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The King George is Germany's first flat-rate brothel. It's the sex industry's answer to the global recession. In Berlin there are about half a dozen of them. The brothels themselves prefer calling it "all-inclusive" rather than flat-rate. As owner Sascha Erben says, "this is sex after all, it's not text messaging or long distance calls. Alina works the door. She's wearing this pink tube dress. When she gets up from her chair, the dress zips up over her ass until she jigs it down again with her fingers.
The rest of the girls wear the same dress in different grades of pink. It's like a house uniform. Zipping up and down, flashing bare bum and bits of crotch as they walk around on stilettos that make them look like those fishermen's houses built on stilts — the ones that don't outlast storms or oil slicks. They all smoke cigarettes. Marlboros or Chesterfields with health warnings written in Cyrillic. And everything inside from the drink in your hand to the seat you lean on smells like candy floss.
As soon as I tell the women I'm just writing a story, they take out their phones, start eating pizza, and pluck stray hairs from their bikini lines—the same things they would have done if I'd told them I was gay, I guess. The layout of the building is an homage to the penis itself; a long narrow bar leads into two tight networks of small rooms with wipe-clean beds and showers and lighting that you'd never want to read a book under.
Europop plays from tiny speakers, hidden high up in the shadows. The majority of the women are from Eastern Europe. Klaudia is from Austria and she's something of a celebrity in Berlin.
Alina says she's from Napoli and that she misses the sea and her home. But both Alina, me, and her accent know her home isn't Italy. It's probably Romania. The same goes for the other girls speaking Spanish like Petronella and Barby. They learn it growing up in Romania watching Spanish telenovelas and they speak it because it's fun, she says. It's fun pretending to be Spanish, but in Germany where being Romanian is the only thing that makes people as mad as a murderer it's good sense, too.