Eliana Caligaris (2005): Prostitutes go home on Good Friday: A Psychoanalytic Ethnography on the Experience of Prostitution in Brazil.
This research was conducted with prostitutes from the “Boca do Lixo” of São Paulo, Brazil. They work in a closed space and in a poor area of the biggest city of South America. The study was conducted through qualitative field study.
Rather than making observation on prostitution as a social or individual pathology, I tried to study the core experience of prostitutes with particular attention to paid to their self-image, their fantasies, what had brought them to that professional choice and what motivated them to continue.
A major objective was to hear the voices of women who work in the profession of prostitution, to understand what moved them, what their desires were what they thought about life, how they lived and what their pains were. In a word, to listen to their own narratives and understand who these women were.
The research was done in a nine-story building with a central staircase that all visitors must use--the elevator is usually out of order. The hallway on each floor opens directly into the two original apartments, and they have been converted into symmetrical rows of cubicles used for the sexual encounters. The prostitutes wait for their clients on the steps of the circular staircase near their respective cubicles.
The review of the literature is divided into three parts. The first is about the general histories of prostitution and its changes from ancient prostitution to modern prostitution. In the second part, I present the current debate in the business and social organization of prostitution. Finally, psychoanalysis, which is my foundation for thinking and arguing, is applied while reviewing prostitution.
Presented in this research are a total of nineteen interviews and two group interviews designed as follows: interview with the madam; fourteen in-depth interviews with sex-workers; one in-depth interview with the doorman; two conversations (informal focus groups with five participants) with the sex-workers; one interview with the girl who was hidden (drug dealers wanted to kill her) in the building; an interview with the oldest madam in the building and an interview with the lunch lady (the previous owner of a brothel).
The data analysis is presented in five segments touching on the following aspects of the sex workers’ lives and personal psychology:
1. Experience of being a prostitute
2. Why they are in the profession and what keeps them there
4. Family and Fantasies
5. Defense Mechanisms.
The violence generally imagined as specific to prostitution is the violence of pimps, madams, drug dealers, police forces, customers, and so on. The findings of this research suggest that prostitution is related to a different modality of violence. Prostitution presents as its effect a violence that settles itself in the mental field. That violence is a result of a tentative solution of the neurotic conflicts of the women concerned. In other words, prostitution comes about as a possible solution or a compromise that implies a specific cost and a specific mental violence.
As a sex worker, the prostitute learns and embodies a separation between love and sex. Without that separation, she cannot stand her own practice. The majority of women engaged in prostitution (as a symptomatic solution of their neurotic conflict) little by little give up the pleasure that one is expected to find in sex. Moreover, little by little they give up the possibility of finding love.