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Thursday, 19 April 2012 11:29

The Black Durban girl

My name is Monica*. I’m 32 years. I started to sell my body at the age of 20 in Durban. It was very hard then because the police were racist, and only arrested Black sex workers on the street, and not Indian girls. They would also beat us up when they arrested us.

There was one police officer who did not arrest me. Instead he asked for free sex. I just gave him because I wanted to go home. He left the other girls inside. They had to first pay a fine of R50, before being let out.

One day I refused to give him sex, and he said to me if I don’t want to have sex with him he will never take me out again. So I decided to give him, because I just did not want to be in jail. He tell his other police officer friend and his friend also started doing the same thing to me. At that time I did not know my rights- I was blank and blind.

When I come to Cape Town I met an organization called SWEAT- Sex Workers' Education and Advocacy Taskforce- that educated me about my rights and health issues. Now I’m strong and I'm willing to educate other sex workers that still don’t know their rights.

*Not my real name

Published in Voices Of Sex Workers
Wednesday, 14 March 2012 09:25

Are you dating a John?

By Glynis Horning, Cosmopolitan

Technician Jaco*, 27, is upfront about why he sometimes stops in for ‘some action’ at a Durban hotel after work. ‘There’s stuff you just don’t like asking your girlfriend to do, right? If you pay a prostitute, it’s about business, not feelings, so no-one gets hurt.’ It takes more persuasion for him to reveal the services he procures. S&M? Oral sex? He rolls his eyes. Anal sex? He hesitates, then cracks a joke that both confirms it and crudely covers his discomfort.

Durban student Simon*, 22, on the other hand, is vociferously against ‘exploiting a vulnerable class of women for sexual gratification’. A Humanities major and supporter of the Jes Foord Foundation (which assists rape survivors), he says, ‘I hope I have the balls to discuss my needs with my girlfriends and appreciate theirs. The women I date are pretty open-minded. But if I seriously fancied someone who wasn’t, I’d accept it and take responsibility for my jollies – that’s what a healthy imagination is for.’

Differences such as these between Jaco and Simon reflect something of the range of responses recorded in a recent controversial US survey that has sparked much debate and criticism. Entitled ‘Comparing Sex Buyers With Men Who Don’t Buy Sex: “You can have a good time with the servitude” vs “You’re supporting a system of degradation”’, the survey was conducted by Melissa Farley, director of Prostitution Research And Education (a nonprofit project of the San Francisco Women’s Centers). It received coverage in July’s Newsweek magazine, which was accused of poor journalism by critics for covering Farley’s contentious findings.

The magazine article stated that ‘the men who buy sex are your neighbours and colleagues’ and that Farley’s survey ‘reveals how the burgeoning demand for porn and prostitutes is warping personal relationships and endangering women and girls’. Newsweek reported that estimates regarding the percentage of men who engage in buying sex range ‘from 16% to 80%’, and that Farley found it so common in the digital age that her team struggled to find ‘nonusers’ for their control group. Farley’s broad definition of ‘men who pay for sex’ included any man who has paid a prostitute, escort, massage-parlour or sex worker; guys who have ever exchanged ‘something of value’ for a sex act, and men who had – even once – in the past year bought a porn magazine, had a lap-dance, set foot inside a strip club or watched porn online.

Among her findings (available on www.prostitutionresearch.com) were that men who buy sex are more likely to see sex as separate from relationships, enjoy the lack of emotional connection with sex workers and see them as objects, more frequently express aggression towards women, and are more likely to be associated with crimes of violence against women. Sex workers risk abuse, assault and even death. Over time, says Farley, men’s tastes change and they look for more anal sex and S&M, which can negatively impact on their relationships if partners are reluctant to comply.


WHY WORRY?
Should women wory about Farley’s findings? Sally-Jean Shackleton, executive director of the Sex Workers Education And Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT) in Cape Town, doesn’t think so. There’s been scant research internationally into those who pay for sex services such as prostitution and porn, and none locally, she says. ‘Farley has always had a negative view of sex work and her research has been widely discredited,’ she says. ‘Yes, today there’s increased access to porn and sex work, but it also means people have more information about their bodies, sex and desires, which is not necessarily a bad thing. We need to open, not close, the space being given to sexuality, and increase the balance of information.’

In fact, Farley is a known anti-pornography activist and a self-declared ‘prostitution abolitionist’. Her detractors point out her extremely reactionary behaviour, including the fact that she’s been arrested 13 times in nine US states for going into sex shops and ripping up or burning copies of Penthouse magazine.

As for Farley’s concerns that porn and sex work fuel violence against women, Shackleton says there’s no convincing evidence of this. Farley makes ‘an impossible leap of association’ and her study consisted of only 201 men in Boston – in paid-for interviews. ‘When sex workers in SA tell us about harassment and violence, it’s mostly at the hands of police officers,’ Shackleton says.

Sexologist Dr Elna McIntosh, director of DISA Sexual And Reproductive Health Clinic in Johannesburg, has met Farley. ‘She’s anathema to many in the sex industry because sex work is a choice they make,’ she says. McIntosh agrees that with easier access to porn and transactional sex, men could be ‘desensitised’, especially to previously taboo practices such as anal sex. ‘But if to read about or view such practices made you run around and rape, and commit other violent crimes, that’s what sexologists would be doing.’

Explicit material combining sex with violence or showing women in degrading ways may reinforce or increase sexist attitudes and sexual aggression, but only in ‘the small percentage of men’ who already have these attitudes, she says. ‘Most sexual offenders come from punitive homes and were exposed to sexual and physical abuse themselves.’

Research has shown that less than 10% of X-rated or hard-core material in most explicit books, magazines and videos contains aggression, she says, and less than three percent involves physical violence or rape. ‘R-rated material contains much more violence, though most R-rated movies don’t have full nudity or explicit sex – their material isn’t even seen as pornographic, but it’s very sexually suggestive and promotes sexist attitudes more than the X-rated material,’ McIntosh says.


WHO SELLS?
Zanele*, 28, is a prostitute operating from a Durban hotel. She ran away from ‘trouble at home’ as a teen. Through sex work, Zanele saved enough to get matric by correspondence as well as a computer qualification. ‘But I can’t find a job, and I have a child and my mother to support.’

She says her clients are getting rougher. ‘They get ideas from sex videos. Sometimes they demand anal and you feel like you’re being raped, but they say they have paid.’ Once she was being choked but managed to scream for help. ‘One friend came back with scars on her face; another girl disappeared. Many take drugs to feel okay.’ Zanele is proud that she doesn’t. ‘I don’t enjoy my work,’ she says flatly, ‘but I know I’m doing what many ordinary girls do to thank a guy for dinner or new shoes. They can hate me or fear me, but for now I don’t have a choice.’

Sex work ranges widely from streetwalking to up-market brothels and private escort agencies, each with a particular culture and unwritten code of practice. ‘Some sex workers establish regular relationships with clients; for others, sex is purely business and anonymous,’ says Cape Town clinical social worker Dr Gordon Isaacs. ‘As in any relationship, empathy, warmth, jealousy and even abuse can be part of an interaction.’

In South Africa some 500 000 women are raped each year, he says. But this is a reflection of complex historical, political, social and economic factors – sex work and pornography can’t be targeted for blame. Internationally, Internet porn is soaring. US technology media company Tech Media Network CEO Jerry Ropelato reports at internet-filter-review.toptenreviews.com that, ‘Every second, 28 258 Internet users are viewing pornography. In that same second 372 Internet users are typing adult search terms into search engines. Every 30 minutes, a new pornographic video is being created in the US.’

South Africans are tapping into these sites, says McIntosh, among them a local amateur black porn site, www.sondeza.com. Last year the young IT entrepreneur behind it, Tau Morena, produced the first local black porn movie, Mapona, starring pole dancer Palesa Mbau. ‘You can buy hard-core DVDs for R10 at taxi ranks; they sell even to kids,’ says Morena. ‘My stuff is soft core and guys wear condoms.’ Follow-ups will be ‘educational erotica’, showing how to put on condoms sensually and how to ‘go down’. ‘I play a useful role in society,’ he says.

This is also what high-end sex workers say, including 24-year-old Mbau. ‘Money doesn’t make people better,’ she tells COSMO, ‘but if you respect yourself, they respect you. I do what suits me – tonight I’m being taken to Sandton for dinner and I’m being paid for it.’ She says she doesn’t feel exploited. ‘If I’m not in the mood, I tell guys to call another time.

Some push for things I don’t do, or they don’t want to wear a condom, but then they get to see my bad side. You must be brave in this industry and I don’t take nonsense.’ A 30-something Johannesburg dominatrix who advertises online as ‘South Africa’s youngest and most sought-after fetish mistress’ (www.missdi.co.za) is – unsurprisingly – equally firm. ‘I used to be in corporate management but got tired of the politics and red tape. In this job I can say, “There’s the door, fuck off!”’

She laughs at the idea that what she does could encourage violence against women or threaten clients’ intimate relationships. ‘It’s role-playing; clients know any manhandling by them would bring an assistant running and a lifetime ban. I’m giving them what they can’t get from the other women in their lives, so I’m doing those women a favour.’


WHO BUYS?
Those who pay prostitutes range from pop stars and politicians to professionals, ‘women as well as men’, and many are married, says Isaacs. Their motivation is equally varied – a need to express themselves sexually, migrancy, living in hostels or dorms, loneliness, ‘as well as a need for different sexual experiences based on fantasy and desire’. Says McIntosh, ‘The prostitute’s client could be my son or your boyfriend.

These men come to me with one thing in common, the “afraids” – they’re afraid they have HIV/Aids, even if they used a condom. It’s a guilt/confession thing; they want reassurance. Almost all of them say, “This is not who I am, I was away from home, I felt lonely and horny,” and alcohol is generally involved.’

Many tell her they have only ‘missionary’ sex with their partner, or are in a new relationship and don’t know how far they can push boundaries. ‘If only couples communicated more,’ she says. Conservative upbringing and culture often hold them back. Durban nail artist, Selvie*, 22, tells how she ‘tried to accommodate’ her husband’s porn-fuelled interest in oral and anal sex after discovering he was visiting a massage parlour. ‘But I can’t stand it! I’ve even tried watching porn with him; it’s a turn-off.’ They are in therapy but she worries about her relationship. ‘Sometimes I’d almost rather he paid other women,’ she says.

Using porn or going to strip clubs is only a problem if the person becomes preoccupied or obsessed with sexual activity, or ventures into illegal areas such as paedophilic porn or bestiality, or if it worries their partner, says McIntosh. ‘If you think your man has a problem, tell him you’re concerned because his behaviour is impacting on your relationship, which you value. Offer to go with him to see a certified sex therapist.’

The same applies if you discover he’s been to a sex worker. ‘This can hurt more, because it raises questions of infidelity and HIV/Aids,’ she says. ‘If you still want to stick with him, go to therapy – preferably together.’

[This article was originally sourced from the Cosmopolitan magazine, in December 2011 (see attachment below for the PDF version of this article)]

Published in News
Tuesday, 06 December 2011 11:57

City sex workers waiting to COP a feel

By Agiza Hlongwane and Masood Boomgaard, IOL News

Durban’s ladies of the night say they are fit and ready to “service” some of the 30 000 delegates converging on the city for the COP17 climate change conference which began on Monday – but a large police presence in the CBD and heavy rain has put a dampener on business for most.

However, in the suburbs, business is booming.

“You can’t really trade near the ICC or around the hotels or even in the city. Thankfully the cab drivers are bringing the visitors to us who work in Glenwood and Morningside,” said Angie (not her real name), a sex worker in Glenwood.

“It’s good when you have a lot of tourists because we do well – but it’s also not good having a big conference because there are too many policemen,” said Angie’s colleague.

Many sex workers in the Durban CBD have lamented the high police presence.

“There are horny men out on the streets every night but we can’t do anything to help them because the cops watch us and when they see us calling the men they chase us away. I wish they (the police) would leave us alone and let us work.”

“There are a lot of foreign men around looking for ladies. My business is doing well… my customers are mainly Chinese and Asian,” said a sex worker calling herself Lollipop. “I think it will get better next week, but there are a lot of police around, so the foreigners are afraid to approach us.”

At escort agencies in the Durban CBD, sex workers were hoping for a bumper week.

“We haven’t had too many of the delegates here. I think they must all be tired,” said an employee at a West Street business. “From next week I’m sure there will be a lot of action.”

Many said heavy rains had slowed business.

“It’s been bad. Have you ever seen someone doing this job eating a R10 pie? There are just no clients. It is bad, bad, bad,” said Gigi, a slightly-built 22-year-old.

The area where Florence Nzama (Prince Alfred) Street intersects with Pixley KaSeme (West) Street in downtown Durban, is one of the city’s unofficial red-light districts. Here, a war for clients is quietly waged between prostitutes who operate from within the relative safety of escort agencies and the scantily-clad girls who brave chilly weather, working the city’s streets.

Gigi and her two colleagues rent a run-down flat in the city for R2 500 a month and “service” their clients at a nearby lodge. It’s R100 per “round”, and R50 for the room – a far cry from the R660 an hour charged by the leggy, supermodel-like women at Galaxy Escort Agency, or the R400 at Sonja’s, both around the corner.

Prices have reportedly been hiked for COP17, an event yet to bear fruit for sex workers like Natasha, who works at Classics.

“The delegates are in the wrong place. Climate change is happening right here,” Natasha said. - Sunday Tribune

[This news article was sourced from IOL News http://www.iol.co.za/news/back-page/city-sex-workers-waiting-to-cop-a-feel-1.1191731]
Published in News
Wednesday, 02 November 2011 08:08

Sex workers hard times at the love café

Written by Khadija Sharife of The Africa Report

With shore leave dwindling to only a few days, Durban’s last remaining sailors’ sex club is struggling for business, but for the women who work there it’s a safer bet than being out on the streets

Night casts an extra film of neglect over downtown Durban. The dark rows of shuttered-up stores and closed iron gates are broken only by the neon of an occasional fast food joint and the illuminated window of an ATM; the streets are all but deserted.

The entrance to the Riviera*, Durban’s last remaining ‘seaman’s club’, is discreetly advertised. Inside, at the top of a flight of stairs, a white woman in a short denim skirt is rapping at the closed steel door. A frowning, muscle-bound black man with a gold chain lets her in. Entrance costs R40 ($5) a head. Reputation has it that locals must be very rich white or Indian to gain access, or belong to the local mafia. Foreign landlubbers are supposedly not admitted, but the rule is only laxly enforced.

At 8pm, the dimly lit club – complete with 1980s disco lights, cheesy pop music and sticky seats – borders on empty. Business significantly picks up when the sailors roll in for the midnight show, and stay on until the early hours. The bar is lined with a collection of flags to rival the United Nations. “The sailors come from all over the world,” says Tony*, the club’s Greek owner. “Every country – Spain, Hong Kong, Philippines, you name it.”

The woman in the denim skirt, who turns out to be Tanya*, a bartender at the club for the past 12 years. “Some of the sailors are generous, some not. But this is where many spend a good portion of their time in Durban.”

On arrival, sailors are expected to sign a register detailing their ship, nationality, date of birth, and other identifying details, allowing management to track who comes from where and how often, as well as offering them a special welcome on their birthday. But weeks in port have trickled down to days and clients are sparse. The global dockside industry has dwindled to a handful of ‘survivor’ clubs. “We’ve been here since 1979. Now, we’re just trying to break even. Technology has changed everything,” says Tony. “They come and leave so fast, in a matter of days.”

This is partly due to the rapid turnaround time of ships in Durban. “Durban is a cargo port, oftentimes with a turnaround of 24 hours – dump, reload and leave. It becomes a ‘here today, gone tomorrow’, type of culture,” says Henry Trotter, who spent 15 months researching the dockside sex industry for his book Sugar Girls and Seamen: A Journey into the World of Dockside Prostitution in South Africa (Jacana Media, 2008). “The structural factors of this sector are very different from that of other sex trades, in the military, the brothels, or on the streets,” he elaborates. “These girls are independent contractors, expected to be at the club between 10pm and 2am – peak traffic for the sailors.”

A regular three dozen or so women work the Riviera club club, facilitating a unique economic climate where the local ‘unskilled’ economy meets a ready and willing foreign currency. Some waitresses work part-time as sex workers, leaving the club with a sailor after their shift finishes. No pimps are involved, nor does the owner act as the girls’ manager. Instead, he makes his money from steeply priced alcohol.

“Tony is very much a businessman,” says Trotter. “While he needs the girls to attract the sailors, the business of sex is almost ancillary.” If the women decide to leave early, before 2am – whether or not they ‘hook’ a sailor – they know to leave R100 at the bar, alcohol ‘rent’ that the club might otherwise have benefited from. But with the clientele diminishing, the women are reluctant to pay up. One woman who claimed to frequent the club told The Africa Report that the girls who did find clients did not always pay the R100 alcohol fee. “It is all about taking part of the sailor’s coin,” says Trotter. As well as the owner, taxi drivers get their share, while the girls get the largest share of all: about R200 or R300 per ‘contract’, several times a week.

The sailors’ eagerness is as much for the simple company of women as for sex – the girlfriend experience without the commitment. One Norwegian deck officer, Christian, who was taken to the Riviera by a cab driver, was approached by a young woman who offered him sex. At first she wanted $50, then dropped her price to $30. “This isn’t just a bar, but a bar where most of them can be taken back to your hotel for a price,” he said. While it was not his ideal place to relax over beers, it was nice to watch the girls who “keep you company in the hopes of something more”.

For the women, the great escape often comes in the form of anonymity: sex with foreigners at a discreet downtown location. Unlike in brothels, they operate as independent agents with greater control over the price and location of the sexual ‘contract’. These often take place in a nearby one- or two-star hotel, in cheap apartments rented by the girls, or other flats owned by third parties.“Many of these women are smart and savvy about their line of work,” says Sally-Jean Shackleton of the nongovernmental organisation Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT). “If they can maintain their independence, they are that much more able to ensure their safety.”

The dockside sex workers operate under a system of ‘safety through surveillance’, giving them an advantage over prostitutes working the streets or in brothels. The club register is used to track sailors should anything happen to one of the girls. Though aggressive sailors would not be reported to the police, the ship’s captain or agent would be told. Sailors might have their wages docked, or even lose their jobs.

“The ship captain, agent and club owner all want to avoid any possible hiccups or embarrassment,” says Trotter.

While most of the girls in the Riviera pass themselves off as locals from the Durban area, many are from ‘upcountry’ towns such as Newcastle, or neighbouring Mozambique and Zimbabwe. One young black girl in her mid-20s standing outside the club, who would neither confirm nor deny if she traded sex at the Riviera, said the club “isn’t rough”. Her boyfriend didn’t know she entertained, the girl said, and she was able to choose who she made friends with. She was saving up to start her own beauty business and to take care of her baby, left with her mother back home.

What alternatives are open to seamen looking to kill time on shore? They can go to watch television, email family and relax at a recreational centre run by the Christian-run initiative Mission to Seafarers at Bayhead. The centre, which is open to sailors of all religions, receives over 1,000 sailors monthly and has three other bases in Cape Town, Richard’s Bay and Port Elizabeth.

But the Riviera club isn’t out for the count just yet. It is looking for new club girls and waitresses. And though the traffic to the club fluctuates, Durban is still the ‘port of ports’ in Southern Africa and the ships keep coming.

“We have been around forever,” says Tony, confidently. “They know where to find us.”

[This news article was sourced from The Africa Report, and published with the journalist’s consent. See below for a downloadable PDF version from the magazine.]
Published in News