Brothels: Confessions of a married man

2014-01-03 00:00

“I’M a middle-aged man who used to frequent brothels around Scottsville, Pelham and Hayfields.” It was a call guaranteed to make a journalist sit up.

David Zondi* said he was phoning in response to the lead story in the paper that day, about nightmare tenants, some of whom were using upmarket rental properties to run brothels. They’re everywhere, he said, reeling off addresses in quiet suburbs around Pietermaritzburg: Woodhouse Road, Walter Short Road, Steele Road, Pine Street, Woodford Place. “They change, some close down and others open, but there are always dozens operating at any given time.”

One establishment near the race course had been going for four years and was run by a “black guy”; its clients were “rich men and farmers’’. Another had “multi-racial girls”. Yet another — opposite Girls’ High School — was new and was offering a 50% discount in The Witness that day as a marketing strategy.

“The girls there are naïve and can’t come up with different ideas,” he said. Many houses were fronting as B&Bs.

“The girls come from as far afield as Port Shepstone and Newcastle. They don’t use their real names,” he said. “Different houses have different rules for payment. In one the girls pay R150-R200 per day for their room. In other houses the client pays the landlord. The senior girl is the richest and has usually been there a long time.”

The cost for the client was R250 to R300 for “the prettier ones”; if the price was lower, “you know the girl is either old or on drugs or alcohol”.

He said he was friends with many sex workers and it was amusing to sit with them and listen to phone conversations with prospective clients. “They’re so clever. If a white or an Indian phones, the price will shoot up,” he said.

“I started going to brothels when I was a new student. I was an innocent boy from another province and got in with the wrong people. They took me out; I’d never had an experience like that before. I got used to it and visited brothels for years. As a young man I had time and money, I was drinking.”

Those days were over, said Zondi, who admitted to being a professional who lives outside Pietermaritzburg and works in the city. “I have a family now and I’m preoccupied.”

He did, however, still “hang out” at a certain brothel and popular drinking hole in town. “Men of all races go there. Married men with kids. Old men with big tummies who are well respected in the community. If they see you more than once and you recognise them, they get so embarrassed. It would make you laugh,” he said chuckling.

He’d also seen couples visiting sex workers. “I don’t know what’s wrong with them.

“And there are guys who want golden showers, where the girl pees on their face. And chocolate showers. They pay big money for that. Imagine, they pay someone to sh*t on them.”

Zondi said he was “friends” with many of the women and they were just trying to earn a living, although some were better at managing their finances than others.

“A lot of the girls support families in the Eastern Cape. I have a friend who supports her whole family, and her daughter is in matric. She has money in the bank.

“Some have cars and save their money, while others spend it all on drugs and alcohol. Some just make money to impress their boyfriends.”

Zondi was a bundle of contradictions. He said he’d phoned the newspaper to tell his story because he was “one of those who feel the police are letting us down. If I go to a brothel and then I see the neighbour, who might be an old lady, I feel sorry for them.

“I’m calling as a concerned citizen. I know this won’t achieve anything, some brothel owners have the police in their pockets, and they’ll just open another house if they are stopped. These places are a social ill. I’m not proud of my past.”

Minutes later he admitted that “sometimes when you have money you want to be playful … I do buy from time to time even though I still love my wife. I’m not the only one. I see pastors going into rooms with girls.”

Asked to comment, sexologist Dr Marlene Wasserman said visiting a sex worker can have “a tremendous amount of benefit for some people”.

“Maybe as a result a husband feels more aroused when he’s with his wife, because he’s getting what he wants elsewhere. But there are often consequences. The problem arises when they are caught out, because of the pain that’s caused.”

Wasserman said in her experience the reason many married men visited sex workers was because “they want someone to talk to, someone who listens and gives them their undivided attention”.

Nataly*, a former sex worker and author whose book Should I Confess detailed her life of abuse and prostitution, doesn’t think much of that reason.

“They always say [it’s] just for a bit of affection. But I found more truth in those who would openly say that they are a bit bored, or are refused sex. One of my good mates would say outright it’s because he is constantly horny.”

She doesn’t believe there’s any value for a marriage in the husband secretly visiting sex workers. “Any marriage should be 100% commitment, honesty, respect.”

She said the percentage of men visiting sex workers who are married is “90% at least … the rest are young singles or it’s their first time.”

By the time he rang off, Zondi was unrepentant.

“I’m speaking on behalf of men. There isn’t anything wrong with this. I’m not seeing anyone who’s underage.”

And his wife?

“She doesn’t know. She would get hurt. I use condoms, I’m really principled about that.”

* Not his real name.

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