I've Walked the Streets for a Day to Find Out What Prostitutes Have To Go Through
I investigated what women on the street have to go through and what kind of men pull over for them the most.
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„Are you doing drugs?“, she asked me, right off the bat. When I said no, she continued: „That makes two of us. All of the other girls here are junkies.“ This was the beginning of my conversation with a 57-year old prostitute Anna , who's making money for her grandchildren this way. Her daughter is hooked on meth. The conversation with the people who stopped for me wasn't much better. Two guys screaming at me out of their car: „Come with us, you won't dream of ever being f*cked like this“ , coming back for the second time, despite my immediate objection.
The place I chose is a notoriously known spot for prostitution. And it doesn't only include women. Few guys have also chosen this path after failing to find a more efficient method of financing their addiction.
Their stories are a sad testimony about the harmfulness of addictive substances and what people are willing to sacrifice just to get another hit.
This time we were curious about all of the things that the women working on the street have to face everyday and what kind of people do they come into contact with. One Wednesday afternoon in July, I chose to spend a few hours as a working girl in disguise.
(Real names have been changed to protect the privacy and safety of all persons involved)
- How I prepared for a 3-hour shift as a prostitute in disguise
- How many people stopped by and what did they want from me
- What type of people sought out female company on the street the most
- What thoughts kept running through my mind when streetwalking
- How did the other women treat me when I tried to talk to them
- Why did some other women warn me that I should be more afraid of them than of the men that stop for me
- The experience of 57-year old prostitute Anka, the only woman that didn't work for drugs
- What rules and hierarchy prevail on the street
- What are the fees and what does the fee depend on
- Why did some women avoid me after a while
- Why was one of the women aggressive with me
Getting ready for "streetwalking"
It was 23 degrees Celsius in Bratislava on July 10th 2019. Ideal weather for our research assignment. I've been preparing myself for quite some time. Unlike women who do this out of necessity, I had the privilege of choosing the day myself. Making sure the weather is not too stuffy or rainy, which wasn't as easy during a summer in Slovakia.
My plan was to fit in as much as possible, to avoid too much attention. Wearing shorts and a shirt with rhinestones that I bought specifically for this occasion. I chose strong make up and I smeared it a bit, because I didn't want anyone doubting my presence on this location.
I've put a phone, pepper spray and two packs of cigarettes into my purse in hope they'd help me break the ice in conversation with other women on the street. Armed with these few necessities and great dose of anxiety, I headed over to strut among the trucks that parked on the side of the road, at around 2PM.
"Wieviel für blowjob"?
About 10 minutes later, the first car pulled over by me. It was an older model, but due to my initial shock and a high adrenaline level, I didn't actually notice the car brand. The man sitting in the car could've been about 60. He rolled down his window and asked me a bunch of questions that I couldn't decipher at the time.
I quickly recovered, since one of my intentions was also to find out what prices do the clients offer to prostitutes. So I've nervously asked: „English?“ Impatiently, he answered: „Blowjob? Blowjob, wieviel für blowjob?“
Judging by the conversation that went down between us, I assumed he doesn't speak English. My broken German didn't allow me to think about his questions anymore. „No blowjobs, go“, was my "sophisticated" reply, since I was real uncomfortable at this point and I wanted to break it off as soon as possible.
To my greatest relief he left instantly and picked up another woman few meters away after just a few seconds of negotiation. After his departure I pulled out my phone and wanted to write down my feelings, so I won't forget them later.
Huge adrenaline, humiliation, shame, a little fear and hope that I won't meet someone I know here, despite my reason of "streetwalking" was not to offer sexual services. All of this went through my head when I noticed that another car stopped by.
Two men, sitting in an older model of Skoda Felicia were talking to me now. They could've been about 30, dressed in work clothes. They pulled down their window and went right ahead: „Sex?“ After my previous experience, I couldn't tell what language they speak, because they didn't bother much with extensive conversation.
„Do you speak Slovak?“ , I asked. They laughed: „of course,“ and continued with their offers. „Get in, we want sex with no condom. How much is that?“ In that moment I thought about all kinds of scenarios and price was definitely not one of them.
There's two of them, one of them can easily get out of the car and force me inside. Unprotected sex with a prostitute is apparently not an issue for them. I can't tell what they're actually capable of.
I tried to keep my cool. I've stepped away from the car a bit and asked them if they want me to have sex with both of them. „First one, then the other and we can switch a few times, if you like. How much? Just get in, we'll figure it out in the car.“
They still didn't tell me the price they would offer to a prostitute and I was so nervous that I couldn't continue the conversation calmly. „Not with two. And definitely not without protection, you can leave.“
„But there has to be a way to settle, maybe not both of us, one of us can just watch. Think about the price, we'll be back later.“ I said I'm not interested, but they've left anyway. I was hoping they won't be back and I wrote down their license plate, just in case. If the situation escalates, I would send it to people that have monitored my situation from a distance.
10 minutes went by, it was about 2:30PM and I was almost sure the boys won't be back. I was wrong. Few minutes later they pulled over again. „Come with us, you won't dream of ever being f*cked like this“. I firmly replied that I wasn't interested. Fortunately, this time they understood and really left.
60+ men or construction workers
For the next two hours, the type of guys stopping by me was very similar. 7 cars stopped by. 5 of them were men above 60. Each one of them riding an older model of a car, one of them even opened the door for me. He had adult magazines laying on the front seat.
When I asked this 70 year old man what he's expecting of me, he said, someone who will wash and dust off his car. I denied, but he still wished me good luck in life and told me to be careful out in these streets.
Others stopped from a distance, didn't even talk to me, just opened the door and waited if I'll step in. Self-preservation instinct won over my curiosity. I continued walking the curb and ignored such drivers.
All of the men that stopped by looked like they weren't doing it for the first time and they knew exactly what they wanted from the woman. Aside from the case with two men in Skoda Felicia, everyone I've turned down has pulled over just a bit further to find a more eager woman.
There was an exceptional case of a driver who didn't stop by, but instead of ignoring my existence on the side of the road, he screamed: „Die, wh*re!“.
Steady exchange and each one for herself
After a few experiences with drivers, I redirected my attention to the women that were keeping me company on the street. When I showed up at the location, during the first half hour there was only one more lady there.
I've gathered all of my courage and went to approach her, but I've noticed that she kept walking the opposite direction from me. I've pulled out the cigarettes, put one of them in my mouth and waved at her to wait for me. She did it reluctantly, but I immediately asked if she had a lighter.
I've automatically offered her a cigarette. She took it. I thought this gesture would give me space for questions, but she just took back her lighter and walked to the other side. She raised her hand up and continued to wave at the passing cars.
She must've been one of the youngest women there on that day. Roughly around 30 years old, but her face was breaking out and she had missing teeth, so she could've been easily younger than that.
After some time, police stopped by and she talked to them for a while. As soon as they've left, another car pulled over and I didn't meet her ever since. So I've never found out what the police wanted from her.
But I did ask Kate, that I knew from my previous interview with her and her partner, who's also her pimp. I was hoping she wouldn't recognize me, but she was curious what I'm looking for and if she can help me.
I've offered her cigarettes and told her what I'm doing there. She has warned me to be careful, because I'm new and other prostitutes can have a problem with my presence there. It would also be her case if she didn't know me and the reason why I was there. „Each one wants to make as much money as possible. The more women, the less earnings. And if you really were a new girl that took away our clients, some would send their pimps or their boyfriends.“
However, I was still curious why the police stopped by the prostitutes. Because prostitution, according to applicable law, isn't defined in the legislation and therefore it isn't explicitly prohibited. So neither me, or any other woman offering her services, shouldn't get in trouble with the cops.
„Cops don't usually come here. If they come and stop by a woman, they're probably just looking for someone. They can intimidate the new ones, but they can't technically do anything.“ Apparently, they leave Kate alone, because she's built up some sort of respect with them over the time. „If a new cop comes by wanting something and doesn't know me yet, I tell him to f*ck off right away.“
I've asked Kate about the length of her shift today and she said she just needs one customer. She showed up looking nice, hair done up in a neat bun and generally it was apparent that she has put some effort into her look. She didn't want to hang around me for too long though, because she said she wants to go home to Carl soon and she needs to make the money.
She walks the streets so her grandkids can go to school
Apart from Kate, the friendliest woman I've met on that day was a 57-year old Anna. I came to offer her a cigarette and ask for a lighter, and she said that even though she doesn't have a lighter, I can stick around to chat for a while.
„Do you do drugs?“, she asked right off the bat. When I said no, she continued: „That makes two of us. All of the other girls here are junkies.“ I was curious about what she's doing here, since she obviously isn't driven by her addictions.
„I came back to the streets after 30 years. I used to be a junkie, but when I became pregnant, I gave it up for good. Unfortunately though, my daughter got into it and now she can't take care of the grandkids. I walk the streets so they can finish school and live a better life than me.“
I've asked her if she wasn't tempted with drugs at all, being surrounded by addicted women, that don't realize what they're doing. „I know it might sound strange, but I've got my values. If I'd do drugs, I would use all of my money to pay for them and now I can help my grandchildren instead. One woman was so desperate for her fix that she agreed to do full-service with no protection for 3 EUR. That could never happen to me.“
It was admirable how Anna wouldn't lose her optimism, went on cracking jokes and kept a smile on her face the entire time. She asked for a lighter from passers-by and she wouldn't get distracted by their apparent disinterest and distance they've kept from us.
Her smile was present even when she was describing a brutal rape that she experienced during her first few years on the streets. The man drove her to the forest, held her hands on the back seat and despite loud resistance, anally raped her.
After the rape he started strangling her and she says that if she didn't bite him and manage to break free, she wouldn't be alive today. However, when she went on to report the crime to the police, they told her that such a case is an „occupational risk“ and they have more important things to deal with.
I was surprised that despite of the traumatising experience, she decided to return to the street. „I've been through the worst and ever since then, I'm not afraid anymore. The worst thing is when you're afraid. The men can feel it and then they try to not pay you, or even hurt you.“
The last car that pulled over was obviously a business car, meant for transportation of building materials. Two men around the age of 30 have approached me and Anna, in a very good mood.
I've let Anna agree on an offer, but they've stopped by me a bit later. I've sent them away with some excuse and asked Anna what the problem was. „Never get in the car if there's two of them. It's a bad sign.“
After years of experience, she's got a collection of rules that she doesn't break. She refuses to talk to drugged up people, because she doesn't trust them. Keeps her distance from them. Her customers have to pay in advance and she doesn't go below her minimum fee, because she says she's not some merchandise who's price can be negotiated.
Shortly, a man on the other side of the street called Anna, and she left to go talk to him for a little while. I went on to talk to other women. When she came back, I wanted to say goodbye to her, but she just said bluntly, that she can't talk to me anymore. I've figured that the man from the other side of the street must be her pimp, since she said he's always nearby.
Earnings depend on the attractiveness of the woman and the urgency of a fix
From the very beginning I was curious about the income of women on the street. The drivers weren't willing to say how much they'd pay for these services, so I had to ask the other women.
Kate has told me in the past that her prices are set according to the appearance and rough estimate of the driver's wealth, but she's always trying to negotiate. One day before our conversation, a man has paid €50 for oral. But the average prices are usually €30 for oral and €60 for "full-service".
However, before that, I've talked to a woman of an unpredictable age, caused by her evident abuse of substances. She didn't seem to care about her look like other women on the street and she sat on the barriers smoking cigarettes most of the time.
Her prices ranged €10 for oral and €20 for "full-service". Kate and Anna both claim that they set their prices based on the interest of the drivers. If they keep coming back, the prices go higher, because they have something to choose from. Other girls adjust to the interest and aren't picky.
Another factor is, of course, the need for the preferred substance. As Anna confirmed to me, there's women that will agree to a ridiculous price in desperation, so they can get whichever amount needed to satisfy the craving.
The necessity of money for the drugs also determines the boundaries some women set on the streets. Anna doesn't do drugs, so she's in control of the requirements. She doesn't agree to unprotected sex, refuses anal and won't get in the car with multiple men.
Kate says that despite being a user, she doesn't walk the street when she feels a craving coming. She doesn't want to sell herself short or agree to something she would never agree to otherwise.
When I asked her how she handles such situations, she answered that the responsibility then falls on her partner, Karol. „Worst comes to worst, Karol steals and sells something, but such situations don't happen often. Usually in the winter, when people don't pull over and we have no ways of getting money.“
Thus the services a woman offers on the street are mostly proportional to the length of addiction and street-working time. A woman that took care of her look the least told me that everything has a price and that she'll agree to unprotected sex or other requirements based on the offered price. „Girls that have told you anything else are lying to you. Each one of us needs money. If we're standing here, we probably don't have that many options to choose from.“
There is a hierarchy on the street, new women are not welcome
I was leaving the location before 5PM in the afternoon, as soon as I decided that I've collected enough material and came into contact with each woman on the street.
My last encounter with a prostitute was quite unpleasant though. During the conversation with Anna I've noticed a new woman that wasn't standing there before and seemed to have escaped my attention.
She was wearing a short skirt and pigtails, so I've thought it was a young girl, a newcomer maybe. I've noticed that she had been watching me from a distance for some time. So I went in her direction.
At first, she hid behind a truck and my first thought was, that she might just be shy. I sped up, pulled out my proven cigarette trick and went to ask her for a lighter. I've noticed that I've misjudged her age at first. She must've been over 40.
She wouldn't let me get any closer and started yelling at me: „What do you want? Who put you here? F*ck off!“ I answered that I'm just waiting for a friend, cause I knew she wouldn't buy my original story about my first day of street-walking. „Why the f*ck do you come here when you know what's happening here. “
This experience has confirmed what multiple women have warned me about. They don't like new colleagues and if a woman doesn't have protection from a pimp, it can quickly go real bad for her.
Despite the fact that I haven't experienced anything confrontational apart from this exception, it was apparent to me who's in charge and who is to be avoided, based on the behavior of the women. Kate evoked natural respect thanks to her talkative nature and quick thinking.
Two women, including the last one, looked the best. The other girls gave them the right of way and kept distance from them. They talked the least and refused to talk to or get close to new people like me.
It's also highly likely that they were also under surveillance of a pimp and not allowed to socialize, just like in Anna's case. Their bluntness, remoteness and striking hostility have disabled my effort to definitely confirm this assumption.
Driving by the location a few days later to take some pictures, a woman that has avoided me the whole time, was giving money to a man, probably a pimp. He disappeared behind the trees not too far away, sat down and watched her.
Although I only stood there for a very short time compared to other women, I've managed to find out, at least partially, what they all have to go through to get to their money. Constant honking, shouting, cursing and negotiation of the price for the sexual services will take a toll on any woman that has to make money this way.
One may say that in a lot of the cases the woman herself is to blame, but this ain't always the case. Bad financial situation, insufficient love and care and peer pressure - these are all factors that are important in determining the path of a person.
It's easy to condemn people in a situation such as prostitutes on the street and exclude them from society. Each one of them has their own story, that brought her here. Remember Anna, before you insult or laugh about these girls the next time.
If problems persis, please contact administrator.
If problems persis, please contact administrator.