Greek Sex Workers Can’t Swallow COVID-19 Rules

June 28, 2020

As the famed feminist philosopher-singer-sextoy Madonna once said, one swallow doesn’t make a summer. Okay, it was Aristotle, but I’m taking some literary license here like they do in the movies when they throw some fictional characters into real events to sell tickets.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a horror show onslaught for humanity and, while Greece wasn’t spared, an early lockdown brought by the New Democracy government was properly credited with holding down the number of cases and deaths, saving countless lives.

The gradual lifting of that shutdown hasn’t gone as well, however. Almost immediately, crowds of predominantly young people partied like there was no tomorrow, gathering by the hundreds in beach clubs in violation of requirements to keep at least 1.5 meters (5 feet) apart, creating a petri dish for the Coronavirus to lock on to more victims.

That it hasn’t happened is as much a mystery as how the virus began spreading from China, mostly likely from an exotic food market with favored delicacies such as bat soup, unless you believe one of those various conspiracy theories it didn’t.

To try to make life easier and better for workers who had to mostly stay at home for more than two months during the lockdown, the government set health protocols while allowing businesses to open again.

That included the legal brothels that can be found throughout Athens, identifiable by little white lights outside. Call it the White Light district. A friend told me where they were but I can’t name him under Greek privacy laws and fear of being chased with a baseball bat although giving his batting average he’d miss me .802 percent of the time.

As the traveler’s tip web site In Your Pocket (sounds more like a guide for politicians wanting donations) advised, legal prostitution in Athens “caters to the lower end of the market.” Don’t blame me, I didn’t say that.

The brothels are concentrated in certain areas such as Metaxourgeio and, as it was put, “usually seedy establishments housed in old buildings,” so make sure you bring plenty of anti-bacterial wipes and, ahem, hand sanitizer.

And be prepared because, the Sexy Athens guide said: “The ladies in most of these, have seen better days and the prices are accordingly low,” 20 to 30 euros ($22.52-$33.78) and the sad part is that some are victims of human trafficking although prostitution is legal.

These women are even more desperate than most other workers because even during Greece's near decade-long economic and austerity crisis there was no shortage of customers but the lockdown left them, and clients, high and dry.

So to speak, they're anxious to get their hands on men again although they'd be well advised to wear gloves because there are plenty of gloves around, except at beach clubs and other places where wild partying is going on from people who think they're invulnerable.

The women who practice the world’s oldest profession said health and safety guidelines to protect them and their clients against the Coronavirus will harm their business, said the news agency Reuters, regulations that include requiring them to get the name and phone numbers of clients, all named John Smithopoulos and with the same phone number: 210-555-1212.

Men who frequent the sex businesses don’t want their identities known, nor their phone numbers, the requirement aimed at being able to track and trace people in case someone gets infected with the virus although Greece didn't put in place a widespread phone app.

“What client is going to give us their personal information? I tell you, people are going to go hungry,” Anna Kouroupou, a trans-woman who heads Red Umbrella, a support group, told the news agency.

Masks are also required in the brothels, raising the question of how that would be practical for some sex or face-to-face contact, and with the whole sense of sex being impossible for customers to keep a social distance, although all clients boast1.5 meters isn't enough.

Rules require sex partners during the act, or acts, to keep their heads apart, bed linen changed after each encounter, and paying by debit or credit cards.

“They are ridiculous and I’m putting it mildly,” said a woman called Rita, who manages a brothel in central Athens told the news agency.

After almost three months of stay-at-home orders, customers lined up, almost charging in the door of brothels, reports said, although it wasn't said what they were knocking with, and the women fear the requirements could change that.

“It’s been mad, someone said sex-starved,” said Rita, counting out 15 euros ($16.88) left by each client.

The sex workers weren't allowed to do what they do during the lockdown but were just as eager to get their hands on money as men were to get their hands on them, along with everything else.

Rita and colleagues said they fear the rules may force them to go underground. She rejected the notion of orderly queues at brothels, the report said, whoever wrote these rules is mixing up brothels with supermarket lines apparently, except for the meat counter.

“They almost break down the door in their hurry to get in because they are embarrassed to be seen. How will they be expected to queue? It’s ridiculous,” she said.

What can they do? They're in a dirty business, especially if they're doing it right.


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