Sex workers in New Zealand expect to be rushed off their feet as 95,000 sports fans land for the Rugby World Cup, with brothels across the country doubling condom orders for the tournament.
"It's going to be very busy with tens of thousands of visitors. They will predominantly be men and many of them will be looking for some type of sexual activity whilst they are here," brothel operator Mary Brennan told AFP.
Brennan, a dominatrix who runs a bondage brothel in Wellington and is known as Madam Mary to her clients, said she had already received pre-bookings from South Africa, England, Ireland and Canada.
"The English are known to be particularly deviant," she said, citing the public school background of many England rugby fans. "Whenever I hear an English accent I know there'll be some good business there."
Prostitution legal in NZ
New Zealand introduced some of the world's most liberal prostitution laws eight years ago, when sex work was decriminalised, allowing brothels and street workers to operate legally.
New Zealand Prostitutes' Collective coordinator Catherine Healy said many visitors during the September 9-October 23 tournament would be surprised at how openly the industry operates.
"Paying for sex in this country isn't against the law," she said.
"There isn't that whole subterfuge where people say it's a massage parlour, an escort agency, or we're just talking.
Business is booming
"Sex workers here will be far more frank, they'll say you can come and visit me at the brothel and these are the services I provide."
The Prostitutes Collective was originally formed as a lobby group for sex workers, but since the law change, Healy said, it also organises supplies of items such as condoms and lubricant for most of the country's brothels.
She said there were about 3,500 prostitutes working in New Zealand and all the signs were that business would be brisk during the World Cup.
Condom supply to double
"We've organised to have condom supplies doubled throughout the period, which took a bit of work with the condom companies," she said.
"The brothels are doubling up on their orders and getting ready... in our warehouse they're stacked from the floor to the ceiling."
Brennan's establishment, the MM Club, is nestled in an unassuming suburban shopping strip without any signage.
Behind the flaking green paint of its front door, a narrow staircase leads up to darkened rooms containing racks of whips, clamps, masks and costumes.
Like any executive, Brennan has a business card, only this one lists services such as maid training, dungeon hire, domination, wrestling and cross dressing.
Brennan, along with many other brothel operators, has been looking for extra staff for the tournament, but said: "We're very exclusive, so we're very, very picky about the ladies we have working for us."
For Wellington sex worker Raewyn Marshall, prostitution was just another job, although she admitted many in the industry still hid their occupation from their families.
She said her brothel, which has eight women on its roster, would show Rugby World Cup games on a big screen in its waiting area, so fans would not have to miss out of any of the action at big matches.
Americans best tippers
Many international visitors, she said would be fascinated by the prospect of visiting a brothel without the fear of police raids and arrests.
"I've had some American clients who have been quite excited about the fact that they don't have to be so covert," she said.
"It's quite different for them, a bit of a novelty."
Marshall noted that Americans were renowned as the best tippers in the business, while Australians – New Zealand's fierce trans-Tasman rivals – were the worst.
Safe sex a must
Despite the free-wheeling nature of the sex industry in New Zealand, Healy said there were two iron-clad rules – no one aged under 18 can be involved and safe sex is insisted upon.
She also said that international visitors should be aware that sex workers in the country had rights.
"If they are unpleasant or violent towards sex workers then the police can be called in," Healy said.
"It could be a little bit of a culture shock for clients who are coming in from countries where sex workers are not supported by a framework of laws that respects their human rights and working conditions."
NZ sex workers cornered the market
Healy also dismissed speculation in local media that there would be an influx of prostitutes from Asia and Australia to cope with demand during the tournament.
"Whenever there's a big sporting event anywhere in the world there are always suggestions that tens of thousands of sex workers are on the move and about to land," she said.
"But it's never borne out; it's usually the local sex workers who are there to greet new clients."
Marshall echoed the sentiment, saying New Zealand sex workers had pretty much cornered the market here ourselves.
(Sapa, September 2011)