At the end of my short stay in Paris, I made my way to Pigalle, a famous area to experience the nightlife in Paris. Pigalle is more or less like a nightclub hub, but is also full of sex shops and strip dance clubs. When you walk along the street, pimps from gentlemen’s clubs approach you and invite you to watch live nude shows. Sometimes they even offer you free entry, only to trap you into paying more later. They also try to guess your nationality, and by mentioning the name of your country, they attempt to find a way to talk to you and convince you to visit their club. Most of the time, people think me to be a Spaniard; when they approach me, they even start to speak in Spanish. In Pigalle it happened that a club pimp called me ‘Irani’ at once! I said ‘merci’ and went away. Amused at the comment, I told myself: hehe it seems that my fellow countrymen are here quite often!
On that night, the streets of Pigalle were full of pimps who desperately wanted to get me into their strip clubs. There were many drunk youngsters wearing hoodies, many of whom were huge, blood-smeared, and battered. Some of them approached me and asked me something in French; as I did not respond, they then began swearing aggressively. With smashed beer bottles scattered everywhere and a closed metro station, I only wanted to know how to find a way out of the place. Locating a police car, I asked two officers hopefully if they could guide me out of Pigalle in English. But they shook their heads and said, “Je suis désolé! No English!”. Frenchness, right?
Sex work is not illegal in Spain. Along with my IASSAC colleagues, I visited Chueca and its nearby streets; where has been the traditional Madrid’s red-light district. It was afternoon, and many sex workers aged 30 and above were walking along the streets. In order to accompany my colleagues, I was unable to talk to them. However, the other evening, I went to Grand Via, a street that is also a hub of street sex workers, and managed to talk to many of them. Most of them were from Eastern European countries, namely, Romania, Bulgaria, and Hungary. Their English language skills were good enough to communicate with international customers. Their rate was relatively high; depending on their services, they charged around 100 to 150 euros per hour (this was the rate in July 2011).
There are some strip clubs in Madrid as well. One day, in the late afternoon, I randomly went to some clubs on Grand Via and spoke to several dancers about their services and rates. A customer who wants to have a private dance with a sex worker needs to buy a drink for the chosen girl; the drink costs around 40-50 euros and the dance lasts about 3-5 mins. I asked the girls about the service provided after the dance! Surprisingly, some strip clubs provide rooms for their clients to have sex with their dancers, and the price varies between 100 and 150 euros for half an hour (their rate in July 2011).
I think the laws related to sex workers are more relaxed in Spain than in the UK. In Britain, street sex work is illegal and the prohibition applies to both workers and clients. Moreover, as far as I know, people are not allowed to have sex in gentlemen’s clubs or strip clubs.