A Glimpse into the Underground World of Selling Sex at Super Bowl 50

A Glimpse into the Underground World of Selling Sex at Super Bowl 50

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Super Bowl 50 has everyone in the sex industry excited ­– this is what Jane, a 25-year-old sex worker tells me as we sit down together at a local diner late into the night. I met Jane on an online dating website months ago and we soon hit it off. Once she felt comfortable with me, she unveiled that she was a "working girl" and realizing that I saw her in no negative light, we became friends.

Jane is a Chinese American girl from the East Bay who commutes to one of the many massage parlors in the South Bay for work. Jane's parents aren't in the picture and she doesn't like to talk about them. Jane ran away at the age of 16 from a violent and abusive living environment with her aunt and her aunt's husband. She survived couch surfing at friends’ places and selling drugs to make money up until the age of 20; that’s when her best friend introduced her to the world of selling sex.

For appearances Jane likes to blend in with what she calls the “geek worker.” She dresses very office casual, yet sophisticated just like any tech worker would, which plays well with the line of work -- she tells friends she commutes to the South Bay for at a start up tech company. Jane is a part time student at a local community college and is working towards becoming a dentist “at least that is the plan for now,” she says looking at me behind her thin, golden framed glasses.

In efforts to make more money Jane has traveled to Los Angeles, Arizona, Hawai’i, Texas, Atlanta, New York and, Miami to provide sex work, but says that the South Bay is where she has made the most when she positions herself in the right place.

Here, Jane’s says her customers are mostly middle-aged, white, married men who venture into the massage parlors where she shares a percentage of the money with the establishment. When she works independently, she rents a room and promotes herself online near the San Jose airport. Her clientele then becomes primarily men who are in town to conduct business, and during that time she keeps 100% of the money.

Her favorite customers are the ones that require no sex from her. She’s played the role of a pseudo marriage counselor, has provided a shoulder to cry on, has been groped for hours, asked to humiliate men in various ways, is in a non-sexual relationship with a regular customer she pees on, and is constantly asked to play the role of what she calls “the punisher” where she uses various objects to inflict punishing pain on her clients.

Expecting a very busy and profitable Super Bowl 50 weekend, Jane’s “boss” as she refers to him, at the massage place has made arrangements to bring in a dozen more women to add to the current six who work for him. These women are being brought from across the state and also from other states including Texas and Hawai’i to supply the increase in demand for paid sex.

As far as Jane knows, she says all of the girls come willingly. She has encountered women who have been forced into sex work, but has learned to keep clear of that type of environment. Her “boss” has somehow arranged to get various rooms within a 50-mile radius of Levi’s Stadium, and can get girls to any of the various locations within 10 minutes if he needs to. Jane herself, is going the independent route to be able to keep the majority of her earnings, and has agreed to split a room with another girl to work from. She doesn't have the connections her "boss" has, but still managed to rent a room for three days starting the day after Super Bowl 50 to service the men who will stay after it ends. She doesn’t get into details about money, just tells me she makes “enough for now.”

Jane is staying optimistic about her future and is planning to continue taking two classes at a time, keeping her overhead expenses low, saving money, and working to get out of the lifestyle she has seen too often destroy the lives of many of the girls working in it, including the best friend who got Jane into this industry. Her life was ended by a heroin addiction. "You can only experience enough pain before you just go numb," she said thinking back on her friend. That’s one of the main reasons she wants out of the business before she feels too trapped in this underground world.

Octavio Martinez is a photographer and journalist based in the Bay Area. Growing up, he spent many years navigating various scenes, but gravitates towards subcultures and countercultures. His lifestyle allows him to first-hand document what many have only heard of.