This project was photographed over a period of over two years in one of the best-known brothels in Switzerland, the Rote Villa. It is a story about the complicated reality that is a brothel. The women who work there are strong in character and are resolved to their everyday life as sex workers living and working in the Rote Villa. In our society sex is historically idealised as an intimate act imbued romantically as something sacred and pure. At the Rote Villa we understand that sex is a commodity, a transaction to fulfil a basic human need. The women here provide a service that on the surface appears to be like almost any other.
Most of the women come from Eastern Europe and have had a pretty rough life in one way or another. With unemployment rates being what they are in Eastern Europe and the fact that most of the women have not had access to a solid education gives them limited chances of earning good money in a regular job. Sex work for them is a way to be able to support themselves and their families back home. The average salary, for example in Romania is around €450, which on a ‘good night‘ can be made in the Rote Villa. For the women it is a means to an end to improve their prospects in life, to sell their company and sexual services.
Sex work is legal in Switzerland, which also raises questions about the state potentially acting as a “pimp”, making money of sex workers through taxes and fees these women have to pay to get the proper papers and if it’s actually changing something for these women for the better or not.
Written by: Christian Nilson