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Selling sex in Albufeira
“It was an unusually busy Thursday,” she explained the next morning, lying on a mattress as a friend and former stripper gave her a pedicure. “Five men in the night after two during the day”.
“I’d gone to bed after the “novela” around midnight thinking “I’m just going to have a lovely sleep”. But I got woken by some holidaymakers coming home drunk and the phone rang and I thought “well, I’m awake now”…”
On a “normal day”, Melissa will make anything between €150 and €300. But as the summer fills up with bawdy holidaymakers, that average is stretching nicely – and it’s all going according to plan.
Melissa is one of hundreds of Brazilian woman living and working as prostitutes in Albufeira – arguably the sex capital of the Algarve.
And like so many of them, she arrived here “a total innocent”.
“I was an idiot! I was brought over by someone who told me there was lots of work – but I had no idea what kind of work it was”.
“In the beginning, I cried day and night. The first time I had sex with a client I felt nothing. Nothing at all. It was such a shock”.
But the 39-year-old who came to earn money to provide for her son and mother back in Minas Gerais was “a quick learner”.
“I spent a month and a half in that house and then I set myself up in this apartment. I took back control. In the house, the lady who brought me over wrote my announcement (the advertisement placed in newspapers). It attracted all kinds of sickos and filthy-minded men.
“When I moved into my own apartment, I wrote my own announcement. I am gentle and complete, it says, a teacher – and that means I attract men now who want to realise their fantasies”.
Some of them are sado-masochists like the “wonderful Englishman” who is one of her regular clients. “A writer”, he had “traumatic experiences at school” and enjoys being punished. “He’s a lovely man. Very intelligent. We have fantastic conversations…”
Indeed Melissa herself has qualifications in child education and business administration. She was thinking of taking a post-graduate course in psychology before life in Brazil got “very complicated”.
“No-one can tell what they would do until they see their children go hungry” her friend told me quietly as she filed Melissa’s toenails.
“That’s for sure” Melissa rolls her eyes. “I am totally focused on my plan – and that plan involves working like this for one maybe two more years, buying a second house in Brazil (I already have one) and securing my son’s stability.
Then I will have time to think about myself. I will find a man, move to another town and start a family. I’ll get married. Have a new life!
“Listen, a president isn’t a president for his whole life. He might be a president for four years, or maybe eight – and then he does something else. The same applies to a prostitute.
She doesn’t have to be a prostitute for the rest of her life! The way I look at what I am doing” she explains candidly, “is simply that I am taking holidays from my life. But it has already taught me a great deal about many things. I have learnt to value myself and stay focused.”
“Where would I be if I started thinking about love…?”
She clearly is not expecting an answer.
The phone rings. “It’s €30 for “convivio” (sex), €40 for convivio with massage. No, there’s no smell afterwards. Yes, I work alone. Yes, yes, you can come later…”
Time to make a move? “No, no, he’s not coming straight away. In a little while”.
“Most of my clients are married men,” Melissa continues.
“They come because their wives have said no to something or other. “I want to eat your arse”, I get that request a lot. Portuguese women don’t want that – and their men respect their refusals – which is a lot more than Brazilian men would do! They expect their women to do everything…”
“And so these respectful married Portuguese men come to me, and I try to do what they want well, so that they come back. I like to study their bodies and see the areas where they’re most sensitive”.
But she has some rules: no Africans (“they steal things. I had one who actually stole my deodorant!”); no Romanians (“too rough!”) and definitely no trips to Montechoro (“far too dangerous and men there expect a blow-job for €20! They’re way too cheap!”).
As Melissa eases into the day with her pedicure, Sueli and Kelly, also from Brazil, are busy working out of an apartment very close to the Town Hall. They share the apartment with two other Portuguese girls – and here the atmosphere is not quite so upbeat.
Sueli doesn’t know how much longer she’ll have to work this way and is “definitely not doing it because I enjoy it. It’s all about the money. I have to make money to support my two sons. I am a widow. I have no help from anyone, and I have to work like this until my boys (aged 17 and 18) are properly qualified”.
Kelly, 34, “can’t wait to leave this life”. She’s given herself until December “and then I am going home to my children however much money I’ve made”.
The reason for the change of heart is that she’s “fallen in love” which “makes this life very difficult. I don’t have the same enthusiasm I had for it”.
Kelly and Sueli offer anal and oral sex (€60), as well as a Lesbian Show (“all the Europeans’ fantasy!”) for €100.
“Before 2010 we earned really well here – but now with the crisis we’ve had to drop our prices. It’s not the same. Nothing like as good…” But the law doesn’t pose any difficulties for these girls. They get round tax issues by paying for bogus work contracts “to keep SEF happy”, and the police “have never caused any problems”.
Nonetheless, it’s a life on the edge. “We risk our lives everyday,” they all agree.
Conversation was difficult as the phones in this apartment were constantly ringing. Sueli disappears, with a rather flat “chaozinho Natasha” and a young very thin pale Portuguese girl with facial studs suddenly appears from one of the bedrooms.
Friday afternoon in the middle of August. Things will hot up when the bars close – and everyone wants to earn as much as they can while the summer’s here.
As I left the mayhem of Albufeira and headed West where most people earn a lot less than €700 in a whole month, I pondered Melissa’s views of presidents and prostitutes and realised that presidents, by and large, cause thousands of people pain and frustration during their terms in office – while prostitutes work very hard to bring thousands of people pleasure.