MALTA DIARY: Prostitution, erotica and escorts – once confined to Strait Street and other “red light” areas now run rife on the internet and social media pages!
The former media baron and magnate Lord Thomson (former Canadian owner of “The Times” of London and countless owner of radio and tv stations throughout the world before the advent of the Murdoch brood) was once asked what the public really loved to read, see and hear about and promptly replied “sex and crime”. Anything beyond that, he was asked again? As equally promptly he replied “yes, more sex and more crime”.
Known for his prompt and pragmatic replies he was once photographed stooping to pick up a halfpenny that somebody had dropped. When asked why he picked up a halfpenny when he was a billionaire, his reply was “every little helps”.
Sex and crime have a self-evident attraction whether one likes to savour them or equally disdain, deny, ignore or try to prevent them. They have been a part and parcel of human life since mammals first walked on two legs and continued to develop their spine.
When I wrote my articles on the sleazy notoriety of Strait Street in capital city Valletta and the former Red Light district of Gzira for b-c-ing-u.com http://b-c-ing-u.com/2014/01/22/malta-diary-1-the-straight-and-narrow-strait-street-in-valetta/) and http://b-c-ing-u.com/2014/04/02/malta-diary-10-where-the-light-has-changed-from-red-to-green/ respectively, I never anticipated the substantial readership response.
Since their hey-days in the 20th Century (especially after the Second World War) their sleaze value has waned and virtually disappeared. Strait Street is a mere shadow of its past but is being restored for historic value and Gzira has been transformed into a thriving district overflowing with bars, cafes, restaurants and takeaways.
Has this meant the elimination of prostitution, erotica and sleaze? Not by any means because by all accounts this is more active than ever but has been upgraded in sophistication. Napoleon Bonaparte once pronounced Britain to be a “nation of shopkeepers” and much the same could be said about Malta and Gozo. Well, shops there still are aplenty but the traditional grocers and greengrocers in almost every town have virtually disappeared to be replaced my mini-markets and supermarkets.
In their place there is now a new proliferation – massage parlours offering virtually any kind of massage stretching from the conventional, to the erotic to the so-called “happy ending”. A substantial number are Chinese and now and again the Police mount a raid and arraign owners and masseuses for “keeping a brothel”.
Here it has to be explained that brothels and brothel-keeping are illegal, as is pimping. Prostitution is trickier because as such it is not illegal, but street soliciting is as this is a criminal offence. Some weeks ago there was widespread merriment because a Ukrainian masseuse was sentenced to four months’ imprisonment for ‘groping’ men publicly in a Paceville street to entice them to visit her massage parlour!
To make this clear, it is perfectly legal for one to visit a person in their home, agree a fee and have sex but a person soliciting sex services in public is illegal.
It has become virtually impossible to distinguish between a genuine massage parlour offering conventional or exotic therapy massages and those offering “something extra” and erotic and equally impossible for the authorities to take any action and prove that “something extra” is actually taking place. However, by rule-of-thumb elimination, those with garish, flashing lights are usually the erotic and those with a more clinical appearance the strict and actual massage parlour.
That however is just a tiny part of the overall picture. The internet and social sites are now rampant with quite open advertising, normally females offering “exciting services” from their own home, but all classed as “massage”. On average I receive a different “friend” request advertising such services at least once a week, followed up by personal messages quoting prices, locality and extending an “invitation” to visit this week.
Is this illegal or is it legalised prostitution about which the authorities can do virtually nothing? Is it soliciting? I find it hard to define a legal angle on this. If I voluntarily accept to visit for a “massage” and then over-and-above a “massage” I am offered “further services”, is that illegal?
A Google search on “Massage Parlours in Malta” will reveal a surprising number. Equally surprising but far more abundant is a Google search on “Escorts in Malta”. My effort on this revealed services by over 1,000 escorts, the majority in Sliema and Paceville, but spread throughout Malta.
Is this illegal? If I invite an escort to dinner and after dinner one thing leads to another – is that illegal? Most offer “hotel visits” and most are aimed at “businessmen visiting Malta and Gozo”.
What is disconcerting is that the Mater Dei Hospital GU Clinic recently reported a rising trend in older men with infections contracted as a result of having unprotected sex.
“The Sunday Times of Malta” reported that “Dr Valeska Padovese, who runs the clinic at Mater Dei Hospital, told The StoM that towards the end of last year she had noticed a new trend of older clients carrying herpes and genital warts.
“These clients, who were in their 60s and 70s, were normally married or divorced men who confided they had attended one of the numerous massage parlours sprouting across the island.
“Police have already raised concerns that a substantial percentage of massage parlours are serving as a front for prostitution; a situation further supported by figures released in Parliament last November showing that six of 11 arrested foreign pimps were Chinese.”
Indeed, those parlours with flashing lights and shop fronts shrouded with depictions of dragons and lanterns have Chinese roots advertising “Hawiian Massage” or “Chinese-Thai Massage”.
Faced with rising concern, Minister for Health Dr Chris Fearne last January asked the general hospital to start collating data.
“The data will allow us to take evidence-based decisions. While ensuring patient confidentiality, if the evidence we gather warrants, we will involve the police and screen all persons involved,” he said.
There matters stand. All this is a long way from Strait Street and the once-sleazy Gzira streets but is seems that prostitution and sexual services are more rampant and more popular than ever – and that includes transgender services and transgender massages.