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In Italy, much like every single other country in the world, it's not uncommon to see girls — with or without penises — stalking street corners, watched over by some volatile pimp in a pleather jacket and a bad haircut. The act of selling yourself isn't actually a crime here, but aiding or inducing the sale of yourself is, which makes hooking kind of tricky, especially if you're not particularly into the thought of spending your evening inside a cell. For those who want to make a little extra change in partnership with their vagina, however, Switzerland — just across the border — is a haven for sex workers, being one of the few European countries where prostitution is legal.
Bar Oceano, a historical, family-run brothel in the Swiss border town of Lugano, is one of the landmarks of the Swiss sex industry, so Georgio — the photographer — and I drove up there to have a chat with Ulisse, the brothel's year-old owner, and Nicola, his right-hand-man.
We were greeted by a monolithic bouncer and led inside to the brothel's reception. We quickly found out that Ulisse had already gone home for the day to sit in his pyjamas and left his year-old niece Diandra in charge. Diandra told us a bit about how the brothel usually functions; "The clients come into the lounge, pay the cover charge — which includes a drink — then all the girls line up in front of them.
Diandra gave us some good advice should we ever feel like forking out for sex at any point in the future: "Never pick the first girl, they're always the most desperate. You have to be registered to prostitute yourself professionally in Switzerland, which, by law, only EU citizens are allowed to do. Until last year, the Swiss government would turn a blind eye, meaning girls from all over the world but mostly South America and Eastern Europe would flock to its brothels, but since they cracked down, it's only Romanian girls left.
Despite the fact that everything seems to be running by the books, the brothel still has its problems with the police: "Our girls all have visas, but the police always end up finding something they don't like. After we'd be given the full run-down, we asked to chat with some of the girls, so Diandra took us through to the VIP lounge, where we were told to make our choice of any one of the girls on offer.