Cuba reduces prostitution.
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Dear Kevin and Ibrahim,
This article is a kind of contrast to the Afghani girl
who won the beauty contest in a bikini.
It comes from the Dallas paper that has its own
correspondent in Cuba. Although she (the
correspondent) usually does her best to make Cuba look
bad, she can't always succeed. This article is
interesting because it shows that despite all its
troubles, Cuba is able to reduce prostitution, and
also, interestingly, some of the elements of the
superiority of the non-commercialized socialist
society also show through in this article - even in
the behaviour of the prostitutes.
Cuban prostitutes go off the street to online
Police crackdown takes country off top list of sex
08:45 PM CST on Saturday, November 15, 2003
By TRACEY EATON / The Dallas Morning News
HAVANA � Cuba is no longer one of the world's top
destinations for sex tourism after five years of
relentless police crackdowns, travel experts say.
But another trend has emerged: More travelers are
using the Internet to find prostitutes in Cuba. And
rights advocates say that computer-assisted sex
tourism is troubling because it makes it easier for
men to sexually exploit Cuban women and teenagers.
The online sex trade is a multibillion-dollar industry
that often targets the Third World and treats women
and teenagers as "sexual commodities," said Donna
Hughes, a University of Rhode Island professor and
women's rights advocate, and author of a report titled
"Pimps and Predators on the Internet � Globalizing
Sexual Exploitation of Women and Children."
Sex tourists frequently log on to adult travel
Internet sites and rate the Cuban prostitutes they
find, remarking on everything from hair and skin color
to mood, sexual attributes and performance.
Some also take nude or semi-nude photos of the women
and post them on the Internet. Some of these photos
are shot without permission or captured by hidden
camera. Others are casual snapshots, but the women
have no idea that these intimate pictures will be
available on the Internet for years to come, Ms.
Hughes and other rights advocates say.
Sex tourists who travel to Cuba are unapologetic. They
call themselves "hobbyists" and say they enjoy nothing
more than traveling the world in pursuit of easy,
preferably cheap sex.
But these days, they're not happy with Cuba. Police
enforcement has driven many prostitutes off the
streets, they say, and in some towns, few can be found
The World Sex Archives, which touts itself as the
Internet's largest "escort resource," follows these
trends in detail. Not long ago, a member of the
service posted an urgent question.
"Is the crackdown ending?" he asked. "Are things
starting to go back to normal?"
A string of replies gave him the latest news: Heavy
enforcement was continuing, "good girls" were hard to
find, and some Cuban nightclubs were "horrible ...
only half-full of chicas ... and not at all worth the
Prostitution surged in Cuba in 1990 when the former
Soviet Union cut off nearly $6 billion a year in aid,
sending the economy into a free fall. Soon thousands
of prostitutes regularly gathered in discos, hotels
and along main thoroughfares in Havana and other
Suddenly, Cuba became a hot destination for sex
Through the mid-1990s, prostitutes operated with
little interference, openly propositioning tourists as
part of Cuba's bustling, often wild night scene.
Travel writers helped spread the word.
"Cuban girls are the Ferraris of prostitution,
top-of-the-line Formula One hookers and, boy, are they
enthusiastic," wrote A.A. Gill in 1998 in The Sunday
Times of London.
Today, the landscape has changed entirely.
Prostitutes, increasingly fearful of going to jail,
spend more time dodging police than cavorting with
"It's terrible. The police are everywhere," said
Misleidis, a 17-year-old who was looking for clients
in Old Havana.
The operator of the World Sex Archives said: "Really,
the [prostitute] business is drying up. There are far
more girls in other Latin American countries now. "
WSA, which touts itself as the largest escort resource
on the Internet, added, "Cuba is like an obituary."
Many travel experts agree.
"I don't think Cuba ranks any longer as a prime sex
destination," said Christopher Baker, an award-winning
writer and author of Moon's Cuba Handbook. "The
Dominican Republic and Thailand continue to be the top
destinations. Cuba is now in the second tier."
Still, some sex tourists can't stay away from Cuba.
And via the Internet, they share information on where
to find women, how to approach them, what to say and
what to pay.
A traveler nicknamed Pelon, who said he lives in
Brownsville, gave the latest prices for sex in Cuba in
a Sept. 10 message on the WSA site:
"The ongoing rate is about $30 for an afternoon and
$50-$60 for the night. Avoid girls with cellphones.
They tend to ask for $80 or more."
Many Cubans are disgusted by the sex trade, even if it
has diminished. And they are offended that some
foreigners think their country is awash in
prostitutes. In fact, they say, most Cubans have
nothing to do with prostitution.
Still, Cuba's anything-goes image persists.
In July, when a WSA member asked if he should try to
have sex with a married woman and her sister, another
member replied, "Just go for it! You don't have to
worry about things like this in Cuba."
Many sex tourists say they feel safe, even late at
night in Cuba.
Another thing they say they like about the country is
the noncommercial nature of prostitution. There are no
gaudy strip joints, brothels or peep shows flashing
Triple-X neon. There are no girlie magazines for sale,
either. Not even a Playboy. That's all illegal.
But sex is a staple of Cuban life, and many people
have a casual attitude toward it, Mr. Baker said.
"Judging by the ease with which couples neck openly,
wink seductively at strangers and spontaneously slip
into bed, the dictatorship of the proletariat that
transformed Eastern Europe into a perpetual Sunday
school has made little headway in Cuba," he writes in
the upcoming edition of the Cuba Handbook.
Sex tourists quickly notice the difference between
Cuban prostitutes and those in their own countries.
Charlie, a Canadian visitor quoted in a 1995 study on
prostitution in Cuba, said European and American
prostitutes are all business.
"It's by the hour, like a taxi service, like they got
the meter running. There's no feeling."
But in Cuba, Charlie said, prostitutes are
"responsive. They even kiss you."
The literacy rate of Cuban prostitutes also sets them
apart, some say. Even Fidel Castro once commented on
that, telling a crowd in 2001 that Cuban prostitutes
had a "university level" education.
Some prostitutes go to school or work during the day
and sell their bodies at night.
Grechell, 20, said she studies accounting and dreams
of attending the University of Havana. But for now,
she said she goes out with foreigners "because I need
Many Cubans earn just $10 or $12 per month. But
prostitutes take in $500 and up, according to a 2002
University of Miami study.
Not all charge big fees, and some travelers brag
they've had sex with Cuban women for as little as a
meal or a pair of shoes.
Such experiences give some men a sense of economic
power and control that they couldn't possibly achieve
in their own countries, according to Julia O'Connell
Davidson and Jacqueline Sanchez Taylor, sociologists
at the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom.
They studied the sex trade in Cuba in 1995 and later
published a paper called "Child Prostitution and Sex
At one Cuban nightclub, they wrote, they encountered a
Canadian in his 40s who repeatedly insulted and
threatened teenage prostitutes, sometimes reducing
them to tears.
He was a "physically nondescript and puny individual,
a divorcee ... and a less than completely successful
real estate agent," the study said. "Back home in
Canada, he feels himself to be a 'nobody' and a
'nothing.' In Cuba, by contrast, he fantasizes himself
to be somewhere between a Rockefeller and a Mafiosi
boss. He believes that his economic power combined
with his status as a tourist places him above the
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