Being the Switzerland of the Americas, could Costa Rica adopt the same trend in Europe where there does seem to be a growing trend for sex drive-ins, with the widespread belief that it gets prostitution off the streets and into a safer environment, with similar schemes in Germany, Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands.
One of the most unusual aspects of the Zurich brothel — which are being referred to as “sex boxes” in Swiss media — are the signs being used at the facility, which cater both to Switzerland’s multilingual society (four official languages) and perhaps an odd sense of humour.
Those looking to find the sex boxes will have to look for a discreet “red umbrella,” and follow those signs to a former industrial zone where the nine boxes appear. According to Meritall Mir of GlobalPost, the customers will then “drive up one at a time along a lane reminiscent of fast-food drive-thrus” between the hours of 7pm and 5am.
Other signs pointing the way to the sex boxes show a car with a woman standing next to it. It is not clear if male prostitutes will also be allowed at the site.
“Along the way, they’ll negotiate fees and services with one of up to 40 sex workers,” Mir continues. “Once an agreement is reached, they’ll join the prostitutes in a car-wash style box to complete the transaction.”
The prostitutes themselves use a ticketing machine to pay a “stand fee” for the brothel’s facilities. They pay this at a ticketing machine.
The customer and the prostitute then drive to a covered area where they complete the transaction. The poster on the wall behind is not an instructional sign but a reminder to use condom.
Could we see the same happening here in Costa Rica? Probably not.
In the first case, sex drive-ins in Costa Rica have been around for a long time. They are called “motels” and can be found in throughout the greater metropolitan area (from Cargato to Alajuela), with the some of the most famous located in San Francisco, in San José’s east side.
Closer to downtown is the “Eden”, a sprawling complex that looks more like a residential development from the street front than a sex drive in.
Second, prostitutes in Costa Rica do not have to work the streets, many bars and hotels allow ‘sex social workers’ to apply their trade. Street prostitutes in Costa Rica are mainly transvestites, lining the streets like Avenida 5 and Avenida 7 in Barrio Amon.
Thirdly, a large sector of customers using the services of prostitutes in Costa Rica do not drive or have a car. To meet the demand, the downtown core of San José is full of “pensiones”, hotels that offer rooms for an hour to a few hours. Some with full hotel services, like a restaurant an room service.
And lastly, in San José there are more than 150 “massage parlours”, houses where the girls and the room are under one roof, with prices range from a few thousand colones (a few dollars) in some of the nastiest places in the area of the Mercado Bourbon to places like in the upscale Rohrmoser that offer a full hour massage for ¢25.000 (US$50) and everything in between.
Back to Zurich’s Sex Boxes.
There are a variety of rules to keep the situation at the “sex boxes” safe and sanitary. These are explained in the sign below.
We’ve done our best to translate (going right to left then working down):
- No one under the age of eighteen.
- Only cars can use the facility — no motorbikes, people on foot, or bicycles.
- Just one client at a time.
- Use the facilities provided, not the outdoor space.
- Again, do not use the outdoor space.
- Do not go off facility grounds
- Throw away your trash.
- No photography, filming, or recording (or singing, perhaps).
It may all seem a little strange but the logic is understandable — keeping prostitution out of Zurich city centre and creating a safer environment for prostitutes, who will also have access to things like showers, a small kitchen, and an area to rest.
There are some doubts, however, that the prostitutes and their customers will use the facility — which is said to have cost 2.1 million Swiss francs ($2.2 million) to build and 700,000 Swiss francs ($750,000) a year to operate.