My madcap adventures in Germany during my year as a Fulbright Scholar.

12 February 2007

More about sex workers

Like any good tourist when in Hamburg I went to the Reeperbahn, but it was a bit underwhelming. It's supposedly known as Germany's "Sin Mile" but it contained nothing you can't see right outside of Bahnhof Zoo in Berlin (Beate Uhse). Actually, since this is one of the few places in Germany were prostitution is strictly regulated, it's much more tame than the Oranienburger Straße after 4:00 p.m.

This is it:

Nothing to write home about. Here's the street with the largest concentration of gay cinemas in the world:

Once again, it's rather tame. I found the place to be more funny than scandalous:

Only on one street (the Herbertstraße) can you find Amsterdam-style women in windows:

It's kept blocked off and is only open to men over the age of 18.

The tour guide on the bus seemed proud of how well prostitution is managed by the authorities. Apparently the women are organized, so they work for themselves and not a john. But I still think it's demeaning and wrong. This is especially evident on Herbertstraße, where the signs make it very clear: women have no business on the street unless they are there to sexually serve a man. This website explains that "no entry for women" is not a law but an official police recommendation. "If a woman braves entry to Herbertstraße in spite of this, she must count on being bombarded with rotten eggs, cold water, or at least the curses of the whores." I think that about sums up what's wrong with this place. The whole area is served by a massive contingent of police officers, but apparently they are only there for the protection of prostitutes and their male customers.

When a country has legal prostitution I think it needs to signal a philosophical shift, which involves acknowledging that prostitution is a valid job, that prostitutes (or "sex workers") deserve rights and respect, and that sexuality is something natural and good. That's not the case here. Herbertstraße is not a place for people to explore their sexuality; it is not a place for lesbians, bisexual women or heterosexual partners. It is mired strictly in the old paradigm, which generally involves men taking advantage of vulnerable women and society's tacit approval.

Personally, I think Sweden has the right idea.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

NSU - 4efer, 5210 - rulez

3:45 AM


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