In the two plays I’ve worked on that dealt with the theme of prostitution, I was never the one playing the prostitute. I think that’s a backhanded compliment in the grander scheme of things. And I was somewhat content that at least I was performing stories that did not glorify or romanticise this profession, unlike series and films (which I’ve actually enjoyed) such as The Secret Diary of a Call Girl and Moulin Rouge.
Why escorting and not prostitution, you may ask? Aren’t they one and the same? What’s the difference? Well, these two plays that concern this argument are Unprotected and Marti Martek Martek Marti. The first is a verbatim piece about the murders of two heroin-addicted prostitutes in Liverpool back in 2003, and the second is Malcolm Galea’s comic masterpiece that addressed Malta’s attitude towards foreign escorts. Unprotected led me to the perceived distinction between street prostitutes and high class escorts, while Marti Martek Martek Marti hammered home the conclusion that escorting is dependent on class and race.
Here’s what I’ve deciphered. You’re a prostitute if you operate on the streets, the little attire you wear is cheap and tacky, your clients don’t want to be seen with you and aren’t rolling in the millions, and you’re a native to the country you work in. You’re an escort if you work from home, have had professional photos taken, your clients are mainly rich natives and/or white European men, and you hail from the Baltic region or Eastern Europe. That’s the kind of pigeon-holing I’m getting, anyway. Which brings me to my next point.
Whilst browsing through one particular website, (you don’t have to google ‘escorts in Malta’; we’ve done that for you) I had a look through the profile pictures of the women offering their services. Leaving aside that I could only find two girls who were black, not one of them stated that they could speak Maltese, and almost all of them could speak an Eastern European language. Let’s say that indeed, all these women happen to be from this part of the world. Does this mean that a Maltese woman would have less chance at procuring clients because she lacks this exoticism? So not only does escorting run on objectification, but it also has an element of racism. A Serbian friend of mine often laments on how some (ignorant) Maltese men assume that all Eastern European women are ready to submit to men’s sexual desires. Her complaints echoed in Anya’s character in Marti Martek Martek Marti. Everyone referred to her as ir-Russa, and she’d correct them with, “I’m not a Russa, I’m from Belarus.” The only reply she’d ever get was, “Uiva, mhux l-istess ħaġa?“- (translation: “Same thing no?”).
To add, it’s funny how a country that’s rabid on kicking out anyone whose skin colour is just a few shades darker than our own is absolutely fine with keeping the pretty white ones. To quote Luther in one of Key & Peele’s Obama sketches, “The only good immigrant is the smoking hot white one.”
Above the images on the website, you’ve also got a list of some of Malta’s localities with the number of escorts in brackets. Most of these were only numbered with (1), which gave me the mental image of the village whore having exclusive monopoly over her territory. In St Julian’s however, the number stated is 2530, whilst in Sliema it currently reads 1844. So if Sliema has a population of around 17,000 (March 2014), we can mathematically conclude that 11% are escorts, whilst in St Julian’s it’s 25%. Stranger things have happened, but this could potentially indicate that the website is a scam. Then again, I could be naive.
As for native escorts, don’t we, as a pious and small community, find it hard to swallow the idea of our own girls doing this kind of work? Or rather, we find it hard to conjure an image of a Maltese escort, because in our minds, the Maltese women who do this kind of work are all gathered in Gżira and come from the lowest ranks of society, and there’s nothing glamorous about them. Perhaps local women don’t opt to have a profile on escorting websites because they could very easily be identified by our close-knit network. And we somehow find it hard to fathom a Maltese man seeking such services. No, that’s only done by nasty foreign men, hux. But then again… I could be naive.
Image above: prostitutes in Gzira – Source: timesofmalta – Credit: Chris Sant Fournier
As the Maltese law stands, “prostitution itself is legal, but certain activities connected with it, such as running a brothel and loitering, are not. Certain offences are punishable by sentences of up to two years in prison.” At least the woman is not condemned, and the pimp or madame is, especially considering that most prostitutes are forced into it or are victims of human trafficking.
Also, in March 2008, “the police and the Ministry for Social Policy signed a memorandum of understanding to formalise a screening process for all arrested persons engaged in prostitution to determine whether they were victims of trafficking or other abuses. The law provides punishments of up to 6 years for involving minors in prostitution.”
What are your thoughts?
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