“Here you can earn your independence.”
“What do you think of prostitution?”
“I think it’s a very good thing in life. For people who don’t have a job, who need to support their children.”
Graça, the president of the association of brothel owners of Vila Mimosa (and former sex worker) talks about why women come to Vila Mimosa (“out of necessity”) and how she hopes they leave here in a “better condition.” (Graça herself supports 13 family members with her income.)
I compare Vila Mimosa, known for its low-income clientele, occasional violence, militia presence and perpetual sanitation problems, to Centaurus, the luxury brothel in Ipanema Beach that Justin Bieber visited in 2013, in terms of working conditions.
As a former employee (as a sex worker and later, front desk receptionist) told me at the time, working at Centaurus requires committing to obligatory five- or six-day work weeks, twelve hours a day. If you needs to skip a day because you’re sick, or any other reason, you have to pay a fee of $250-400 per day you miss. And the house keeps about half the rake that clients pay (this is sometimes referred to as the “exploitation rate”).
In Vila Mimosa, meanwhile, women can show up at any time to work at any of the seventy or so brothels, for as much or as little time as they want. They are supposed to charge at least R$50 per 25 minutes of time with a client, but some charge less, and some charge more. The house only keeps about 20-25% of what the client pays.
“No one tells you what to do here,” Graça told me. But that doesn’t mean anything goes. “I don’t let people mistreat clients or the women. I think the men coming here and bringing our bread deserve our respect. Just like prostitutes deserve respect.”
This is part one of a rare interview with Graça, the president of AMOCAVIM, the association of brothel owners of Vila Mimosa, and a former sex worker in Vila Mimosa. In the second part, she talks about what is and isn’t allowed in Vila. Next, she talks about how a woman who works in Vila “shouldn’t feel ashamed to say she’s a whore.”