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The demand for sex is universal; the price paid by those who buy and sell is not. What do the attitudes of punters, police and the public towards the sex industry tell us about the places Stacey visits? From VIP call girls, flown first class and earning thousands of dollars a night, to street corners where every car that stops could carry a rapist or murderer, sex workers, brothel owners, and clients reveal the realities of working in this hidden and often dangerous world. Please be aware this series does contain some explicit language and nudity.
Though the subject of sex is largely taboo here, surprisingly, on paper Turkey is the most liberal of the countries Stacey visits in this three part investigative series. Prostitution is legal and there are even state-run brothels. Stacey meets sex workers who regard themselves as tutors to the uninitiated men of a sexually repressed society, preparing them for marriage. But even here Stacey discovers an overwhelming sense of terror pervades as she meets women who fear for their lives just for being seen talking to her.
In a world where state registered prostitutes have ‘sex worker’ marked on their ID cards and will never be allowed to join the army, police or civil service, Stacey meets a brothel Madame and discovers that for many girls there’s no way out.
For trans-sexuals the situation is worse. While Turkey is home to the biggest gay pride march in the Muslim world, according to the campaign group Transgender Europe, there are six trans-gender people killed in Turkey every year. Rejected by their families and with employers refusing to hire them, many are forced to live in an underworld of illegal brothels where armed gangs and corrupt police officers exploit each and every one.
The war raging in neighbouring Syria has added an even darker, highly exploitative layer to this already stigma-rich business. Istanbul now has more Syrian refugees than the EU. War and sex-slavery go hand in hand, with many young Syrian girls and mothers forced to sell their bodies to make ends meet. Stacey braves the journey from Istanbul to Gaziantep close to the Syrian border where several hundred ISIS fighters are believed to live in hiding. Here she meets a young woman who was sold into sex slavery by ISIS fighters. Covered from head to toe in black she desperately wants to share her story but is so traumatised that she cannot stop crying.
This is Turkey like you’ve never seen it before.
Sun, palm trees, glistening seas and the joyful colours of carnival… This is one side of Brazil many people would recognise. As is its reputation as a sexually liberal nation, but are people as open-minded as you might think? In the third of this series, Stacey lifts the lid on the darker side of the world of sex work in Brazil.
Around a million transgender people live in Brazil, but as many of them face deep-seated prejudice they struggle to find a job and resort to making a living selling sex. Those who Stacey meets talk openly to her about the discrimination and dangers they face. Setting out at night just with the intention to make enough money to sustain them, but with the very real fear they may not make it home.
Life is no less of a challenge for the other women who work in the Brazilian sex industry. Stacey discovers just what they face on a regular basis when she meets some, hearing how the industry is run by an armed militia and the girls may have sex with up to thirty men a night. A frank discussion with the owner of a hotel that sells rooms by the hour shows just how attitudes towards sex and women in Brazil can be a lot less liberal and progressive than you would imagine.
In the second episode of this series, Stacey travels to Russia to brave the cold and icy streets of St Petersburg. A city filled with golden palaces and luxury lifestyles, Stacey explores the two very different sides of sex work in the city and asks the question: what does modern day sex look like in Russia?
Since the decline of the Russian currency, sex work has risen exponentially, with the estimated number of sex workers in Russia estimated to be 3 million. Stacey meets 24-year-old Avlora, one of the many VIP Sex Workers in St Petersburg. Born in the same year as the fall of communism, Avlora’s new profession means that she’s flown to different continents for luxury holidays, private jets and designer brands. All while charging the equivalent of £700 a night, nearly twice what the average Russian will earn in a month.
Stacey also meets some of the girls trying to break into this lucrative industry. She meets Lilliana at her first photo shoot, as she’s hoping to break into the high-end escort world. Though Lilliana is nervous and may have reservations about becoming a sex worker, will the opportunity to make five times her daily salary be too tempting to pass up? Stacey also learns that you don’t have to have sex to make money from it. Alyona is a promising young pole dancer who has the audition of a lifetime at one of Moscow’s largest strip clubs, but has she got what they’re looking for?
It’s not all glamour and riches. Prostitution is illegal in Russia and while many high-end escorts find a loophole in the law by charging for their time, many sex workers are not afforded the same luxury. Stacey hits the streets and the brothels to talk to the women who deal with corrupt police, robbery and abuse on a daily basis; for them it’s all part of earning a living.
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BBC iPlayer – Sex in Strange Places is the third most viewed programme on BBC3, with over a million requests since its launch on 8 March.
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