A visual dive into the reality of the a Madrid brothel, a place of which its horrors failed to prevent public judgment of the women.
One might feel anxious, unsafe or generally uncomfortable roaming the streets of what is known to be a sin city. True societal sickness however is mostly present in cities wherein the sins are publicly on display yet not acknowledged as such. When parking tickets are being written one block away from victims of human trafficking selling their bodies, we are at the point where we should feel most anxious. Instead we choose to tell ourselves the likeliness of young women being drug addicted, brainless creatures selling their bodies for 30% of those parking tickets is higher than the possibility that they might be victims.
Madness in Madrid I The door was slammed shut behind me with a violent bang. The rusty knob looked as if it would most certainly fall off the very next time the door would be closed. It must have looked like that for years though. I figured it could only look so defeated in the first place through enduring thousands of molestations by sweaty, unwashed hands groping and twisting it, to then leave it behind hopelessly in a free fall on the way out. The bang, a climactic burst of sound cutting off all the noises of cars, sirens and high pitched voices outside, seemed to also cut off any flow of fresh oxygen. With every breath my nostrils involuntarily filled themselves with the ordure of body fluids, but not the regular pungent smell you might expect. No, these fluids were carefully selected, finding their origins in a vast and ever growing array of different people, to then be mixed and boiled for several minutes. Even a rotting piece of meat would have been an effective air refresher in this place. I followed her up the staircase. Perhaps I should call her by the name she gave me, Ema, but I know far too well that the chances of a prostitute telling you her real name are about as small as it gets. Thus, simply referring to her as ‘her’ seems more fit. Every step squeaked in agony and with every 20 centimeters we climbed the air gradually got more suffocating. At this point I could imagine why people climbing the Mount Everest need to be able to handle low oxygen levels as they get higher up the mountain. Walking behind her, I realized her leggings didn’t have a leopard print as I had first assumed when seeing her out on the street. A mosaic of indefinable stains seemed to spread down from her crotch to her ankles, like a virus. Then at her ankles began those silver, shiny shoes with heels long enough to make any man ashamed of the size of his penis. She must have only worn these on days of which she knew business would be would be going well for her, as I couldn’t imagine her choosing to wear them knowing she’d have to stand on them for several hours. We got to the first floor and through a door opening I could hear female Spanish speaking voices with Eastern European accents. She pointed, as if to say that this was the place to be. I nodded, letting her know I had already figured that out based on the noises. We entered what in a way resembled the far too familiar waiting room at your local doctor’s office. There were rows of chairs placed against the walls. All the patients sitting here seemed to suffer from the same illness and although assigned different personal nurses, they all presented themselves as being equally skilled enough to cure these poor sick men. We sat down and I realized I was sick too now, but mostly in the literal sense of feeling as if my stomach was turned upside down. The wallpaper was coming off of the walls and because it curled itself up, the yellow back of the paper was exposed. I could have looked at it for several minutes, but my neck would have hurt from looking up. I lowered my head and looked at the 50-something year old man sitting across from me. His red, swollen and asymmetric nose looked like the bastard child of a disease ridden strawberry and a drug addicted potato. His puling eyes wore the same shade of red and looked as if they would pop out of his skull if someone were to gently tap the back of his head. On top of this head, which was shiny from sweat, there was something that looked more like mold than it looked like actual hair. I thought to myself that perhaps this man was lost and was indeed trying to find a doctor’s office.
There were only two doors. The one through which we got in and another one that swung open every couple of minutes, as a cured man and utterly disgusted nurse got out, for a couple in the waiting room to then stand up and enter through it. After what must have been roughly 20 minutes of waiting on chairs even more uncomfortable than the general atmosphere, we were the first in line to go through. A couple got out and ‘Ema’ grasped onto my hand firmly, stood up and led me into a long hallway. On the left and right side of the hallway were 8 doors each, making up for a total of 16 rooms. The excruciating mood of the waiting room now seemed like an out of reach paradise. Above the doors to every room, there was a 30x45cm hole in the wall. She told me the holes were made so that the girls could scream for help in the case of an unfortunate event. An ocean of loud noise filled the hallway, with waves of different moans spilling out of every hole, crashing into one another. The sound of around 30 people fucking at once was so intrusive that it became a visual phenomenon. My ears could see the dozens of sweaty thighs violently clashing against each other, the saliva slowly dripping from the corners of girls’ mouths onto their chests and the reluctant screeching of the worn out springs underneath the mattresses. I suddenly realized that one of the deep moans must have been coming from the man I saw in the waiting room. Based on his nose I imagined that his dick surely looked like the ultimate representation for the tumor that grows between the legs of our society, with pus coming out in the form of brothels like these.
II It had been a warm, humid, Spanish spring day and although it seemed like nothing existed outside of those 4 walls, it appeared that the heat had somehow found its way in, merging the reality of the outside world with that of the room. There was a fan in the corner, but without any electricity plugs in the walls it didn’t serve much of a purpose. The only other piece of furniture in this squared, poorly lit womb was an overused bed. Without the presence of the fan, the room would have surely felt even more depressing. I guess the fan did serve a purpose. “Are you sure you don’t want to fuck me?”, she asked. I looked at her and saw she was frowning her fake eyebrows, for as far as doing so was possible. It created a subtle and equally fake sad expression. She was wearing enough make-up for it to be justified to refer to it as a mask. If something would go wrong during oral sex and a man was to accidentally push his penis against her cheek, he'd be penetrating several layers of cement before even touching her skin. No, she wasn’t wearing too much make-up at all, she was wearing just the right amount to protect her face from lost cocks. “Yes I’m sure, no fucking.” We had agreed that I would pay her for her time, but that I was only going to take pictures of her. I handed her the money, one 50 euro note and one 10 euro note. The notes got out of my wallet all folded up, looking like a blind man had attempted to do origami with them. I remembered the story of a Japanese girl who was hospitalized after becoming ill due to exposure to the radiation from one of the atomic bombs. According to a Japanese legend, if a person folded a thousand crane birds, they’d have a higher chance of recovering. She ended up folding 644 of them before passing away as quickly as she would have without making any of them. I wondered how many 50 euro cranes the girl in front of me thought she needed to be able to escape her own faith. While I was lost in thought, she had already started taking off her clothes, exposing the white skin that was stretched tightly over her bones. As opposed to the bodies of other prostitutes that I had seen thus far, the were no holes in her arms that had once served as gateways to her veins and there were no marks on her skin that suggested the use of cocaine. “I can see the way you’re looking at me”, she said, caressing her body seductively. I cut it off by asking her why she was working in a place like this. She looked at me in silence and smiled a little bit before answering. “I have three little boys you see. To support them I need a lot of money. But I can’t live without them. I need them and I need them with me every day. I can’t be happy without them. I would do anything for my three little boys.” As she was telling me this, her smile had faded and she now looked somewhat concerned. Her small pale breasts illuminated the room more than the tired light bulb that hung from the ceiling. If someone wouldn’t have put it up there one day, I’m sure it would have hung itself eventually. It flickered almost unnoticeably but attracted my attention because of the sound made by numerous flies and mosquitos dancing around it. The humming was occasionally interrupted by a very subtle ticking noise when one of them would fly into it. They took turns in landing on the light bulb, nearly burning themselves over and over again. Sadomasochistic bastards. The ticking of the obsessed bugs then began to serve as a dysfunctional metronome that guided the dance between her, me and the camera. The ballad led her up the bed, standing, kneeling, masturbating, standing again, laying on her stomach, masturbating again, laying on her back, looking at me, closing her eyes, laughing maniacally, sticking out her tongue.
I followed her, jumping up the bed, off the bed, sitting on top of her, shooting from the corner of the room, shooting with the camera right in front of her face, shooting with the camera between her legs, shooting as if I had never shot a woman in my entire life and this was my first and last chance. Stitch all my images together and you’ll discover you have a map of her entire body. A map so complete that it covers everything from the blue rivers on her wrists, to the swamp between her legs and the carefully placed birthmark on her left foot. She suddenly pushed me onto the bed, jumped on top of me and started kissing me passionately. She placed her hands on my cheeks and looked deep into my eyes. “I need you to fuck me.” Her eyes penetrated mine and an ice cold stare shook the core of my spine. Trying to laugh it off, I told her I’d come back for that the next day, knowing I had an airplane waiting for me the next morning. “I don’t like you”, she said. After a few minutes of going back to taking pictures, someone disrupted our dance and knocked loudly on the door. I concluded that time was up. She reached into her bag and took out a 20 euro note, which she slit through the door opening. Apparently she needed some extra time with me. She then closed the door, took the 60 euros I gave her out of her bag and put them into my pocket as she pushed me against the wall. “Now you fuck me.” I pushed her away from me and told her to take the goddamn money and spend it on her kids instead. “You ass. Are you trying to say my body looks like that of a mother of 3? No dear, you don’t understand. My boys are around your age and they’re the only ones who can do what all these scumbags here can’t. I pay them for this because they deserve it. Please. Stay in Madrid and be my 4th. I know you can be. Now fuck me.”
Like her colleagues, this woman too was an addict. An addict who saw me as another possible dose. I once again made my proposal to come back tomorrow and although visibly annoyed as any addict being denied to have their drug would be, she agreed. It’s said that one has to go down to reach hell but descending that godforsaken staircase was my one way ticket out of it. A ticket that hadn’t cost me anything in the end, as I still had the money she gave in my pocket. The ticking sound of the mosquitos was replaced by the ticking sound of her heels ascending the stairs behind me. When finally outside and back on the pavement where the roots of this extraordinary encounter lay, she offered me a cigarette which I happily accepted. As the last bit of ash hit the ground, she kissed me on my cheek and whispered “goodbye baby", as if she knew I would not be returning.