Legalization has turned Germany into the ‘Bordello of Europe’ and we should be ashamed

When German abolitionists talk about the situation of prostitution in Germany, we hear the same responses, over and over: “You’ve got to be kidding!” or “How is this possible?” When we do presentations in other countries, people in the audience will often start to cry or ask for a break after 15 minutes to get some fresh air. The same presentations in Germany cause outrage as well, but we’ve noticed that people have become so accustomed to the situation, their emotional response is subdued. In fact, German men will often openly and proudly out themselves as sex buyers at abolitionist events. There is no shame in being a john in Germany. This is an obvious and alarming sign that decades of legalized prostitution shape society.

It’s easy not to notice the harms of prostitution if we don’t look at them directly and, while all women are impacted by the realities of prostitution, most people who aren’t directly involved in the sex industry have limited knowledge as to what goes on in it. We have to ask ourselves honestly what the implications of normalizing prostitution are, and whether we have done enough to push back. It is not acceptable to simply say, “I am not personally affected by it and there are more important things to focus on.” When we uncover serious violations of human rights, as is the case in prostitution, it is our responsibility to do something about it. If we take an honest look at the situation in Germany, it is clear that action is sorely needed.

Politics and the profiteers of prostitution

Contrary to popular belief, with the exception of a short period of time in the early 20th century, prostitution had actually been legal in Germany for more than 100 years previous to the passage of the 2001 prostitution law, Prostitutionsgesetz. The bill was put forth by The Social Democratic Party of Germany and the Greens (Bündnis 90/Die Grünen), and was supported by Germany’s liberal party, the Free Democratic Party, and the Party of Democratic Socialism (now called Die Linke). It was opposed only by the Conservatives.

The law, which actually has more to do with the legalization of pimping, says that prostitution is no longer considered “against the good morals” of the country. Whereas, in the past, the “violation of morality law” meant that court cases involving exploitation were dealt with as a breech of ethics, this law is no longer applied in the context of prostitution. Despite its old-fashioned name, the violation of morality law has practically been the only way to challenge exploitation or unethical business transactions in areas not explicitly regulated by laws — things like extremely low pay, rent increases, or very high interest rates. The decision to exempt prostitution from this “morality” law may have sounded progressive, but it made exploiting women that much easier.

Our politicians celebrated this “big success” with a glass of champagne, wholly on board with the new normal. Even the Christian Social Union got involved in the building of a brothel in Dachau, calling it a “completely ordinary business.” Counselor Helmet Erhorn, who was working as an electrician on the project, said, “I think we are creating a great thing: a wonderful sauna, a whirlpool to relax in… It will be the most beautiful establishment in Dachau. […] We need places like that in the city.”

Left to right: Then-Minister for Women Issues Christine Bergmann (Social Democrat Party, SPD), brothel owner Felicitas Schirow (Cafe Pssst, Berlin), and spokesperson of the Green Parliamentary Group (GRÜNE) Kerstin Müller.
Left to right: Then-Minister for Women Issues Christine Bergmann (Social Democrat Party, SPD), brothel owner Felicitas Schirow (Cafe Pssst, Berlin), and spokesperson of the Green Parliamentary Group (GRÜNE) Kerstin Müller.
wollersheim cdu
In 2014, brothel owner Bert Wollersheim took conservative member of parliament, Sylvia Pantel, on a tour of his new brothel. “I know, that Mister Wollersheim is a nice person,” she’d said.

The German “underground”

In their efforts to discredit the Nordic model, opponents say that in Sweden, prostitution hasn’t actually declined, but instead has gone “underground.” This is, of course, not true. Law enforcement and social workers in Sweden, where the Nordic model has been in place for over a decade, say they have no problem finding prostitution and johns; the only issue is finding resources to address these situations.

In addition to legalizing pimping, the Prostitution Act made it possible for prostituted people to become regular employees, subject to taxation and access to social benefits. Yet only 44 out of an estimated 400,000-1,000,000 prostituted people have chosen to register as prostitutes in order to access said benefits.

In Wiesbaden, my hometown and the capital of Hesse (population 280,000), officials have no idea how many people are prostituted within the city borders but guessed it could be 250 women, saying, “Wiesbaden is too bourgeois, so there isn’t a big demand.”  But through my own research, I found 1,000 prostituted women (and transwomen) working in the city. This is a much more realistic number than 250 — about the same number of prostituted women as there are in all of Ireland. There are only two (relatively small) recognizable brothels in the city, one “sauna club,” and a recently opened “flatrate” club. But most prostitution can be found in apartments all over the city, which are allowed even in the areas where brothels are prohibited. There are also porn theatres where men can find prostituted women, “tea clubs” (which mainly serve Turkish and Arab men and have mainly Bulgarian and Romanian women working there), your regular escorts, and, of course, online prostitution. Most people are surprised to learn that micro-brothels exist right in their own neighborhood, because they lack the visibility of mega-brothels like Paradise and Pascha.

Then there’s the organized crime factor.  Organized crime groups like the Hells Angels, Mongols, Bandidos, United Tribuns, etc. control prostitution and red light districts in various German cities. Hamburg and Frankfurt, for example, are in the hands of the Hells Angels, whereas the United Tribuns control prostitution in Stuttgart and Villingen-Schwenningen. Despite that reality, popular discourse around legalization tends to focus on women’s “free choice” instead of the heavy involvement of organized crime in the industry.

When we consider this, along with the fact that relatively few people receive the supposed social benefits that come with having the industry “out in the open,” shouldn’t we be talking about the way in which prostitution in Germany is “underground?”

Map Wiesbaden
Locations where prostitution is known to take place in Wiesbaden.

Prostitution in the educational system

Pro Familia, a member of the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), is an organization that advises schools in their sex education materials. Among the material they recommended for teenagers is a book called, “Sexualpädagogik der Vielfalt (which loosely translates to “Sexual Pedagogy of Diversity”). This text includes suggestions and material for projects in which students are asked to name sex positions and to “modernize a brothel.” In small groups they are to discuss what “services” a “Freudenhaus der sexuellen Lebenslust” (which  loosely translates to “pleasure house of sexual lust for life”) should offer.

Those who protested this kind of content being introduced into curriculum were accused of being “reactionary,” “conservative,” and “prudish.

Members of the teachers’ union (GEW) in the state of Hessen were offered advanced teacher training courses between 2006 and 2015, taught by a pro-decriminalization lobby group called “Dona Carmen.” Teachers could collect professional training credits by participating. (Last year, the general assembly decided to eliminate these courses from the education program.)

The normalization of prostitution in Germany, even among school-aged children, has lead to young men celebrating their high school graduation (called “Abitur”) together in brothels. Here, it’s no big deal that boys as young as 16 go to their local prostitution apartment to buy sex (something I see on a regular basis in my own neighbourhood).

Greed is hot

“Geiz ist geil” is a phrase commonly used in German ads and marketing campaigns, meaning, “greed is hot” or “greed is good.” Unsurprisingly, this idea — that the public should try to get everything as cheaply as possible — is transferred to the prostitution market as well. Women are sold as products, so, as products, they should be as cheap as possible. Brothel owners fall over themselves trying to offer the best bargain:

"New girls in the Caligula brothel in Berlin. The absolute sex killer offer."
“New girls in the Caligula brothel in Berlin. The absolute sex killer offer.”
"Sting House: 38,50 Euro, de-juicer: 20 Euro, handjob in the de-juicer: 12,50 Euro, peeping tom box: 28,50 Euro."
“Sting House: 38,50 Euro, de-juicer: 20 Euro, handjob in the de-juicer: 12,50 Euro, peeping tom box: 28,50 Euro.”
"Flat-rate brothels" offer all-inclusive deals similar to "all you can eat" buffets, but rather, "all you can fuck." In some cases snacks and drinks are included in the deal.
“Flat-rate brothels” offer all-inclusive deals similar to “all you can eat” buffets, but rather, “all you can fuck.” In some cases snacks and drinks are included in the deal.

A flat-rate brothel chain called “Pussy Club” made headlines when, on its opening day on June 5, 2009, 1,700 men lined up to get in. The long lineups outside women’s rooms lasted until closing time when many of the women collapsed from exhaustion, pain, injuries, and infections, including painful rashes and fungal infections that spread from their genitals down their legs. It was shut down a year later for human trafficking.

Flat-rate brothels are very common in Germany, as well as “tabuslos,” meaning “no taboos.” In practice, this translates to “everything without any protection.” As a result, STDs are on the rise in Germany (HIV rates have gone up after several years of stagnation), and it’s common for married men to infect their wives.

Competing for customers means that brothel chains like the Pascha in Cologne offer gambling games with the chance of winning a free hookup. A brothel in Berlin gives customers a “collection card” like coffee shops do — five visits will grant you a 50 per cent rebate, and your 11th visit is free.

glücksrad pascha

In Germany, both convenience and frugality are key, and men can go to parking garages for drive-in sex, or visit stalls called “Verrichtungsbox” (“getting things done” boxes). They can now even order women the way one would order a pizza thanks to a mobile app produced last year.

gaiz oase sex-drive-in

Kurioses_Verrichtungsboxen_WM_2006

peppr2

Prostitution and pornography connect in Germany

A company called Uschi Haller Fun & Films hosts and films gang bang parties with different themes, which they then sell to the public as pornography. Each participant pays 35 Euros, which includes drinks and food. The women provided as “entertainment” are all prostituted women. Condom-use is explicitly banned, though face masks are provided in order to protect the identity of the johns. The men must either bring a recent HIV-test (no older than two weeks) or have a quick test done on the premises. Some examples of Uschi Haller DVD titles include: “Teenie Tina, Six Months Pregnant,” “The Big Grub,” “Pee Party,” or “Sloshing Party” (where women are plied with alcohol so they’ll be more compliant). They also have “feeding frenzies” where women are fed spaghetti in between oral sex until they vomit.

teenie tina

The company publishes pictures of the aftermath, which always show women with glazed eyes and inflamed orifices. These images are contrasted with celebratory language, implying the women had great fun. In Teenie Tina’s case, a description of her genitals on the site read, “looked like a Baboon’s ass, all red and swollen.”

Prostitution ads are everywhere

If you go to Cologne by train, the first thing you’ll see when you leave the station are taxis featuring ads for the Pascha brothel.

PASCHA KOLN

In Berlin you might see a bus advertising for the Artemis brothel.

On the highway you might pass a truck that is decorated like this:

harem lkw

…or come to pass a motorway bridge like this:

autobahnbrücke

In restricted areas where advertising is forbidden, moving advertising pillars are driven through the cities, or trucks, vans, and trolleys are parked until enough residents complain, and they are moved to the next street.

ad trolley

On today’s “menu”…

sex menü

Prostitution lobbyism in pop culture

In Germany, there are a number of TV shows that promote pornography and prostitution. The German newspaper, FAZ, accurately calls these type of programs “editorial advertising films.”

A channel called RTL II airs reality shows that promote a positive view of prostitution, showing prostituted women talking about how much they love what they do and how exciting everything is. In 2010, RTL II aired a program about a brothel called Teenyland in Cologne which caters to pedo-sexual fantasies. Women that look and dress like minors are available in rooms called “The Princess Room” or “The Classroom.” A video on YouTube shows the fifth anniversary of this brothel, attended by many German celebrities.

Teenieland

In 2011, a reality show called The Wollersheims followed brothel owner Bert Wollersheim and “the new love of Germany’s most iconic brothel boss.” In the ’90s, Wollersheim was charged with human trafficking. A prostituted woman had been kidnapped (on his instruction), because she didn’t want to work in one of his brothels anymore and her new boyfriend (or pimp?) wasn’t willing to pay a transfer fee.

die wollersheims

This didn’t seem to damage his public image. In fact, only days after the mass assaults in Cologne, Mayor of Düsseldorf Thomas Geisler showed up dressed up as Wollersheim at the German Carnival. His wife dressed up — fake breasts and all — as Wollersheim’s partner.

thomas geisel

Michael Beretin, manager of the famous Paradise brothel chain, is involved in two reality TV programs featuring German brothels. In Rotlicht Experten (Redlight Experts), brothels can apply to be tested for quality — of the women, the atmosphere, the sanitation — and through the show, they can acquire a quality seal. On another show, the “Bordell S.O.S.” team jazzes up brothels in order to help them bring in more cash.

rotlichttester

In a revealing UK Channel 4 documentary called The Mega Brothel, Beretin says to the camera, “Just look at these soulless, fucked up bitches. Some time ago women did this job with passion, but those days are over.” Beretin was arrested in 2015 on suspicion of human trafficking, forced prostitution, and fraud.

In spite of that, RTL II continues to air the show on occasion.

Beretin and Jürgen Rudloff, the owner of the Paradise chain, are often invited to participate in political talks about prostitution in the media. They are represented as “successful businessmen,” who earn their money through “clean” prostitution. Actors, singers, and athletes visit the establishments without shame, posing for pictures with Beretin and Rudloff.

Similarly, other big-name German pimps get treated like royalty. For example, despite the fact that he’s been to jail for money laundering, fraud, and human trafficking, over four million people “like” mega-brothel owner Prince Marcus of Anhalt’s Facebook page. As one of the biggest brothel owners in Germany, Prince Marcus has more than 1,000 prostituted women working for him.

Legalizing and liberalizing does not make prostitution safe

As described on the website Sex Industry Kills, at least 69 prostituted women have been killed since the year 2000 in Germany. These are only reported cases, and there are likely more that are not on record. There have been at least 22 murder attempts, two people have gone missing, and one woman died in a brothel from a drug overdose. Not a single week passes without media reports about prostituted women being raped, robbed, or threatened in some way.

Map Deutschland
Locations of murders and attempted murders of prostituted women in Germany.

We have a long way to go, a bitter fight ahead, and German abolitionists can’t do it alone. We need third parties to say, “Are you Germans completely nuts?” Documentaries and reports have begun to tell the truth about the situation in Germany. Even “sex work” lobbyists are saying the “German model” isn’t desirable. It’s time for Germans to start feeling ashamed, not proud, of their situation.

Manuela Schon is an activist with Abolition 2014 and co-founded Linke gegen Prostitution (“Leftists Against Prostitution”) in Germany’s leftist political party, Die Linke. She lives in Wiesbaden.

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  • Sonia Ess

    Jfc

  • TheArtistFormerlyKnownAsYoya

    What a bizarre culture, and I didn’t really know it was this bad in Germany. I can’t imagine being a woman, or anyone, living in Germany right now. I don’t even want to go there (and I’ve been planning a European vacation that would have included Germany) after reading this. I don’t want to be assaulted by sex ads or the word “PUSSY” as I’m driving down the highway. I’m truly horrified.

    • radwonka

      this is what andrea dworkin called ”
      THE NEW TERRORISM”

    • Rachel

      I know! I couldn’t get over the stupid pyramid advertisements in bicycles! It’s like assaulting women through their home windows. What the?! What kind of world is this! Ive added absolutely nothing with my comment on this discussion because I’m so outraged and disheartened. It’s so easy to think ‘what’s the point?’ What’s the point in even trying to believe men can be better than this, when the vast majority seem to be so tied to the fact that they have some special “rights” as men and “needs” because you know, they haven’t evolved from being sexist violent monsters.

  • radwonka

    I despise this country so much

  • Miep O’Brien

    Wow, so progressive. Great article, thank you.

  • Independent Radical

    “Contrary to popular belief, with the exception of a short period of time in the early 20th
    century, prostitution had actually been legal in Germany for more than
    100 years previous to the passage of the 2001 prostitution law….”

    Does this mean it was legal under the Nazi regime? I would be curious to know if it was. I know Hitler himself was against prostitution (from a reactionary, misogynistic perspective obviously), but the economic power of the sex industry could have swayed the government. If it was legal that would make a strong case against the idea that “sexual liberation” and political liberty somehow go together.

    I know that Nazi Germany was one of the first places where women wore swimsuits that resembled bikinis (which may seem like nothing today, but in the 1930s this relatively mild by today’s standards form of sexualisation was seen as a big deal) and the government produced highly sexualised (again, by the standards of the time and compared to other government materials) images intended to convey the supposed superiority of white women. The only “sexually repressive” rules that existed were clearly motivated by racism, but, of course, sex liberals want to make everything about them.

    I am sorry if I have upset people by bringing up the Nazi regime, but I feel it needs to be discussed and understood. We are told not to use what happened to “push political agendas”, but what is the point of studying history if we cannot learn from it? We need to find out what went wrong in that society so we can prevent the same thing from happening again and to do that we are going to need “politics”, in the broadest sense of the term. Suffice it to say that whatever went wrong in Nazi Germany, “sexual repression” was not it, nor was it simply a matter of authoritarianism (at least, not in the simplistic way liberals use the term). It is ridiculous to call anyone who tries to impose rules a Nazi, but same traits (the belief that the weak or physically unattractive are inferior, the belief workers should happily submit to bosses, outright racism and contempt for outsiders, blind obedience to authority) really are Nazi like traits. We need to be especially wary of these traits and try to learn from the past.

    • Manu Schon

      I will comment with information about prostitution under the Nazis tomorrow. I have some detailled stuff, but not at home…

    • Elle Fury

      While reading this I couldn’t help but think that brothels are Germany’s twenty-first century concentration camps…especially when the author mentioned Dachau.

  • Thelemite

    I felt sick reading this.

    • Lucia Lola

      Exactly!

  • Refael Fishzon

    Are you Germans completely nuts? There, you happy now?
    I was happy to see this articulate an analysis on the Germany situation, though. This is definitely the kind of thing to present as evidence to someone who doesn’t believe you. Thanks

  • lk

    This article makes me feel so many things: anger, disgust, sadness, confusion…just to name a few.

    The more I read, the more I know prostitution is just about violence, dominance, control, humiliation, abuse, exploitation, money and sexism. It’s not about intimacy or loneliness or even just satisfying a basic
    sexual urge.

    I would love to hear someone from the pro-legalize prostitution camp defend this. I honestly don’t know how you can read things like this and still defend prostitution. Articles like this is what made me change my mind about prostitution and pornography…but you will never see this kind of information on a pro-prostitution blog, website, book.

    Does anyone know about the domestic violence or rape rates in Germany? MRA’s and Pro-prostitution people love to claim that legalizing prostitution gives men an “outlet” for their violence, abuse and pent-up
    frustration, so they no longer need to be violent and abusive towards their wives, girlfriends, daughters and etc. (Of course, I think this is nonsense). But if what they claim is true then you would expect Germany to have very few incidences of rape or dv against non-prostituted women.

    Solidarity and support for all the Germans fighting against this.

    • Rachel

      It’s like a nightmare on steroids. A world gone topsey Turvey where half the human race is just a blow up doll, and painted as a prude if not deemed doll enough. Sickening. What chance do girls growing up around this shit have at life. It’s hard enough as an adult.

    • Manu Schon

      Thank you!

      Concerning sexual violence in general Germany is a disaster. Almost noone is reporting rape and sexual harrassment, because its a well known fact that only very few perpetrators get prosecuted. If you ask me this goes hand in hand. Very interesting by the way are court decision stating that you can not rape a prostituted women – it is considered as “cohabitation-theft” instead

      • Anna Clarke

        Yes….that is a sad outcome of this sickening culture. Compassion and respect have gone down the drain. I would hate to live in that culture.

    • TheArtistFormerlyKnownAsYoya

      Well, it certainly sheds some light on the culture that spawned the new years eve assaults.

    • Anna Clarke

      You say that MRA,s and pro-prostitution claim that men have an #outlet# for their abuse, violence etc !! Are you saying that this is an accepted and ok fact in Germany? In other words it is ok for men with a wish for violence towards women to carry that out on a prostituted woman? Sorry I am just asking as I do not understand how Germany is allowing this madness! God help these poor women. This article is one of the most sickening things I have read in a long time! How can it be justified by anyone except very sick perverted individuals who benefit only financially!!

  • Stuart

    Utterly disgusting and horrific. By the way there is one time in German history when prostitution certainly wasn’t legal: in East Germany (the German Democratic Republic) from 1949 to 1990. There, the sexual culture that developed was very different from that which developed in the capitalist West and that has led directly to the horrifying situation that we see today. In East Germany there was virtually no prostitution or pornography, gender roles were more equal, women benefitted from universal childcare and liberal abortion laws, non-sexualised public nudity was common, and men were expected and encouraged to learn to please women sexually. It is sad that Die Linke, the party descended from the former ruling party of East Germany, seems to have forgotten about this and has uncritically embraced the harmful, misogynistic ideology of the pro-prostitution liberals.

    The following link is a fascinating chapter on the history of sexual politics in the former East Germany:

    https://books.google.com/books?id=CFFp-88xQboC&pg=PA71&lpg=PA71&dq=dagmar+herzog+east+germany&source=bl&ots=we1rFB05_E&sig=_tkstbXcLaNMNzHM_nDwc0Bkl1s&hl=sv&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiZhbbcx9DMAhXHKiwKHTH3ANwQ6AEILDAC#v=onepage&q=dagmar%20herzog%20east%20germany&f=false

    As it makes clear East German society was healthier and more egalitarian and people (especially women) were generally happier and more content with their lives – with one of the most important reasons for this being the absense of the commerical sex industry. Of course that isn’t to ignore some of the negative aspects of life in East Germany but there is no doubt that, as far as gender and sexuality is concerned, it was vastly preferable to the capitalist West.

    • Manu Schon

      There is actually a bit of denial about prostitution in the GDR – more and more is coming into light. I would agree that prostitution was not as industrialized compared to Western Germany, but like mentioned in the article prostitution has a long tradition in Germany, so the claim “in East Germany there was virtually no prostitution or pornography” is not accurate – prostitution especially flourished during exhibition times and was even used by the state for spying purposes.

      • Stuart

        I’m sure prostitution took place (and you are right to say that it certainly wasn’t non-existent), but it existed on a very small scale compared to most other European countries and was officially rejected as a form of capitalist exploitation. According to the chapter I refer to, prostitution was “relatively rare”, compared not just to the West but also to other socialist countries at the time. Of course the East German leadership were hardly radical feminists and the use of prostitution for spying purposes is appalling (although perhaps not particularly surprising considering the paranoia of the Cold War period). The main point however (which I am basing largely on what I read in that chapter by Dagmar Herzog) is that socialist economic policies, and the relative absense of a commercial sex industry, created a society that was far more egalitarian and sexually liberated (in the true sense of the word) than the capitalist West where prostitution and pornography were allowed to flourish.

    • radwonka

      but if it was really positive, why did the men suddenly become pro prostitution once it was over? I mean, if they were truly against brothels, shouldn’t they have fight against it instead of letting pimps open here and there?

      • Stuart

        It’s a good question and of course it was largely women, not men, that benefited from the lack of a sex industry under East German socialism. So while I’m sure some men were opposed to it, most were probably indifferent or didn’t care and some were obviously happy to see an expansion in their patriarchal privileges. And of course it was a time of great turmoil with huge job losses, social hardship and emigration to the Western states so people had a lot of things to worry about in the years after reunification. The chapter doesn’t go into prostitution very much but it does discuss pornography in more detail, noting that many East Germans, while initially curious as to what the new sex shops had to offer, quickly became dissatisfied with “the lack of genuine eroticism in Western porn products” and that, within a few years, two-thirds of the shops had shut down.

  • Rachel

    I read things like this, knowing that it’s true and so accepted by society, and it makes me feel so disheartened, and quite frankly not trust men or what anything to do with them. Even if you find a “good” one, it’s not guaranteed they wouldn’t be outraged by this, and probably are contributing to the problem themselves anyway. How is this ok? How is this normal?

  • Cassandra

    I could’t get all the way through this. I feel so sick. How can this be? How can men dehumanize women to this extent? How can they stand themselves? Here in the states the New York Times is running features about “sex workers.” You’d never see them run something like this. A couple of years ago it was all about manicurists being exploited, but when it comes to women being abused and infected with STDs, it’s all so hip. They have so much agency! Never forget that liberal men are not your friends. And shame shame shame on the women involved in this. Absolutely horrifying.

  • Virginia Howard

    Why doesn’t the German sex industry preface every advertisement with the statement that the so-called ‘sex’ is FOR men/serviced BY women, which is a narrow, distorted and fraudulent human sexuality. And they should put in an all-caps, violently Kitsch-coloured Z-Z Top kind of typeface.

  • Meghan Murphy

    You are an idiot. The women I ally with are CONSTANTLY advocating for a Universal Basic Income and affordable housing. Literally just scroll down to the last article we published about prostitution: http://www.feministcurrent.com/2016/05/05/vancouver-women-craigslist-sex-for-housing/

    • Typo3

      I am a former sex worker – frankly the world would be a much better place if it was as visible as it is prevalent. Everywhere should look like Germany.

      • radwonka

        Everywhere should look like Germany.”

        Nah.

      • Melanie

        If you’re genuinely concerned about poverty you wouldn’t be advocating for an industry that chews up young women and spits them out after a few years, leaving them with no job security or long term employment prospects, or with long term physical and mental health problems that make them unable to work full time, or at all. There are programs for women to get out of this industry in some countries that provide them an education, business skills and long term employment prospects. I got out of this industry when I became eligible for emergency housing for at risk youth when I became pregnant. Eventually I went back to school after dropping out at age 14. I was able to do this because the government at the time provided equity scholarships for women such as myself. So yes, there is much usefulness in advocating for a basic wage, housing and education and employment programs that support women. To suggest that women should just settle for exploitative, damaging, short term ’employment’ in prostitution is about as useful as digging a hole.

    • Typo3

      And honestly “advocating for a basic income” is about as useful as digging a hole. If you’re protesting johns and brothels, but not spending all your damn time picketing property managers or taking direct action against eviction, you’re being distracted. Every rent check that changes hands anywhere is directly a part of the root cause.

  • Cassandra

    Yup. The NY Times has become remarkably hostile toward women.

  • Manu Schon

    Why not compare to Sweden or Norway? The Wiki is by now means complete, and your post does not explain the justification of the claim “legal makes it safe”.

  • Manu Schon

    We sometimes call it collective suppression…

  • Manu Schon

    Are you on facebook? If yes, please contact me there!

  • Wren

    Ok, we need to all get together for real! Things are happening: France, this coverage of Germany. I can’t just sit around anymore.

  • Stuart

    Thanks for your detailed and interesting response. Yes it is absolutely true that cultural attitudes take a long time to change and that the East German authorities should have done more to challenge the patriarchal attitudes that justify and support prostitution. In the interviews that Herzog carried out with East Germans, several remark positively on the fact that sex wasn’t for sale under socialism and felt a sense of loss as their non-commercialised sexual culture was destroyed following reunification. Of course what is lacking here is a proper gender analysis, perhaps because such matters were seen exclusively through the prism of class. Prostitution, for example, was condemned by the GDR authorites because it was seen as a form of capitalist exploitation, not as an act of male violence against women (which it clearly is as well). So while many people may have felt uncomfortable with the spread of prostitution in the 1990s, they perhaps didn’t have a clear sense of why it is wrong from a gender perspective.

    As for the situation today I wouldn’t expect too much of a difference to exist anymore between East and West. It is after all 26 years since the end of the German Democratic Republic and people have been bombarded non-stop with capitalist, pro-sex industry propaganda since then. And as you say prostitution has always been quite deeply rooted in German culture. 40 years of socialism (in which prostitution was banned) is only going to be able to scratch the surface of this. It does seem though, based at least on the research of Dagmar Herzog, that East German culture was significantly more egalitarian with regards to gender roles than West German culture. This can be seen for example in terms of attitudes to child-rearing and housework, the position of women in the workplace, the acceptance of abortion and single mothers, access to childcare, and the relative absense of the commercial sex industry (meaning that women’s bodies were sexualised to a much lesser degree). These are all important achievement and made a real difference to the lives of East German women.

    I am sad to see how things have developed inside Die Linke (and the PDS before that) and find it hard to explain why things are so much worse than in many neighbouring countries. In Sweden, for example, it is almost unthinkable for someone in Vänsterpartiet (the Left Party) to advocate in favour of legalising prostitution. Even in France, which also had a long history of prostitution, the left has been willing to speak out against it and support abolitionist legislation based on the Swedish model. Obviously there are people like yourself who are trying to change the current horrifying reality inside Germany and it seems that some prominent German politicians are at least beginning to acknowledge the failures of the current prostitution law. It is to be hoped that these voices will grow stronger and stronger in the coming years.

    • radwonka

      ” Even in France, which also had a long history of prostitution, the left
      has been willing to speak out against it and support abolitionist
      legislation based on the Swedish model.”

      Well besides some politicians, the majority of the french left supports legalization, only a minority from the far left (just a minority, because the green party, the anarchist party and the marxist party were all pro regulation) and french radical feminists were pro abolition.
      When survivors talked about their experiences, the french sex lobby made fun of them (saying that “they should see a psy instead of whining”), and not one party defended them.
      And obviously, once the law was voted, the majority of citizens didn’t like it either. (“prostitution will always exist!!” “stop harassing prostitutes!!” etc )

      Moreover it was a right wing guy who proposed the law. So I guess that France was just lucky to have a minority of radfem and a minority of leftists who were smart enough to see prostitution as exploitation. I guess that them not being born in a culture that promotes prostitution as “work like any other” or “empowerment” played a huge part in their reasoning.

      Also there is the fact that in France, there are two associations that aren’t pro prostitution (they don’t support legalization) and they help prostitutes. These associations had thus a POV that pro prostitution associations/lobbys don’t have. And they talked a lot about PTSD, the violence of johns, etc. They were very active basically. (Even though the media didn’t support them much). They probably also played an important role in the final decision, because I don’t remember such associations existing in Germany or the Netherlands or New Zealand.

  • radwonka

    Sexual terrorism*

  • radwonka

    Great to see that people who support prostitution admit to be conservative (thus not feminist, not leftist, not progressive). Ha.

  • radwonka

    You didn’t demonstrate anything pal. Try again.

  • radwonka

    The only one who has a problem with people “doing what they want” is you. By your own logic, you should leave abolitionnists feminists alone. But hey, when was the last time pro prostitution people were coherent?

  • radwonka

    “How is this not common knowledge and opposed throughout Europe at least?”

    Well, men do know about it, they’re the ones who created this and the ones who abuse through the use of money. They’re just waiting for leftists to be more “”sex positive”” than they already are before promoting openly this kind of stuff.

  • radwonka

    Wow this country looks like a real nightmare for women.

  • Sara Marie

    This is horrible. I can’t imagine the stomach it takes to do research in this area and not get sick or go crazy.

    I had no idea it was this bad. I guess to people who have always lived in Germany it’s just life as usual. The part about the sex industry being normalized in school curriculum is particularly appalling. With this amount of normalization of sexploitation, I don’t even want to imagine what the average man wants from his girlfriend. I know what the results of the mainstreaming of porn culture has been in the U.S; men think all women should be into anal, pretty much nothing is off-limits as long as “she wanted it.”

    • radwonka

      ” I don’t even want to imagine what the average man wants from his girlfriend”

      Yes, men are so scary

      • Tired feminist

        I live in Germany and, god, I don’t want ANYTHING with German guys.

        • Gaiauchis

          Could u be more specific?

  • Yisheng Qingwa

    Male violence. “Gender” is just another male-created social structure used to oppress women.

  • Meghan Murphy

    Decriminalization legalizes prostitution. Yes, under legalization things are a bit different, in that prostitution is taxed and regulated but both systems are the same in that they legalize and normalize brothels and the purchase of sex.

  • Meghan Murphy

    Well, to be fair, radical feminists have long been critical of the institution of marriage as well as of prostitution. We are well aware there is a continuum.

  • Meghan Murphy

    OH MY GOD. The solution to poverty is NOT prostitution. Women deserve better than that. How depressing that you can’t imagine a world wherein women might be able to pay their bills without sucking dick.

  • Kim Spurlock-Lamb

    they are gross. this one place I will never go. the boys (can’t call them men) that pay for sex demean themselves. they have to pay because women don’t want them…they are losers!

  • Cassandra

    Yes, it makes one despair. It is a black hole of despair.

  • Cassandra

    The abortion of a zygote is not murder because a zygote is not a human being. You are making a false equivalence. And feminists have been critical of the institution of marriage for a very long time. It is the foundation of misogyny and how patriarchy replicates.

  • Bleep

    Who is suggesting criminalizing “sex” workers?

  • Bleep

    How about this logic:

    If you need to masturbate, go ahead. Just don’t bother anyone else with it. (It’s kind of like going to the bathroom — adults can generally figure it out without having to hire someone else to poop on).

  • Meghan Murphy

    That is a boldfaced lie. Abolitionists are advocating for an alternative system, for REAL choices, for affordable housing and social services and a viable welfare system. We are trying to create a world wherein women don’t need to turn to prostitution and wherein men don’t think they have the right to abuse women simply because those women are desperate.

  • Meghan Murphy

    Um no….. There are far more women in prostitution in Amsterdam than there are in Sweden. That is a ridiculous, irrational thing to say.

  • lagattamontral

    Fuck off and die. That is the only thing I have to say to religious nuts who want to enslave women.

  • lagattamontral

    This person is a prostitution industry spokesbot. This is a feminist forum; not a forum for people who advocate the enslavement of women.

  • lagattamontral

    Actually, I have been a militant in a tenants’ association for over 25 years.

  • Stuart

    I have no idea why a previous comment I posted (in reply to radwonka) got deleted but anyway I hope this one gets through. That comment was about the position of the French left on prostitution and I noted that the largest radical left force in France, the French Communist Party (PCF), has a very good position on prostitution and is strongly in favour of the law criminalising sex purchase. Strange how two similar parties in neighbouring countries (ie. the PCF and Die Linke) can have such diamentrically opposing viewpoints on this issue, especially as prostitution has a long tradition in France. But I guess there are historical reasons for this and French women (supported by Communists and Gaullists) were able to successfully lobby for the closing of brothels in 1946, a year after women were given the vote. A possible explanation for this is that during the war the brothels came to be associated with the German occupation and were hugely popular with German soldiers.

    I don’t read German I am afraid but thanks for the link. You are right that the issue is more nuanced than I originally suggested but from what I have read there seems little doubt that the GDR was, while far from perfect, a healthier society for women and that the relative absense of a commercial sex industry played a role in that (along with other aspects of social and economic policy).

    • Meghan Murphy

      Sorry about that Stuart — I think that deletion was accidental. Thanks for letting me know.

    • radwonka

      Well that was long ago (back when brothels were officialy condemned during the 50s or the 60s), nowadays besides a minority from Le parti de Gauche, the PCF is full of liberals now (the ones who think that prostitution is a choice), and EELV (the green party) aren’t abolitionnists anymore ( the green party has many times said to be pro legalisation).

      That said thanks for the information about german soldiers and their brothels, I didn’t even know that german soldiers created brothels in France… all I remember was that when brothels were condemned, the woman who fight for this condemnation denounced the french army (the french army wanted brothels for their soldiers, captains openly called prostitutes “vide couilles” I don’t know how I can translate that in english… and women had to have sex with many soldiers everyday…). I didn’t hear anything about the german army tbh and I don’t think that they played a role from what I’ve read, but maybe I’m wrong, it’s difficult to know why a misogynist country like France decided to suddenly condemn brothels.

  • Meghan Murphy

    If you’ve never heard a radical feminist be critical of marriage, you’ve obviously never read this site or any radical feminist writing. Maybe try doing some research/reading before making assumptions/ignorant statements.

  • marv
  • Meghan Murphy

    The Roma are among the most marginalized groups on the planet.

  • This is absolutely terrifying, it’s a living nightmare that women can’t wake up from. As soon as I saw the billboard advertising “Pussy Club” I was already upset, and it took me a week to finally read the article. Thank you for your work, Manuela. This situation needs to be brought to light so we can fight it.

  • Asami Yamazaki

    If there were no johns, there would be no prostitutes. Think about it.

    It’s not even a question that any random john/rapist/shooter is male. Why is that?

    http://vegandarkness.blogspot.com/2015/12/the-inferior-sex-maleness-as.html

  • Meghan Murphy

    Uh huh… And a majority of prostituted women in Germany are Roma, trafficked from Eastern Europe.

  • Mary0Kule .

    Bulrarians or Romanians are not immigrnats in Germany? 😐