O n a sunny morning in Madrid, two young women duck down a side street, into a residential block and up to an apartment front door. Then they start knocking. Marcella and Maria spend a lot of time banging on doors and yelling through letterboxes all over the city. Most of the time, these doors never open. When they do, the two women could find themselves in trouble.
Sex in Spain – 5 things you need to know about hot Spanish lovin’
Spain sex workers left to fend for themselves under lockdown
In the middle of this dark, dingy passage, next to a computer shop and across from a hotel catering to business travelers, there is a doorway lined with incandescent light bulbs and plastered with gaudy 80s porn posters. I hand her the money and enter clumsily through the glass door, staring at my shoes. Inside, the air is thick with perfume and astringent with bleach. Amid the gloom, some fifteen women crowd the small bar, sending forth affected desire and haunted looks. High-heels, shorts skirts, straining cleavage, and mouths like crimson wounds. Their faces flash in and out of the lights and the dry ice, a brume of voluptuous hosts.
Already extremely vulnerable and with an ambiguous legal status, many of Spain's sex workers have struggled to make ends meet during the state of emergency, with clubs closed, clients staying home and fines for staying in the street. There were 15 women at the club, most from Latin America, but almost all have left, according to Rochel. She says she was allowed to stay but made to feel as if it was "a humanitarian gesture, and not the right of an employee who deserves somewhere to live".
Unlike in some other countries, people in Spain are not particularly shy when it comes to discussing and displaying their sexuality. The Spanish in general are not a shy nor modest bunch. Any trip to the beach will make that abundantly clear before you even step foot onto the sand. Now, some of them will strip down to their bikini briefs, thongs, bras — whatever happens to be under the clothes they showed up in — and jump right in the water or laze in the sun, while a smaller number will just get naked.