Sex Work Regulations in Germany

Fantasies That Matter

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About this slideshow

The above photos and the video below are impressions from the Fantasies That Matter: Images of Sex Work in Media and Art conference, which took place August 8-10, 2014 at Kampnagel in Hamburg. Due to concerns for sex workers’ privacy and anonymity on the one hand and the low light settings in the auditorium on the other, the above are mostly images of the “headliners” of the event. By no means does this represent an attempt to deliberately exclude any of the sex workers who spoke during the conference.

Please take particular notice of the image containing sex workers’ feedback to the organisers and instructions for people aiming to support sex workers. Please continue reading the articles by current and former sex workers quoted below, as well as by Mithu Sanyal, Annie Sprinkle and Verena Reygers, and check Twitter for tweets using the hashtag #fantasiesthatmatter which include quotes from the speakers and thoughts from sex workers and others in the audience.

Articles by current or former sex workers

Reflections on ‘Fantasies That Matter’ by Fornicatrix

There’s no denying good intentions are important, but what’s crucial are the actions of self-appointed allies who can end up silencing those they wish to amplify, hiding those they try to visibilise or simply unintentionally taking up too much space in a conversation where sex workers are already squeezed to the sides.

Let’s turn this into an opportunity to have an ongoing discussion about sex work, representation, identity, performance art, feminism, allyship and the countless other conversational starting points that this unforgettable conference gave us.

Be Careful With Your Hand, You Don’t Want it Bitten Off – Annie Sprinkle, Fantasies That Matter, Sex Work, and Erasure of People of Color by Peech

Conference after conference happens and personality after personality is elevated to having these super large platforms where they can speak, and there is a glaring absence of color when it comes to sex work.

Name me one person of color – and I’m not even talking about just Black people – one person of color woman, man, cis, trans, I don’t care, fat, skinny, ugly, pretty, tall, short, I don’t care. Name me one person of color who is or has been a sex worker who is a go-to personality to speak on sex work. Nobody. 

And that absence is deafening… to me. And I don’t understand particularly why that’s not a problem for more sex workers. That there is absolutely no diversity in the community as it is represented to our larger society and world. That, really and truly, we’re simply reinforcing that when you think of: a sex worker, a prostitute, a cam model, a phone sex operator, whatever, when you think of those people, you think of a white person – and it’s always a white woman.

Injustices that Matter: Reclaiming space from Allies at ‘Fantasies that Matter: Images of Sex Work in Media and Art’ (and beyond) by Eithne Crow

It’s essential to ask yourself why you’re identifying yourself as an ally, and to realise that there is no such thing as conditional allyship: if you won’t tolerate criticism or take direction, or if you require gratitude, niceties, or honorary membership from the people you’re supporting, you’re doing it wrong.

If you won’t move beyond acknowledging your power to doing something about the injustice of it, you’re not an ally. And if you indicate that you intend to withdraw your support because you feel undervalued, then I suggest you go elsewhere, because you are putting your own interests before those of the people you’re supporting, and anyone who’s more interested in the feel-good factor of ‘helping’ than actually improving the lives of others is not a loss to any liberation movement.

“The Talking Whore” Reflections about Sex Work, Solidarity and Political Efficacy by Kristina Marlen

The experience of the sex work stigma is the foundation of our sex worker community. I believe that if we understand ourselves as a political movement that agitates against this stigma, then it’s crucial to create critical awareness about that in our communities. The more people out themselves and identify as “whores”, the sooner it will become apparent, that sex work exists in the midst of our societies – not at the margins!

Sex workers and clients go to the baker’s, raise children, have relationships and pay taxes. They got friends, lovers, siblings and parents. It must be evident how diverse “we” are and that the stigma affects some more than others, for various reasons. But I believe what we need above all is solidarity.

Commentary by Mithu Sanyal

Excerpt from a comment by Mithu Sanyal, one of the panellists of the conference. Please click here to read her entire comment.

One of the critiques is that there weren’t enough people of color on the panel. Well, the point is, Germany is different from America, for example in so far as the Others here aren’t visibly black. They are Greek like Margarita, the organizer of the conference who has spend the last years watching her country going to pieces. They are Spanish like María do Mar Castro Varela , who was on the panel together with Maiz. Or they are mixed race like me, Indian and Polish. Yes, there was only one trans person on the stage, but believe me, that wasn’t for want of trying on the organizers part.

The situation is a very specific one in Germany at the moment and that is important to know. In Germany we are trying to stop the government making sex work illegal again. That was the reason fort his particular conference and that was the reason why there were sex workers and lawyers and academics on the panels. These ware all people fighting for our rights at the moment and when you look at the German newspapers they are doing a great job. Politicians listen to us. At the end of the year we will find out. That is when they decide about a new law.

Reflections on Hamburg by Annie Sprinkle

On August 19th, Annie Sprinkle published her reflections on Hamburg via Facebook. Click here to read them (no Facebook account necessary).

In retrospect, I am reminded that when it comes to “sex work,” definitions, herstories, labor issues, and problems vary a lot from country to country and person to person. I empathize with the struggle that sex workers on the front lines of the “war on whores” face today. If there is any chance of winning this war, both lovers and fighters are needed. I do wish ALL of you every success. My heart goes out to the working whores on the front lines. Take exquisite care of your selves, and each other. And please, by all means, make more art and fantasies that matter.”

“Von der Rolle” by Verena Reygers 

Commentary by Verena Reygers [in German] who participated in the ‘Ritual of Whores’. Verena Reygers is a Hamburg-based journalist and a regular contributor to Missy Magazine. Her commentary appeared in German weekly newspaper der freitag.

A project like Fantasies That Matter was deliberately held in an art space, and art is an appropriate tool to convey topics and criticism to audiences that are not part of the respective political discussions. A best case scenario will amplify the vigour to pursue the goals of those who are concerned. Or, as Annie Sprinkle says, ‘Sex work doesn’t just concern a small group of practitioners, it concerns us all.’



Video above published with kind permission by Annie Sprinkle © 2014 Matt Lemon Photography. The conference was organised by Missy Magazine in collaboration with Hamburg International Summer Festival at Kampnagel.

Photos: © Matt Lemon Photography. All Rights Reserved.

5 responses

  1. Reblogged this on Research Project Korea and commented:

    Impressions, tweets, and articles by sex workers about the ‘Fantasies That Matter’ conference in Hamburg about images of sex work in media and art.

    August 15, 2014 at 3:51 pm

  2. Pingback: Mojo | Matt Lemon Photography

  3. Hi

    I was at the conference and I perceived it in a very different way than the articles above. And I would like to share that with you.

    It is great to have people who criticise and point out blind spots. Thanks for that. But I think there are some misunderstandings. So let me be the person who criticises and points out blind spots for a change.

    I have a problem with the way Annie is represented in your text. She is like Carol Leigh one of the people who have done so much fort he movement that I war just happy for her to be there. The reason why she said she had the feeling we were „fighting a loosing battle“ was that many of her friends and co-workers are facing long prison sentences at the moment. It is a tough situation at the moment and it is different in our different countries.

    But back to the criticism about the conference. The people organizing the conference aren’t the privileged white women. They are activists that worked their arses off to make this conference possible. Loads of the people on the panel came for free. The beautiful hall that the conference was held in didn’t belong to them. They managed to make this conference part of a big cultural festival. And they had loads of problems with the organizers of that festival who didn’t want to address the topic of sex work. But they got it through and it was a very life affirming event. And a very mixed one.

    One of the critiques is that there weren’t enough people of color on the panel. Well the point is Germany is different from America for example in so far as the Others here aren’t visibly black. They are Greek like Margarita the organizer of the conference who has spend the last years watching her country going to pieces. They are Spanish like María do Mar Castro Varela , who was on the panel together with Maiz. Or they are mixed race like me, Indian and Polish. Yes there was only one trans person on the stage but believe me that wasn’t for want of trying on the organizers part.

    And they weren’t transphobic either. I read in another blog about transphobic remarks on the conference and that the organizers didn’t intervene. That is not true, There was one woman who was obviously new to the discussion who was unintentionally impolite and it was immediately pointed out to her. Yes, from the audience. But that was that. She left in tears. And I think she left because she was ashamed and insecure. She won’t try to speak up and learn more soon. She will just shut up. That isn’t what I want. I want people to be able to make mistakes and learn from them. And yes, I know it is awful to always having to educate people. But that’s why allies are so useful. Then I don’t have to educate people myself. And the person who intervened was a cis woman, so she was an ally at that moment as well.

    We all have shifting identities. Sometimes we are the ones concerned, then we are allies. Sometimes it is important to have a certain identity: I identify as a woman when I protest fort he right for abortion. I identify as a person of color at other times. And yes some identities are harder to shake off than others. I will always be a woman in the eyes of the world. But getting older that changes too;-)

    That is why Annie Sprinkle talked about us all being whores at the end of the conference. It wasn’t allies claiming an identity. It was Annie blurring lines. That is something else completely. Not everybody has to agree with her on that one. But why attack her in a way that is contra productive for any further discussion, why not disagree and talk? I think she made a valid point. Especially thinking about Carol Leigh’s statement earlier on that after she had crossed the line (i.e. became a sex worker) she looked back and the line had disappeared. Yes it is different for sex workers than for allies. But I was sitting next to the son of a sex worker in the audience. His mother was forced to let him be adopted and that had shaped his life – as it did the lives of so many children of sex workers in the 60ies in Britain (and all over the world at all times). Where does he stand?

    I do like your spirit and the act of occupying the stage. It was a great discussion that started from there. And then something went wrong. At that time you only wanted to talk to sex workers in the audience. The problem was that sex workers are people and you can’t tell. So only women with dressed up make up were given the microphone. Even though there were other sex workers in the audience who wanted to contribute to the discussion and eventually did. And then Margarita, one of the organizers of the conference, wanted to explain how the conference came about and she was interrupted from the panel. From the same panel that she had happily given to the occupiers. Annie didn’t find that okay – and neither did I – and she said people should let Margarita speak. Annie didn’t want to silence sex workers she wanted people to respect the organizers enough to listen to them. Because the situation is a very specific one in Germany at the moment and that is important to know. In Germany we are trying to stop the government making sex work illegal again after is has been legal for 12 years. [Please note: Sex work has been legal in Germany for most of the 20th century. The notion that the Prostitution Act of 2002 “legalised” sex work is a common misconception. What the law aimed at was to improve the legal and social rights of sex workers. It also removed the criminal offence of “promoting prostitution”. Note by Admin.]

    That was the reason fort his particular conference and that was the reason why there were sex workers and lawyers and academics on the panels. These ware all people fighting for our rights at the moment and when you look at the German newspapers they are doing a great job. Politicians listen to us. At the end of the year we will find out. That is when they decide about a new law.

    There was room for dissent and critique. And there were valid points. But at the same time: You didn’t speak for everybody either. You didn’t represent everybody either. All this identity politics is incredibly important and incredibly difficult. When you, the occupiers said there weren’t enough people of colour represented it was strange for me. I am a person of colour and you were all young beautiful white girls. I have listened to so many white women talking about the exclusion of women of colour (sorry for using the British spelling). And I think it’s great. But on the other hand it is to often used as a weapon. We should try to represent everyone. But that doesn’t mean we are not allowed to speak until we do.

    This is what Annie meant when she wrote that remark about not biting the hand that feeds you. Granted not the best phrasing. But she only wanted you to see that the people at the conference were actually doing a great job. They were very deferential to you. They took everything on board (even critique that I didn’t agree with. For example that there should have been money for sex workers from abroad to come to the conference. Yeah, that would have been wonderful but there was not enough money there full stop. The organizers worked for no money in the end. They paid their own train fare etc.) Annie didn’t tell anybody to be “grateful”. She talked about respect. I am a firm believer that politics only work when there is mutual respect. And sorry I don’t find your remarks about her very respectful. People should know you her and even if they disagree they should talk to her.

    The problem with criticism is that we can only criticise the people that do something, that organize a conference, that write a book, that hold a speech. But it is so important to do things and make mistakes and some of these mistakes aren’t even mistakes. We have to appreciate our work and energy and love. If I speak there will be things that I don’t say. That is okay. That is why I keep speaking.

    All the best

    Mithu

    *Mithu Sanyal is the author of “Vulva – The Unveiling of the Invisible Gender”, a book on the cultural history of female genitalia. She joined Carol Leigh on stage on the first day of the conference during the segment COLLATERAL DAMAGE. [Note by Admin]

    August 18, 2014 at 1:13 pm

  4. Pingback: Guest Post: “The Talking Whore” | Research Project Germany

  5. Pingback: Reflection #2 | Matt Lemon Photography

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