In Other Words

The Scorpion Woman of Brazil

O Doce Veneno do Escorpião: O Diário de uma Garota de Programa (The Sweet Venom of the Scorpion: The Diary of a Brazilian Call Girl) By Bruna Surfistinha 172 pages, São Paulo: Panda Books, 2005 (in Portuguese) In many ways, Raquel Pacheco’s life was just like that of any other privileged Brazilian girl. She attended ...

O Doce Veneno do Escorpião:
O Diário de uma Garota de
Programa (The Sweet Venom of the Scorpion: The Diary of a Brazilian Call Girl)
By Bruna Surfistinha
172 pages, São Paulo: Panda Books, 2005 (in Portuguese)

In many ways, Raquel Pacheco’s life was just like that of any other privileged Brazilian girl. She attended São Paulo’s best private schools, lingered at shopping malls with friends, and kept a steady diet of MTV and English classes. That is, until she turned 17.

After an unexplained fight with her adoptive father, Raquel lost her allowance and was enrolled in a public school — itself a punishment for the Brazilian middle class. Enraged at the imposition on her life of luxury, she ran away from home. And when she decided to work as a prostitute at a private club in the Jardins, a chic neighborhood in São Paulo, she unwittingly became part of an unusual and growing Brazilian demographic: Young adults who work as prostitutes because they want to.

Pacheco didn’t fit into the conventional story of the thousands of underprivileged city girls who work as prostitutes to survive or were trafficked by organized crime. Unlike most of the semilliterate adolescent prostitutes in Brazil, she had a home computer and Internet access. And unlike other well-educated and well-bred women turned call girls in São Paulo, she was willing to document her sexual experiences for public consumption. In 2003, when she found herself single, separated from her family, and dealing with the hard realities of prostitution, she created, a blog named for the call-girl alias she had devised, "Bruna, the little surfer girl."

On her Web site, which is still active, she began to narrate some of the roughly 1,000 sexual encounters she engaged in during the more than three years she worked as a prostitute. She wrote about her first clients, many of whom were from her social class. Some were as inexperienced as students at the nearby Dante Alighieri private school, where boys of 13 and 14 "debuted" with her. "Bruna" worked from 10 a.m. until as late as 2 a.m., meeting the needs of up to six men per day. There were even women, and a few couples, too. Although far from moralizing, she describes being shocked on several occasions by aspects of human sexuality. She writes of a client with an Oedipus complex who offered to pay her a vast sum of money if she could seduce his mother into having sex with him. Charging $65 to $85 per encounter, she had more than enough money for the standard of living to which she had grown accustomed.

Pacheco’s page soon took off, receiving as many as 15,000 visits a day. She became an Internet celebrity, appearing on magazine covers and television programs. For someone without a household name or a newspaper affiliation to cause such a stir in the still nascent Brazilian blogosphere of 2003 was no small feat. In just a year, she had become one of the best-known figures in Brazil.

Today, at 22, she has leveraged her newfound fame to publish two books in which she recounts her multiple and eclectic sexual experiences with a wealth of graphic detail. One of them, O Doce Veneno do Escorpião: O Diário de uma Garota de Programa (The Sweet Venom of the Scorpion: The Diary of a Brazilian Call Girl) sheds light on the behind-the-scenes aspects of the strong and growing phenomenon of Brazil’s privileged young women resorting to the oldest profession.

The Sweet Venom of the Scorpion (the title refers to the author’s zodiac sign) recounts her adventures, from age 17 until the day of her 21st birthday, when she decided to give up that life. But it is not merely a transfer of her stories from blog to paper. Assisted by the respected journalist Jorge Tarquini, who interviewed her at length, Bruna’s simple and direct book became a spicy autobiography of the former teen prostitute. By letting the rest of the country in on the bizarre sex lives of their neighbors and the fact that fantasies are still carried out with call girls, rather than girlfriends or wives, Bruna revealed something else: That the widely held image of the carefree, sexually emancipated Brazilian woman was not quite as true as is popularly assumed.

Not that most Brazilians seem to mind. The book has already sold 140,000 copies in the country, and has been devoured by curious teenagers, married women, and fantasizing men alike. It’s also become a hit in Argentina, Portugal, and Spain, where it was released as well.

The current surge of global voyeurism, which drives the audience of indiscreet blogs and TV programs like Big Brother, only partially explains the success of the former call girl. With her blog and her books, she’s struck a chord with Brazilians eager to learn more about the world of high-class prostitution now at a peak in São Paulo. Favorite places of businessmen, politicians, judges, senior police officers, and tourists attending the hundreds of conventions and seminars that occur in the city, high-end bordellos are absolutely discrete — and a wall of armed, private security guards dressed in dark suits keep just anyone from walking in to meet the women inside. In the 1990s, there was just one of these sex dens in Brazil’s wealthiest city. Today, there are more than 15. A crowd of 2,000 young adults works in them. Many earn up to $300 per sexual encounter and about $9,000 per month, high wages by Brazilian standards.

Pacheco’s success preceded the sudden proliferation of media reports about upper-class prostitution, which began last year. The largest corruption scandal of the government of President Luiz Inácio "Lula" da Silva, that of the mensalão (monthly payoff), which was distributed to purchase opposition congressmen, used one of these prominent bordellos in Brasília as a center for distributing bags of cash. The minister of finance at the time, Antonio Palocci, was accused of being one of the frequent clients. The "madam," Jeany Mary Corner, who recruited sophisticated young women from all over Brazil, earned a few weeks of unwanted fame.

But while these news reports are falling out of the headlines, Bruna Surfistinha’s popularity has only grown. Just as Paulo Coelho, another Brazilian, reinvented the literature of esoteric self-help, Bruna Surfistinha has launched a new genre of sexual self-help books, far more explicit than the run-of-the-mill how-to articles that frequently appear in women’s magazines. Expanding the new niche, Bruna released her second book in November, O que eu aprendi com Bruna Surfistinha (What I Learned from Bruna Surfistinha). By referring to her alias as though it were someone else, Pacheco shows she has set aside her former profession. Somewhere, between the detailed descriptions of her wild sexual encounters and the suggestions of what women should do to avoid having their husbands fall into temptation, Pacheco pulls back the curtain on a society that proudly claims to be sexually liberated, but whose sexual practices are still burdened by repression, false morality, and taboos. In doing so, she shows how the antiquated distinction — between the virginal, straitlaced wife who keeps up appearances, and the prostitute with whom one can seek pleasure — is still alive and well in Brazil.

Trending Now Sponsored Links by Taboola

By Taboola

More from Foreign Policy

By Taboola