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Arlene Mejorado for BuzzFeed News. In the US you'd get kicked out of the club, prosecuted for harassment, fired from your job, and probably listed as a sex offender. Not so just a short drive south, where neither MeToo nor the decades of struggle that laid its foundation in the United States have taken root, and where entire families of women toil in a sex industry aimed at clients from the US. Where else can you pick and choose from s of beautiful girls to have sex with?
Sex workers are feeling the effects of the MeToo backlash from angry American men as the workers encounter US customers who are bitter that their gender no longer gives them unchallenged dominion over women back home. The sex workers in this story asked to be identified by first name and age only to protect their identities and the identities of their children.
Here in Mexico, men are free to use their money and privilege any way they choose, the women said. A sex worker, who requested anonymity, drops by UCSD's long-term sex worker study and clinic in Tijuana. By the mid—20th century, communities from Nuevo Laredo to Tijuana had become hubs for sex tourism, drawing tens of thousands of men across the border into specially designated neighborhoods like Zona Norte in Tijuana. With a population of about 2 million, Tijuana is the largest city along the US—Mexico border, and the port of entry just south of San Diego is the world's busiest land border crossing.
The sex industry in Tijuana is a multimillion-dollar enterprise that employs thousands. The bars and strip clubs lining Coahuila are like showrooms, where the sex workers lounge idly along the bar, waiting for customers. Many bars employ small armies of men to aggressively sell clients on the women working there, like used-car salespeople approaching their monthly quota deadline. With all the money coming into the neighborhood, sex workers should in theory be able to lift themselves up economically.
Add on the cost of transportation, health care, and perhaps maintaining a drug habit, and most sex workers are barely surviving. There are no hard numbers of how many women are sex workers in Tijuana. A National Institutes of Health study estimated that at least 9, women worked in the industry, and that number has almost certainly grown as more women have turned to it to become self-sufficient and provide for their families. All the sex workers who spoke with BuzzFeed News said they are routinely beaten, choked, and spit on by clients.