‘Any attempt at prohibition goes against the interests of the prostitutes’
Is prostitution anti-feminist? The sex work debate in Germany shows no signs of abating and prominent feminists like Chantal Louis of Emma magazine have spearheaded a campaign against it. But that’s only one side of the argument. Some sex workers in Germany argue the merits of their profession.
Fabienne (aka Lady Velvet Steel) and Kristina Marlen, both in their mid-30s, have been working in the sex industry for more than five years, as a classical dominatrix and a tantric dominatrix respectively. Both are active in the German Trade Association for Erotic and Sexual Services.
How did you enter the profession?
Lady Velvet Steel: I was involved in BDSM for a long time previously. The bar where I was working shut down and I needed money to get through the winter. So I started working professionally. Before that I used to work in a workshop for plastic models – breathing toxic fumes for €5.50 an hour! I felt much more prostituted then than I do now.
Kristina Marlen: I trained as a physical therapist. But I didn’t want to exclude my sexuality from my work. It’s my passion, you could say. Plus, as a therapist I was only making €10.50 an hour, and that wasn’t working out for me.
The prostitution law passed in 2002 was supposed to empower prostitutes by making them eligible for social security and health insurance benefits – but according to Die Welt, there are only 44 Angestellte prostitutes in Germany. Why might that be?
KM: The law wanted to make prostitutes normal Angestellte (employees), wage earners. But the reality is that most sex workers are self-employed in one way or another and for them, it’s still hard to get social insurance. The biggest problem is the stigmatisation of sex work.
LVS: We understand we’re both in a privileged position. Not everyone can live in Kreuzberg. In a small town in Brandenburg you can’t register at the Finanzamt as a whore because everyone knows everyone. And both of us don’t have children – if you have a kid, sex work can be used against you in a custody case, or the child can get harassed in the school yard. So lots of people are officially registered with other, related trades: masseur, partner therapy, sexual counsellor, etc.