A man dressed in an ill-fitting French maid costume pours a pint of lager over his own head, signalling chirpy television-type Stacey Dooley's arrival in the Czech capital of Prague. Last week, Stacey showed us around Sunny Beach, an area of Bulgaria famed for the raucous behaviour of its visiting tourists, and in the process totally ignored the rest of Bulgaria, which I've been told is very cultured and respectable. However, Stacey has obviously learned from this since last week, and shows us lots of lovely artistic shots of the beautiful architecture to be found in the city, hopefully informing the audience that there is a lot more to Prague than what this documentary's title suggests. As she wanders with only a vague sense of purpose around the historic buildings, she ponders - where, oh where, must the drunk people be…
Oh, thank goodness. A man dressed as a penis has arrived, and Stacey has followed him to find another man that has tucked his willy between his legs and is dancing around pretending to be a woman. The entire camera crew sighs with relief that they have found some debauchery to film, however it appears that there is not just drinking to be done in this part of Prague: there are also some ladies that you can pay to dry-hump you over your trousers in one of Prague's numerous strip clubs. Stacey speaks to one of the dancers in this particular club, who politely informs her that at this club the dancers do not have sex with the clientele (the furthest they are permitted - or wish - to go is the aforementioned dry-humping, and frankly I've seen worse going on on a nightclub floor in some parts of the UK) and states that she is happy with her job due to its high income - dancers can earn as much as three hundred pounds a night, which is not remotely to be sniffed at. Frankly, there's nothing particularly shocking going on here, so Stacey goes in search of something else to be horrified by, heading for a cut-price hotel which is popular with stag do groups.
At the hotel we meet the incredibly laid-back manageress, who tells us some lovely stories about cleaning up after the stags, including the world's first ceiling that could get you pregnant (work that one out yourselves, I'm trying to keep it PG over here) along with detailing some interesting found objects that are invariably pink and phallic. A smile crosses her face when the issue of non-refundable deposits comes up, instated after a group of rowdy blokes kicked the door of their room off its hinges, as she takes the opportunity to describe her delightful clientele using some wonderfully elaborate turns-of-phrase, leaving us with the thoughtful words "tourism is important; we don't like seeing people weeing and puking, but we need the money." Unfortunately, this seems to be a statement that could have been heard in a whole multitude of places throughout the earth. The pathos of this statement is punctuated by some lovely footage of a man falling thirteen metres from a horseback statue in Wenceslas Square. Great to see that culture is still high on the agenda.
Speaking of stags, let's meet the men themselves. Stacey accompanies a bar crawl agency to collect a group from the airport, mistaking some Buddhist monks for their band of revellers in the process. I'm not making this up. So, what are our manly man-types hoping to do here in the beautiful city of Prague? Apparently, their itinerary consists fully of the phrase "mainly hooking up with prostitutes." Full marks for honesty, I suppose. Maybe they were joking; who knows, and/or cares, quite frankly. We follow our charges to another stellar establishment where they are entertained by a woman wearing a Batman mask and a bin-bag, because nothing says sexy quite like a Batman-mask-bin-bag combo. I could be speaking from experience, you never know. I am on the lookout for this year's Halloween costume. Again, Stacey speaks to the performer, who seems happy in her work - she extols the virtues of her costume including a whip when having to deal with over-exuberant customers, but overall she feels comfortable and states that the affluent ends justify the means. All appears to be good in Prague.
Stacey however is insatiable in her pursuit of dirt, which leads her to a quasi-legal brothel. We learn that in the Czech Republic prostitution itself is legal, however organised prostitution in the form of brothels is not. Friendly gentleman proprietor Fabio ensures us that no sexy times go on in the private rooms, and that the women employed there are purely entertainers - he maintains this story even when Stacey finds a guestbook entry scrawled with the words "I've just had sex! Coming back soon!" accompanied by an unnerving smiley face in a book displayed in the main reception area. I'm more unnerved by the fact that apparently you can attend something called a "naked buffet" here. I do hope they don't put cocktail sticks in the chipolatas. Fabio conducts the entire conversation whilst playing a mental game of "The Price Is Right" with her chest area, and once it is blissfully over Stacey meets a few of the women working in the establishment. One of them is laid out on the bar with a couple of bits of fruit chucked on her, as if she was spotted by a resurrected Carmen Miranda who shrieked in terror and threw her funky fruit hat at her in defence. It turns out that the lady is Brazilian, and Stacey asks her why she doesn't do this work back home. "My family don't know," she replies. Lucky they don't get BBC Three in Brazil then. Stacey learns that you can have sex with a woman dressed as an alien in a space room (the Czech tourism board rejoices) or if you'd prefer you can have it off in an igloo with a stuffed polar bear egging you on. It's against this touching backdrop that thirty-three-year-old Lara hits us with some observations from her ten-plus years in Prague's sex industry - she asserts that at least half of the men who come to Prague on a stag do wish to sleep with prostitutes and that this always includes the stag; more shockingly, at least a third will try to bribe the women into having unprotected sex with them, which reassuringly she always refuses. Impressively, every one of the women Stacey interviews states that despite pressurisation from their clientele they refuse to have sex without a condom, which is good news for everyone involved.
However, this is not the case for every sex worker in Prague, especially as the money offered to take risks can be quite substantial. Stacey now follows the work of the charity Bliss Without Risk, who travel around Prague providing on-the-spot STI testing and advice to the women employed in its brothels. The information supplied by the representative is truly shocking; she states that if a sex worker professes that they are infected with HIV it becomes an incentive to a certain kind of client looking for an illicit risk - she goes as far as to compare it to bungee jumping. Following Stacey's consultation of a website she deems "The Trip Advisor of Prostitution", it appears that the pursuit of unprotected sex is unfortunately a lucrative one, however yet again not one woman admits having unprotected sex for money on camera.
Meanwhile, back out with the stags, it appears that there is another side to the jovial mood on the streets. One man recounts being "forced to take drugs" (I'm sure he'll tell his wife that back home too, along with that time when he was forced to down ten pints and then collapsed into the arms of a prostitute) and tells a story about a woman stealing money from another man's pocket. Roused by this, Stacey joins a local team of police officers out policing the city's nightlife. First of all, we meet a man selling pine cones, pretending that it's marijuana - they don't arrest him, as surprisingly enough selling pine cones isn't illegal. We also meet another prostitute who tells of stealing money from her clients, with the police present. Stacey is irritated that the police cannot arrest her - the female police officer at her side explains that there is no real evidence for her arrest, but Stacey continues to rant that they are "not well equipped enough" to deal with the problems on the streets. This may well be the case, however it is also important to remember that Czech law, like that of any foreign country, is significantly different to UK law, and therefore the police respond to incidents differently; if we are willing to holiday in another country, we must be accepting of their different legislation and attitudes while we're there.
The police are obviously arresting somebody as Stacey has access to a number of convicted pickpockets, one of whom is serving a six-year jail sentence. "British tourists are easy prey, they don't realise that in the Czech Republic people steal a lot," he says, describing his life as a member of a family of pickpockets working in the area. Amusingly, he states that the proceeds of his work went towards funding "women, alcohol and cars" - most likely where the majority of stag party funding ends up anyway, going by Stacey's research. Mind you the man also says that he's bought a limo, so I'd take what he says with a pinch of salt.
If there's one thing that I've learned about Stacey it's that she loves a good chinwag with a mayor. This week's Mayor Chat is a bit more productive than last week's - he agrees with Stacey that the laws pertaining to prostitution and alcohol need to be tightened, and states that he is sending requests to the Czech parliament every day in an attempt to achieve this. He also mentions that he wants the sex trade to be moved to the outskirts of the city, away from the cultural sites and frankly so that it isn't his problem anymore. This has already been partially instituted - Stacey goes to visit a huge brothel the size of a shopping complex just outside Prague, where she meets nineteen-year-old Lucy.
Her conversation with Lucy is somewhat problematic - everything she says is vetted by a representative from the complex, and she is the first sex worker we meet who is openly unhappy in her work, stating that she is working there out of necessity after finding herself in financial difficulty. She is unable to elaborate on why she is unhappy, and is directed by the minder to say only that she is tired from working long hours (which is appalling in itself - the girl working in the room opposite is beginning an eighteen hour shift) and this motivates Stacey to request to meet her privately away from the club. Unsurprisingly, Lucy doesn't show up - in the worst case scenario Lucy may have put herself in danger by speaking out about the less enjoyable side of her work, and at best she may have put her only source of income (and accommodation) at risk, so this is understandable. However, Lara - who we met earlier on - is a little happier to elaborate, showing us around the home she shares with her boyfriend of three years and her twelve-year-old son, who thinks that his mother works as a waitress in a nightclub. Lara states that her intention is to leave the sex industry in the next few years, and that she is looking forward to the future.
While I am sure that she makes her closing statements with the very best of intentions, Stacey's surprised observations that the women of Prague's sex industry are "just like the rest of us" have their roots in a dehumanising distance which pictures these women as distinctly "Other" in comparison to their everyday British counterparts; this is most likely the same dehumanising distance that their stag party clients employ when they purchase their services before their wedding day. While the documentary is entertaining viewing, it is comments like this that unfortunately let it down - the fact that women working in the sex industry worldwide are ordinary people, with their own lives, doesn't really need to be treated as a revelation. I'm getting off my soap box now. Pop over for a chat over on my Facebook page.