This post will be about what I have learned so far while in Spain and it will provide some insight to the perspectives of Spain citizens. So let’s start with the basics by discussing the laws of prostitution in Spain, and work our way into what exactly I am trying to learn about prostitution in Spain.
Prostitución was decriminalised in 1995. Prostitution itself is not directly addressed in the Criminal Code of Spain, but exploitation, such as pimping, is illegal. Owning an establishment where prostitution takes place is in itself legal, but the brothel owner cannot derive financial gain from the prostitute or hire a person to sell sex because prostitution is not considered a job and thus has no legal recognition. Some areas have implemented fines for street prostitution. Spain has been referred to as The World Capital of Prostitution, with Brothels being common, hidden-away establishments, and with a small group of sex workers, Asociación de Profesionales del Sexo, offering a 4-hour intensive Intro to Prostitution Course in Barcelona, costing only 45 euros. With the population in Spain being a little more than 47 million in 2014 (about 46.67 million in 2011), and with the country having an estimated 300,000 sex workers in 2011, prostitution and illegal activities accounts for 9 billion Euros of Spain’s GDP.
I intend to visit different establishments (such as bars, clubs, local hangout spots, etc.) in Spain to observe. For example, maybe even a striptease club (not sure of the location yet, but I will provide updates in the future. So PLEASE stay tuned…) sometime soon. I have only been to strip clubs in the United States, where women typically have only 5-10% of clothing on (i.e. their stripper heels and g-string) during their performance. The strip clubs I have been to, some upscale and some not so, the women have come in all different shapes, sizes and shades, and have exhibited exceptional talent on the stage twerking it out and working the strip pole. They are exotic dancers…entertainers. From my understanding, here in Spain, it is not as exciting for men to visit strip clubs. In America, when observing men look at the women dance, they are serious. It is real business. The majority of them have “poker faces” and a glass of brandy/cognac. This has been my observation in most urban strip clubs. But here in Spain (and Europe from what I’ve been told), most men visit strip clubs to celebrate bachelor parties. Ultimately, my goal is to gain a comparative perspective no matter where I go.
So not only do I want to gain a comparative perspective, I want to know if any illegal activities are occurring (underage dancers, backdoor prostitution, sales of illegal substances, etc.). I am aware that this might be difficult to determine, especially from only one visit. But I hope to establish a rapor with the staff and just exhibit my down-to-earth demeanor and engage in a casual conversation about their lives. Why did they choose to become a stripper? Did they feel forced by someone else or was it a choice of their own? Did they feel like they had no other options? Is it something they are comfortable with or do they want to get out as soon as possible? Is it not so bad in Europe to be a stripper? Have they engaged in prostitution as a side job and used stripping as a way to gain clients? These are all questions I hope to answer. And I also hope to determine if the profession of stripping affects minors. Are minors (individuals under age 18) exposed to the life of strippers and how prone are they to enter the field?
I was speaking to a friend (Spain citizen) who I have had the pleasure of getting to know in Spain. He mentioned that he has gone to strip clubs several times, all for bachelor parties. And by the 2nd time, it wasn’t really too exciting. He is not the type of man to objectify a woman and her body. (Such a respectable characteristic might I point out.) He felt like “why do I need to go observe a stripper at a cost when I could most likely have a woman in my bed for free”. He mentioned that he casually engaged in a conversation with a stripper…not trying to hit on her or anything. Just a little bit of fun, drunken conversation I’d imagine (it was a bachelor party…duh!!) And he said she told him that she CHOSE to become a stripper due to a lack of funds and having to support herself and 3 children, thus moving her to resort to prostitution. His perspective was very understanding and so admirable. He exhibited a sort of compassion for strippers/prostitutes in the sense that if a woman chooses to be a prostitute, who are we to judge? While he does not necessarily support prostitution out of his pockets, he is not accustomed to frowning upon the sex worker or their client. Especially if the transaction is consensual, versus an act of forced prostitution/human trafficking.
Here in Spain, typically during Carnaval in February. There are groups of singers who compete, dressing up in full on theatrics and singing original songs. The songs are usually about politics or important issues that are likely not being addressed on a daily basis. The performances allow the groups to express themselves and the issues that are “below the radar”, such as prostitution. I was introduced to a song here in Spain, by someone I’m coming to consider as my extended family and greatest support in this beautiful country (though they probably don’t always understand who I am or what I am all about, and think I’m crazy too *wink*), called “Con el permiso” (2003) by Los Americanos. The English translation of the lyrics says something along the lines of:
With your permission, I’d like to write a poem to the woman (prostitute) in song. Do not feel challenged. It’s only a song.
My mother is not a prostitute, but if she were I would not be ashamed to be a motherfucker.
I know more whores (lacks honesty; this is not a “profession”) who have been bitches/prostitutes. But I have never known a bitch/prostitute (a lady) who has been a whore. In less than half an hour, they offer affection, tenderness and a condom.
I do not like women who take money from men who lack love. I do not like men who pay women who lack love and money. But they do not care what I have to say.
If I am younger than a virgin, and a prostitute is older than God, who am I to judge (i.e. prostitution is the oldest profession in the world)?
If love is supposed to be so expensive and deep, and a woman gives it to you for almost nothing, then the love must be the most honest in the world.
When it comes to prostitution. I would say I have to agree with my friend (and this song). I am not the one to judge. We are living in a crazy world, and sometimes people feel they have to do what they have to do to survive. And I am not perfect myself, so how could I look down upon someone for their choices? But I will say that it breaks my heart to know that people, most specifically women, feel they must resort to this profession to survive. It breaks my heart to know how easy it is for women and children to be manipulated into thinking the profession is a “glamorous” one, bringing about large amounts of money and opening the doors into different worlds and experiences. And contrary to consensual prostitution, I am wholeheartedly against forced prostitution (human trafficking) and abuse against people, most specifically women, and especially children.
Now looking back…I regret telling people about my plans and long-term goals, or asking a few colleagues to accompany me to the strip club, and other areas 30 minutes or more outside of the city we currently reside in to explore Spain more (for the purposes of supporting my research efforts). I didn’t want to go alone, as I thought it would seem a little weird and inappropriate being a woman (who doesn’t speak Spanish well might I add). And I also felt I had to divulge my intentions, especially because they (my “new friends”) didn’t seem to understand why a woman would want to visit a strip club in Europe. My thoughts were that they could enjoy visiting the strip club, have a few drinks and get in a few laughs…while I observed. A win/win situation, right? But maybe not… This task that I am trying to accomplish is a tricky one and can be a touchy subject, and sometimes I wish I hadn’t been so “ambitious” or moved to fight against this ongoing global issue, because now I feel I am obligated to go forward and contribute all that I can. It can get lonely when you are implementing an independent research project, especially when the project includes topics such as prostitution, human trafficking and child abuse. And it can be difficult for people to understand what you are trying to accomplish if they themselves are not on the same train. I am learning much about myself, and people and what exactly I am trying to do. And that I have to go about things a little more delicately. It is all a learning experience (as I have yet to begin working with the “mentors” that I have become affiliated with in other countries and I am out here living the life of the trial-and-error method…SMH).
Friendly comment/advice to others embarking on a path similar to mine: Until you have a concrete plan or are 110% sure about the people you are interacting with, do not divulge your plans. This is something that I left home feeling and promised myself I would do, and I did not fully keep to my initial intentions due to trying to establish relationships and to open my heart to others. It’s is harder than it seems (to not share) because when you are in a foreign place and trying to do something positive, you don’t want to come off as this mysterious person who isn’t allowing others to understand who you are. And also, I was not prepared to “lie” to people or travel places alone in Spain to fulfill my research efforts (this feeling mostly came from how I was being treated by men and women…both the good, bad and uncomfortable interactions). So if you are implementing a project alone, consider how you can complete all of your tasks without having to divulge too many of your plans, or just be careful about who you choose to let in. Because the reality is that, no matter how good or sincere your intentions are, people may not always understand. It is only human nature. And sometimes we all need the wake up call. You want to think the best of others…but sometimes people just can’t handle what they are not accustomed to. And I was wrong for forgetting that during my time of weakness (i.e. being alone in a foreign place with no friends, family, substantial resources, or affiliates working to accomplish similar goals).
Fighting against prostitution/human trafficking WERE NOT in my plans when I decided to travel to Spain about 8 months ago. My initial plans were to fight against child abuse, and prostitution/human trafficking were issues that were placed on my heart due to certain events that occurred during the 2 months prior to beginning my journey (I began applying for grant opportunities, leading me to learn that a prostitution ring operating in California, Nevada and other Western States was exposed in April 2014). (It’s crazy how life works and how one door leads to the opening of another. I never thought I would be a part of such a cause). So I would say I was not 110% prepared to carry out all the necessary tasks (such as visiting places where prostitution/human trafficking might occur) ALONE, needed to assess causes and preventative measures accordingly. Sometimes you have to sacrifice your own happiness (being alone, not having anyone to relate to locally, late/long work hours, tackling issues that are just heartbreaking) and safety/comfort to help others.
So as you can see, my journey has only begun and I have a long way to go in gaining more insight into abuse/prostitution/human trafficking and its affects on minors in Spain. I will also discuss pornography and how it is related to prostitution/human trafficking in the future. So look out for forthcoming posts. I am looking forward to your comments and perspectives on the items discussed in this post. What does prostitution mean to you? Have you experienced anything related to the profession (including exploitation, strippers using the strip club to gain clients, etc.) while traveling? Do Tell Nicola…