon of the sanky, usually a poor, sometimes, but not always, dark skinned Dominicans prey on unsuspecting tourists to try and get money from them.

Brothel workers
Brothels in the DR are somewhat hidden to the naked eye. Most people drive by the tens of brothels around Santo Domingo and other cities and have no clue what’s going on in these establishments. A majority of these brothels function and appear to be houses on the outside. They have no signs identifying them as brothels and there business is primarily done in the cover of darkness. On Ortega y Gasset, Independencia Avenue near the Hotel Jaragua, near Platinium nightclub and off Pasteur Avenue some of the cities most popular and most visited brothels are located. Life for girls in the brothels is heavily controlled by the owner (who in this case could be labeled a pimp). They are rarely allowed to leave the premises of the brothel, as they live and work there, and when they do leave they are usually accompanied. On a typical night a man will walk up to the door and will be met by some form of security. Once you have passed inspection, which tries to determine if you have a firearm or you are police, you are allowed through. You enter the house. Inside the house the prostitute of your choice is parading around, looking her best, trying to entice a customer. It’s like picking a lobster out of the tank.

For those who need a drink to warm up most of these brothels have a bar, but drinks are extremely expensive. A small Presidente could cost around RD$100 and a shot of whisky could cost as much as RD$400 in some cases. Once you have chosen your lady of choice there are a few steps and options to go through. First off the male must decide if he would like to sleep with the woman on the premise or take her to another location. Also the type of the sexual encounter must be agreed upon (i.e. masturbation, oral, anal, S&M, full penetration). If a man chooses to have sex on the premise the sex is cheaper, but as some patrons would warn you don’t get your money’s worth. The reason for this is that a man will only ejaculate once and then the night is over. So most men would choose to take a woman from the premise and have sex with her at local motels, know as cabanas. This of course, would be more expensive. The patron would have to pay an exit fee for the women. This money goes to the "house" and the patron has to then pay a fee for the prostitute’s service. The patron must also pay for the prostitute’s transportation and other varied expenses like food and motel accommodations. Once the sex is done the women calls a taxi, or is driven to a certain spot by the male and she goes back to her brothel.

Street walkers
Street walkers are the most common type of prostitutes. They are the most visible of all prostitutes and don’t do much to hide the work they do. In the capital city of Santo Domingo you can drive on Independencia Avenue, George Washington Avenue, Ortega y Gassette or Sarasota at night and find groups of young women walking up and down the streets waiting for a vehicle to drive up and start the negotiation process. The women, in their gaudy and revealing outfits, with massive amounts of make up, doused in cheap perfume strike the sexiest pose they can when a vehicle slows down near the curve, trying to entice the client into a few minutes of guilty pleasures. For those who are into alternative sexual encounters homosexuals and transvestites parade along walkways waiting to make that next business deal. When the car comes to a stop, like piranhas who’ve smelled blood, the women rush to the vehicle until the driver points to the one he wants, and then the "fun" begins.

"La Gorda" has been working the same block, on Independencia, for about five years and by the looks of it, she isn’t stopping now. Gorda, stands at about 5’6 and isn’t the smallest girl working the streets. Her dark skin and dyed blonde locks, usually covered by a blond wig, get her plenty of customers. She explains that she came from a broken home and has had problems since she can remember. "The man who donated the milk that got my mother pregnant, was never around. As time passed by all he would give the family was a few pesos here and there." She explains that her half brother is now a top ranking general in the Dominican Army and has a great job, but she doesn’t dwell on her misfortunes."

"I don’t have time to waste thinking about that stuff. There is money to be made. I’ve been doing this for about five years now. I went out with a friend one night, and together, we scored a guy who wanted us both. We jumped into his car and went to a cabana. It was quick, the guy was out of it for the most part. I mostly just watched. Stroking him and doing the fake moans and just kind of seeing what was going on. My friend did most of the work that night anyways, but it was ok. After a few minutes it was over. We just collected our money, called a cab and we went back to our corner. Once the initial fears sort of went away I learned the ins of it. I learned to dress the part and learned the tricks to keep myself going. I drink sometimes. Before I leave home or when I meet a guy, especially if he’s fat, ugly and smelly, I ask him to give me something to drink. I don’t do drugs like the other girls, but I know why they do it. It’s crazy sometimes, you meet some real crazies out there who want to do crazy things like get tied up, or choking or violent stuff, but I just prepare myself and charge more. Depending on how extreme I just brace myself. I have my limits, some girls don’t, but at the end of the day I just try not to think of it. Now, it’s just a job. A way to make a living. There really isn’t anything else I can do. It’s not like I can work in an office and I can never tell anyone what I do. So what are my choices?"

As Gorda explains it it’s her line of work is dangerous and many women, including herself, carry some form of protection. Gorda used to carry a small shank in her purse, but found it too cumbersome and said she didn’t feel too safe with it so she turned to an alternative called ‘acido del Diablo,’ a toxic corrosive chemical that is sold in hardware stores in the DR. She says that if a man ever gets out of hand or doesn’t pay she can just throw the stuff on him and it’ll burn the skin, giving her enough time to escape.

That’s happened to me a few times, when I didn’t get paid. I had a gun pulled on me and told to get out of the guy’s car after I gave him oral sex. Not much you can do there."

As for her money Gorda says she does very well and says that business is usually flowing. She says that she is lucky because she doesn’t have a chulo (a pimp) collecting money from her, so she gets to keep 100% of her profits, but knows of women who aren’t so lucky and are beaten and even raped by their pimp.
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