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Traditional Turkish Bath
Istanbul, Turkey


Sex Work in Istanbul

Taksim Square, Istanbul, Turkey

By Preston Price

    One particular experience I had in Turkey happened to relate to the material covered throughout the course on the topic of the sex industry.  We have read many articles on this topic as well as having watched a video on sex workers.  The particular experience of mine took place in Taksim Square in Istanbul, where my friend Rip and I had stayed for a couple of nights.  This is the main nightlife area in the city of Istanbul.  It all started when we were wandering the streets and a man confronted us and offered to take us to a nice bar with good music and nice ladies.  At the time we had been wandering aimlessly and must have appeared to be without a destination, which must have made us easy targets.  We thought about our response for a few seconds and then made the unfortunate decision to go with him.  After walking for a couple of blocks we entered a really nice basement bar by going down a flight of stairs.  We then entered the main room and sat down, quickly noticing that this place was much nicer looking than other bars that we had been to in Istanbul.  We ordered a couple of beers then realized that the beers were forty-five lira each.  They had been only five or six lira at other places.  This led us to immediately decide to leave after finishing our one beer each.
    However, seconds later a few attractive women came and sat down next to us in the booth, without even asking for our permission to sit with us.  Each one sat down beside one of us and attempted to start individual conversations.  The one sitting next to me said that she was from Moscow, Russia.  Supposedly she comes down to Istanbul in intervals of two weeks or so to work at these bars.  This is exactly what I had learned in class.  She was probably being forced by snakeheads to go back and forth for prostitution work.  My guess is that she was probably a trafficked migrant, versus being smuggled.   I immediately knew that they were sex workers and victims of the current global sex trade, and I had a good idea that Rip was now assuming the same.  We both got the feeling that this was bad news and we knew that we had to get out of there.  We decided that we would finish our drinks and be on our way.  Before we could do this a waiter brought them all drinks, once again without asking us if we wanted to buy the ladies a drink.  I went to the restroom and returned to find out that they had brought them a second round.  Rip and I downed our drinks and asked for the check.  We were devastated to find out that the bill was 600 lira.  The girls' drinks were over 100 lira each. 

    We now knew that we had been set up and we stepped in to the lobby area with the waiter/manager in an attempt to clear things up.  We told him that we had no desire to pay for the girls' drinks nor were we ever asked if we wanted to buy them drinks.  We also found out that we were being charged for the amount of time that the girls had sat with us, and we again told him that we had not invited them to do so.  He said that is how this works and demanded that we pay 200 lira each.  We were obviously really upset and the guy that led us there said he would pay 300 if we paid three hundred between the both of us.  We told them that we still did not have that much money and they ultimately forced Rip to go to the ATM, escorted by security guards.  After the one guy paid his 300 he fled.  That made it obvious to us that he must have been working for them.  That was the end of it.  We had stayed there for twenty minutes, had one beer, and were forced to pay more than one hundred dollars each.

    Days later we found out that such scams are known to occur frequently and one should be aware of this so that they can stay away form them all together.  We were told later that this particular place is associated with the mafia. It never occurred to me that places like this could hold so much wealth, power, and local authority.  Although, I guess it makes sense having known that the sex industry is a multi-billion dollar industry, as mentioned by Stephen Castles and Miller in Chapter five in the Age of Migration.   Now having been involved in such an experience I understand the sex industry in a way that I could never have grasped solely by the classroom. 

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