Although the name Dolly seems to perfectly characterize all these thousands of dummy-like girls who sell their bodies in Surabaya, this region of the port city got its name from the Dutch brothel keeper, who, breeding her first chicks probably had no intention to turn it into Southeast Asia’s largest sex industry.
In fact so tremendous is the industry that according to girls’ beauty, age and demands, Dolly is divided into three major subunits: from Amsterdam-influenced window-shopping until to Jogjakarta-like ‘girl next door’ sex and culminating with Miike-inspired monstrous graveyard romance. Being acquainted as the guests of the Mayor, we can peacefully visit all the three layers of sex workers.
The first time Terje and I see the place is from inside a jeep, to which we hitchhiked going from Solo to Surabaya. We are cruising through the streets packed with people and observing the window-shops through the car’s tinted glasses. On the other side of the large windows one can see empty halls and pink couches with tens of beauties sitting on them with their legs crossed and wearing high heels, devotedly chatting on their blackberries. In front of each of those houses a pimp is lurking around like a watchdog, waiting to catch the client, fix the price and then send him to heaven in the back room.
Once we get out of the car, another reality opens itself in front of us. A small hand is pulling my trousers and the other one moves the squeezed fingers in front of a greasy mouth, the eyes dramatically bulging and flip flops left behind to increase credibility of a starving child.
“Food, I want food.”
“Mother doesn’t give you food?”
“No, mother works in Bali.”
“So where do you live?”
“At my granny’s.”
“And where is your granny working?”
“In a warung.” (a local food stall)
“So why do you as me for food money if your granny is working in a stall?”
“I want to buy books for school,” says the 10 year old girl while a flock of children around us grins a mocking smile. A well-eaten man walks past us, shows some signs to the children and watch them carelessly run away. They probably understand well how impracticable this story sounds.
Jogja-like ‘girl next door’ sex
In that area one cannot imagine at first glance that it belongs to prostitutes and is their work field. Narrow streets with single and double houses, potted plants and terraces don’t give away the existence of all those immoral women (as they call them here). On street benches middle-aged women in jeans dangle their flip flops, play with their T-shirts, giggle with each other and catch the attention of passing men. However, all but the last fact, we can as well encounter in every moral Indonesian street.
At the same time as one of the older women with squeezed breasts tries to have a deal with Terje, I’m going to hold a conversation on the crubstone with a woman eagerly gobbling some rice. It turns out that the girl is from Madura and in the mental picture of her parents, she is running in some restaurant as a waitress. Realistically, until four o’clock in the morning, she sits on a street side and tempts clients fond of well-built girls, to raise some money for the future.
The girl seems to be full of hope and dreams and reasonably in love. Her sweetheart is a guy baking rice in the same street, who works at the same hours with her to achieve the same goals. Boyfriend, who does not mind his girlfriend selling her body, passes her once in a while with the food trolly and woos the bride with mild glances.
Miike-inspired graveyard romance
If Estonia’s cemetery would definitely be too much, then the architecture of Indonesian one is like a perfect working set for a DIY prostitute, who mostly is too old or ugly to work in the other two regions. Or she just wants to start off as a self-employed individual who doesn’t pay a large share to the pimps.
Both sides of the sidewalks are covered with massive stone graves reminiscent of a marriage bed. In the darkness of the night almost nothing can be seen at the first glance but then step by step some blue lights appear. These belong to the mobile phones of prostitutes, who, waiting for the horny men, spend their time online.
Tombstones are not great not only for sex, but apparently also for a proper warung (open-air café). A skeleton lying under the ground, above the ground there is a tile, almost like made for a table where tea, eggs and other sweets can be served.
I sit on a bench made of one of those stones just next to a woman with broken teeth who really wants to know what snow is like. Another one comes, takes a mattress from under my seat and disappears behind one of the tombs. Once we leave at five in the morning and sink to our beds, they all wave to us as we were friends and stay waiting for the next clients.
(photo is illustrative from another cemetery)