Commodifying Intimacy in 'Hard times': A Hardcore Ethnography of a Luxury Brothel

  • Daniel Briggs
Keywords: prostitution, brothel, covert ethnography, socio-economic bondage, commercial bondage


This paper is a methodological reflection on an ongoing covert ethnography I have been undertaking in a luxury brothel in Madrid, Spain. By accident, this study became a research project when I was employed by the manager to review porn forums offering feedback on the women that worked there and taught English to him. For 18 months now, I have worked in the brothel a couple of nights a week doing these duties and have come to know the manager’s closest friends and family, the women who work there and the security staff. The context for the work is the expansion of the sex industry in an era of consumer society and self-gratification coupled with austerity politics which has disproportionately affected the opportunities for women in the formal labour market thus catapulting many into precarious situations in which selling sex becomes an option. This has crudely mixed with cultural change in Spain in the wake of increased neoliberal economics which have hollowed out notions of family, tradition and intimacy.