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Inside one club, called Excalibur, a young woman from the Dominican Republic wore white denim-shorts cut just below the crotch, stiletto heels and a tight T-shirt that stopped just above her navel. She also wore braces on her teeth. Licenses for brothels have not been issued since the s. Now, super nightclubs fill part of the void, serving a middle-class and professional clientele in much the same way that escort services in North America and parts of Europe walk the thin line separating the sale of sex and the sale of social interaction.
Social mores and cultural taboos make it more practical for men here to turn to prostitutes for casual sex rather than an extra wife. The nightclub owner said most of his customers are Lebanese they like blond women, he says , and older: He estimates 80 percent of his clients are between 50 and 60 years old. Some are married. Some are divorced. Some are shy. When I visited the super nightclub, posing as a customer, the young Dominican woman made clear what services she could provide beyond dancing and sitting with customers.
Between 5 a. On average, 10 to 30 customers come in every evening. Most order Champagne. In , the U. Sardouk says she opposes any kind of child prostitution and sex tourism. And she says the aspect of nightclub owners locking the women in the hotel for hours during the day bothers her. The issue never comes up in either local or national politics, nor is it raised by Islamist groups like Hezbollah, probably because it is well away from their areas of popular support and control.
But the industry has serious issues. Another U. But super nightclub owners say the accusations of human trafficking are unfounded.
A woman I know tells her family she is in Hong Kong. The owner boasts that 70 of his Lebanese customers have married women from his club. Lebanese General Security even has rules and regulations clarifying how long an artist must be remain outside the country in order to receive residency if she marries a Lebanese client the rule is one year. Still, it appears that circumventing the law is relatively easy. Police corruption in Lebanon is nothing new, and several people acquainted with the industry interviewed for this article said that, at least in the recent past, law enforcement has often looked the other way if enough money is offered.