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After four years of tending bar at Centaurus, the most elite brothel in the sex-for-pay melee that is the recklessly beautiful city of Rio de Janeiro, Sergio Limas — 47 years old, pleasantly gruff and handsomely handlebar mustached — had become unfazeable. Even though it was forbidden, clients would often try and get him to come into one of the upstairs rooms, to sleep with him, or to watch him sleep with the girls whose time they had paid for.
As Limas saw, anyone with enough money could live big at Centaurus. One evening, an anonymous rich dude shelled out tens of thousands of dollars and grabbed the master suite, plus about 20 girls, all for himself. He always gets two girls and he always has this candy bar.
And the secret is — the girls shove the candy bar in his ass. W hen, last fall, the fumbling libertine Justin Bieber tried to sneak out of Centaurus undetected by paparazzi — covered, in a bit of droll surreality, head-to-toe in a white sheet clearly marked Centaurus— it was a moment of international recognition for the sex house.
But in Rio, the locals — the cariocas — have long been familiar with the place. Climb the stairs, go under the water tower. Everyone does this. I did this! The conventions at these places are the same: walk in, get handed a locker key, get naked, put on a robe. Downstairs are the spa accommodations. Upstairs, the girls. As the legend goes, Aeroporto had two partners, a guy named Isaac and a guy named Mr. There was some dispute between the two and Mr. Williams set off on his own, opening Centaurus. He brought with him a garota de programa — garota meaning girl, and programa the preferred term for a sex session — named Najara, who he had employed in his other house, They say Mr.
Centaurus opened around In part thanks to the reputation of its owners, and in part thanks to its impressive location — on a welcomingly leafy street, minutes from the beach and steps away from the shops and restaurants of the well-off, world-famous Ipanema neighborhood — it almost instantly became a legend.
The reputation of its girls was unsurpassed: Centaurus charged you the most, and it offered, in return, the most beautiful garotas. And so, before I march into the hallowed halls of the mighty Centaurus, I figure it might be good to give some other parts of town a spin. One mid-June afternoon in the Gloria neighborhood, while office workers down the street grub pastels at corner juice bars, I pause at a homosexual sauna, Clube , not yet open for business.
He had the temerity, the poor fool, of trying to pickpocket one member of the crew. In Brazil, prostitution is technically legal. But the rules surrounding it are strict: there can be no third-party beneficiaries. Anything beyond a direct exchange between a sex worker and a client — like a prostitute hiring herself a personal security guard — is legally actionable. Just a few weeks before the World Cup kickoff, across the President Costa e Silva Bridge from Rio in Niteroi, dozens of prostitutes were evicted from a building they share, arrested and, they later alleged, humiliated, beaten and raped.
A place like Centaurus — which makes no effort to hide, decorating its front entrance with a giant, glorious rendering of its titular half-man half-horse — is blatantly illegal. On May 29th of this year, the place was busted again. Both times, it returned to full operation within weeks. According to the former bartender, Limas, in his time at the venue, police payoffs were regular, and information on raids was always relayed ahead of time.
Vila, the red light district, is equally unperturbed by police, but for much different reasons. The official governing body here is staffed by former sex workers who now own the properties. I meet Ruvolo in Vila at a lavender house with a wide New Orleans-style porch populated by wrought-iron chairs with floral tops, a peacock tapestry and several women in their thirties and forties in high heels and frilly lingerie. This is where her friend Aline, a year Vila veteran, is working today. Together, they created RedLightRio , a database of interviews with women who work in the area.
That stuck with me. What the fuck? Here, we knew the women as prostitutes. But then we got to know them as mothers and sisters. Ever since the Cup kicked off, business has been painfully slow. With no clients to tend to, Aline shows us around the house. In the back of the house, where the light shines brightly through a corrugated tin roof, are rows of rooms with thin mattresses covered in thick blue plastic material.
There are bare lightbulbs, a ceiling fan, wooden coat hooks and a plastic bucket. Telling us about one particularly heavy-set customer, Aline pantomimes how he had to penguin shuffle into the narrow room sideways. As I pass, some shake their asses slowly, or make kissy noises or wave half-heartedly.
Mostly, they seem bored. A snack cart offers codfish cakes. One young kid is even trying to sell piles of Adidas mesh shorts. There are some neon s throughout — one re Dollhouse , another Bem-Vindo — but most places are unmarked. An older woman in a hair net hustles down the hall with a tray of takeout containers; meanwhile, Julie and Aline stop and chat with their many pals here. Seeing one girl in an impressively elaborate, practically crocheted white swimsuit, Aline compliments her, then asks her to spin around.
Outside, just down the street, is a hut fashioned to look, oddly enough, like a giant gift-wrapped present. The idea is that a potential client will, minutes before consummation, stop the transaction upon realizing he might be exploiting a woman forced into prostitution against her will.
But, according to Ruvolo, there actually are no nefarious pimps here. As she explains, the women of Vila come and go as they please, setting their own hours and rates, only paying a cut to the house for use of the property. The owner dismissed the minors claim as preposterous, insisting that what rare underage girls that worked the area were never allowed into Balcony anyway. But what no one discounted was that Balcony was, indeed, a stronghold of working girls. In , a cavernous hour Copacabana dance club called Help — in its heyday, a major, beloved prostitute work zone — was closed, in favor of the founding of the Museum of Image and Sound to date, still under construction.
But no workers went home: inside of a week, the girls, and the clientele, just moved on down the beach, to Balcony. Now, again, everyone had moved on — 10 feet over, to in front of Balcony. Before the clock strikes midnight on a recent evening, the plaza is littered with clusters of Croats and Argentinians and Chileans, beaming with pride in their team jerseys, already swaying with the booze and alternately confused and intrigued by the many pairs of provocatively-clad ladies roving the area.
The ambulantes , selling tall boys of Antarctica beer out of styrofoam coolers, are making a killing. I speak with an animated and smiley dark-haired girl, who, here, goes by the name Maria Eduarda. There are issues, of course. One gringo the term, used in Brazil, to connote any and all non-Brazilian had recently tried to rob her. She called the police, but they were useless. Another time, a guy came and picked up her and six girls, offering a very favorable rate. Then, as soon as she agreed, he threw the cuffs on: he was an undercover cop, convinced she was underage.
Ultimately, the money is too persuasive. One client paid 1, reais for one hour. We already arranged. Americans pay the best. They pay to talk, have fun, have a drink, snort cocaine. Italians have thin dicks. Too white. No hair. She started working two weeks ago, in anticipation of just this spike in prices. Normally, she works as a manager in a store, where she makes 3, reais a month. Here, she could match that total in three nights. The first night, I had to drink a lot of tequila. Are you crazy? Look at my size! T haddeus Blanchette, 46, slightly portly, with a full head, and beard, of salt-and-pepper hair, is a professor of anthropology at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.
Exceedingly friendly and garrulous, he rattles off his rapid-fire Portuguese with the distinct round tones of his long-ago native Oshkosh, Wisconsin. They first said it about Germany [in ], then they said it about South Africa [in ]. There were four [documented sex trafficking cases] in Germany. Fewer than eight in South Africa. For the Super Bowl in Texas [in ] they said , Mexican girls would be trafficked. That would have been enough for every man and woman and child in the stadium to have their own underage prostitute!
Folks like Ruvolo and Blanchette and Williams believe that certain NGOs — specifically, many of the ones associated with the hardline Coalition Against Trafficking in Women — are dangerously focused on shaping policy around the truly horrible, but rare and unrepresentative, stories of exploited minors and enslaved women. But as the revenue the girls at Balcony generate shows, more likely than not, sex work is not about teeth-gnashingly awful tales of modern slavery.
Murder, theft, the selling of your body — every day, extreme acts are committed for the simple enough reason of cash. I mean, fuck the facts! He laughs. O ne afternoon, at a cozy espresso bar dug into a spiffy bookstore in Botafogo, Thaddeus introduces me to Giovana. A very pretty brunette in a plaid shirt and simple black sandals, Giovana is both a doctoral student in anthropology specializing in sex work and a garota de programa herself.
When she started her doctoral work, she again got directly involved. Giovana is her work name. She now plies her trade in a high-end termas in the Zona Sul analogous to, if not exactly as highly regarded as, Centaurus. She stopped for a year when she got married. After her divorce, she got back into prostitution.
Her income now ranges from 4, to 12, reais per month. Then I stop until I spend all my money and get calm and get my head together again. Two, for the money. Finally, I wanted as a woman to investigate how men are able to disconnect sex from affection. She tells us about a recent shift, when she did programas with three gringos. Then he took off three pairs of underwear: shorts, boxer shorts, and tighty-whities. Does she ever worry someone might walk into a brothel and see her? Everyone believes this legend.
The women at work share tips, like which dental anaesthetic is best for anal sex lidocaine is quite good , or how to deal with menstruating on the job, or how to avoid oral sex with clients. They get confused. The term for that guy is pentelho — pubic hair. One that wants the kind of sex he cannot normally have with woman of his class and social position: non-normative sexual behavior.
The other type is someone who sees it as a proving field of masculine virility. That guy needs to prove he can do what he needs to do. And the vast majority of my clients want normal sex. But there are exceptions. And they are dramatic. For the next few minutes, Giovana spins a jaw-dropping tale of dramatic luridity touching on domination fantasies, princess fantasies, arsenals of sex toys, velvet-lined testicle handcuffs, sexually oriented penis slaps, pegging and the fraught kissing of hands.
T he Sao Conrado Fashion Mall — a self-righteously bougie place, open-aired, full of jutting fauna and snack stand waitresses in straw boaters — is located at the base of Rocinha, the biggest favela in Brazil. Also ing us is my new friend and foursquare champion Pelife, acting as my translator.
Later, at this same Fashion Mall, Pelife will have a nice dinner out with his wife and mother-in-law. But first, we talk Centaurus.Termas monte carlo review
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My Journey to the Land of Unlimited Beautiful Women: Rio