Sex worker

She is Polish, and she arrived in Stockholm only last April. ‘Because of my son, actually. A year ago he was scouted at a hockey-camp, by a Swedish coach. He said we should move to Sweden, because my son could have a great career in hockey. So I left my job and here we are.’

What was that job?

‘Transport logistics in a factory.’

A nice job?

‘Ah, in Poland yes, good money, but not here. And there were all these girls, talking all the time. Too much. When I wanted to concentrate, they were talking.’

We meet in China Massage, a massage parlour in the centre of Stockholm. There are three massage rooms, a mattress on the floor. And there’s a waiting room, with leather chairs, a coffee machine and a fish bowl. Julia is 37 (‘my face looks old, my body much younger. I work out a lot’).

But you’re not a masseuse, right?

‘Well, of course I could do a massage, but normally clients come to fuck.’

That’s interesting, I think, because in Sweden paying for sex is illegal (the client is committing a crime but not the prostitute): the Sex Purchase Act (Sexköpslagen), which makes it illegal to pay for sex but not to be a prostitute, was adopted in 1999. At the time it was unique, but since then similar laws have been passed in Norway and Iceland. The rationale underpinning the law is the view that prostitution is a form of violence against women, so the crime consists of the customer paying for sex, not of the prostitute selling sexual services. This line of thinking sees the seller of sex as the exploited partner in the exchange.

What do you think of this law?

‘It might as well not exist: everybody still goes to prostitutes. And I think they’re right to do so: they have needs. I can give pleasure. I don’t need to be protected. But it is good in a way, because if the market were open, too many girls would want to become prostitutes. And I would not have as many customers.’

Where do they come from, your customers?

‘Most are Swedish, during the day. At night there are other types of clients. Muslims, I don’t like them. It’s uncomfortable and they sometimes have strange requests. They want me to come to their apartments where it has to be dark, because otherwise Allah sees everything. So I enter the place, saying, “I can’t see you, where are you?”

She gets up to make some tea.

‘When I arrived I started to work in a place run by a Polish man and woman, in another town, but that wasn’t good. I didn’t want to share the money. Now I keep everything myself.’

This place is better?

‘The best place is at my apartment, but I can’t work there, because of my son. Here I need to drive my car, pay a parking ticket for a whole day, it’s all extra.’

Do your friends know?

‘Nooo! Only my sister, living in Canada. And my Swedish boyfriend.’

Your boyfriend?

‘Yes… He was my first customer. And now he is completely jealous… He doesn’t want me to work any more.’ But the two things are separate : work and home. For me it’s two different worlds.

I ask about Poland

Are you from Warsaw?

‘No, from Gdansk. From Walensa’s city.’

Do you still remember the old days? Has it changed a lot?

‘It was so grey back then. Now there are colours. There are things in the shops. We can buy everything now. We were so poor. You know, we didn’t even have toilet paper, we had to use newspapers.

Are you happy with the EU?

‘Yes, it’s good that we are in the EU. But it’s not good that we have the euro. We should have kept the zloty. Look what happened in Germany!’

What do you mean?

‘Look at Germany!’ she repeats.

I’m looking, but I can’t figure out what she means so she gives up. Europe doesn’t interest her very much…