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Society

Hard Times for Greek Escorts: Customers Can’t Pay

October 31, 2018

ATHENS — It may be the world’s oldest profession but prostitution isn’t paying like it in Greece for women who chose the hard life or are forced into it, victims of human and sex trafficking in a country where the tawdry business is legal but still a sign of how desperate those providing the service, and struggling to pay for it during an 8 ½-year-long economic crisis are.

Women can be had in legal brothels, visible by a single white light over the door, for as little as 20 euros ($23) for virtually any act imaginable and even cheaper for those on the streets where the place of the acts can be a dirty alley or a customer’s car.

But the customers are drying up and the prices going down during the crisis, the New York Times Iliana Magra reported in a feature on just how dreary the nasty business is, with women who wouldn’t have thought of turning tricks jumping – or falling – at the chance to gain survival money by using their bodies.

And that doesn’t count gay hustlers who frequent parks, usually at night, but even during the day, many of them refugees or migrants willing to have sex with men – often older men seeking younger ones – for as little as 5 euros ($5.68,) enough for a souvlaki, a drink and a subway ticket.

But the trade is plied in garish places of red and purple lights, with tables holding plates filled with condoms, although customers often will pay extra if the women will let them not wear one. It’s a world, the paper noted, where the women fighting back against sexual harassment of #MeToo does not exist.

“I had a flower shop for 18 years — and now I’m here out of necessity, not out of joy,” said Dimitra, a middle-aged woman who lost her shop in the crisis and now works as a madam on Filis Street, the Broadway of broken dreams and main street for brothels. “I used to be called Mrs. Dimitra, but now I’ve become a whore,” she told the paper.

Women are for rent, on the cheap and most will do just about anything requested, so grim is their life, especially those trafficked in from other countries or tricked into the business by pimps and gangsters who lure them with offers of jobs and a better life, only to find themselves trapped on a bad mattress.

In Greece, prostitution is legal in registered brothels, although most of the places of business are not and street prostitution is unlawful although the police don’t seem to notice scantily-clad women leaning into car windows at red lights, licking their lips and beckoning prospective johns for a few euros.

The economic times have made it an even tougher business and in the context of the new political, economic and cultural environment,” Grigoris Lazos, a Professor of Criminology at Panteion University in Athens told the paper. He spent six years researching how migration and the austerity-driven economy became an unholy intersection that changed the business of prostitution and made it darker and harder.

Prostitution in Greece is legal at the age of 18, and regulated and it’s estimated that there are only about 1,000 women legally employed but 20 times that – some 20,000 – off the books and available for whatever your heart desires, even if it’s for something underaged.

Lazos said he found that the number of prostitutes in the city increased by 7 percent since 2012, yet prices have dropped drastically, both for women working on the streets and in brothels.
“In 2012, it would require an average of 39 euros ($44.29)” for a client to hire a prostitute in a brothel, he said, “while in 2017 just 17 euros ($19.31) — a 56 percent decrease.”

NOT SO LEGAL

According to Greek law, a brothel has to be at least about 655 feet away from schools, hospitals, churches, nurseries and public squares, among other places, which means even those that are legal are often likely not, technically speaking, because Athens is so dense it’s hard not to be near a forbidden zone for a business that does its bidding and he found only eight of the 798 brothels operating in the city in August were legal.

Police statistics show there are only about 300 brothels with spokesman Theodoros Chronopoulos, initially telling the paper that doesn’t include hidden brothels and that police are aggressively trying to stop trafficking, citing an increased number of arrests. But he also said police mostly leave brothels alone, he said, partly because of the sense among the authorities that they help single men deal with loneliness.

“We’re quite tolerant when it comes to brothels,” he said, “because we understand that what they do is social service,” before backtracking and saying, “There is no tolerance when it comes to brothels. The checks are intensive and constant and violations are applied where appropriate.”

Magra wrote that none of the women she interviewed thought what they were doing was a social service and many said they despised the men that came to them and a madam named Evaggelia, who oversees a brothel, said of them: “They’re not worthy enough of a girlfriend. They think that by paying 20 euros, they buy something.”

All the women insisted on using only one name because of the stigma and for safety reasons. None said she had been forced — except by necessity — to be there. But none wanted to be here.
“I hate sex,” one named Elena said. “I like the money, not the job.”

Another, named Anastasia – but known as Amazon to clients – said she began working as a prostitute 19 years earlier – at age 14, but says it’s gotten more difficult. “People don’t have money anymore,” she said.

They promise, “I’ll come when I get paid,” or they ask for bargains. Men often ask for unprotected sex, she said, and many prostitutes who are drug addicts take on such clients for less than 10 euros ($11.34).

“The ones that do it have AIDS, so they don’t care, they’re even doing it for vengeance,” according to Anastasia, who is in rehabilitation for drug addiction. “But they’ve destroyed the market.”
Another, Monica, a 30-year-old Albanian prostitute, said of her brothel that “I came here “because

it’s the only job that, once you do it, you know you’ll get paid.” Today, she spends six to eight hours a day trying to entice clients, but most do not stay.

“They don’t have money,” she said. “They haven’t had money for the past seven years.”

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