Sex Work Regulations in Germany

A law to protect society from an imaginary evil


“It’s not my occupation that’s the problem but your bourgeois morality.“

Sex worker on International Whores’ Day in Berlin. © Matt Lemon Photography. All Rights Reserved. This photo was taken upon request by Hydra e.V. and published with permission of the person depicted therein.

About this text

The below is a translation of a key issues paper for a law claiming to “protect prostitutes”, which would apparently function as a supplementary law to the German Prostitution Act of 2002 (ProstG). Translation by Matthias Lehmann. Research Project Germany. Every effort has been made to translate the complex legal language in such a way, that the translation remained virtually verbatim while also being intelligible. All footnotes are author’s notes. Where a verbatim translation proved difficult, the German original is provided as footnote. Squared parentheses in the text and further footnotes include additional clarifications and comments. Click here to download the original version of the document in German. Any questions, comments or suggested edits are welcome.

A law to protect society from an imaginary evil

In my personal view, the underlying spirit of this bill appears to be the perception of sex work as a social evil the government cannot rid society of and feels therefore obligated to impose regulations on it to such an extent where completely adhering to them is rendered virtually impossible, which in turn will enable law enforcement agencies to persecute sex workers and operators of prostitution businesses. Hence, the title of this bill is utterly misleading and an insult to sex workers fighting for equal rights under the law.

In its current form, the bill will not protect sex workers, but instead it aims to protect society from the imaginary evil of prostitution. In doing so, the bill adds to the existing stigma attached to sex work and the violence resulting from it. I therefore condemn this bill in the strongest possible terms. Detailed analyses of these alarming changes to the German prostitution legislation shall be added as soon as they are available.

Key Issues Paper for a Law to Protect Those Working in Prostitution (Prostitutes Protection Law, ProstSchG) [1]

Status: August 14th, 2014

With the introduction of the Prostitution Act of 2002 (ProstG) by the Red-Green federal government [2] it was clarified that agreements between prostitutes and their clients are no longer considered immoral and therefore no longer void under civil law. This aimed to remedy legal disadvantages for those concerned [3], such as the exclusion from the social insurance system. The evaluation of the law in 2007 [4] as well as field reports have shown, however, that the expectations associated with the prostitution law were only partially fulfilled. Therefore, legal measures have to be taken to better protect those working in prostitution, to strengthen their right of self-determination, and to fight crimes in prostitution as well as human trafficking, violence against and exploitation of prostitutes, and procurement. [5] The Prostitutes Protection Law is supposed to achieve this.

Aims of the Law

The law pursues the goals

  • to strengthen the right of self-determination of people in prostitution
  • to create specific legal foundations to safeguard contractual working conditions and to protect the health of those working in prostitution
  • to improve the regulatory instruments to monitor commercial prostitution [6]
  • to improve the legal certainty for legally exercised prostitution
  • to exclude and eliminate dangerous manifestations of prostitution and those forms of prostitution that are socially intolerable or harmful to minors
  • to fight crimes in prostitution as well as human trafficking, violence against and exploitation of prostitutes, and procurement.

Scope of Application

The law’s scope of application is intended to include

  • all manifestations of prostitution; prostitution encompasses the commercial provision of sexual services. Sexual services are sexual acts with present persons in exchange for remuneration.
  • all business that facilitate the provision of sexual contacts in return for payment (brothels and brothel-like businesses) [7]; this includes especially brothels, brothel-like businesses, as well as apartment prostitution and vehicles used for prostitution
  • commercial agencies facilitating sexual contacts in return for payment between third parties (prostitution agencies, escort services)
  • commercial events aiming to provide opportunities for sexual encounters in return for payment (prostitution events)

The respective definitions of terms will follow in the bill.

Concessions for Brothels and other Venues offering Sexual Services [8-10]

In the future, operating a brothel will only then be permissible if the responsible authorities have issued a concession [statutory permission requirement]. Such concessions shall also govern the commercial facilitation of sexual contacts in return for payment between third parties. The prerequisites for granting such concessions will be tailored to the different business models. [11]

The concessions and the related prerequisites and legal consequences shall be developed in accordance to the models of other commercial concessions. An exemption from concessions shall apply if a single person is using an apartment for her or his own work as a prostitute (apartment prostitution by the owner of the apartment). [12]

In the course of the wording of the bill it will be examined how to include an option to extend statutory permission requirements via ordinances (e.g.  in accordance to § 33g GewO) [13] to additional forms of commercial provisions of sexual services, taking into account new developments in the area of sexual services (e.g. via the internet).

A transitional regime must be established for brothels already in existence.

Statutory permission requirements shall not apply for the occupation as prostitute.

Prerequisites for the Issuance of Concessions

The following minimum prerequisites shall govern the issuance of concessions:

  • Reliability Check [14]

Concessions are to be denied when facts justify the assumption that operators do not possess the required reliability. The reliability check and other personal prerequisites shall be developed in accordance with common standards used in the Trade Regulation Act (i.e. that especially prior criminal convictions justify assumptions of unreliability).

Reliability checks shall extend to any deputies of the operators and any persons entrusted with management tasks. Where necessary, it shall be made possible to impose employment bans on unreliable persons.

  • Prohibition of prostitution businesses whose operational concepts endanger prostitutes’ right of self-determination

Operational concepts of prostitution which due to their nature raise fears of endangering the right of self-determination or health of prostitutes or other persons, or noticeably abet the exploitation of prostitutes, will be prohibited by law. No concessions can be issued for corresponding prostitution businesses or prostitution events; they are to be forbidden, as soon as they become known. This applies e.g. for flat rate brothels and rape gang bang parties. [15]

  • Minimum requirements

Concessions must only be issued if spatial, hygienic, as well as health and safety conditions are fulfilled, necessary for the protection of prostitutes, employees, guests as well as third persons, and if the plans are in accordance with building regulations. The essential requirements are to be written into law.

In order to gather initial experiences with the implementation of statutory permission requirements, it is planned to allow for differentiated and gradual standards according to respective business types, both where minimum requirements and the implementation regulations via ordinances are concerned (by the federal states or the federation, possibly with consent of the Federal Council [16], see e.g. § 33f GewO).

  • Requirements for business standards; requirements for the protection of employees, other persons active there and third parties, as well as youth and the general public

Concessions can be linked, even retroactively, to requirements for the protection of prostitutes, employees and third parties, as well as to protect youth and local residents. If needed, it shall be possible to adopt corresponding requirements and directives, even for forms of prostitution that do not require concessions (e.g. apartment prostitution by the owner of the apartment; see above [17])

  • Limitations of concessions; regular controls of requirements; withdrawal and revocation of concessions

Concessions can be furnished with limitations. Authorities shall be obligated to monitor the maintenance of statutory permission requirements regularly. Any event of subsequent unreliability shall lead to the withdrawal and revocation of concessions. Withdrawals and revocations shall also be possible in the event of essential changes of businesses or violations of obligations.

Obligations of Operators

The following particular obligations of operators shall be regulated:

  • Presenting the necessary documents for concessions, including business concepts and evidence of contracts to be agreed upon with prostitutes (a contractual basis is necessary even if they are to act as self-employed persons on the premises), e.g. to effectively fight usury in connection to room letting. [18]
  • Duty to report persons working in the business as prostitutes (registration and de-registration)
  • Verifying the registration of prostitutes who are to take up work (see below under registration)
  • Prohibiting the presence of minors during business hours
  • Informing guests and prostitutes about safe sex practices
  • Providing condoms
  • Supplying information and granting access to documents as well as to premises to responsible authorities (see also under review and monitoring by authorities)
  • Enabling prostitutes’ access to health and social counselling services of their choice
  • Complying with statutory and official requirements

Duty of notification and registration for prostitutes

A duty of notification and registration for prostitutes shall be introduced (each time they take up commercial prostitution in a municipality). A verification document will be introduced for prostitutes who registered with the responsible authorities, which can then be produced e.g. to brothel operators and authorities, and where necessary to clients. The conception of the law will take into account the justified interest of the persons required to register to have their personality rights and data protected.

The registration shall at the very least be linked to informing prostitutes about existing offers for health and social counselling services, compulsory health insurance, as well as the legal status of prostitutes.

“Infection PROTECTION Law, Emissions PROTECTION Law, Prostitutes PROTECTION you get it know who is supposed to be protected from whom?” Translation of a tweet by Voice4Sexworkers, a blog by and for sex workers. “Prostitutes PROTECTION Law, Infections PROTECTION Law, Emissions PROTECTION Law, …
Do you get it now who is supposed to be protected from whom?”

Prohibition to advertise unprotected intercourse; other advertising restrictions

Direct and disguised forms of advertising risky sexual behaviour in return for payment, especially unprotected sexual intercourse, as well as advertising commercial offers providing opportunities for unprotected sexual contacts shall be prohibited by law.

Review and monitoring by authorities; powers of authorities

To fulfil their tasks, the rights and duties for responsible authorities to review and monitor [prostitution businesses] shall be regulated, including the right to inspect and enter [premises] (e.g. in accordance to §§ 29 ff. GewO).

The responsible authorities implementing this law are to be determined by the federal states.

The powers granted to state authorities and the police by other federal or state regulations remain unaffected.

Prohibiting the pursuit of business activities; sanctions

In the event of breaches of obligations by business owners, regulatory measures (directives, requirements, withdrawals of concessions) are planned to enforce compliance with requirements and to prevent dangers, which may go as far as to prohibit the pursuit of business activities due to unreliability in accordance to the regulatory framework of the GewO. Where applicable, it shall also be regulated, which breaches of obligations can be punished as administrative offences.

Legal relationship between prostitutes and operators

The boundary between endangering the sexual self-determination of prostitutes to a degree worthy of punishment and admissible guidelines as part of contractual relationships between prostitutes and brothel operators shall be regulated by law. The legal framework still requires agreements with the [Ministry for Justice and Consumer Protection] BMJV, particularly with regards to any overlaps with existing criminal law.

As a basic principle, it shall remain possible to engage in prostitution both in a self-employed capacity and in an employment relationship liable to insurance deductions. Directions that interfere with or endanger the sexual self-determination of prostitutes remain inadmissible.

Currently, prostitution occurs, at least formally, almost entirely as a form of self-employment, and in brothels the contractual relationships between operators and prostitutes are frequently not determined by labour contracts. Nonetheless, prostitutes are more often than not largely integrated into predetermined operational processes. Such cases appear to constitute fictitious self-employments. Brothel operators shall then remain liable, where applicable in accordance to § 266a StGB [19] (Withholding and misappropriation of remuneration), for the failure to pay [insurance] contributions.

Municipal development and control instruments shall remain in force without limitation [20]

The existing tools on a municipal level to control and develop areas where prostitution is permitted shall remain unaffected on the basis of off-limit zone ordinances according to Art. 297 EGStGB [21], as well as stipulations of building regulations and planning permissions.

Independent matter subject to regulation outside the GewO

To realise the described legislative initiative (as new principle law [22]), an independent law shall be created outside the GewO (Law to Protect Those Working in Prostitution, Prostitutes Protection Law, ProstSchG); where applicable, necessary amendmends of existing laws can be undertaken via additional articles in an omnibus bill. [23]

On the basis of a preliminary assessment, the new law does not require the approval of the Bundesrat. [24]

Entry into force

The law shall be published in the Federal Gazette [25] no later than June 1st, 2015, and in light of the regulations defining the areas of responsibility, which must then be produced, come into force in the federal states on January 1st, 2016.


An evaluation of the law after three years shall be written into the law.

Further reading

“Moralising Law”: Reform Proposals for the German Prostitution Act – Interview with Fabienne Freymadl, Political Spokeswomen for the Professional Organisation for Erotic and Sexual Services (Berufsverband erotische und sexuelle Dienstleistungen, BesD)

More Rights For Victims of Human Trafficking – Interview with Heike Rabe, Policy Advisor at the German Institute for Human Rights (Deutsches Institut für Menschenrechte)

A sham of the “forced coalition” – Human Trafficking and Prostitution in the Coalition Agreement

Facts and Figures about the German Prostitution Act – Summary of Expert Symposium in Berlin


[1] Original: „Gesetz zum Schutz der in der Prostitution Tätigen/Prostituiertenschutzgesetz (ProstSchG)“; Germany’s current prostitution law is called „Prostitutionsgesetz (ProstG)“
[2] the then ruling coalition of Social Democrats and the Greens
[3] The concerned here refers to sex workers, not their clients.
[4] Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth “Report by the Federal Government on the Impact of the Act Regulating the Legal Situation of Prostitutes (Prostitution Act)” 2007 URL:,property=pdf,bereich=bmfsfj,sprache=en,rwb=true.pdf
[5] Alternative translation: “pimping”
[6] Original: “gewerblich ausgeübte Prostitution”
[7] Original: “Prostitutionsstätten”
[8] Literal translation: statutory permission requirement
[9] Please note that brothel is used here and for the rest of the document to translate “Prostitutionsstätten”, which means brothels as well as brothel-like businesses.
[10] Original: “Angebote sexueller Dienstleistungen”
[11] Original: “Gewerbeausprägungen“
[12] It is important to note that this passage is ambiguous. “Inhaber” can refer either to registered proprietors or occupants of apartments.
[13] GewO: Trade Regulation Act
[14] Alternative translation: “trustworthiness”; likewise, where this document mentions “unreliability” or “unreliable”, the alternative translation would be “untrustworthiness” or “untrustworthy”.
[15] It is important to note that this passage seems to suggests that gang bang parties constitute rape. In the BDSM scene, the term “rape gang bang party” describes gang bang sex where the participating sex worker pretends to be raped. Regardless of one’s personal view on such practices, this does not constitute rape.
[16] Upper House of the German Parliament
[17] See footnote 11; It is important to note that this passage seems to leave sex workers working in apartments defenceless as it appears to open the door for arbitrary interpretations of the law by local authorities.
[18] This passage may refer to hotels, apartments, private rooms and so-called Laufhäuser where sex workers can rent rooms and then solicit clients, and where they do not share their income with the owners of such premises outside the rent due for the use of the respective rooms.
[19] StGB: Criminal Code
[20] Original: “Kommunale Gestaltungs‐ und Steuerungsinstrumente bleiben uneingeschränkt bestehen“
[21] Introductory Law to the Criminal Code
[22] Original: “Stammgesetz”
[23] Original: “Änderungen bestehender Gesetze können im Wege einer Ausgestaltung als Artikelgesetz in zusätzlichen Artikeln geregelt werden.“
[24] It is important to note that his passage indicates that the government plans to bypass the Upper House of the German Parliament, a hurdle the previous bill, submitted by the former ruling coalition of Conservatives and Liberals, failed to pass.
[25] Bundesgesetzblatt

19 responses

  1. reasonablyliberal1

    “Sex worker” sounds better than “whore.”

    August 19, 2014 at 11:56 pm

    • Thank you for your comment. As you may be aware, there are quite a few sex workers in quite a few countries who actually prefer the term whore (or the equivalent of whore in their respective language) to sex worker. Others prefer referring to themselves as prostitutes. Personally, I always use the term sex worker unless I cite someone or talk about prostitution laws (because that’s what they are called) or anti-prostitution activists (because that’s what they call themselves).

      In this post, I only use the term whore in connection to the photo, which was taken on International Whores’ Day, “the anniversary of the 1975 protest in which over 100 French prostitutes occupied the Church of St. Nizier in Lyon. The term sex worker was then coined in 1978 by Carol Leigh.”

      “In a very real sense, today is the birthday of the sex worker rights movement; though Margo St. James had already founded COYOTE two years before, the French protests were the first ones large and vociferous enough to gain media attention, and led to the formation of the French Collective of Prostitutes (which in turn inspired the founding of the English Collective of Prostitutes and a number of other, similar organizations).” – Maggie McNeill about International Whores’ Day

      Here’s what Norma Jean Almodovar wrote to me tonight on the matter and kindly allowed me to publish:

      “I have no shame for being anything that anyone wants to call me. When I became an activist, it was the prostitutes’ rights movement. To be honest, I prefer whore to sex worker but that’s just me. Whore originally meant “beloved one” which I am” – Norma Jean Almodovar

      August 20, 2014 at 1:08 am

      • reasonablyliberal1

        To each her own. There should be these safety laws everywhere. In my country, the U.S., prostitution seems like a dangerous world.

        August 20, 2014 at 1:38 am

  2. I just had a conversation with someone today who asked me if I didn’t think that sex work would be a rather dangerous type of work, and I replied, no, it’s not. What’s dangerous are the settings in which sex workers are working. No bad whores, just bad laws!

    August 20, 2014 at 1:45 am

    • reasonablyliberal1

      Yes, I mean dangerous for the prostitutes. The customers might be angry people, etc.

      August 20, 2014 at 2:20 am

  3. You might want to look into the ‘etc.”, e.g. law enforcement officers demanding “freebies” in exchange for not arresting sex workers, which is rape, or staff at detention centres assaulting migrant sex workers.

    August 20, 2014 at 2:27 am

  4. One helluva complex issue with mountains of documents and perspectives to wade through.

    However, as a rather “out” “john” who has been purchasing such services, off and on, over a period of some 30 years, while I will readily support the rather well organized efforts of prostitutes to redefine themselves as sex workers, I also think that many of them seem unwilling to recognize that with that designation comes a few responsibilities. More specifically, it seems that Germany has sort of led the parade in terms of a more rational and ethical response to the problem, but it also seems that they’ve recognized that there are still some flaws in it, that there are people in the profession who wind up being rather egregiously taken advantage of, which necessitates some changes which everyone should be prepared to at least consider in some detail.

    While one might quibble about the specifics, it seems rather clear that there are virtually no industries or professions which do not have various laws and obligations mandated to protect both the public and those actually in it; I fail to see why sex workers should expect to be free of the same type of obligations and restrictions. Maybe there’s some truth to the suggestion by the British Conservative Stanley Baldwin in 1929, in criticizing several of his opponents, that “[enjoying] power without responsibility [has been] the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages” – not a modus operandi likely to be conducive to promoting much public support for various sex worker claims and initiatives.

    August 20, 2014 at 8:19 pm

    • Frans van Rossum

      Particularly in countries where prostitution is legalized, and sex workers have every legal right to work, society can rightfully claim that sex workers practice their profession responsibly. Legalization and regulation mean that a give-and-take relationship has been formally established. Prostitution is legally a thread of the social fabric.

      Sex workers in the “legal” countries should capitalize on this reality. They have already so many advantages over colleagues in most other countries, and they must explore them actively.

      There is no “perfect” law or regulation. Life changes, society changes. Rules and regulations are chasing life and will be adjusted all the time.

      Prostitution laws are such a recent addition to social life that they suffer from serious teething trouble and scary child diseases. Effective immunization has not been found yet.

      It will take generations to improve and mature the laws until the livable golden mean is struck. By that time today’s active sex workers will long be retired. It is understandable that they would like life to be perfect now. Unfortunately we are in the transition age and the forces of the old stigmatizing society are fighting harder and more viciously than ever to protect their old values (like a body hit by a life-threatening virus). It’s like two viruses in one body fighting for their life, and we, sex workers, have to make the best of it. First of all: be patient, be smart, and keep up the good work.

      So, having these legal rights doesn’t mean that the social climate for prostitutes is already anywhere near favorable.

      Since the source of this, Stigmatization, is an old problem, for ages ingrained in the collective conscience of society, the question we face is how to contribute actively to breaking it down, one step at a time.

      For prostitutes in “legal” countries the best tool to help breaking down stigmatization is, I believe, “coming out.”


      Sex workers should realize that, as long as they don’t come out for whatever reason (social repercussions), they play a big part in the social stigmatization game. Why? Because when we don’t come out for fear of society, we actually stigmatize ourselves for being a sex worker.

      I regret that sex workers have that fear but I don’t blame them. Coming out is very tough, and society is murderous.

      Throughout the Sixties I practiced sex work (escort) in the Netherlands and Italy. It was satisfying, it helped paying for college, and if you stuck to the basic rules of discretion, it was socially relatively easy to handle. People who needed or deserved to know, knew. I didn’t hide it; I didn’t shout it from the rooftops. I had found a comfortable medium.

      in the late Nineties I had the real “coming out” experience when I began running an Amsterdam escort service based on an “alternative” concept that is favorable to both sex workers and clients. (That’s another story.) These were the years that the bill to lift the brothel ban was being discussed in parliament. My “alternative” escort agency blueprint was anticipating the new situation as best as I could.

      Part of the strategy was “coming out,” normalizing the status of sex work and sex workers. So I had Elsevier/De Tijd (a leading weekly magazine) writing about it, with both my name and—at my request—a full page photo.

      The social fall-out was painful because I was a respected producer and consultant in the conservative and elite world of classical music and radio. I wasted an enormous amount of time on personal damage management.

      Strategically it wasn’t a good decision either, because when the agency became popular with workers and clients, and a serious competitor in the market, the sex business mafia descended upon it / me with its nasty and mean tactics and effectively killed it.

      Still, the personal integrity I developed was worth it.

      So, yes, I know firsthand what prostitutes might be facing when they would come out, but life has been moving fast and in countries where sex work is irreversibly legal for quite some time, I believe we must face that coming out has irreversibly become a consequence of choosing this work, a conditio sine qua. It has become one of our responsibilities, whether we like it or not. We can’t expect society to stop stigmatization of sex and sex workers if we, the workers, don’t stop stigmatizing ourselves.

      I would say that practicing sex work carries not just responsibilities but heavy social responsibilities and coming out is a crucial one.

      If someone cannot be a sex worker out in the open in this day and age, it may not be his or her line of work.

      It isn’t easy, but it is a matter of integrity and self-respect. So we must put our mouth where the money is.

      Further, I believe that a sex worker cannot claim to be respected as a person just because he/she is practicing sex work! We claim that it’s just work.

      But being a sex worker doesn’t make us a good sex worker. Just like there are good and bad teachers, and good and bad politicians, there are good and bad sex workers. Sex work, too, has its ethical and professional standards, and we must define and stand up to them.

      If we pronounce “sex work = work”, meaning “normal work,” then we must practice what we preach as much as the local circumstances allow. In Germany and Holland, the room a sex worker has to be a normal worker is already enormous, compared with many other countries. We must explore the rights we have while we take our social responsibilities and deal like everyone else with the fact that life isn’t perfect.

      But in the “wet” territories, the sex worker’s glass is already one-third full, not two-thirds empty.

      August 22, 2014 at 6:22 am

      • Frans van Rossum:

        Quite an informative and interesting comment.

        Particularly in countries where prostitution is legalized, and sex workers have every legal right to work, society can rightfully claim that sex workers practice their profession responsibly. …. Prostitution is legally a thread of the social fabric.

        And an important thread, I think; I’ve argued, and had some welcome support for it from a Madam, that sex workers could be considered the unsung heroes, and heroines, of the mental health department. Though in passing, in Canada, where I am, prostitution itself is legal, but things like brothels, “living off the avails”, and “communicating for the purposes of” aren’t. Which tends to produce problematic consequences which many apparently want to lay the doorstep of the profession itself.

        Prostitution laws are such a recent addition to social life that they suffer from serious teething trouble and scary child diseases. ….

        Since the source of this, Stigmatization, is an old problem, for ages ingrained in the collective conscience of society, the question we face is how to contribute actively to breaking it down, one step at a time.

        Indeed. Although I think that much of that stigmatization, and those consequential “scary childhood diseases”, are predicated on a Biblical morality that actively tries to shame both prostitutes, and secondarily, the johns. For instance, consider the following, as one example of many, from the Christian “Life Ministries” article “A biblical perspective on prostitution”:

        The Bible warns against women engaging in prostitution. Leviticus 19:29 states, “Do not degrade your daughter by making her a prostitute”. Prostitution degrades women.

        An attitude that was echoed by the Canadian Minister of Justice, Peter MacKay, who “referred to sex work as a ‘so-called profession’ and ‘degrading practice’”, and called the clients of the profession, “perverts”.

        While many sex workers categorically and vociferously reject that judgement, and at least semi-publicly, there seems to be a notable dearth of johns willing to do so, this case being a notable and welcome exception. But, understandably, it is not easy for members of either group to be sticking their necks out – takes some courage to do so. However, it seems to me that the insistence that either selling sex or buying it is intrinsically immoral and shameful is largely, though not entirely, the crux, the weak link, the keystone, in many of the arguments against the profession; break those and the whole edifice, I think and hope, will collapse like the proverbial house of cards.

        Strategically it wasn’t a good decision either, because when the agency became popular with workers and clients, and a serious competitor in the market, the sex business mafia descended upon it / me with its nasty and mean tactics and effectively killed it.

        Somewhat disconcerting to see that. I thought that one of the objectives of legalization was to cut the legs out from under the criminal element – are you saying that they still have a significant presence?

        I would say that practicing sex work carries not just responsibilities but heavy social responsibilities and coming out is a crucial one.

        Quite true, and, as suggested, an obligation on both the providers, and the clients. And while it is maybe a tenuous argument, I think there’s also an obligation on society to consider the individual and social benefits to the profession – which both providers and clients might do well to emphasize.

        August 23, 2014 at 5:45 am

      • Judith Anne

        I know it’s a late, late comment on this discussion, but I had to say: I’ve been a sex worker in the US for fifteen years and thank you, thank you, thank you for every true, sensible thing you said. The stigmatization of the profession and the way that the more upscale of us blend in with everyone else keeps so many uninformed about the job, imagining that it’s only streetwalkers, or trafficked women, or women under the control of pimps who addict them to drugs. Of course all forms of human trafficking must be stopped, but sex work is a totally different issue; it’s like blaming cotton for American enslavement of Africans!

        April 6, 2015 at 2:50 am

  5. Craig

    It may sound like you’re just being fair and open-minded about sex workers. But consider the complete picture.

    Control of human sexuality is an obsessive and very basic human behaviour. It’s common to monkeys and apes as well as humans. As groups and individuals we’re obsessed with what other humans do, and we’re especially obsessed with other peoples’ sexuality. Everything from religion to progressive social mores remains focused, often to the exclusion of all else, with telling other people what to do, and with punishing them for breaking even the most trivial of rules. Most religions and governing cliques, for example, seem to be obsessed with controlling and legislating sex.

    The central rule, “Do what I want you to do”, rarely takes into account the fact that prostitution is just one small aspect of normal human sexuality. On one side of a line, sex is “normal”, and on the other, it’s prostitution. But the line is arbitrary, as other societies illustrate. Is dating prostitution, especially when the man treats the woman to dinner? To many cultures, this is identical to paid sex.

    Accepting gifts in exchange for sex has been observed among chimpanzees and other primates. It’s a natural part of primate – and human – sexuality. There’s a reason it’s called The Oldest Profession. We might as well attempt to make breathing or eating illegal.

    Presuming this, there are several “camps” into which anti-prostitution attitudes generally fall.

    Note – while a large number of sex workers are not, indeed, heterosexual ‘cis’ women, this fact usually escapes most people, so I’m ignoring it here. But note that a complete presentation would include the large component of male and trans- sex workers.
    There are:

    A) Radical-extremist feminists, often dominating debate and academia, who have significant intellectual and political influence, and who generally detest heterosexuality. As True Believers of an opinion-based quasi-religion, distilled to their anti-“Patriarchal” feminist essence, they will do whatever it takes, at any price, to separate pure, innocent womanhood from suspect, evil Men;

    B) “Middle class minders”, social busybodies jockeying for social control, who are often women with husbands who dislike devalued sexuality, as they use sex as currency in relationships, or judgmental and powerful men who use access to sex to control other men. Both want to make sure the “market” value of sex is set as high as possible. Prostitutes making sex simple, and much cheaper, devalues the monopoly on social control they maintain over their husbands / subordinates and reduces their social control;

    C) Law enforcement and government, which wants to criminalize as many behaviours as possible in an act of social control, and likes to have everyone tiptoeing through life, afraid of persecution and voluntarily acquiescing to authority;

    D) Religious authority, which has a monolithic moral compass and seeks to control the actions of members and non-members, and by extension acquire a monopoly over moral authority over society in general. Autocratic religious morality allies itself with all three of the above-mentioned sources of anti-prostitution feeling.

    What all of these interests have in common is a desire for a MONOPOLY ON SOCIAL POWER.

    The most paradoxically absurd but powerful alliance is the one between radical feminists and religious authorities, whose rhetoric may sound oppositional but whose policies are often identical. The Swedish Model and other such disingenuous models that claim to care about prostitutes are twisted mechanisms generated by the usual suspects which invariably result in more control of and harm to prostitutes. In truth, they’re all about zealously imposing “True Believer” codes of conduct on others.

    E) There is one last locus of control usually exerted on women specifically, and that’s from men, who purchase sex services, protecting their own interests. Powerful men, though they often use the services of prostitutes, usually dislike the fact that in these transactions, the prostitutes have significant avenues of power. Given that they’re engaged in an exchange, these men often seek whatever means they have to rebalance the exchange in their own favour. This often results in the men using these services actually supporting the criminalization of prostitution, because it can keep women off-balance.

    The instinct to punish the other side in a transaction to benefit yourself is a strong one. This can include everything from getting angry when others cross the street when no cars are coming, while you wait patiently at the light, to informing on supposed moral miscreants when living in a police state because you feel they’re morally inferior and somehow “deserve” it. The characteristic of this approach is a strict adherence to rules and notions of “fairness”, which seem oddly suspicious on second glance, especially when the socially weak position of sex workers is taken into account.

    Until the serious social problems caused by A through D above are dealt with, adding E to the mix is ultimately toxic, because these concerns get turned into yet more ways that sex workers can be harassed and punished. In addition to police, interfering busybodies, overbearing churches, and “social superiors” harming sex workers, imagine having tax authorities chasing after them, too. How does this help anyone, except to make a few customers feel better about their bartering power?

    While it has the scent and the self-annointed appearance of fairness and objectivity, in the climate of fear and persecution prostitutes usually find themselves in, this rebalancing smacks of petty angling, vindictiveness and spiteful resentment. If we’re trying to create better social and working conditions for sex workers, these sentiments are a dangerous distraction that serve no useful purpose.

    If customers don’t like the fact that sex workers have significant power in the exchange, then they can stop buying sex workers’ services. That’s a market solution and it solves the problem rather neatly.

    Everything else is ultimately bad policy and serves nothing but personal egos.

    August 21, 2014 at 4:35 pm

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