Social, political, and economic disenfranchisement has led to an increase in sex work for many women and men around the world (Roberts, Sanders, Myers, & Smith, 2012). While in many countries sex work is illegal, there are others, like Peru, where sex work is not only legal, but also strictly regulated by the government. In Peru, for instance, the Ministry of Health provides medical services to female sex workers (FSWs) and other high-risk groups to control the spread of HIV and STIs (Montano et al., 2011). Imposed regulations have ensured that commercial sex work is viewed as an occupation and FSWs, often considered as bridges between high risk and low-risk populations receive periodic evaluations for HIV and other STIs. In keeping with this mission, women from different backgrounds and regions of South and Central America have and continue to find work as FSWs in Peru without significant persecution from the government.
Studies of FSWs in the context of HIV and STI risk prevention are vast, yet limited in narratives of client experiences and real accounts of transactional sex, underscoring the need to explore and understand the lives of sex workers in multiple contexts such as HIV/AIDS and other STI prevention, violence towards FSWs, substance use by clients of FSWs and FSWs themselves, and much more. Additionally, there is significant paucity in data pertaining to brothel health standards, reinforcements of health standards or lack thereof, and power dynamics between FSWs and clients, from consumer perspectives. The following narrative offers a unique, explicit, and insightful glimpse into one man's experience with paid sex in a Peruvian brothel.
Data collected in this project was confidential, and personally identifying information was not solicited from the client. The client was made aware that the narrative might be published, and willingly shared it with the researcher, and knew the identity of the researcher. The client in question was a Peruvian resident, approximately 30 yrs of age and with median income. Upon learning that the client was going to visit a popular Peruvian brothel, a member of the research team asked him to document his experience with a FSW. He agreed to do so and provided a written narrative of his becoming part of the sex trade industry. We received an exemption for IRB approval for this study from UC Irvine.
Upon arriving at the brothel, the client first paid an entrance fee of 20 "Soles"--the currency used in Peru. The brothel used the entrance fee, paid by all prospective clients who entered the brothel, for operational purposes and included a condom for safe sex. Second, the client proceeded to pay the sex worker 50 "Soles" for specific sexual services, in this case oral and vaginal sex, equaling approximately 20 US dollars. The latter amount was a client fund, independent from the entrance fee, kept by the sex worker. Since some brothels charge FSWs to rent out rooms for services rendered to clients, FSWs charged clients amounts that would cover the price for the room and a surplus for earnings. The name of the sex worker in this study was changed to protect her identity.
This is the story of a day of pleasure, or at least those were my intentions. I hadn't planned it, it came unexpectedly, I couldn't or shouldn't refuse this date. So I accepted openly, I had nothing to lose.
The day I was waiting for finally came, it was a Saturday, and I decided to go to the brothel on my own. I was very eager, and I had no idea what to expect. I was the first time I went to a place like this, before I had an experience with a sex worker but that time I found the female in the streets and, well, I picked her up in a car and we went to a motel, it was good. This time it is different.
I approached the door of the brothel very sure of myself. Between the dark windows, a guy told me that the entrance fee is 20 "Soles". On the counter, he places a condom, a ticket for a drink, and another ticket that indicates that I've paid the entrance fee and have the right to stroll through the hallways. "That's how it is", I thought to myself. I was already getting kind of nervous, I don't know why. I wondered, "how will it be?". I picked up my tickets and entered the secured area. I see lots of colored lights: red, lilac, yellow and others. Shortly after, a security guard tells me I have to leave my backpack and he has to search me. I could not take in firearms or anything that looks like a camera of any sort. Well, it's understandable. He searched my body while another one asked for my backpack. He asked me if there was anything valuable, I said no, just some papers. Then he handed me a laminated paper/laminated card with a number to pick up my backpack once I leave. While they continue to search me, I immediately notice the nearly nude girls. These young girls were not modest. They passed in front of me, each one much prettier than the...