Sex in the city

2008-10-17 00:00

Pietermaritzburg sex workers are facing growing competition as more women who are desperate to earn a living join the profession and client numbers diminish.

Sex workers who spoke to Weekend Witness on condition of anonymity said that there are many new brothels and private homes running sex businesses and also a growing number of young women working the streets.

Some said trading their bodies is better than working for “underpaying” retailers such as fashion shops, supermarkets, food outlets and so on.

“At least I can afford to maintain my life out of this, which is far better than when I was working [for fashion shops],” said one. The woman, who works for a brothel in the city centre, said that in order to keep up with her lifestyle, she requires at least R5 000 a month. This excludes supporting her family.

The brothel she works for charges clients R150 for 30 minutes and R300 for an hour. Unlike for street workers, in brothels the service fee is paid in advance to the receptionist.

If the client finishes the session earlier than the time he paid for, he does not get a discount.

If he fails to finish before the session is over, he has to pay more money to continue. The women said the session includes “romantic touching”, which could include oral sex before intercourse.

As good as they might be at their trade, the sex workers seem embarrassed by their profession. They said they always pretend to have reputable jobs with good salaries as they cannot disclose to their families, boyfriends or friends what they are doing.

“My sister will never find out what work I do. Not even my boyfriend should know about it,” said another woman, who works for a brothel in the Pietermaritzburg city centre.

During the day, the women relax, as business is slow in daylight hours. Evenings and nights are the peak hours for the women.

Men as young as 16 and as old as 70 frequent the sex houses.

Weekend Witness visited a few brothels on Thursday to find out more about the business, but many women refused to talk, despite their bosses’ approval. Most of the brothel owners were hostile.

In order to get an understanding of what is happening in one brothel, this reporter was allowed to spend an hour talking to the women about general issues, without taking notes.

One thing that became clear is that many women are reluctant to entertain elderly men.

As this reporter was sharing jokes with the women, six men who appeared to be up to the age of 70 arrived.

They looked like businessmen, but one woman made it clear to them that she was not available to elderly men.

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