For the past four months, Alexander has found work as a prostitute in Mexico City, working streets, posting pictures of his slim frame and pretty face online for potential clients, and cashing in.
“I have had some very good customers,” Alexander told VICE News on a recent night. “Last weekend I was with a Colombian who came [to the city] for work reasons. There was no sexual contact, it was just company, and he paid me $2,500, plus expenses, for the weekend. I was his tour guide.”
Because he is “high-end” or highly solicited, he explained, he’s had plenty of contact with drug traffickers, like one who recently rented him for a full week. “He took me to Durango. He wanted to have fun. You can’t even imagine the type of very important people you can find here,” Alexander said.
Male prostitution is a part of city life along a key stretch of Paseo de la Reforma, Mexico City’s central, “grand avenue” artery. In an area of about five blocks — from Varsovia to Burdeos streets — traversing the main boulevards of Hamburgo and Reforma, up to 120 men rent out their bodies on any given weekend night.
Although this reality remains for the most part ignored by the authorities, the so–called “good vibe guys”— or “chavos buena onda,” as they are sometimes referred to — work just outside the city’s faded gay ghetto, the Zona Rosa.
Their work zone is watched by surveillance cameras and regular police patrols, yet the prostitution continues to operate out in the open. They service men as well as women.
During the day, the far west section of the Colonia Juarez where the male hustlers gather is a bustling corridor, with diners and Korean supermarkets; some have even taken to calling it Mexico City’s emerging Koreatown.
But by night, these blocks become a crowded catalog of sex–workers between 17 and 35 years old.
They wait on the curb with cell phones in hand for their next clients, as they smoke and chat.
Each is his “own boss” and almost all of them know each other. Some got into the business at the invitation of friends who had assured them that this informal industry represents quick and easy cash.
They promise pleasure for those who are willing to pay around $40 for 40 minutes of service, which usually includes oral sex and anal penetration.
Although they are all dressed as men, there is some variety among the male hookers along Reforma. There are some who appear to be more feminine than the blocks’ more “versatile” men, those who are wholly masculine in appearance — the “active” type as opposed to the “passive” type — who mostly work along Hamburgo Street.
This is where 19-year-old Michel works. He has been a prostitute for two years.
“For me, this job means money,” he told VICE News.
Michel has made more than $1,300 off just one customer in the past. “The pay for my drugs and everything. They like that you are getting high with them,” he said.
Rates vary from person to person. Alexander, for example, charges between $40 and $75 per service, “depending on what the customer wants.”
The "good vibe guys" agreed that most of their customers are gay, although in many cases, these men have not come out of the closet. Many of them are married and even have children.
“The customer profile is men who lead heterosexual lives — married, some with children, upper–middle class and over 30. The others are simply looking for sex with other men,” Alexander explained.
“I think that loneliness motivates them to come. They don’t feel capable of attracting someone, they want to be listened to, or there are some who are just very horny, and it is literally less expensive for them to come here than to flirt in a nightclub,” he added.
Although it is a reduced market, there are also women who seek out their services, but not all of the "good vibe guys" agree to hook up with them. “It is rare for women to look for you. I have met women who are married, attractive…and have money,” Michel said, as he smoked a joint.
The "Golden Rule"
For their industry’s survival, absolute discretion is the “golden rule” — which is why they are always taken to nearby hotels like the Cies, the Bonampak, the Cozumel, the Puebla, or their customer’s homes.
Work shifts usually begin at 10 PM and sometimes ends around 5 AM Sundays are very active because swingers seek them out.
Pedro, 33, got out of prison a few months ago, and one way of reinserting himself in the work-force has been through prostitution.
“I am here because I need the money to support my daughter,” he said.
He says he only services women or participates in orgies, where he can charge upward of $350, which Pedro then uses to pay rent at the hotel where he lives, continue his drug and alcohol rehab program, and care for his only daughter.
Colonia Juarez is not the only place in Mexico City where male prostitution takes place, but it is place where the services are the priciest. There are other sites, such as the Ciudadela area, División del Norte, and the areas surrounding the Hidalgo metro station and Chapultepec Zoo, where customers can find these services at a more accessible rate, said the guys I spoke with.
For men in Mexico, selling their bodies or paying for sex with other men is a far more stigmatized and marginalized practice than that of female prostitution, and as a consequence, the authorities’ negligence is even greater.
On several occasions, VICE News contacted the offices of the Cuauhtemoc borough, where Colonia Juarez is located, regarding this subject, but the delegate and communications staff chose to not comment.
Due to the secrecy involved in this trade, there are no public health measures in place, so none of these sex-workers have a certificate verifying they are free of STDs.
They or their customers buy their own condoms.
Data from Mexico’s National Center for the Prevention and Control of HIV/AIDS (Censida, by its Spanish acronym) indicates that 73.2 percent of male prostitutes are hired by other men, and that they average about four customers a week. The report indicates that for every 30 prostitutes, only seven offer their services to women, since the majority of those who hire them request penetrative anal sex (76.5 percent), and of those, only seven out of every ten uses a condom.
A common factor among the "good vibe guys" is that they usually live alone, the majority of them have a middle school education, and only some have studied at a high school level.
“The customers have taught me the rules of etiquette and general culture. I know how to behave in nice places,” one longtime prostitute told me.
Everyone VICE News interviewed had something in common: none of them called themselves happy, and they hoped to be sex-workers only temporarily, as a means to accomplish their aspirations, like paying for school, buying a house, opening a carpenter’s shop or a food stand.
This is what 19-year-old Alexander is doing. He came from Toluca to Mexico City to study architecture and acting.
He knows that looks are fleeting.
“If you can take advantage of your body and you want to overcome a need, this is a solution. I will continue for a while until I reach my goals. I don’t see myself here when I am 30,” he said. “I have that much clear.”