Vorgeblicher Schutz, Vergebliche Maßnahmen: Überblick über Deutschland’s neues Prostituiertenschutzgesetz (ProstSchg)
Sexarbeiter*innen und Unterstützer*innen demonstrieren gegen das ProstSchG vor dem Bundesfamilienministerium © 2015 Emy Fem
ICRSE präsentiert Briefing Paper über
neues deutsches ‘Prostituiertenschutzgesetz’
[English-language version here]
Anlässlich des Internationalen Hurentags, der an jedem 2. Juni der Besetzung der Saint-Nizier-Kirche im franzöischen Lyon im Jahr 1975 durch 100 Sexarbeiterinnen feierlich gedenkt, präsentiert das Internationale Komitee für die Rechte von Sexarbeiter*innen in Europa (ICRSE) ein Briefing Paper mit dem Titel „Vorgeblicher Schutz, Vergebliche Maßnahmen: Überblick über das Prostituiertenschutzgesetz (ProstSchg)“.
Das Briefing Paper wurde vom ICRSE in Zusammenarbeit mit Hydra e.V. und dem Berufsverband erotische und sexuelle Dienstleistungen (BesD) e.V. mit dem Ziel entwickelt, sowohl politischen Entscheidungsträger*innen als auch Sexarbeiter*innen und ihren Unterstützer*innen eine Analyse des neuen deutschen „Prostituiertenschutzgesetzes“ und dessen erwarteten Auswirkungen auf Sexarbeiter*innen anzubieten, sowie Empfehlungen der Gemeinschaft von Sexarbeiter*innen zu unterbreiten.
Wie darin erklärt, hegt das ICRSE ernsthafte Bedenken hinsichtlich der Art und Weise, mit der das „Prostituiertenschutzgesetz“ die Grundrechte von Sexarbeiter*innen untergräbt. So beschränken die Anmeldepflicht und die Möglichkeiten, Anordnungen gegenüber Sexarbeiter*innen zu erlassen, das Recht auf freie Berufswahl, und die weitreichenden Überwachungsmöglichkeiten, die das ProstSchG den Behörden gegenüber Sexarbeiter*innen einräumt, verletzen das Grundrecht auf Unverletzlichkeit der Wohnung. Besonders schwer wiegt die Speicherung persönlicher Daten in Verbindung mit Informationen zum Sexualleben einer Person, denn sie verletzt das Grundrecht auf informationelle Selbstbestimmung und die Richtlinie des Europäischen Parlaments zum „Schutz natürlicher Personen bei der Verarbeitung personenbezogener Daten“. In Anbetracht der Tatsache, dass ein absolut sicherer Datenschutz unmöglich gewährleistet werden kann, ist die zukünftige Datenerhebung damit höchst problematisch.
Das „Prostituiertenschutzgesetz“ ist in der Form, in der es am 1. Juli 2017 in Kraft treten wird, nur vorgeblich ein Gesetz zum Schutz von Sexarbeiter*innen und die darin enthaltenen Maßnahmen sind vergeblich, um Sexarbeiter*innen auf der einen Seite und Betroffene von Menschenhandel auf der anderen nachhaltig zu unterstützen. Stattdessen werden insbesondere in Wohnungen gemeinsam arbeitende Sexarbeiter*innen sowie migrantische, transidente, und anderweitig spezifisch vulnerable Sexarbeiter*innen von diesem Gesetz in die Illegalität gedrängt. Wo Schutz draufsteht, ist daher in großen Teilen schlicht ein Gesetz zur Verdrängung der Sexarbeit enthalten.
Wir laden Sexarbeiter*innen und politische Entscheidungsträger*innen dazu ein, das Briefing Paper aufmerksam zu lesen und die Empfehlungen der Gemeinschaft von Sexarbeiter*innen zu beachten.
Dieser Artikel wurde zuerst am 31. Mai 2017 in englischer Sprache unter dem Titel “Sex Workers’ Rights Day: ICRSE launches Briefing Paper on Germany’s new ‘Prostitutes Protection Act’” auf der Website des Internationalen Komitees für die Rechte von Sexarbeiter*innen in Europa (ICRSE) veröffentlicht. Reproduziert mit freundlicher Genehmigung.
Slogan of Frankfurt protest in June 2015, organised by Doña Carmen
V4S conducted a survey among sex workers in Germany
To coincide with the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, held annually on December 17th, Voice4Sexworkers* conducted a survey among sex workers in Germany, where the ruling coalition is working for two years already on a draft for a “Prostitutes Protection Law” (ProstSchG), said to protect sex workers from violence, coercion and exploitation. Manuela Schwesig, the Minister for Family Affairs, recently submitted a draft bill, which laid out plans how to control and regulate prostitution in Germany, although the actual goal of an EU directive was to create a law to fight human trafficking.
Since the prostitution debate in Germany is dominated by estimates and alleged facts – neither from reputable sources, nor based on verifiable evidence – Voice4Sexworkers wanted to find out what the current situation of sex workers in Germany actually looks like. More often than not, the media simply print two opposing opinions and then leave it at that. The actual mood among sex workers can hardly be derived from that. For many months, “experts” have been arguing over whether the law in its current form is necessary, but hardly anyone wonders about the opinions of those who will be directly affected by the law, or knows what needs they might have. It’s also quite difficult for outsiders to establish contact with sex workers, let alone gain their trust, especially if you don’t want to ask just one or two, but many sex workers about their opinions.
For that reason, Voice4Sexworkers started a survey among sex workers in December, which they could participate in anonymously until December 16th, 2015. Contrary to politicians, researchers or the media, Voice4Sexworkers was able to draw on a well-connected and large network, which demonstrably only sex workers have access to. Among other platforms, respondents were found on an online portal, where only sex workers can advertise their services. Voice4Sexworkers would like to thank all respondents for taking the time to participate in the survey.
Participation in the survey was completely anonymous and random. Therefore, respondents were able to respond freely and openly. As they survey wasn’t public and wasn’t publicly advertised either, the number of respondents was somewhat smaller, but in turn, this ensured that all participants were authentic and that no manipulation or falsification of data by non-sex workers was possible. Since not even Voice4Sexworkers knew the identity of the respondents, the responses offer an unfiltered insight into the world and lived realities of sex workers. Anyone questioning the credibility and correctness of this survey is welcome to contact Voice4Sexworkers and cite comparable surveys and specify their sources.
Contrary to existing and oft-cited studies, in which only members of certain groups were interviewed, e.g. drug users selling sex to finance their drug consumption or trafficked persons, this survey covers people across all work modes of sexual service provision. Their opinions and experiences are reflected in this survey, regardless if they are working on the street, at brothels, or as escorts. Intentionally, no group was excluded or treated or treated preferentially, because that would only have added to existing selective impressions from certain groups and not helped to show how the respective factors and circumstances affect sexual service providers in general.
Especially the responses to the question about what type of sex work they engaged in illustrate how respondents came from all areas and reflect the overall situation in Germany (percentage of the respective types of sexual service; distribution among the number of sex workers). Although the results confirmed their own experiences, even at Voice4Sexworkers, they were somewhat surprised how diversely a high number of sex workers operates and how wide-ranging the services are that they offer.
What didn’t surprise them was to learn that sex workers often don’t limit themselves to engage in a single type of sex work. Many switch back and forth between different types of services and offer services that are either the most profitable at a given time, or those that clients request, or those that are most practical for them due to private or other circumstances.
Other sex workers’ careers develop over time: some start by renting a room at a brothel but offer escort services or house calls later in life; others start out by working at apartment brothels but later switch to offer domina services because they developed a liking and the skills for it.
In that regard, Voice4Sexworkers’ survey offers facts that differ from the usual estimates. There isn’t the ONE typical sex worker, but just like in any other profession, people undergo a constant development and acquire skills while engaging in sex work. Or, as the survey also shows, some realise they aren’t suitable for the job or don’t like it, so that they want to change occupations as soon as possible.
However, the majority of respondents is engaged in sex work for the longer term and gathers experiences across different types of sex work, especially through contacts with their peers.
The other answers by the 69 respondents were not particularly surprising either, at least not for the members of Voice4Sexworkers, but merely confirmed what they and other sex workers have been saying all along.
With regards to the planned Prostitutes Protection Law, the following points are worth noting:
- Sex workers are insufficiently informed about the ProstSchG. Many of them don’t even know enough about the existing prostitution law.
- Only 4.3% favoured mandatory registrations, whereas 78.3% were against it.
- Over half of the respondents (53.6%) expressed that they were afraid of having to out themselves as a result of mandatory registrations…
- …which is probably why 44.9% have decided not to register with authorities and continue to work illegally, despite being threatened with fines.
- As a result of the law, half of the respondents worry about the future and are afraid to lose their job.
- Despite partially negative experiences with operators(65.4%), a majority is against statutory permission requirements for prostitution businesses (36.2%) and apartment brothels where two or more colleagues work together (68.1%).
- The prevalent belief that sex workers experience violence and abuse predominantly from clients could not be confirmed. It raises all the more starkly the question whether sex workers really need a law to protect them…
- …as the responses to the final question about their wishes illustrate. The gulf between sex workers’ actual needs and the planned regulations could hardly be any bigger.
But please read the entire result of the survey. The other figures and responses speak for themselves. (To pause the slide show, please hover over the image with your mouse and press the middle button.)
You can download the entire survey [in German] as excel file at Voice4Sexworkers. Alternatively, you can download the above graphics as pdf-file here.
Voices of sex workers
As part of the survey, respondents had the opportunity to leave an additional message. Some made use of that and left the following messages and opinions:
“The work with clients in itself is not the problem. Problematic are the conditions. Stigmatisation, the consequences of being outed/outing oneself, the helplessness when dealing with operators/lessors, and being afraid to call the police when you make negative experiences! They might then keep a record of you real name and, bam!, the stigma is engraved in your data.”
“It would be nice if people (the authorities) would simply ask first if one can work independently and wants to do it. The chaos surrounding registering a business and obtaining a tax code number should stop. There should be standardised regulations in all states.“
“I don’t have any problems with my clients but with the good citizens who outed me, ostracise me from society, and stigmatise me. With my CLIENTS I have no problems!”
“If this law will be adopted in its current form, it will create a parallel world again. Women who need the money will continue to work and then have to buy protection, which society is taking away from them through forced registrations and forced outing, from strong men… without the possibility to report exploitation, violence, coercion etc. to the police, because they would then have to admit that they illegally work in prostitution. Rights protect and empower us. If they are withheld, we are made into victims, especially of the rescue industry, which collects donations at our expense to finance itself and manifest its right to exist. This so-called help aims to deny our agency and right to self-determination, so that we’ll never be able to rid ourselves of the victim status they imposed on us and remain forever under their control.“
“Pity that the survey is only in German. That way, it will hardly be seen as scientifically credible…”
“I really wished there was more information, especially for colleagues who like to enter sex work, particularly foreign ones. Also more information for the public, so that our occupations gets out of the ‘dirty corner’ and more widely accepted.”
„I’m not afraid of a ban because in my opinion, that’s not compatible with Germany’s Basic Law. But even something like working ‘illegally’ will hardly apply to me as an escort, as long as it’s not forbidden to have private one-night stands. Whether or not money changes hands is only of interest for tax authorities – and if what I did was illegal, then the government can hardly levy taxes on it. It will also hardly be possible to prohibit having a private homepage or a blog with a contact form, where I offer dates – after all, I don’t have to publish a price list. But all that is of course a bad and burdensome game of hide-and-seek.
What I’m worried about is no the legal, but the societal persecution and discrimination. I don’t expect that a state of an employer protects me. I would never report sexual violence or rape anyway, even if I suffered them outside of sex work. Even experienced layers advise their daughters against it: the effort, the embarrassment of revealing it all in public, conviction and sentencing not being secure and often too low anyway. It’s not worth it. Besides, victims expose themselves to additional dangers, e.g. forced outing, public humiliation, blackmailing from officials, violence from the police. The only protection for me is an educated, emancipatory society.”
“It would be great if this survey would also exist in other languages! In Germany, many migrants are working in sex work, whose experiences would also be very important.”
“Since I do tantric work, I find it often difficult to see that as sex work. The working conditions for real tantric work are very different to those I learn about from sex workers. I see myself caught between the stools. Very uncomfortable. If only there wasn’t this headwind from politicians and society – because the job in itself is very satisfying, useful and fulfilling.”
“I like working in this job. It’s sophisticated and important.”
“Thank you for your work! Good that you are there. :)”
“I would like more protection for my job..!! And more understanding where to sleep, in the apartment where I work..!! How I can pay additional a hotel room and with a whore pass how can I be accepted at hotel???? Who helps me??”
“In the meantime, I’ve lost the belief that this government somehow wants to help us with the new law. On the contrary, they want to legitimise increased discrimination against us. These politicians want to demonise the voices of those women who live their sexuality independently and freely, and who refuse to let themselves be exploited for a pittance. These politicians want to see them yet again as demonised whores. We are not supposed to threaten the patriarchal, classist society. That’s why they don’t want to sit down together with us and make decisions over our heads.”
*Voice4Sexworkers (V4S) is a project by sex workers and for sex workers, and for anyone else interested in sex work and sex workers’ rights. V4S provides sex workers, friends, supporters and clients the opportunity to publish their opinions and comments. To learn more about V4S, please click here.
This survey was originally published as “Umfrage: Prostitution – Eine Momentaufnahme” by Voice4Sexworkers. Translation: Matthias Lehmann, Research Project Germany. Every effort has been made to translate this article verbatim. As a result, the wording may appear unusual on some occasions.
Two sex workers discuss the article “Aus der Deckung” (Out of hiding) by journalist Ann-Katrin Müller in German news magazine DER SPIEGEL.
Please click here to view the German original.
Here we go again
Apparently, journalist Ann-Katrin Müller drew no lessons from the fiasco of the SPIEGEL cover story “Unprotected: How Legalizing Prostitution Has Failed” (SPIEGEL 22/2013) or maybe she’s just aware of the power of the magazine for which she writes. To this day, the 2013 report is cited internationally by politicians and anti-prostitution activists as purported evidence for the claim that the German prostitution law had led to an increase in human trafficking, although the available data from the Federal Crime Office prove otherwise.
The SPIEGEL’s slogan is “Not afraid of the truth” but it still seems to take a while longer until readers will actually be allowed to learn it. After Müller’s article was published, three counterstatements appeared in no time, among them one from the Trade Association for Erotic and Sexual Services (BesD), an organisation of current and former sex workers founded in October 2013.
In the following interview, sex workers Melanie (from Voice4Sexworkers) and Fraences talk about the renewed misrepresentations by the SPIEGEL and the truths, which Ann-Katrin Müller is obviously afraid of.
Research Project Germany: What was your first reaction to the article?
Fraences: When I read the headline and someone’s comment, “Oh, that’s going to be fun”, I immediately thought, that’s not going to be fun at all, since it’s the SPIEGEL.
Melanie: I was speechless. At first, I didn’t take it all that serious because I didn’t know the entire article. But a little later, the first scanned copies arrived and I was just shocked. How can you lie like that and then sell the whole thing as “truth”? And how could anyone even agree to talk to the SPIEGEL again after everything that’s happened there in the past?
Fraences: People may believe that SPIEGEL cover story is old news now but politicians continue to use it to campaign against sex work. Both Uhl* in the Bundestag and parliamentarians in Canada have used that story as evidence while at the same time ignoring counterevidence provided by sex workers and researchers.
*Hans-Peter Uhl is member of the Conservative CDU/CSU faction in the German parliament and supports tightening Germany’s prostitution law.
RPG: Welche Punkte im Artikel von Ann-Katrin Müller seht Ihr als problematisch an?
Fraences: It starts from the very first sentence: “Dubious organisations … together with brothel operators”, followed by the description of Fabienne.* Both are intended to discredit sex workers and our organisations.
*Fabienne Freymadl is a sex worker and one of two political spokeswomen of the BesD.
Müller had claimed that Freymadl was wearing a transparent top and a black bra. In her reaction, Freymadl wrote: “I was wearing jeans and a sweater. I admire your imagination for thinking I had worn a transparent top. But that’s how things are in your profession. If the protagonist is well-behaved and boring, you invent a few juicy details.”
Melanie: The article is full of lies. If you take look at the demands of the BesD, you can see that Müller’s remarks are wrong. And anyway, whores have fought for many years for far more than what Müller’s summary alludes to. Last year, on the occasion of the International Whores’ Day, Voice4Sexworkers published an article by Fraences where she describes in great detail the demands of the whores’ movement of old and how many of them have been met so far.
Müller had claimed, “all three organisations” were of the opinion “that Germany needed as little regulation as possible”, and had added: “It seems that prostitutes’ organisations care about more than just the needs of whores.”
Fraences: Saying that all organisations have the same opinion and call for less regulation is simply fabricated. But Müller’s summaries and omissions are generally problematic. If one were to believe her, the laws concerning human trafficking were only about victims who are abducted and forced to work at brothels. But they are about so much more than that, and Müller therefore reinforces society’s false perceptions. No other trade is singled out and regulated by criminal law to prosecute crimes. By doing so, it suggests to both the public and reporters that prostitution is a trade permeated with organised crime, although official police statistics show that crimes in the sex industry have drastically decreased.
See §232 and §233 of the Criminal Code (StGB). Further articles concerning prostitution: Art. 297 Criminal Code Introduction Act (EStGB), §180a, §181a, §184f and §184g StGB, §119 und §120 of the Administrative Offences Act (OWiG), as well as §55 Abs. 2 Nr. 3. of the Residence Act (AufenthG).
It also annoys me how Schwesig* is portrayed, who, according to Müller, has no plans to outlaw prostitution like in Sweden. But the Swedish Model, which incidentally doesn’t work there either, would be impossible to implement in Germany, which is why Schwesig and others set focus on prostitution obstruction policies and deterrence. Through the reduction of legal work places they make life considerably harder for sex workers. The monopolisation in the prostitution business, which is already in progress, happens at the expense of our rights, just as it does in any other trade.
*Manuela Schwesig ist deputy party leader of the Social Democrats (SPD) and Federal Minister of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth.
RPG: What’s your opinion about the SPIEGEL’s claim that the UEGD* assisted the founding of the BesD and the claim by the UEGD that they provided moral support for sex workers?
Melanie: That’s the biggest nonsense I’ve ever heard. I still have that email from Rettig* in which he expressed his reservations with regards to supporting us, and he didn’t reply to any of my following emails. My initial question to him was about whether or not he was interested to get together to draw up quality and labour standards. He didn’t really appear to take us seriously. I’ve never met him and his statements aren’t particularly helpful either. After all, he’s also calling for statutory permission requirements for prostitution businesses, which is in stark contrast to our position.
*The UEGD is the German Employers’ Association of Erotic Companies, of which Holger Rettig is the chairman.
Fraences: Rettig’s proposal for a special act granting brothels permissions to operate is a copy of a proposal by a lawyer, developed on behalf of a brothel operator. It’s basically a copy of the Restaurant Code adapted for brothels. Rettig’s proposal is an exact copy. So much for his great inputs.
Rettig contributed nothing whatsoever to the founding of the BesD. He was simply present during the “1st Prostitution Days” in Frankfurt, when Johanna* and I called for a first coordination meeting form an association in order to organise opposition against a brothel permission law. Afterwards, I never heard from Rettig again, and the UEGD became rather quiet, too.
*Johanna Weber is a sex worker and one of two political spokeswomen of the BesD.
Melanie: Exactly, but to clarify that once and for all: Rettig had no part whatsoever in the founding of the BesD, and that wouldn’t have been possible anyway, since he has never worked as a sex worker. And last fall, he didn’t come to the Sexarbeitskongress (sex work convention) either, although he was invited and supposed to give a presentation.
RPG: Speaking of the Sexarbeitskongress. Could you respond to the claim that Eva Högl* was called a “Nazi” there? And what exactly happened during Manuela Schwesig’s visit in Nuremberg?
*Eva Högl is a member of the German parliament for the Social Democrats (SPD) and deputy leader its parliamentary group.
Fraences: I’m afraid I was outside when the commotion began, but I know that a representative of Doña Carmen simply reminded Högl that the last time, Germany had a law to register sex workers was under the Nazis, which is true. Sex worker weren’t even registered with the Bockschein under the Venereal Diseases Act of 1953.*
*Bockschein was a colloquial term for a public health certificate, which sex workers had to produce until 2000. The name derives from the Bock, the gynaecological examination chair.
Melanie: At that moment, I was also a little shocked, but when that short dispute broke out between that man and Eva Högl, in which she furiously demanded for him to take back his accusation, there was actually great silence. Those who read Müller’s article, however, must think that a mob of sex workers from the BesD attacked Ms Högl, and that’s rubbish, because that man is neither a sex worker, nor is he a member of the BesD. Speaking of Eva Högl, I will never forget her remark back then that she wouldn’t need any history lessons and who would even care about those old stories.
RPG: I also read that Eva Högl said that day that “None of those is here today”, referring to those sex workers for whom the Prostitutes Protection Law was intended. What’s your reaction to that?
Fraences: Anger over such an ignorant and arrogant attitude. I really asked myself, is she that stupid or does she only pretend to be? And when the discussion circled around mandatory registration, she tried to explain to us as a lawyer that this was a normality for all citizens, and then she mentioned the obligatory social insurance and Pantel* threw in the obligation to register with residents’ registration offices and business registrations. I couldn’t believe they didn’t know the difference. And that sort of people is ruling our country! Unbelievable, really, but I’m actually not buying that they don’t really know the difference. On the contrary, I believe they concocted this as a “good argument” for those who aren’t familiar with the subject matter. Mandatory registration for sex workers means registering with the police! Whoever claims this to be a common civic duty is lying.
*Sylvia Pantel is a member of the German parliament for the Conservatives (CDU/CSU). She’s in favour of raising the minimum age for prostitution from 18 to 21 and introducing a statutory permission requirement for prostitution businesses as well as mandatory health checks for sex workers.
Melanie: Yeah, absolute fury. When Högl uttered that sentence, there was a massive outcry in the auditorium. They always turn things around as it pleases them. Sometimes we are prostitutes to appear as “victims” in statistics, other times we aren’t prostitutes, so that one can exclude us from the debate. Nobody in the auditorium called Högl a “Nazi”, and the spontaneous applause merely followed the statement of the representative of Doña Carmen that there had already been a law once, which forced sex workers to register, back in 1939. One should be allowed to state the truth, shouldn’t one? All in all I have to say that Högl’s statements and attitude at the Sexarbeitskongress were truly revealing.
RPG: And what happened at the protest in Nuremberg?
Melanie: The protest in Nuremberg was a very spontaneous one, organised in less than 24 hours. I consciously didn’t launch the appeal via the BesD but only talked to colleagues I knew personally. So, the whole even was organised by Voice4Sexworkers and not by anybody else. On the contrary, colleagues from the BesD actually sent me texts and emails that morning, telling me I should better cancel or tone down the protest.
In Nuremberg, we used big signs to point to the very law from 1939, and there are photos from that day. The word “Nazi” was neither on our signs, nor did we utter it verbally, and we absolutely did not compare Ms Schwesig to the Nazis. I think, if we had done so, the media would definitely have reported about it, because many of them were present.* Generally, I find these accusations of alleged Nazi comparisons disgusting. They are simply attempts to undermine our arguments and to divert from the actual issues.
*The SPIEGEL also reported about the protest and cited the slogans on the signs.
RPG: Müller writes that only a negligible number of sex workers is organised in trade associations and that one can hardly speak of a „lobby for all whores“. How do you respond to that claim?
Fraences: On the one hand, that’s true, unfortunately, but the BesD is still developing. In addition, the majority of sex workers simply wants to earn a living and be left alone. And from the very beginning, there was very little education about the law from the ministry. A booklet that Stefanie Klee* published is the only info material that the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs co-financed.
*Stephanie Klee is a sex worker and an activist fighting for sex workers’ rights since the 1970s. She’s a co-founder of the Federal Association for Sexual Services (BSD), not be confused with the BesD, where only current or former sex workers are organised.
The reason why migrant sex workers have only appeared sparingly with us up until now is what Klaus* also often points out, which is that there is very little education and integration of migrants. If they don’t fit into the “victim” pattern, they are excluded. The centre of most migrant sex workers’ lives is in their home countries, and they are often only here for several months or a few years in order to build a life back home with their savings.
*Klaus Fricke ist co-operator of Haus9 in Bremen, where sex workers can rent rooms to meet clients in, and a co-initiator of Project Ne-RO-In, which provides information for migrant sex workers.
Melanie: What also makes the work and recruitment so difficult for the BesD is quite simply the lack of funds for that, as well as for awareness-raising and outreach work. Most out there aren’t even aware of the current debate about a new law, let alone having heard of the trade association. They are still living in their little, “idyllic” world, unaware of the apocalypse that will soon befall the German Pay6 sector.
RPG: Speaking of Stefanie Klee. What commonalities and differences are there between the BesD and the BSD?
Fraences: Ever since its founding, the BSD is predominantly an association of operators. They are in favour of a special law granting brothels permissions to operate because they believe it will result in greater legal certainty.* I think that’s tricky because on the one hand, they are against the mandatory registration of sex workers, but on the other hand, statutory permission requirements would result in the obligation to register sex workers. Commonalities are for example our shared opposition of mandatory health checks, a law requiring condom usage, the prohibition of flatrate gangbang parties, special taxation, and special laws governing prostitution in the Criminal Code, in the Aliens Act, and in the respective police laws.
The bigger operators tend to favour a law requiring condom usage, even though some of them admit that they wouldn’t be able to control that anyway. Lobscheid from Pascha Cologne* doesn’t just call for a law requiring condom usage but also for mandatory health checks. He isn’t alone. Many operators are in favour of mandatory health checks, just as the clients.
*Armin Lobscheid ist the CEO of Europe’s biggest brothel, the Pascha in Cologne.
RPG: How do you generally rate media reports about sex work?
Melanie: I don’t usually like the term “Lügenpresse” (lying press) but where the SPIEGEL is concerned, the shoe fits sadly time and time again. Before I speak with the press, I rather use my own platforms, where our words aren’t twisted and the most important aspects aren’t omitted.
Fraences: When dealing with the press, one always needs to remember that they aren’t supporters of the fight for our rights and equal treatment with other occupations, but they simply want lurid stories, because articles about the everyday life of sex workers won’t increase their circulation. Most of the time, the media don’t really care about spreading information but only about shaping public opinion. The goal is to campaign for stricter controls and against prostitution.
RPG: Do you consider yourself as part of the “revolutionary basis”?*
*A phrase that appeared in the article
Melanie: Nah, that sounds condescending. We know very well what we are doing and we don’t need to justify ourselves to anyone.
RPG: Thank you very, very much that you took the time for this interview. I hope, you’ll meet some sincere journalists once in a while. They still exist.
Zwei Sexarbeiterinnen im Gespräch über den Artikel „Aus der Deckung“ der SPIEGEL-Journalistin Ann-Katrin Müller
Two sex workers discuss an article by journalist Ann-Katrin Müller in German news magazine DER SPIEGEL. Please click here for the English version.
Alle Jahre wieder
Die Journalistin Ann-Katrin Müller scheint aus dem Fiasko der SPIEGEL-Titelgeschichte „Bordell Deutschland“ (SPIEGEL 22/2013) keine Lehren gezogen zu haben, oder vielleicht weiß sie schlicht um die Macht des Magazins, für das sie schreibt. Bis heute wird der damalige SPIEGEL-Bericht international sowohl von Politiker*innen als auch von Prostitutionsgegner*innen als vermeintlicher Beweis dafür angeführt, dass die deutsche Prostitutionsgesetzgebung zu einem Anstieg des Menschenhandels geführt habe, obwohl die verfügbaren Zahlen des Bundeskriminalamts das Gegenteil belegen.
Der SPIEGEL wirbt mit dem Slogan „Keine Angst vor der Wahrheit“, doch bis die Leser*innen diese erfahren dürfen, scheint es noch eine Weile zu dauern. Nach der Veröffentlichung des Artikels erschienen schnell drei Gegendarstellungen, darunter auch eine vom Berufsverband erotische und sexuelle Dienstleistungen (BesD), in dem aktive und ehemalige Sexarbeiter*innen organisiert sind.
Im folgenden Interview erläutern die Sexarbeiterinnen Melanie (vom Projekt Voice4Sexworkers) und Fraences ihre Reaktion auf die neuerlichen Falschdarstellungen des SPIEGELs und die Wahrheiten, vor denen Ann-Katrin Müller offenbar Angst hat.
Research Project Germany: Was war Eure erste Reaktion auf den Artikel?
Fraences: Als ich die Überschrift las, und den Kommentar von jemandem, „Oh das wird lustig.“, dachte ich mir gleich, das wird bestimmt nicht lustig mit dem SPIEGEL.
Melanie: Ich war erst einmal sprachlos. Zuerst hab ich es gar nicht so ernst genommen, weil ich auch noch nicht den kompletten Artikel kannte. Aber kurze Zeit später trudelten die ersten gescannten Exemplare ein und ich war nur noch geschockt. Wie kann man nur so lügen und das ganze noch als „Wahrheit“ verkaufen? Und wie kann man sich überhaupt noch auf ein Gespräch mit dem SPIEGEL einlassen, nach allem was da schon vorgefallen ist?
Fraences: Auch wenn man denken mag, die damalige SPIEGEL-Titelgeschichte ist lange her, so wird sie doch noch immer von Politikern benutzt, um Stimmung gegen Sexarbeit zu machen. Sowohl der Uhl* im Bundestag als auch Parlamentarier in Kanada haben die Story als Beweis angeführt, aber gegenteilige Aussagen von Sexarbeiterinnen und Wissenschaftlern ignorieren sie.
*Hans-Peter Uhl ist Mitglied der Bundestagsfraktion der CDU/CSU und setzt sich für ein verschärftes Prostitutionsgesetz ein.
RPG: Welche Punkte im Artikel von Ann-Katrin Müller seht Ihr als problematisch an?
Fraences: Das fängt schon im ersten Satz an: „Dubiose Verbände … gemeinsam mit Bordellbetreibern“, und dann folgt die Beschreibung von Fabienne.* Beides dient nur dazu, Sexarbeiterinnen und unsere Organisationen zu diffamieren.
*Fabienne Freymadl ist Sexarbeiterin und eine der beiden politischen Sprecherinnen des BesD.
Müller behauptete, Freymadl hätte ein durchsichtiges Oberteil und darunter einen schwarzen BH getragen. In ihrer Reaktion schrieb Freymadl: „Ich trug Jeans und Pullover. Ich bewundere Ihre Imagination, dass Sie sich vorgestellt haben, ich trüge ein durchsichtiges Oberteil. Aber so ist das ja mit meinem Beruf, wenn Protagonisten brav und langweilig daherkommen, dann erfindet man ein paar pikante Details.“
Melanie: Der Artikel ist voller Lügen. Wer einen Blick auf die Forderungen des BesD wirft, kann sehen, dass Müllers Ausführungen nicht stimmen. Und überhaupt kämpfen die Hurenverbände schon seit langem für weitaus mehr als das, auf was Müller es zusammengekürzt hat. Über die umfassenden Forderungen der Hurenbewegung von damals, und was bis heute von ihnen umgesetzt wurde, hat Voice4Sexworkers am Welthurentag im vergangenen Jahr einen Beitrag von Fraences veröffentlicht.
Müller behauptete, „alle drei Verbände“ seien der Meinung, „dass Deutschland so wenig Regulierung wie möglich brauche“, und fügte an: „Offenbar geht es den Prostituiertenverbänden nicht nur um die Belange der Huren.“
Fraences: Dass alle Verbände gleicher Meinung seien und für weniger Regulierung einträten, ist schlicht erfunden. Aber Müllers Zusammenfassungen und Auslassungen sind generell problematisch. Wenn man Müller glauben würde, ginge es beim Menschenhandelsparagraphen nur um verschleppte Opfer, die gezwungen werden, in Bordellen anschaffen zu gehen. Doch der Paragraph umfasst viel mehr als das, und Müller verstärkt so die falschen Vorstellungen in der Gesellschaft. Kein anderes Gewerbe wird gesondert im Strafrecht geregelt, um Straftaten zu verfolgen. So wird in der öffentlichen Wahrnehmung und Berichterstattung der Anschein erweckt, das Prostitutionsgewerbe sei ein Hort organisierter Kriminalität, obwohl offizielle polizeiliche Kriminalstatistiken zeigen, dass Verbrechen im Prostitutionsgewerbe drastisch gesunken ist.
Siehe §232 und §233 des Strafgesetzbuchs (StGB). Weitere Paragraphen die Prostitution betreffend: Art. 297 Einführungsgesetzes zum Strafgesetzbuch (EStGB), §180a, §181a, §184f und §184g StGB, §119 und §120 des Ordnungswidrigkeitengesetzes (OWiG), sowie §55 Abs. 2 Nr. 3. des Aufenthaltsgesetzes (AufenthG)
Mich nervt auch, wie die Schwesig* dargestellt wird, die, laut Müller, keineswegs die Prostitution wie in Schweden verbieten will. Das Schwedische Modell, das übrigens auch dort nicht funktioniert, wäre in Deutschland eh nicht umzusetzen, deshalb setzen Schwesig und andere auf eine Prostitutionsverhinderungspolitik und auf Abschreckung. Durch die Reduzierung der legalen Arbeitsplätze wird Sexarbeiterinnen das Leben erheblich erschwert, denn die sich bereits anbahnende Monopolisierung in der Branche geht, wie in anderen Berufen, zu Lasten unserer Rechte.
*Manuela Schwesig ist stellvertretende Parteivorsitzende der SPD und Bundesministerin für Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend.
RPG: Wie steht Ihr zu der Behauptung des SPIEGELs, der Unternehmerverband UEGD sei an der Gründung des BesD beteiligt gewesen, und zu der Behauptung des UEGD, Sexarbeiterinnen bei der Gründung moralisch unterstützt zu haben?
Melanie: Das ist der größte Quatsch, den ich je gehört habe. Ich selbst habe noch eine Email vom Rettig* vorliegen, in der er Vorbehalte äußerte, eine Unterstützung anbetreffend. Auf weitere Emails reagierte er nicht. Da ging es um eine Anfrage von mir an ihn vor ca. zwei Jahren, ob er Interesse daran hätte, sich mit uns zusammenzusetzen, um Qualitäts- und Arbeitsstandards auszuarbeiten. Er hat uns mehr oder weniger nicht ernst genommen. Gesehen hab ich ihn noch nie und sonderlich hilfreich sind seine Aussagen auch nicht. Er tritt ja auch für die Erlaubnispflicht ein, was im krassen Gegensatz zu unserer Einstellung steht.
*Holger Rettig ist Vorstandsvorsitzender des Bordellbetreiberverbands UEGD.
Fraences: Rettigs Bordellgenehmigungsentwurf ist eine Kopie des Entwurfs eines Anwalts, der im Auftrag eines Betreibers entstand, und der vom Gaststättengesetz abgeschrieben und dann für Bordellbetriebe umgestaltet wurde. Den hat Rettig eins zu eins übernommen. So weit zu seinen tollen Inputs.
Der Rettig hat überhaupt nichts zur Gründung des BesD beigetragen. Er war bei den 1. Prostitutionstagen in Frankfurt schlicht anwesend, als Johanna* und ich zu einem ersten Kooordinierungstreffen aufriefen, um einen Verband zu gründen und Widerstand gegen die Konzessionierung zu organsieren. Danach hab ich niemals wieder was von Rettig gehört und um den UEGD wurde es still.
*Johanna Weber ist Sexarbeiterin und eine der beiden politischen Sprecherinnen des BesD.
Melanie: Ja genau, aber um das noch mal klarzustellen, der Rettig war definitiv nicht bei der Gründung dabei, und das wäre eh nicht möglich gewesen, da er nie aktiver Sexarbeiter war. Zum Sexarbeitskongress im Herbst letzten Jahres, zu dem er eingeladen war und wo er referieren sollte, ist er auch nicht erschienen.
Diese Abbildung ist kein echter Spiegel-Titel. (Graphik: Matthias Lehmann)
RPG: Stichwort Sexarbeitskongress. Könnt Ihr Stellung nehmen zu der Behauptung, Eva Högl* sei dort als „Nazi“ beschimpft worden? Und was genau ist bei Manuela Schwesigs Besuch in Nürnberg vorgefallen?
*Eva Högl ist stellvertretende Fraktionsvorsitzende der SPD-Bundestagsfraktion und Mitglied des Deutschen Bundestages.
Fraences: Ich war leider gerade draußen, als der Stress losging, aber ich weiß, dass ein Vertreter von Doña Carmen die Högl daran erinnert hat, dass es eine Registrierung von Sexarbeiterinnen in Deutschland zuletzt unter den Nazis gab, was richtig ist. Noch nicht einmal mit dem Bockschein unter dem Geschlechtskrankheitengesetz von 1953 hat man Prostituierte registriert.*
Als Bockschein wurde das amtsärztliche Gesundheitszeugnis bezeichnet, das Sexarbeiter*innen bis zum Jahr 2000 regelmäßig vorweisen mussten. Die Bezeichnung ergab sich aus dem Bock, dem gynäkologischen Untersuchungsstuhl.
Melanie: Ich war in dem Moment auch ein wenig geschockt, aber als sich das kurze Streitgespräch zwischen dem Herrn von Doña Carmen und Eva Högl entwickelte, in dem sie ihn wutentbrannt aufforderte, seine Vorwürfe zurückzunehmen, herrschte eher großes Schweigen. Wer Müllers Artikel liest, muss aber denken, ein Mob von Sexarbeiterinnen des BesD hätte Frau Högl angegriffen, und das ist Quatsch, denn der Mann ist weder Sexarbeiter noch Mitglied beim BesD. Vergessen werde ich in dem Zusammenhang nie Eva Högls Aussage, sie bräuchte keine Geschichtsbücher und wen denn heute die Geschichten von damals interessieren würden.
RPG: Ich las auch, dass Eva Högl damals sagte, in dem sie sich auf die Sexarbeiter*innen bezog, für die das Prostituiertenschutzgesetz gedacht sei, “Keine von denen sitzt heute hier.” Was ist Eure Reaktion darauf?
Fraences: Wut über so eine ignorante und arrogante Einstellung. Ich habe mich echt gefragt, ist die so doof oder tut sie nur so? Und als es um die Erklärung der Meldepflicht ging, da wollte sie uns als Juristin erklären, dass diese für alle Bürger gelte, wobei sie dann die Sozialversicherungspflicht nannte, und die Pantel* die Meldepflicht beim Einwohnermeldeamt oder die Gewerbeanmeldung. Ich konnte das nicht fassen, dass die den Unterschied nicht wissen. Und solche Leute regieren unser Land! Das kann echt nicht wahr sein. Allerdings nehme ich denen nicht ab, dass die den Unterschied wirklich nicht wissen. Ich glaube vielmehr, dass sie sich das als „gutes Argument“ zurechtgelegt haben für diejenigen, die sich mit der Materie nicht auskennen. Bei der Registrierungspflicht für Sexarbeiter geht es um eine Anmeldung bei der Polizei! Wer behauptet, dass entspräche einer allgemeinen Bürgerpflicht, lügt.
*Sylvia Pantel ist Mitglied des Bundestags für die CDU/CSU-Fraktion. Pantel spricht sich für eine Anhebung des Mindestalters für Prostitution von 18 auf 21 Jahren aus sowie für die Einführung einer ordnungsbehördlichen Erlaubnispflicht von Prostitutionsstätten und verpflichtende Gesundheitsuntersuchungen für Sexarbeiter*innen.
Melanie: Ja, absolute Wut. Als die Högl den Satz brachte, ging ein großer Aufschrei durch den Saal. Die drehen es immer so wie sie es gerade brauchen. Mal sind wir die Prostituierten, um für „Opferzahlen“ herhalten zu dürfen, dann sind wir wieder keine Prostituierten, damit man uns aus der Diskussion ausschließen kann. Niemand im Saal hat die Högl als „Nazi“ beschimpft, und der Beifall, den es an einer Stelle gab, galt lediglich dem Satz des Vertreters von Doña Carmen, dass es 1939 eben schon einmal eine Meldepflicht für Sexarbeiterinnen gab. Das wird man doch wohl noch sagen dürfen? Insgesamt lassen ihre Aussagen und ihr Verhalten beim Sexarbeitskongress tief blicken.
RPG: Und was passierte bei der Protestaktion in Nürnberg?
Melanie: Die Aktion in Nürnberg war sehr spontan und wurde innerhalb von nicht einmal 24 Stunden organisiert. Bewusst hatte ich dafür nicht innerhalb des BesD aufgerufen, sondern nur mir bekannte Kolleginnen angesprochen. Das Ganze war also eine Aktion von Voice4Sexworkers und nicht von irgendjemand anderem. Im Gegenteil: von Kolleginnen des BesD erhielt ich an dem Morgen noch SMS und Emails, ich solle die Aktion doch lieber absagen oder abschwächen.
Wir haben in Nürnberg mit großen Schildern genau auf genau dieses Gesetz von 1939 hingewiesen. Davon gibt es auch Fotos. Das Wort „Nazi“ war weder auf unseren Schildern, noch fiel es verbal, und erst recht nicht haben wir Frau Schwesig mit Nazis verglichen. Ich denke, wenn dem so gewesen wäre, hätten die Medien damals sicher darüber berichtet, denn die waren in großer Zahl vor Ort.* Generell finde ich diese Nazi-Vergleichs-Vorwürfe gegen uns ätzend. Damit wird nur versucht, unsere Argumente zu entkräften und vom eigentlichen Thema abzulenken.
*Auch der SPIEGEL berichtete über den Protest und zitierte die Slogans auf den Schildern.
RPG: Müller schreibt, dass nur eine verschwindend geringe Anzahl von Sexarbeiter*innen in Verbänden organisiert sei und man „kaum von einer Interessenvertretung aller Huren“ sprechen könnte. Was ist Eure Reaktion zu dieser Behauptung?
Fraences: Auf der einen Seite stimmt das leider, aber der BesD ist ja auch im Aufbau. Hinzu kommt, dass der überwiegende Teil der Sexarbeiterinnen einfach in Ruhe ihr Geld verdienen will. Außerdem gab es vom Ministerium von jeher wenig Aufklärung über das Gesetz. Das einzige Infomaterial, das vom Bundesfamilienministerium mitfinanziert wurde, ist eine Broschüre, die Stefanie Klee* herausgebracht hat.
*Stephanie Klee ist Sexarbeiterin und Aktivistin, die sich seit Anfang der 1970er Jahre für die Rechte von Sexarbeiterinnen einsetzt. Sie ist Mitbegründerin des Bundesverbands Sexuelle Dienstleistungen (BSD), nicht zu verwechseln mit dem BesD, in dem ausschließlich aktive oder ehemalige Sexarbeiter*innen organisiert sind.
Dass migrantische Sexarbeiterinnen bei uns bisher nur wenig in Erscheinung getreten sind liegt auch daran, worauf Klaus* immer hinweist, dass es nämlich kaum Aufklärung und Einbindung von Migrantinnen gibt. Wenn sie nicht ins „Opferschema“ passen, werden sie ausgeschlossen. Die meisten migrantischen Sexarbeiterinnen haben ihren Lebensmittelpunkt in ihren Heimatländern und sind oft nur für einige Monate oder wenige Jahre hier, um sich mit ihren Ersparnissen später etwas daheim aufzubauen.
*Klaus Fricke ist Mitbetreiber des Haus9 in Bremen, in dem Sexarbeiter*innen Verrichtungszimmer mieten können, und Mitinitiator des Projekts Ne-RO-In, das Informationen für migrantische Sexarbeiter*innen anbietet.
Melanie: Was die Arbeit und die Mitgliederwerbung des BesD so schwer macht, ist schlicht und ergreifend auch, das die finanziellen Mittel sowohl dafür als auch für die Aufklärung und aufsuchende Arbeit fehlen. Die meisten da draußen haben noch gar nichts von der momentanen Diskussion über ein neues Gesetz mitbekommen, geschweige denn haben sie je vom Berufsverband gehört. Die leben immer noch in ihrer kleinen „heilen“ Welt und ahnen nicht, welche Apokalypse bald über die deutsche Pay6-Branche hereinbrechen wird.
RPG: Stichwort Stefanie Klee. Welche Gemeinsamkeiten und Unterschiede gibt es zwischen dem BesD und dem BSD?
Fraences: Der BSD ist schon seit seiner Gründung überwiegend ein Betreiberverband, der sich für die Konzessionierung ausspricht, weil sie sich dadurch mehr Rechtssicherheit versprechen.* Ich finde das schwierig, denn einerseits sprechen sie sich gegen die Meldepflicht von Sexarbeitern aus, aber eine Konzessionierung würde eine indirekte Meldepflicht nach sich ziehen. Gemeinsamkeiten sind beispielsweise vorhanden bei unserer Ablehnung von Zwangsuntersuchungen, einer Kondompflicht, einem Verbot von Flatrate-Gangbang-Parties, einer Sonderbesteuerung, und Sondergesetzen für die Prostitution im Strafrecht, Ausländerrecht und in den jeweiligen Polizeigesetzen.
*Siehe Gesetzesvorschläge des BSD
Die großen Betreiber sind eher für eine Kondompflicht, auch wenn sie teils zugeben, so etwas gar nicht kontrollieren zu können. Der Lobscheid vom Pascha Köln* hat sich nicht nur für eine Kondompflicht, sondern auch für Zwangsuntersuchungen ausgesprochen. Damit steht er nicht allein. Viele Betreiber sind für Zwangsuntersuchungen, genauso wie die Freier.
*Armin Lobscheid ist Geschäftsführer von Europas größtem Bordell, dem Pascha in Köln.
RPG: Wie würdet Ihr allgemein die Berichterstattung über Sexarbeit in den Medien beurteilen?
Melanie: Ich mag ja den Begriff „Lügenpresse“ nicht, aber beim SPIEGEL trifft er leider immer wieder zu. Bevor ich mit der Presse spreche, nutze ich lieber meine eigenen Medien, wo unsere Worte nicht verdreht werden und nicht die wichtigsten Aspekte weggelassen werden.
Fraences: Man muss gegenüber der Presse immer im Kopf behalten, dass sie keine Unterstützer sind im Kampf für unsere Rechte und eine Gleichstellung mit anderen Branchen, sondern dass sie einfach nur reißerische Themen haben wollen, weil Normalität in der Prostitution ihnen keine Auflagen bringt. Den Medien geht es meist nicht um Information, sondern um Meinungsbildung. Es soll Stimmung gemacht werden für mehr Kontrolle und gegen Prostitution.
RPG: Zählt Ihr Euch zur “revolutionären Basis”?
Melanie: Nö, das klingt abwertend. Wir wissen schon sehr genau, was wir tun, und müssen uns nicht vor irgendjemandem rechtfertigen.
RPG: Vielen, vielen Dank, dass Ihr Euch die Zeit für dieses Interview genommen habt. Ich hoffe, Ihr trefft auch manchmal auf ehrliche Journalist*innen. Es gibt sie noch.
Germany’s federal government is currently revising the country’s prostitution regulation. Criminal Law Professor Dr. Monika Frommel notes improvements of the one-sided debate of late, but demands regulations, which respect the reality of sex work.
By Prof. emer. Dr. Monika Frommel
Please note that the copyright for this article lies with Dr. Monika Frommel and is not licensed under a Creative Commons License.
Will federal policy makers during the current legislative period succeed to regulate prostitution adequately? If their efforts would lead to yet another blockade, it would hardly come as a surprise; feminist objections and male privileges – according to the abolitionist women’s movement, active since around 1900 – as well as diverse conservative currents agreeing on the condemnation of the world’s oldest profession as “fornication” have been clashing on the subject of prostitution for over a hundred years.
While conservative double standards ostracise sex workers, feminist perspectives favour criminalising their clients. Although these positions contradict one another, they still unfold – to some extent jointly – destructive effects and, each in their own way, they cement Denkverbote [oppression of opinions that differ from their respective dogmas]. In the statement that prostitution supposedly violates “women’s dignity”, both camps have found a new, seemingly anti-discriminatory language.
In light of this deadlock, it is no wonder then that the Prostitution Act of 2002 (ProstG) was only ever a half-hearted attempt. The ambivalences of the last twelve years have also had tangible negative effects, because on the one hand, the majority of the Länder [German states] circumvented implementing aspects of the new federal law falling within their jurisdictions, and on the other hand, a regulation under the trade law didn’t occur in any of the Länder. Up until this legislative period, there hadn’t even been a debate about different non-criminal regulatory models.
In the past, this blockade was obscured through ever-new ethics debates and human trafficking campaigns, which, since 1992, originate from a specific understanding of feminism at the EU level. Those are the dark sides of the Nordic women’s movement that the rest of European women have long overlooked. For one, because they do not speak the Nordic languages, and also because they thought, theirs were all noble goals. In northern Europe, however, these two currents combined have resulted in an infantilising feminism.
“The rest of the European women have long overlooked the dark sides of the Nordic women’s movement.”
Its hallmark are campaigns on the international, European and national level. Since so-called “forced prostitution” can only be ascertained in extremely rare cases through criminal law, European institutions regularly demand from respective national legislators to introduce stricter provisions in their criminal law. But since bolstering the fight against “exploitation” and “human trafficking” has failed to yield results, even further legislative amendments are being demanded, and subsequently further national efforts to implement the already expanded EU directive against human trafficking. National legislators, on their part, do not even discuss anymore whether the European objectives can be achieved with such measures, and nobody’s asking if the directive hasn’t already been implemented, but instead they lean towards ‘waving laws through parliament’ that are dubious because they are vague. The rationale is fatalistic: it should be done since Europe demanded measures of this sort.
All this is being accompanied by media campaigns. The last climax occurred in 2013. Back then, the public debate was dominated by shrill and extremely repressive overtones. There was much talk about „forced prostitution“, and calls grew to „punish the punters“ [clients], since after all it were „men“ who were taking advantage of the “plight” of those working in the trade. Therefore, one would have to design measures that render the demand as risky as possible (embarrassing investigations, denunciation). It was also claimed, without supporting evidence, that only a small minority of sex workers was working of free will, while in contrast, the trafficking of adults and children (“children” being defined as any person under 18) was the norm. The empirically unproven assumptions and the downright absurd legal constructs surrounding the concept of “children” already demonstrate what sort of fundamental reservations were stylised here. For the most part, these are conservative prejudices re-formulated in a crooked feminist tone to render them attractive to people with only superficial knowledge of the subject matters.
Amendment of the Prostitution Act
In this legislative period, politicians have begun to shift and support groups to act pragmatically. The excessive polemics of people from one side of the divide has thus resulted in the growing willingness of politicians to see things realistically and argue factually. There is a chance, therefore, that after twelve years of contested and eventually fruitless debates, this legislative period will see an adjustment of the Prostitution Act in line with the changing economic conditions.
To understand the change over recent months, one should first look at the half-heartedly conceived bill from the previous legislative period, which aimed to regulate prostitution through administrative laws. It failed to achieve a majority vote in the Bundesrat [the Upper House of the German Parliament], and for good reason. Back then, Bremen had voted against the bill [together with other states governed by coalition governments of Social Democrats and Greens]. In 2014, the Saarland brought forward a motion for the Bundesrat to adopt a “key issue paper for the regulation of prostitution and brothel-like businesses”. 
But the Saarland’s motion was anything but progressive or realistic. It aimed to curb fictitious self-employment and stipulated the so-called “Freierbestrafung” [criminalisation of sex workers’ clients]. The motion was therefore predominantly designed to use administrative and punitive measures. No attention was paid to the working conditions of people in prostitution, especially not to improving these conditions sustainably or to raising the prices for sexual services, which are too low, for the benefit of sex workers, not just the operators. It is promising, therefore, that this decidedly too narrow approach was rejected by a resolution of the Bundesrat on April 11th, 2014.
„It was attempted to paternalistically and maternalistically defend sex workers’ right to self-determination against their will, as it were.”
Now the federal government has to move forward and face the complexity of the imminent reforms. The focal point is a law to “protect prostitutes”. It aims to regulate what had already been discussed as regulation under the trade law, but was never fleshed out or subjected to discussions by the different interest groups, as would have been appropriate. That is because police and the women’s movement were unduly focused on the subject of “human trafficking and forced prostitution”.
This fixation was paradoxical, but over recent months, it has been abandoned. It was paradoxical because both help groups attempted, paternalistically and maternalistically, to defend sex workers’ right to self-determination against their will, as it were, by using criminal and police laws. They did also have sex workers’ rights in mind, but in a completely different sense. What they aim to expand is mainly the right of residence for non-EU citizens who might have become victims of human trafficking and may therefore be potential witnesses [in criminal proceedings]. So they think primarily along the lines of criminal law.
Together with the Länder and municipalities, plans should be developed for a comprehensive range of safe street-based prostitution. The trend in 2013 went the wrong direction. The Dortmund Model – legal street-based prostitution with Verrichtungsboxen [love boxes] – was terminated by the city of Dortmund, unlawfully and unconstitutionally. A sex worker who lodged a complaint won her case at the administrative court of Gelsenkirchen.  Should this decision stand, then municipalities will no longer be able to arbitrarily expand [prostitution] off-limit zones, unless in cases, where public order, especially the protection of minors, concretely warrants it, i.e. when actual facts are presented, and not just for exploiting general fears over a sudden influx of migrants who force their woman into prostitution.
Data protection and Self-employment
In the debate over the future law, one aspect will play a central role, which one could almost overlook when first reading the key issues paper by the Ministry of Women’s Affairs. On the one hand it is the question of fair pricing, and on the other hand control under the trade law and the mandatory registration of individual sex workers. As stated in the preliminary key issues paper from August 2014, all sex workers will be subject to mandatory registration, i.e. a duty of disclosure, at the respective municipality. According to this approach, they would receive verification documents, which they would then have to produce upon request.
Obligations of this sort are highly problematic when they extend to all types of activities. If sex workers work at a brothel or comparable business and one wants to prevent circumvention of tax liabilities, shouldn’t it be sufficient for the operator to produce their data so that the sex workers remain anonymous? After all, operators are subject to strict control and are required to keep copies of the sex workers’ permits. So when the operators and their administration are strictly controlled, the data security of the sex workers should not have to be jeopardized.
Where there is no operator, as in street-based prostitution, it stands to reason to enforce general identity card requirements and flat-rate taxation (via tax machines). There are further concerns: if people work only occasionally at a business, their mandatory registration is problematic since guaranteeing data security in a digitalised world effectively is already uncertain, even in places where it shouldn’t be.  Besides, before any standardisation of mandatory registration, it should be clarified whether individual sex workers in fact carry on a trade or rather practice a freelance occupation sui generis [unique in its characteristics]. This is also relevant to the question if they, too – and not just the operator – must pay value-added tax.
“The last twelve years have shown that sex workers want to work independently and do not wish to be forcibly outed.”
There is an even more problematic aspect. Under the programmatic slogan “Prostitution – The Augsburg Model” , Helmut Sporer, a speaker for the Bavarian police, together with the public prosecutor’s office in Augsburg, initiated preliminary proceedings against the Colosseum, a brothel-like sauna club, for dirigiste pimping (instruction for those working there to remain naked while in the sauna area) and the failure to pay social security contributions and payroll taxes (§ 266a StGB, German Criminal Code). [A1] In a complaints procedure in 2010, the Higher Regional Court in Munich refused to open proceedings – with reference to the Prostitution Act. 
Ever since, the rule applies that “integration into a brothel business” serves as an indicator of non-independent employment (§ 7 Abs. 1 SGB IV, German Social Code) and fictitious self-employment. The defence disproved this assumption with an expert opinion.  Since then, attempts have been made to determine by law that integration into a brothel business constitutes an indicator of non-independent employment.
The key issues paper also refers to this debate. Under the heading “Legal relationship between prostitutes and operators”, the actual circumstances are pitted against the wish of sex workers to [be able to] leave at any time. Instead of focusing on the danger of economic exploitation as criterion for operators’ control, fiscal aspects dominate yet again.
Anyone who wants to “protect prostitutes”, to quote the name of the new law, must limit her- or himself to forcing operators to be more transparent, and to allowing those working in their businesses more access to files and counsel. One should not put sex workers into a position in which they rather choose a tolerance model again. After all, the last twelve years have shown that sex workers want to work independently and do not wish to be forcibly outed. It is simply a specific occupation. Occupations differ, one from the other. Blanket criminal proceedings due to the failure to pay social security contributions and payroll taxes offer no protection but create only new repressive powers and substantial regional differences. Both are counterproductive.
About Dr. Monika Frommel
Dr. Monika Frommel is an emeritus criminal law professor. She studied Law at the University of Tübingen and at the Ludwig Maximilians University Munich, where she obtained her doctorate in 1979 and received her habilitation in 1986. Until 2011, she was the director of the Institute of Sanction Law and Criminology at University of Kiel. Since 1990, she is a co-editor of the legal journal Neue Kriminalpolitik. Her current research interests include criminology from a feminist perspective, in particular the reform of sexual criminal law, and ethics in reproductive medicine.
Photo: Usage Worldwide
 Bundesrats-Drucksache 71/14, 26.02.2014. [English: Key Issues Paper for a Law to Protect Those Working in Prostitution (Prostitutes Protection Law, ProstSchG)]
 Az 16 K 2082/11, 21.03.2013 (noch nicht rechtskräftig).
 Sex workers fight against mandatory registrations for good reasons. Although tax authorities normatively guarantee data privacy, it cannot actually be guaranteed, and the Labour Inspectorate doesn’t guarantee it anyway. Therefore, one should forego general mandatory registrations, if there is anyway an operator who can be controlled. It might differ for street-based prostitution, where sex workers cannot rely on the right to data privacy anyway, since they are publicly visible.
 Helmut Sporer: „Prostitution – Der Augsburger Weg“ in: Kriminalistik 2010, S. 235-240.
 Az 3 Ws 101-105/10, 20.04.2010.
 Von Prof. Dr. Dagmar Felix, Hamburg.
[A1] The 2007 Report by the Federal Government on the Impact of the Act Regulating the Legal Situation of Prostitutes (Prostitution Act) stated that “operators expressed some uncertainty as to whether and under which conditions the stipulating of place of work, hours of work and prices for certain services went beyond what was legally possible and made them liable to punishment for exploitation of prostitutes (Section 180a(1) Criminal Code) or pimping (Section 181a(1) No. 2 Criminal Code, “dirigiste pimping”). Regional differences in criminal prosecutorial practice added to this uncertainty. For example, the Public Prosecutor‘s Office in Munich in 2003 stated that “the one-sided stipulation of working hours by brothel operators is to be classed as so-called dirigiste pimping within the meaning of the aforementioned provisions and thus to be prosecuted” (cf. S oFFI K I , Section II.18.104.22.168). A decision by the Federal Court of Justice of 1 August 2003 (Federal Court of Justice, ref. 2 StR 186/03; Decision of the Federal Court of Justice 48,314 and NJW 2004, p. 81 ff.) created legal clarity by stating that the operator of a brothel may not stipulate the type and extent of prostitution to be engaged in. However, as long as a prostitute was voluntarily working in a brothel or brothel-like establishment, the mere fact that he/she was integrated into an organisational structure on account of the stipulating of fixed working hours, places of work and prices did not make it punishable (cf. also B.VIII.1 below, and Renzikowski §§ 83, 89).”
Translation by Matthias Lehmann. Research Project Germany. I would like to thank Dr. Frommel for her permission to translate her article, and Frans van Rossum for his excellent comments on the first drafts of this translation. Every effort has been made to translate this article verbatim. As a result, the wording may appear unusual on some occasions. The photos above did not appear in the original article. Footnote A1 was added for further clarification.
The German original of this article was first published as “Prostitution: Jenseits des Bevormundungsfeminismus” at NovoArgumente (November 24th, 2014). Please note that the copyright for this article lies with Dr. Monika Frommel and is not licensed under a Creative Commons License.
A law to protect society from an imaginary evil – Includes a full translation of the Key Issues Paper for a Law to Protect Those Working in Prostitution (Prostitutes Protection Law, ProstSchG)
“Moralising Law”: Reform Proposals for the German Prostitution Act – Interview with Fabienne Freymadl, Political Spokeswoman 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)
Lies & Truths about the German Prostitution Act – An Introduction for the Uninitiated
“I thought it was all different!” – Video highlights from a symposium about the German Prostitution Act in December 2013, where Dr. Frommel was among the panellists
Please click here to read the English version of “Lies & Truths about the German Prostitution Act”. Se il vous plaît cliquez ici pour lire la version française de “Mensonges & Vérités autour de la Loi Allemande sur la Prostitution”. Clicca qui per leggere la versione italiana di “La Legge Tedesca sulla Prostituzione: Bugie e Verità”.
Въведение за незапознатите
Митовете, които циркулират за германското законодателство за проституцията са идеален пример за това как когато повтаряш една лъжа многократно, тя започва да бъде приемана за „истина”. И тъй като противниците на проституцията и някои политици от други държави често използват Германия като пример за уж провала на легализацията на проституцията, списъкът по-долу разглежда някои от често срещаните твърдения за германския Закон за проституцията от 2002 година. Списъкът съвсем не е изчерпателен и информираните читатели няма да открият в него нищо ново. Единствената му цел е да предостави доказателства, които оборват погрешните представи и лъжите, които за съжаление твърде често се появяват в медиите и други източници.
Лъжа: Германия легализира проституцията през 2002 година.
Истина: Проституцията в Германия е легална през по-голямата част от 20ти век. Целта на Закона за проституцията от 2002 г. (ProstG) е да подобри юридическото и социалното положение на проституиращите и да премахне съществуващата дотогава представа за проституцията като нарушение на обществения ред. (more…)
“There are already trade laws in place to take action against exploitation” – Interview with Theo from sex worker association Hydra e.V.
This interview was conducted by Ariane G. and published at Kaufmich magazine, a social network for escorts and their clients.
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.
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.
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.
The myths that circulate about German prostitution legislation are a perfect example of how lies and misconceptions become accepted as “truths” if only they are repeated often enough. Since political actors and anti-prostitution activists in many countries frequently cite Germany as an example where the legalisation of sex work has allegedly failed, the following list will look at some of the common claims made about the German Prostitution Act of 2002. The list is by no means exhaustive and well-informed readers will find nothing new in it. Its sole purpose is to reiterate evidence to contradict the common misconceptions, which sadly find their way into countless media reports time and time again.
+++ Please note: This article is about the Prostitution Act (ProstG) of 2002. For information about the so-called “Prostitutes Protection Act” (ProstSchG) of 2017, please read the briefing paper “Professed Protection, Pointless Provisions – Overview of the German Prostitutes Protection Act” by the International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe (ICRSE). +++
Lie: Sex work was legalised in Germany in 2002.
Truth: Sex work was legal in Germany for most of the 20th century. The goal of the Prostitution Act of 2002 (ProstG) was to improve the social and legal rights of sex workers. It also removed the previously existing notion that prostitution constituted a violation of public mores.
Lie: Pimping is legal in Germany.
Truth: The exploitation of sex workers and pimping, i.e. “controlling prostitution” (Zuhälterei), are illegal in Germany under Section 180a and 181a of the German Criminal Code (StGB) and punishable by imprisonment of up to three and five years respectively.
+++ Please note: The above lie was added later and is not included in versions of this article in other languages. +++
Lie: The Prostitution Act gives brothel operators the right to determine (Weisungsrecht) which clients sex workers must accept and what sexual practices sex workers must perform.
Truth: Brothel operators only have a restricted right of direction (managerial authority; eingeschränktes Weisungsrecht) which allows them to assign the work place or schedule only.
Lie: Only 44 sex workers in Germany are registered with the national insurance scheme.
Truth: The German government’s evaluation report showed that 86.9% of the sex workers who participated in the survey had health insurance. While a lesser number paid old-age pension contributions, this was connected to factors like the length of time sex workers intended to stay in the industry or individuals’ needs for security.
And where those ’44’ are concerned: as the evaluation report by the German government outlined, sex workers consider as main obstacles the uncertainty whether or not labour contracts would actually provide any social and material benefits for them, and to what extent they might be faced with unexpected disadvantages. Only a very small proportion definitely wanted a contract of employment, but the majority more or less rejected the idea of a contract. They feared that if they concluded a contract of employment, they would lose their sexual autonomy as well as their ability to themselves determine when and where they want to work. Other obstacles were the fear that they would lose their anonymity and the negative social consequences that would possibly arise if their line of work was revealed. Thus, sex workers do not disclose their occupation to insurance companies or authorities but instead register with other occupations.
Lie: Job Centres can force job seekers to take up sex work.
Truth: Conditions for taking on “reasonable work” do not mean that the unemployed will be placed in jobs or measures to integrate them in prostitution. Media reports suggesting otherwise are incorrect.
Lie: Human trafficking for sexual exploitation has increased since the adoption of the Prostitution Act.
Truth: Despite greater activities by the police, the annually compiled situation reports by the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) show no significant increase in the number of persons trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation that would indicate an expansion of the phenomenon as a result of the prostitution law taking effect.
In the year 2003, one year after the adoption of the Prostitution Act, the BKA registered altogether 1,235 persons presumed to have been trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation, an isolated spike in numbers compared to previous and following years. Ever since 2004, the annual average is 654: 926 cases (2000), 987 (2001), 811 (2002), 1,235 (2003), 972 (2004), 642 (2005), 775 (2006), 689 (2007), 676 (2008), 710 (2009), 610 (2010), 640 (2011), 612 (2012), 542 (2013), 557 (2014), and 416 in 2015.
Persons presumed to have been trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation
Source: Situation Reports by the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA), 2000-2015
Although figures fluctuate from year to year, it still represents a certifiable decline of over 66% since 2003. As the government already stated in 2013, from a quantitative viewpoint, the risk potential of human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation in Germany is limited. What did increase, however, is the number of media reports about human trafficking, and thus the impression that the phenomenon itself increased. In this context, one should also note the police’s high clearance rates of crimes against sexual self-determination (rape and sexual coercion) and against life (murder and manslaughter), the former consistently above 80%, the latter around 95% or higher (BKA data from 2008 to 2015).
+++ Please note: The above paragraphs have been updated to include the most recent available data. Versions of this article in other languages do not include this update. +++
Lie: The German Prostitution Act has failed.
Truth: The Prostitution Act of 2002 has not been evenly implemented in Germany’s federal states and more often than not is circumvented by using by-laws. As Rebecca Pates states, “the [Prostitution Act] might in fact have the distinction of being the only federal law intentionally not implemented by Germany’s public administration”. A law that isn’t implemented cannot fail. QED.
Please note: there is certainly further evidence to counter the above claims. For the purpose of this rather general introduction, sources were limited to the government’s evaluation report, the annual reports by the Federal Crime Office, one academic article, and one blog article. Please leave a comment below if you wish to know more about any of the above or any additional points.
Se il vous plaît cliquez ici pour lire la version française de “Mensonges & Vérités autour de la Loi Allemande sur la Prostitution”. Clicca qui per leggere la versione italiana di “La Legge Tedesca sulla Prostituzione: Bugie e Verità”. Моля, кликнете тук, за да прочетете българската версия на “лъжи и истини за германския закон за проституцията”.
Reflections about Sex Work, Solidarity and Political Efficacy
After the Conference “Fantasies That Matter – Images of Sex Work in Media and Art”
I am a sex worker from Berlin and for the last two years, I’ve been an active participant in the sex workers’ rights movement. Fighting against the tightening of Germany’s prostitution legislation, which thankfully was relatively liberal so far, is crucial for me. On the weekend from August 8-10, I attended the conference “Fantasies That Matter – Images of Sex Work in Media and Art”, part of the International Summer Festival at Kampnagel in Hamburg.
As a sex worker activist, I am particularly concerned with and unhappy about the presence and lopsidedness of the prostitution myths, which are reproduced by the media. Ever since I began to engage in political work, I realised that the methodical dissemination of horror scenarios about sexual services is the main obstacle to my political goals. The public as well as the political actors, with whom we negotiate, including those who are progressive, seem to be entirely fact-resistant when faced with rational arguments, because an emotionally charged myth, exclusively fed by propaganda lies, has replaced factual analyses.
That is why I was very glad when I learnt about the “Fantasies That Matter” event. Last year, I participated and co-organised various political events by sex workers; I’m a member of the newly founded professional organisation for sex workers; I previously managed a network for sex workers myself; and I also attend a regular get-together of sex workers in Berlin. Sex worker-only spaces are essential and irreplaceable.
Images of Sex Work in Media and Art
The conference “Fantasies That Matter” was a continuation of the initiative of Missy Magazine, which greatly contributed to a more differentiated journalistic examination of the subject throughout the last year. The organisers managed to put together a cultural-scientific, political, and artistic event and embed it into the summer festival at Kampnagel, a renowned venue for cultural, dance, and theatre events. For a whole weekend, the focus was given to images of sex work in media and art.
The conference marked the first time that dominant discourses about sex work were examined in this way in a public, cultural-scientific setting. The organisers had widely distributed their invitations and the conference pass was free of charge, to reach the widest possible audience. The plan worked and the diverse members of the audience took the opportunity to question their own fantasies and projections about sex work.
I was especially grateful for the opportunity to experience pioneers of the sex workers’ rights movement live and get to know them. The memory of the encounters with Annie Sprinkle and Carol Leigh will stay with me for a long time.
In addition, there were further sex workers present on stage, delivering both speeches and performances. Some of the speeches were a little cumbersome and quite a bit distant from my own reality as a sex worker. Then again, it was the very subject of this event to look at the images that exist of my occupation, which often have little or nothing at all to do with reality.
The fact that the event was almost entirely held in English wasn’t ideal, as some of the contributions and debates were so complex, that even those with a good command of the English language had difficulties to catch it all.
Nevertheless: the conference was extremely informative and gave me new perspectives on the fatal, argumentative link between human trafficking and prostitution that is material to current debates.
The myth of the whore who gets abducted against her will – she’s almost always female – disqualifies her as an agent whose decisions need to be respected. One of the purposes of the so-called “rescue industry” is to deport people back to their native countries – “in their very best interest”.
The whore who speaks for herself, on the other hand, and who doesn’t submit to the victim discourse, is taboo. She is ignored because it is assumed that she is traumatised, abused, unable to judge the circumstances she’s in, she lies, or she’s been bribed or blackmailed by the imaginary pimp lobby. She is losing her status as a human being. If she doesn’t want to be saved, she loses her right of support. She is dangerous for those who oppose prostitution because she could point out that that sex workers are by no means all female or that she considers other measures as important to solve real existing problems, e.g. poverty, legal discrimination, stigmatisation, uncertain residence status, and many more. The talking whore who points out that prohibitions take away the basis of her livelihood without offering a better alternative must not exist. Her demands and her existence threaten the very foundation of bourgeois morality and order.
“Fantasies That Matter” provided plenty of information and good arguments that reminded me again of the nature of the propaganda machine which we are dealing with, and how the political discourse about sex work is embedded into the political order of gender, race, ethnicity and migration policies. I am glad and very grateful for the work of people who have made it their profession to deconstruct these myths.
The work of Annie Sprinkle, for example, is absolutely irreplaceable for the motivation and vision of my own type of sex work. The creative energy with which she lives, performs and spreads her feminist, sex-positive agenda, and how she links radical political activism with art, humour and passion, is time and again a source of inspiration and positive strength for me.
She vividly demonstrated again how very essential solidarity and a broad political basis are for the fight for sex workers’ rights. Among other things, Annie reported how web masters, decorators, people who book sex workers’ appointments and anyone else involved in any “promotion of prostitution” risk jail time in the US, and how there were cases where very high bails were set and these people had to spend time in jail while awaiting bail money. As a German sex worker, I find it almost unconceivable. It made it clear to me, how many cultural differences there are in the movement that I’m a part of, and how much more important it therefore is to demonstrate global solidarity with the whores’ movement.
Annie’s call for general solidarity and for the demystification of the term “sex worker” was met with broad approval from the audience.
At the closing discussion on the final day of the conference, some of my colleagues took the stage, demonstrating with their creative, performative act at this quite theoretical event how to appropriate the discourse – superb!
Only when as many of us as possible speak up and make themselves visible will our diversity ever be perceived.
After the conference, a massive wave of criticism swept through different blogs and Twitter feeds, which quickly turned into a shitstorm. Although I deem some of the criticism as important and consider it worth discussing, I find the atmosphere in those debates entirely inappropriate, untenable, and destructive.
Therefore, I like to address some of the points of contentions that appeared both during the final discussion and afterwards on social media sites.
Who can call themselves a “whore“? Sex worker – an identity?
The concluding panel discussion sparked a lively debate about the question whether or not it would be appropriate if people called themselves “whore” if they weren’t in fact sex workers themselves.
The debate was triggered by Annie Sprinkle’s call for as many people as possible to demonstrate their solidarity with sex workers who are imprisoned and threatened with repression, and to refer to themselves publicly as “whores”.
The critics, who unfortunately also hit below the belt, feel they need to maintain a sharp division here, and they go as far as to deny Annie Sprinkle her identity as a “real” sex worker. Annie Sprinkle worked for over 20 years in the sex industry and was imprisoned as a result of that. She is now working as an artist using explicit content, and because of that, she is not only threatened with further imprisonment, but also experiences hostility and even murder threats, as her work touches upon deeply ingrained moral taboos.
I can of course understand the argument that there is a difference between experiencing discrimination, violence and persecution because of working as a sex worker, and “simply” feeling and acting in solidarity. I also have no interest in seeing the term “sex worker” become the sort of fashionable or lifestyle term as is by now the case with the term “queer”.
Nevertheless, I believe that in focusing the political debate on maintaining the exclusivity of the term “sex worker”, one loses sight of the political goals of the sex worker movements, and doesn’t support them but weakens them.
By means of an example, I will once again explain how I understand Annie’s appeal and why it makes sense to me.
The conference was an initiative by Missy Magazine, the only German feminist publication that continuously defends the rights for sex workers. As a result, the magazine has lost subscribers, just like anyone in Germany who speaks out in favour of sex workers’ rights instantly loses their legitimacy to call themselves feminists due to the monopoly position of a “vulgar feminism” in Germany that is absolutely hostile to prostitution. In the United States, Missy’s work in solidarity with whores might even be considered as promoting prostitution and result in criminal prosecution. For Annie Sprinkle, this means that their work falls under her expanded definition of the term “sex work”. Therefore, the Missy women were “media whores”.
I also consider conceptualising the term “sex worker” too narrowly as problematic since it is very fragile, for various reasons.
Sex work on its own is not an identity but an occupation, which in most cases, people engage in temporarily. Strictly speaking, people thus permanently acquire and lose that status again.
Many who engage in sex work wouldn’t even call themselves sex workers. They would also not have come to this conference or attend one of the self-organised sex worker conferences. Shying away from labelling oneself a sex worker is deeply connected to the stigma that remains attached to sex work, even in Germany, over ten years after the Prostitution Act has come into force.
I am still hitting brick walls and make myself unpopular here, because I ask tantric masseurs and masseuses to declare themselves to be in solidarity with sex workers and join their movement. There’s a lot of reservation, however, because tantrics don’t wish to be mentioned in the same breath with “common prostitutes”.
In addition, the extent of the stigma follows the usual axes of discrimination: gender, ethnicity, nationality, residence status, age, class, wealth, and beauty, to name just a few.
People of colour with a German passport will make different experiences in a tantric massage parlour than their white counterparts, and both will make different experiences if they worked in a sauna club close to the Czech border. In turn, people without residence permits might not even be able to earn a lot of money in both places but work underground and without protection. But all of them would make entirely different experiences if they worked in countries where selling sexual services is criminalised.
Moreover: what are these sexual services anyway? Does it require penetrative sex? We have come to recognise webcam models, porn actors, strip dancers or erotic masseurs and masseuses as sex workers. In my own work, penetration plays only a minor role, but it falls nevertheless under the Prostitution Act and I consider myself a sex worker. What about the people who predominantly work with sexual energy, lead tantric workshops, or provide sexual assistance? We already know socially recognised occupations that deal with sexuality. In Annie’s view, people in those professions are also sex workers and I share her view.
Which notion of sexuality can a possible definition be based upon? Do we conform to definitions set out in the relevant local legislation? Or shouldn’t we acknowledge that the intensity of the prostitution debate indicates how strong the reactionary force is to maintain control over sexual and reproductive practices and to limit them?
How can we, given how diverse we are, still speak of “we”, and who are “we”?
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.
The relationship between „allies“ and sex workers – Why solidarity with sex workers is important for everybody
In the internal discussions following the conference the question was raised over the relationships between so-called “allies” and sex workers. The tone in some of these debates really angered me.
If we, as a political movement, do not recognise racism, sexism or the sex work stigma as problems that affect society at large, then a sufficient political force able to make an impact on our societies will never materialise.
Marginalised communities exist at the fringes of societies, but their “problem” affects everyone.
Everyone has the right to explore that, to fight that, to write about that, and to make it the subject of their artistic work!
Moreover, every person who discusses sex work publicly and in a differentiated manner runs the risk of being ostracised, and in some countries they might even get arrested. I can agree or disagree with journalists, I can contradict their assumptions or question their positions. But the reprehension of the so-called “allies” and the speculation about their motives in the debates following the conference seems hair-raising to me.
It can’t be that we silence and deny each other the legitimacy to speak. That is the same kind of censorship that is imposed on us externally. It is a matter of being heard and being visible, especially because we have different things to say.
Research about sex work that doesn’t include sex workers is certainly without foundation. Needless to say, at this conference about images of sex work in media and art, many sex workers were invited and present.
Disrespectful attacks against Carol Leigh, Annie Sprinkle and the initiators of the conference only benefit the enemies of sex work. I appeal to you to not waste any energy on pulling apart our own ranks, because currently, decisions are made that affect the lives of sex workers (and their allies) without including them in any way, not only in the German parliament but also in many other countries.
In this very moment, „whores“ in Germany are losing their status as civil citizens and will soon be forced to register with authorities. I find this alarming and our fighting spirit should be directed against that.
That is why I join in with Annie and Carol and call for: Whore solidarity worldwide.
Kristina Marlen works as a tantric dominatrix in Berlin. She majored in law and physiotherapy before she decided to focus on sex work. She gives sessions and teaches workshops about explorative sexuality. She defines herself as queer. Besides this, she’s a dancer, singer, and performer.
Translation by Matthias Lehmann. Research Project Germany. Every effort has been made to translate this interview verbatim. As a result, the wording may appear unusual on some occasions. A German version of this article is available here.
While sex workers protests against the planned adoption of a new prostitution law claiming to protect them, two legal cases highlight continued attempts of municipal governments to ignore existing prostitution legislation, more than ten years after its introduction.
An administrative court in Minden in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia has issued a verdict against the use of prostitution-free zones, mirroring a decision in 2013 by an administrative court in the state of Hesse, while an administrative court in Dachau in the state of Bavaria ruled against objections by the city’s public construction authority, which had attempted to bar two operators from running a fetish studio and a wellness centre, the latter of which will include five rooms where sex workers can offer sexual services.
As regional daily Neue Westfälische reports, various municipalities in Ostwestfalen-Lippe, a region in North Rhine-Westphalia, will no longer be able to use off-limit zones to drive away prostitution, as the decision by the Minden Administrative Court calls their validity into question. The district council of Detmold is now faced with having to adjust its decades-old ordinances to the new legal norms and changed moral values.
In its decision, the court closely examined a case in the city of Oerlinghausen, where an operator had opened a tantric massage parlour in November 2013. As the city believed this to be a venue where sexual services were offered, she was barred from operating her business. The city referred hereby to an ordinance to protect youth and public morals.
According to the Minden Administrative Court, such a general prohibition of prostitution is no longer permissible as it violates basic law by unduly limiting the freedom to choose one’s occupation. The court found that the Prostitution Act of 2002 must take precedence here, which defined prostitution as an act of service provision and removed the previously existing notion that prostitution constituted a violation of public mores.
Even the Federal Constitutional Court holds that off-limit zones were only justified in case that the “milieu” would cause disturbances of schools, kindergartens or churches, none of which applied in this particular case, according to the Minden Administrative Court. The city of Oerlinghausen was ordered to pay all procedural costs.
A decision in the actual case was no longer necessary, however, since the operator of the massage parlour no longer wishes to run the business in Oerlinghausen. A decision on whether or not sexual services were actually offered there was not made. The operator and her attorney Burkhard Zurheide had always maintained that hadn’t been the case. Zurheide sees the verdict as success: “The district council should now eliminate its old off-limit zone ordinances or at the very least adjust them to the new legal norms”.
The ruling by the Dachau Administrative Court is still subject to appeal, but in both aforementioned cases, the court found that the operators had fulfilled construction and planning regulations. The two cases can be seen as typical examples how municipal governments attempt to circumvent the prostitution law by imposing arbitrary requirements to prevent prostitution-related businesses from operating within their jursidictions.