I didn’t realize until much later that prostitution is legal in Brazil…as long as the prostitute is over 18. There were posters discouraging sex tourism at the Brazilian consulate in New York when I went for my visa so I assumed it was illegal. In hindsight, were I to be a prostitute in Brazil, a legal profession, I would not be pleased that my government was trying to limit my business. If restaurants, transport services, and hotels were to benefit from the World Cup, why not sex workers too? But the answer is quite obvious. As I learnt last year when I visited the Red Light District in Amsterdam legal prostitution can be just as exploitative and detrimental as it helps maintain the very illegal acts of child abuse and drug and human trafficking.
Add to that the sexual imagery Brazil carries and it makes sense to double up efforts so as foreign men (because let’s be real) don’t come into the country looking to score at every turn. Aren’t we all fully aware of the stereotypical (mythical?) Brazilian girl? Girl, because the discourse does not allow her to be the woman that she is. Taut body, tight buns, nice boobs in a skimpy bikini-thong frolicking on the beach? Who wouldn’t come to Brazil to get a piece of that? Yet, Brazil is a Catholic country and Brazilian women are not any more promiscuous than women in other countries. Though I did mention that people, seemingly strangers, were quick to kiss and do so rather affectionately and passionately, on the party streets of Belo Horizonte, I noted too that it pretty much ended there. These of course were local girls and women out having a good time. I can’t say I saw prostitutes in Belo Horizonte, though I’m sure they are there.
But up in the north-eastern cities of Natal and Fortaleza? Oh la la! At one point, one of the Ghanaian men I met lamented that he should have learnt Portuguese so he could have interacted better with the sisters of the night who were plentiful and beautiful in his opinion. They would stand out in front of bars and nightclubs. In the open air bars and restaurants, you will see them hanging around, quick to grab a chair and pull up to a table full of men. Lips crimson red, feet squeezed in the highest of heels, body looking to escape from the scanty tube tops, daisy duke shorts, and mini-skirts I felt their presence like vultures, forever scoping, circling, before going in for the kill. My presence certainly deterred most from approaching the men that I was with, but some were brave. I got the sense they really loved the Ghanaian man. Either that, or their game is strong.
On Rua do Salsa the night of the US – Ghana game is where I got my first exposure. I was with a few Ghanaian men and we wanted a nightlife scene after finishing dinner and taking pictures with other fans on the street. It was well after midnight. We walked up to a nightclub that was not too packed. “Should we go in this one?” they asked each other. It didn’t look like much to me but with free entry for women I was all for it. Turned out I was one of a handful of women inside who were not clearly prostitutes. One woman dug out her thong from under her mini-skirt behind my back but in a great line of view of one of the guys I was with. His reaction was priceless. Yes, I suppose that was meant to be a come-on. Haha! Another, faking an attempt to get to the bar, rubbed her ass all over the backside of another guy, and when he instinctively moved away thinking that space was tight, she stuck her butt out further into him. I was amused. One came around to the table talking about how she just lurved African men, Ghanaian men in particular. It was interesting to see the guys squirm. For sure, these were professionals and they were aggressive. I couldn’t hate.
When I later re-joined the guys a couple nights later in Fortaleza, I was told of more encounters, more brazen than the ones that had occurred in my presence. “70 reais (about 30 dollars) for um dois três (one, two, three)” pointing to the corresponding body parts eager to make a winning proposition, one of the guys recounted to me, shaking his head. He was simultaneously saddened and stunned.
It is what it is. Were I to be destitute or were I to be a professional sex worker in a high traffic tourist spot why not help thirsty foreign men spend their holiday money? No, I can’t hate.