10 / 05 / 2024
8 Minute Read

Venusia : the biggest Geneva erotic parlour closed its doors forever

 

On May 2, 2024, I inadvertently read that the Venusia erotic studio closed its doors for good. It was the day before the owner, Madame Lisa, announced to the public that after more than 20 years of successfully running the Venusia, she was saying goodbye to her well-established erotic house. This venue, which she had created, enjoyed an excellent reputation, and had become the number 1 reference in Geneva for paid sex, rapidly becoming part of the local landscape. The announcement came as a surprise to many, leading to a degree of incomprehension about this decision, as business seemed to be booming at Venusia, which was known to be open 24/7.

 

In this article, I would like firstly to pay tribute to Madame Lisa - for whom I have always had a great deal of respect - and secondly, I wish to explore in a little more detail the reasons described as the cause of Venusia's closure. These explanations shared by Madame Lisa were reported very succinctly by the RTS (Radio Television Switzerland) and a few local media, without really going into detail, without any great reflection around the subject. I suppose that the former Venusia owner simply did not want to share too much with the media, who perhaps did not look for better understanding the whys and wherefores either. Based on our experience of over 10 years in this industry, we are trying to help the public understand why, once again, prejudices about the sex industry are hard to dispel...

 

Venusia: a unique erotic parlour

For those of you who do not know Venusia, Madame Lisa had imagined it as a haven of bliss for its clients/visitors, and it is fair to say that she had won her bet! The Venusia lounge had eleven themed rooms, each equipped with a shower, had been tastefully furnished, with attention to detail and hygiene, making the comfort and well-being of its occupants one of the fundamental elements of an intimate dating place. The Jacuzzi and Cigar-Lounge added a very special touch to a place where only women (self-employed and from all corners of Europe, but mainly from France) worked, but which had been designed and thought for the pleasure of men. Despite its downtown location, the Venusia studio's frontage was unsuspectedly discreet: customers entered through the front door and exited through the back, never passing each other. Venusia had opened in the early 2000s and quickly acquired an unprecedented reputation, making it an emblematic name in prostitution in French-speaking Switzerland and in Geneva in particular. The escort girls who worked there made a lot of money, and Madame Lisa had become an entrepreneur who, in a short period of time, had built up a very lucrative business, organized and managed like any other taxable business in Switzerland.

 

Madame Lisa: an iron lady with a tender heart

When she opened her Venusia erotic studio, this French woman naturalized Swiss already had many years' experiences as a sex worker in French-speaking Switzerland. It was her taste for human contact that led her to stay and evolve in this industry, which has given her so much, and to which she has returned the favor. The opening of Venusia was a dream that Madame Lisa was able to realize, but not without its pitfalls. Nevertheless, her passion for her profession, her ambition, her fighting spirit, her quirky sense of humor, her outspokenness and her strong personality enabled her to overcome all the obstacles that stood in her way. The stigma of this milieu was certainly her greatest adversary, and even a hindrance in many situations (social, economic, administrative) in her daily life in Geneva. While some will call her names, others, like me, will see her as a woman who has lived up to her convictions, who has never hidden behind the double standard (Switzerland's isolating hypocrisy towards this industry, whose taxes it gladly collects but which it openly condemns) and who has helped many women (needy or not) to work in this industry while enjoying excellent working conditions at the Venusia erotic house.  In 2012, Madame Lisa published a book entitled “Porte ouverte sur maison brothel” (available in French only). If you would like to find out more about the author, her life and what the Venusia was like, I invite you to pick up this book, which takes a completely different look at prostitution, allowing you to understand before judging.

 

An increasingly stigmatized profession

Among the two main reasons for closing the Venusia, Madame Lisa mentioned that she was fed up with the stigma to which sex workers are continually subjected. Despite the democratization of the profession (more and more women are becoming escort girls) and the number of clients, which has never fallen (and is unlikely to do so in the near future), when one rents out one's body and time for money, one is still perceived as ostracized, even though this important role played by so many individuals in society has a real social and human significance that is both indisputable and indispensable. Being refused naturalization because you are a prostitute, not being able to rent an apartment because you are an Escort Girl, not being able to get a credit card at the bank because you work in the world's oldest profession remains a reality in Switzerland in 2024. Imagine for a moment living in a society that accepts you for what you bring in, but rejects you for who you are... How long will you have the strength to keep fighting the system?

 

A rent up on the roof

The second reason given by Madame Lisa for closing the Venusia studio was the exorbitant rent she was paying at Rue Rodo, 2 in Geneva. In the last few years before Venusia closed, the 650m2 space was costing her around CHF 460,000 a year to rent. Plus, utilities, that is a monthly rent of over CHF 50,000 that Madame Lisa had to pay every month. So yes, it is true that rents in Geneva - Switzerland's second most expensive city after Zurich - are very high, no one can deny that.

Moreover, it is very common to come across landlords who have no qualms about knowingly raising the rent on their commercial property as soon as they know it is going to be used by a company involved in the sex industry. On the other hand, a large majority of Swiss landlords would rather leave their commercial property empty for months or even years (without collecting rent) than rent it out to someone who wants to use it as a place of prostitution, even if that person is solvent. The best solution would be to own the premises. But then again, very few banks in Switzerland are willing to finance real estate intended for the sex industry. If you choose not to be transparent with these banks and keep the truth from them, they will not hesitate to suspend your mortgage (I know some people to whom this had happened), making it even more difficult to approach any other banks for financing the property.

When you want to open an erotic studio such as Venusia, it is hard to find the ideal location offering a decent rent. However, in the specific case of Venusia, I am not convinced by the high rent argument.

 

Growing competition

Over the past twenty years, the prostitution landscape in Switzerland has changed radically. While demand has remained stable (despite Covid), supply has exploded. With economic insecurity making itself felt in many European Union countries, the majority of escort girls working in Switzerland no longer come from Eastern Europe, but from countries such as Spain and even third countries such as Ukraine. With supply outstripping demand, average rates for sexual services have fallen, leading to increased competition and more risky practices. More and more escort girls are also deciding to work in their own private apartment (or room), which can result in a loss of earnings for many erotic salons like Venusia; especially those that have not been able/willing to evolve with the market and its new demands/expectations.

 

More personal reasons

Let's not forget that Madame Lisa was first and foremost an entrepreneur! Her business, the Venusia, was a highly successful concept and a benchmark among erotic salons in Geneva. Despite her success and continuing passion for her work, the entrepreneur decided to put an end to this adventure for a number of personal reasons. In a recent - but short - interview with the Geneva press, she mentioned that she was weakened by health problems (in one of her legs). However, these reasons could be of a completely different order, such as a change of priority, the desire for a new challenge, or the need to distance herself from burnout and focus on her own well-being. While Madame Lisa asserts that at Venusia, the customers were always there, the choice to withdraw from the scene and close her salon for good at a time when business was booming may have been a way of keeping an impeccable souvenir of the establishment in the common memory. It is also quite plausible that, given the Venusia owner's emotional commitment to the business she had launched, she would have preferred to close rather than see her erotic studio in someone else's hands.  

 

An erotic parlour to be remembered

The real reasons that led Madame Lisa to permanently close the Venusia are deeply personal and were certainly influenced by a combination of factors she could control, but also by a multitude of other factors that were beyond her control. In any case, for over twenty years, Madame Lisa created and managed a unique establishment - from which many of her competitors drew inspiration - that will leave an indelible mark on Geneva's sex industry, one that will still be remembered two decades from now.

 

Janet - The Velvet Rooms  

 

 


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