On Popeshead Street, Antigua & Barbuda’s unofficial Red Light District, women are selling their bodies for money.
Elsewhere, in an unknown bar and by secret transactions, men are selling their bodies for money and merchandise — a disorganised, small, but thriving male sex trade that few people know about.
Antonio, not his real name, is 26 years old now and arrived from the Dominican Republic at age 17, just after completing high school.
His plan was to attend university immediately after high school, but he said his family’s indigence meant that he had to put those plans on hold while he saves enough tuition money.
At the time, with Stanford dollars in circulation and with the threat of a global economic recession far-fetched in the minds of experts, Antonio was convinced that Antigua & Barbuda was the place for him to make a quick buck and resume his schooling overseas.
Almost nine years later, things didn’t work out as Antonio would have liked and, along the way, he found himself in the secret life of a male sex worker.
Male prostitution is hardly discussed in Antigua & Barbuda. In fact, much of the discussion around prostitution usually involves women. But Antonio knows all too well that prostitution is rife among men also.
He told OBSERVER Media during a special investigative report that his story is a tale of survival.
“I called my mother and she told me to come to here (Antigua),” Antonio said, adding that he had no idea what he would do once he arrived in the country.
He said he started off with doing odd jobs; construction, painting and yard work, but realised that money made from these jobs was not making ends meet.
“I came looking for that money and I never found that money because I had to pay the cable, the light, the rent, the house and everything. One year passed, two years passed, three years passed.”
Antonio said his dream of obtaining a university degree in Banking Administration was slipping away with time. It was then he decided that a more lucrative means of income generation had to be explored — male prostitution.
“I started off by dancing in the bar and everybody know me just tell them my name,” he said with a strong Spanish accent, subject and verb in disagreement.
“In the bar, there is a private room and I dance for the lady. The dance is different depends on what the lady wants; it would depend on the length of time and how much money she has,” the male prostitute said.
He has three categories of dances: “Dance number one: I dance for the lady and take out my shirt. She touches me but I don’t touch her.”
For 25 minutes, dance number one would cost the client EC $175.
“Dance number two, if you want to spend 45 minutes with me, I don’t care if she’s ugly, old or fat, work is work,” he said, adding that category of service includes limited intimacy. Such an experience, according to Antonio would set the client back EC $220.
The final “dance” which involves full-blown sex fetches a cost of EC $400 but that’s limited to not more than 90 minutes.
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