Harrow’s Pretty Women – part 2

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Every Sunday night, Dispenser will take you to a tour inside the inner world of sex workers in suburbia-ville. No judgments, just real people trying to make a living. And their fascinating stories of unrequited love, secret passions and peculiar personalities.

Part 2 / Selina is an unusual marketing strategist. Without a university degree, she brands and sells something she knows best: her body on a webcam.

Selina gave up a marketing degree for a profession that, to some extent, allows her to brand, commodify and sell her body without the need of getting out of the house. She is a webcam girl.

“I’m not doing anything wrong, I mean, plus I decide my own schedule and get good money to spend on things I like.”

She is British and her parents sent her to London to study four years ago. She soon dropped out, “it was too intense and I was learning pretty much nothing,” she says. It started “for fun” and soon the Internet became her full-time employer.

3369408905_82a2e7474a_o“In these days with a webcam and a laptop you can do whatever you want.” Do her parents know about her new ‘marketing’ skills? “Oh, God, why would they?” she laughs. As far as they’re concerned, she’s out from college because she got hired as a marketing strategist, “which is not a complete lie, because if you want to succeed in what I’m doing, you have to be careful, make the right decisions and be professional otherwise you’re just another desperate girl on the web.”

And Selina is really precise. She sets her own boundaries, which she would never cross, and takes a systematic approach to what would otherwise be an unusual working day: “Four and a half hours a day per six days a week. I charge two pounds a minute so you make the math.”  The result is roughly £3,250 a week. Not bad for a well mannered, 23 year-old English young lady.

“But it doesn’t come in cash only, otherwise I’d have problems with taxes and everything.” So Selina adopted a plan and to avoid troubles with the revenue service: she gets part of her income in vouchers and gifts. “I travelled to Paris for free because a guy once bought me an airplane ticket.”

Webcam_grayscaleEvery day Selina switches on her webcam and the show starts. “No penetration, I just show parts of my body. I get to play with my feet a lot because that’s a fetish and sometimes I have to do some water sport [a fetish practice that involves urination on something or somebody] or lick my shoes. There are so many fetishists out there, you don’t even imagine.”

One day she’s dressed like a baby girl, the other like a boss, “it really varies from what I’m up to and what the trends of the day are on other cam chats. It’s more like acting than anything.”

The problem arose when some of her friends found out her real job. “They were mad because I lied to them and I shouldn’t have done it. I’m not proud of what I do, but I’m just trying to make a living I guess.”

Our Skype conversation ends and she’s almost in tears thinking about the people she has lost for her lies. “But I’m pretty sure they watch me on cam from time to time. That’s their way to show me their love.”

* Names have been changed to protect the identities of the interviewees.

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Harrow’s “Pretty Women”

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For the next four weeks, every Sunday night, Dispenser will take you to a tour inside the inner world of sex workers in suburbia-ville. No judgments, just real people trying to make a living. And their fascinating stories of unrequited love, secret passions and peculiar personalities.

Part 1/ In North West London there’s a place where call girls love their boyfriends and clients don’t just pay for sex, but a shoulder to cry on.

Katja cautiously opens the door and looks around to check if I’m alone. Then, with a quick wave of her hand, she whispers, “come in”.

It’s eleven o’clock at night and she has just finished her shift. She has cream on her face and she’s scrubbing her hands. Then she points at the couch where her boyfriend is watching TV. “Can we make it quick? We wanted to watch a movie”. Hanging from the eggshell walls, two portraits: a picture of Jesus “because he protects us all” and a poster of Al Pacino in Scarface.Phone_box_prostitute_calling_cards_1

In the quiet, suburban area of Harrow Katja is employed in “the world’s oldest profession”: prostitution. “I’m more of a psychologist than a prostitute to be honest” she makes clear from the very beginning. “Most of my clients come here to talk about their wives and children and why they’re unhappy. Some of them are so old the ‘thing’ doesn’t get up anymore,” she laughs, “They just need attention from a younger girl, that’s all”.

Five days a week, eight hours a day. “I try to finish early because my boyfriend and I like to watch TV and do things together.” Katja says with a thick Eastern European accent.

The couple both came to London from Romania three years ago full of expectations. He’s a quiet and pragmatic construction worker. She was working in a beauty salon but “the pay was awful and it soon went out of business”.

Katja’s professional experience is varied: as well as a beautician, she’s been a barista, and a waitress working in a fast-food chain. She was never satisfied. “I couldn’t find the time to stay with my boyfriend and we couldn’t make a living. So we talked and we discussed and I decided to do it.” Men’s eyes always fell on her curves, she says. She’s in her mid-twenties, attractive and talkative. “I have some friends from my small town who are here and do the same. It’s not that much of a big deal: after a while you have your own clients, you know what they want, you give it to them, they pay good money and everybody’s happy isn’t it sweetheart?” Katja says to her boyfriend while he’s staring at the TV set. His eyes semi closed, he doesn’t respond to her questions.

How much does she make? She lights up a cigarette, “It’s a hundred per hour which is good, it allows us to pay the rent, the bills and to go back to Romania every once in a while. I don’t advertise on Internet anymore because I don’t need to: people who are interested they know me already.”

Her family thinks she still works at the beauty salon “but they don’t ask that much and I’m glad, I don’t want to explain a lot to my mother”. If the week is good Katja makes £1500 and sends something home to her parents and grandparents “because you gotta be good to your family”.

How does her boyfriend cope with the fact that Katja is having sex with strangers? “We cry every now and then but with time he understood that we do this for our future. I always do protected sex, it’s a rule, and if a client wants to have sex he has to be clean. Most of the time, though, my clients don’t even need to have sex, they just want some attention and someone that listens to them.” She puts the cigarette out and that is the signal that my time is up. Tonight they’re going to watch one of the many Fast and Furious movies. “You heard Paul Walker died? That’s a shame.” She sighs while escorting me to the entrance. “Please be quiet when you go down the stairs, the neighbors complained already.” Then she disappears in the dark, behind the door.

*Names have been changed to protect the identities of the interviewees.

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