Sex Work Regulations in Germany

“There are already trade laws in place to take action against exploitation” – Interview with Theo from sex worker association Hydra e.V.

Sex worker protest in Berlin - Photo by Hydra e.V.Sex workers at the 2014 “Freedom Not Fear” demonstration in Berlin | Photo: BesD + Hydra e.V.

This interview was conducted by Ariane G. and published at Kaufmich magazine, a social network for escorts and their clients.

Statutory permission

Ariane: Statutory permissions are planned to be designed in accordance with other statutory permissions under trade law. Why do you hold a general obligation to notify as sufficient?

Theo: Politicians want to push through the highest possible requirements. But there are already trade laws in place to take action against exorbitant rents and exploitation. There’s no need for statutory permission requirements. For apartments, where only a small number of [sexual service] providers work together, it would presumably be very difficult to satisfy stringent requirements.

Working conditions

Ariane: From the point of view of sex worker organisations, what would contribute to improving working conditions?

Theo: We are currently working on proposals. The Professional Association [erotic and sexual Services, BesD] is developing proposals suited to the different types of work places where sex work takes place. The question is how to make those conditions legally binding and where to enshrine occupational safety measures.

Prohibition of flat rate and gang bang sex

Ariane: Why prohibit flat rate and gang bang sex and what are the arguments? Why do people think that those forms endanger or nullify one’s right to sexual self-determination? What is the opinion of sex worker organisations about this?

Theo: Sex workers don’t hold a unified view on this subject matter. I know of colleagues, where the flat rate model can well be positive. First of all, it’s a different payment model, where sex workers aren’t paid per customer but per day, and that is not coercive per se. In this respect, prohibiting it was populist and doesn’t serve to improve working conditions. Of course breaks have to be guaranteed and operators must not be allowed to dictate that a sex worker has to service all customers. However, no labour rights standards have been established. Sex workers usually work on a self-employed basis, which makes sense since [sex work] is a highly individual service provision, which is where there is and must be only a limited right of direction [Weisungsrecht].

Mandatory condom use

Ariane: Where do you stand on the proposal to prohibit advertising unprotected sex and promote safer sex?

Theo: At the Professional Association [BesD], there’s a certain amount of sympathy for a prohibition of such adverts to counter such developments in AO [“everything without”] portals. A law prescribing mandatory condom use, however, would be absurd since there’s no way to control it. We are firmly rejecting this. [Sex] education is more meaning- and respectful. It is a challenge, however, to reach those sex workers, who only work over the internet, with such services. So far, there are mainly outreach programmes and services offered by health authorities, which don’t quite manage to reach those people. There are no ready-made concepts for that yet.

Ariane: At Kaufmich, we already try to promote safer sex practices by introducing the Safer Sex Button [on escorts’ profile pages]. How can awareness be raised that using condoms for oral sex is also part of practicing safer sex?

Theo: Even if safer sex was enforced on Kaufmich via prohibiting adverts [for unsafe practices], closed forums will continue to exist, where one can exchange information about service providers who work unsafely. It’s important to educate people about which practices carry what type of risks. Sex workers should make informed decisions for themselves.

Forced registration

Ariane: The municipal registration of sex workers across all sectors and segments of the industry is also part of the key issues paper. Which authority – maybe even the police? – is supposed to control sex workers? What do you think about the stigmatising special treatment, which could be used to create comprehensive motion profiles of sex workers?

Theo: We expect that many colleagues won’t get registered, especially those, that haven’t outed themselves. The risks that come along with [forced registration] are difficult to gauge. The protection of such sensitive data is not guaranteed. Many will probably work illegally. In Austria, there is a police registration and a majority of sex workers is registered, especially migrants probably because they are afraid to be deported otherwise. Austrian sex workers look for a niche where they can work. It remains to be seen in how far the stamp has negative consequences later, when they want to stop sex work.


Theo is chairwoman of the board of sex worker association Hydra e.V. You can follow Hydra on Facebook. Ariane G. is a former sex worker and an advocate for sex workers’ rights. She tweets at @hauptstadtdiva. Translation by Matthias Lehmann. Click here to view the German original.

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