Vineyard's "oldest profession" isn't scalloping

Island's Oldest Profession

Submitted by Ezra Sherman of VineyardTODAY on Wed, 06/17/2009 - 15:33. - Tisbury, Martha's Vineyard -

On a recent and rainy Saturday, if you can imagine it, a group of men gathered around the kitchen of a small apartment and debated who was going next. Upstairs sat a demure woman, waiting to see who would walk through the door next. So, scalloping is not the Island's oldest profession.

VT had heard rumors about prostitution services on the Island, particularly those serving our immigrant community.

VT had heard rumors about prostitution services on the Island, particularly those serving our immigrant community. Still, VT was surprised at how easy one operation was to discover. None of the participants were willing to have a camera present and VT agreed not to learn any of the real names of those involved.

The apartment is relatively new, well furnished and in a mixed residential and commercial neighborhood. One man spends a lot of time on the phone trying to hustle up more business. All of the men sitting around the table work in landscaping. Most are from Brazil and have been here more than two years. Two of the men are married to women who live in Brazil. While all of them have been here before, not all of them are here for the same reason. One man tells VT that he never would use a prostitute, "It's disgusting." He was there for the beer and the company, something social on a rainy Saturday. Not long after insisting that he too would never do such a thing, one of the other men disappears up stairs. When he returned everyone asked where he was. "Where do you think?" he snaps back.

The woman sat alone in the bedroom. VT had to assure her that all she would have to do is answer some questions if she felt like it. She relaxed but it was not hard to tell that her time was valuable and she would need to get back to work soon. She, like the men downstairs, is Brazilian. She has only been in the country a little more than 8 months and, as trite as it sounds, fell into this line of work.

She arrived in Boston with very little money and had trouble finding work. Soon she was unable to pay rent, or buy food and in her words, "got desperate." Using an online dating service she arranged to meet a man for a date and then told him that he could sleep with her for $300. From there she began working for an escort service which is how she got hooked up with the Vineyard crowd. Now she works for herself. She shies away from answering any questions about how much money she makes on these trips to the Island. She is here sometimes every week, but more likely once a month in the winter. Many of her clients are repeat business, guys who may be too far out of the dating pool or are just lonely and a long way from home.

It is not clear if the man on the phone is getting a cut from any of this. He and the woman seem to be close friends. More men were arriving as others left. VT insisted again that there would be no money changing hands and thanked the young lady for her time. It is hard to tell which was more amusing to the kitchen table, going upstairs with an empty notebook or coming back down with one full of notes.

A few days later the phone rang. The girl is coming back to the Island, would VT like to "ask any more question?" No thanks.

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