BREAKING RANKS

Carol P. is fascinating. She’s mostly introverted. You wouldn’t imagine that she was once a prostitute. She’s tolerant, strong emotionally but also her emotions get the best of her at times. Sometimes when we talk, she’ll pause in between sentences and hold her tears, then continue narrating to me her escapades in the sex business.

There’s this time she said with such conviction, ‘I want my story to shed light about the Kenyan sex business industry and what really happens. The good, the bad and the ugly, because it’s all in the business. And maybe someone, even one single lady can get inspired by my story and gain the courage to step out of the industry, just like I did.’

‘Good?’ I thought. What possible good could come out of such an industry? Life is a story, you never quite know what your life holds until you make a story out of it.

Just like many of us here, I really wanted to know from her; ‘how did she get into the sex business?’

***

She had just cleared her college education and a family friend helped her get a job as a chef and house manager in one of the rich Nairobi neighbourhood homes. The job was paying very well as she said. She lived in the servants quarters and mostly got the weekends off to go visit her family. Which she never did as often. While in college, Carol P. had met up with some friends and they used to go clubbing when they had money to spend. With her new job, the boss gave her a tip (Kshs 3,000) every start of the weekend to go see her family but she’d go clubbing with her girlfriends instead.

She admits that because she grew up in a strict constrained family, the clubbing lifestyle really enticed her and slowly she started getting knee deep into it. They’d gang up and go out for raves, club hopping, drinking, smoking and dancing the night away. Oblivious to her family, this continued on for long until Carol P. made it a daily lifestyle thing.

On one of those raving weekends, they spent all the money they had, including bus fare. They stayed up at the bar until it was time to close. Since they didn’t have money to pay for bus fare or even rent a lodging, one of the friends suggested to them she knew of a place they’d go and sleep on the tables till morning. And no one would bother them. It was pretty much their only option. This lady led Carol P. to the joint. What she didn’t know was, it was a brothel, (the oldest brothel in Nairobi) and consequently, this would be her first induction into the sex business world.

As they ascended the stairs, she saw a lady giving a hand job to a man holding a two hundred shillings note in his hand. Carol P. says she remembers that scene so vividly. She couldn’t turn back and leave the place because it was the only option they had to sleep that night as they waited for dawn break. When they got inside the dim lit place, she was shocked to see ladies, skimpily dressed, weaving around the corridors and in the bar sitting area. All this was new to her. She actually sobered up from her sleepiness, and spent the entire time studying the environment and the ladies; how they acted and dressed. The whole experience was a complete culture shock.

Part of her was disgusted. She saw how the ladies had lowered their self-dignity by trying to woo the men for sex. She was also secretly intrigued by how some of them were beautiful looking, with well curved bodies and still, they indulged in a practice she considered filthy. She’d notice how they sexually played around with the men and saw them leave and go to the rooms sections to do whatever her mind imagined was happening behind those closed doors.

Early in the morning, Carol P. and her friends left the brothel bar, each heading to their destination. The whole bizarre experience was eked on her mind.

The uncontrolled raving hunger caught up with her and her job started suffering as a result. She became lousy in her duties and made countless mistakes like mismanaging funds delegated to her or even drinking the Boss’s whisky and smoking his cigarettes when he wasn’t around. The verdict, she got fired!

She couldn’t bear telling her family – especially her parents – why she was out of the job. First, they didn’t know the other side of her and they wouldn’t understand her actions and secondly, her Mum was quite strict. Breaking the news to her would mean inviting a lot of conflict between the two of them. She was stranded about what to do. She opted to escape.

The boss didn’t pay her last dues since she’d used up some household cash without his approval. Carol P. packed her stuff and left for town. All along she was in thought, wondering, what next? When she got to the CBD, she went to a friend’s salon and dropped her luggage there, promising to come back for it later.

Then, for some weird reason, she thought of going to the brothel they had once visited to kill time.

She couldn’t even remember the exact place the brothel stood on that street, maybe owing to the fact that when they first went there she was drunk and it was dark at night. She asked one of the sidewalk sweets vendors for directions. The guy was startled, wondering how bold or stupid she was to ask about the joint in confidence, without hushing her voice, but he directed her there.

Carol P. sat in the bar area as green as she was. It was during the day. She didn’t know what to do or how to act. All she noticed was the other ladies looking at her in peering eyes wondering what she was doing there dressed like a nun. Thirty minutes later a man approached her.

Her first client.

The guy paid for an upstairs room, to spend some time with her. She learnt that the downstairs rooms were for short sessions with the men while the upstairs rooms would service longer session, some shit like that. The guy knew she was new to the industry. Carol P. recalls not knowing what to do or what to say when they got inside and the only thing she did was giggle stupidly and shyly engage the guy.

That day, she had her first sexual experience with a total stranger. She earned the prostitute title.

Immediately after the guy was done, Carol P. broke down in tears. She felt dirty. She had lowered her self-dignity. She cried so much that the client, in a bid to console her, topped up her pay with Kshs 2,000 and left her the room for the entire day.

She had just set foot in the quick sand ground that is prostitution business.

The same day she slept with a few other men, and still she had emotional breakdowns. One client asked her rudely, what the heck she was doing in the business if she knew she had issues, she wouldn’t be there. But she was green and with time, she’d learn the ropes and be the bad ass chic in the block.

When night came, she picked up her bags where she’d left them and spent the night with a lady she’d befriended in the brothel circles. The same lady showed her rooms she could rent at Kshs 250 a day in downtown Nairobi. The rooms were dingy and dirty, run down and in poor shape but she was fine with that. Those rooms became her home.

She’d go there to shower and sleep, then head out to the same brothel to sell herself for money.

This cycle had just begun and with it, Carol P. would gather a whole lot of experience and encounters in the sex business until she finally left it all behind. Like she says, some of the encounters were bad, others good and mostly ugly.

And that marked the genesis.

 

Read more of Carol P.’s featured posts here.

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