Rachel Pacheco, 21, has sold more than 140,000 copies of her book The Sweet Poison of the Scorpion – a grimy account of working the streets in Sao Paulo – in just 10 months.
The book followed the astonishing popularity of her internet blog, written under the pseudonym Bruna Surfistinha. Rights have been sold in 40 countries from Australia to Vietnam.
The commercial success of her story has inspired others to cash in on the phenomenon, such as the ex-wife of Pacheco’s current boyfriend writing on how it was to lose her husband to the Scorpion.
Pacheco, who has her zodiac sign scorpion tattooed on her right shoulder, is launching her second book next month, What I learned with Bruna Surfistinha.
The story of her life – at she abandoned a privileged middle-class background to become a prostitute after a fight with her father – is being turned into a film produced by TV Zero set to be launched in the second half of 2007.
On the surface it is easy to see why her prostitute’s diary has sold in such numbers. But the book is also injected with a humorous recounting of subtle observations she made along the way, such as: “Funny fact – before he left, we both apologised practically at the same time, one to the other.
“He was very tense at the start and told me he had never had sex with anyone after he was married. I joked with him: ‘You married when? Yesterday?’. And he said no, he’d been married eight years. I said ‘Wow, you are a faithful man’ and he corrected me: ‘Faithful no, half-faithful’.
“I didn’t know that half-faithfulness existed. But, whatever.”
Pacheco “retired” from the oldest profession on her 21st birthday last year after telling her blog readers – and potential clients – of her forthcoming plans.
“I was very tired of prostitution … I also had a boyfriend who already lived with me and he suffered. I say that I stopped for two loves – my life and that of my boyfriend,” she told Aljazeera.net.
“I’ve always had a lot of dreams and I knew that I had to stop being a prostitute to start a new path. I was afraid because a big challenge lay ahead. The temptation to go back and make fast money is very easy.
Pacheco has, however, found her new found fame unsettling. “I get 12-year-old girls approaching me in the street for my autograph. I am afraid of encouraging girls into prostitution. I think that they could imagine that everything will turn out well as it has to me,” she says.
“When I decided to write a book and tell my story I was afraid that I would encourage teenagers to follow the same path. My worst fear was to inspire girls who are having problems with their family to think: ‘I’m going to run away from home, become a prostitute and be happy like Bruna Surfistinha.’
“I always make it very clear that prostitution isn’t worth it, really it isn’t worth it. I don’t want girls to think it was easy because it wasn’t. It’s difficult to confront obstacles in your life without support from your family, and to also have to face prejudice from society. I consider that the good situation I’m in today is because of luck and determination.”
The UN estimates that there could be as many as 500,000 Brazilian child victims of sexual abuse.
Federal deputy Maria do Ros?rio, author of the wide-ranging report, Comissao Parlamentar Mista de Inquerito da Exploracao Sexual, says sexual exploitation in Brazil is a crime which has epidemic proportions.
“A girl of 10 years doesn’t become a prostitute from a spontaneous urge. They are being exploited by someone. What is even sadder is that there are some mothers who take this role, exploiting their daughters and keeping all the money for themselves,” says Pacheco.
The solution, she says, would be for the government to give enhanced education opportunities, and provide incentives and psychological support for girls not to work as prostitutes. She says that an institute where these girls could be taken to receive medical, psychological and educational help would be very welcome.
But for the moment, the sordid tales of Brazil’s seedier professionals is big business.
Following in Pacheco’s footsteps comes Marises’ Diary, by Vanessa de Oliveira, 31, another prostitute from Sao Paulo, and Virginias‘ Diary by a Spanish ex-prostitute.
Also on the bookshelves is an offering from Samantha Moraes, 30, the jilted wife, titled After the Scorpion: A Story of Love, Sex and Betrayal.
Pacheco thinks it is important that society at large learn of how prostitutes lead their lives, their trials and tribulations.
“This way we can show that it is not so easy as it might look. In Brazil I was the pioneer of this type of literature. I’ll always be remembered as the first prostitute who shared with society the story of her life.
“But one day I’ll no longer be Bruna Surfistinha, I’ll just be plain Raquel Pacheco.”