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Love and Lust. American men in Costa Rica HTML version

Although prostitution is legal in Costa Rica, pimping4 (proxenetismo) is not. Many practices can be
considered pimping and thus be illegal. According to a strict reading of this law, an individual who
owns a nightclub that promotes prostitution can be prosecuted for pimping. Massage parlors, hotels that
cater to prostitutes, and bars with private rooms, can all be legally prosecuted as well. Furthermore, the
manner in which sex workers are paid can determine what is considered legal and illegal. Dildoman,
for example, explains to other sex tourists that Art y Sauna, a massage parlor, was closed by a
?technical? interpretation of the Law: Since the receptionist would ?collect all the money from the
client and then pay the =chicas‘ the authorities considered that as pimping.?5
In addition to pimping, establishments and individuals are often prosecuted for other reasons. The
police and the Ministry of Health may crack down on places that employ HIV-positive sex workers and
illegal residents, detain American tourists who do not have their papers at hand and imprison owner
and managers if there is a minor on the premises. This vulnerability to police harassment and blackmail
is one of the worst fears among those involved in the sex industry.
The first warning usually comes from newspaper articles. A.M., a newspaper, tells mongers that the
Ministry of Health will make sure that the Massage Parlors are not being used for prostitution and that
it will take measures to "avoid the camouflage of places of prostitution that function under the name of
massage parlors." 6 A few days later, the police raid the Massage Parlors and their clients are
imprisoned. In other circumstances, the arrival of a questionable individual is the trigger. Jeff99 –for
example- is aware of the danger that ?Easy?, a sex tourist, is in San José. This man is looked for the
police for ?his Sex Wax scam he perpetrated last November?. Since he is in town he thinks, ?new raids
are to be expected this week.? Mongers or sex tourists –he believes- will pay collective punishment.
?The smart thing to do? he adds ?is to remember that Easy is a long time member of this Forum? and to
?carry your passports this week if you are in town, especially if you‘re in the vicinity of Mr. Easy. Easy
arrives on June 28th. Be on the lookout. Be careful out there gentlemen.? 7
The manner these mongers act reminds us of the homosexual harassment in the 1970‘s. In that decade,
the police used to have periodic raids on gay bars. Once the police was spotted, bar owners would turn
on a red light to warn their customers. Gay couples were to immediately stop dancing with each other
and run to the exit doors. Twenty-years later, straight heterosexual American males are the ones who
run away for their lives.
Romulus, for example, is coming to town and wants to know if there have been any raids recently. If
the answer is affirmative, he asks other mongers what to do: ?Do you run for the elevators or exit
doors? How about stairways or inside the kitchen downstairs??8
Paco Loco, another sex tourist, does not understand why there are raids if prostitution is legal in Costa
Rica. 9 Romulus explains to him that the harassment is ?irrational? and that American tourists are not
4 Pimping: the act of a third party benefiting from the prostitution of another individual or group of individuals.