Tuesday, July 28, 2009

All you can eat sex in Germany

Brothels all over the world have been hit by the economic down turn. Which means that sex workers are suffering. Brothels outside of Vegas are down by 20-70%. Part of that has to do with people traveling less - less business travel, inflated fuel costs, but part of it is likely to be an overall downturn in the utilization of professional sex services.

Hell, everyone I know in any part of the industry, from sex toys to porn to professional domination services has seen a downturn in the past several months. Things do seem to be on the way back up. And I'm grateful as hell. But all of us are still dealing with the repercussions of this crappy economy.

As women (and some men and trans folk) experience the effects of the lousy economy, some turn to the sex industry. It's a reasonable option for women who can work as exotic dancers or commercial sex workers in a safe, legal environment. But, demand for sex services has decreased. Decreased demand plus increased supply usually results in lower prices. Which sucks. Because who wants to charge less for their work? Especially if the work involves their body.

Several brothels in Germany have responded to this by offering what is essentially an all you can eat and/or fuck option. In stead of charging per service or encounter, a base price (100 euros) is paid and then then male client has free access to the brothel and all the food and women he can fuck. In any way that he chooses to fuck.

The government of Germany has expressed some concern that this is resulting in worker exploitation. In fact, they recently raided four brothels that are part of a brothel chain called the Pussy Club (thank god someone named a brothel the Pussy Club! do you think they have t-shirts?). Two of the brothels were closed. Due to unsanitary conditions (ICK!!! - seriously - any business that deals with body fluids should be spotless - IMHO).

According to the owner of these clubs, the workers are paid between 100-300 euros a day regardless of the number of clients they see. Business is estimated to be off by around 30% across the board in German Brothels.

So, is this exploitation of workers? I don't know. It depends on how it plays out in the club. And what amount of choice the workers are allowed to have. Based on the sanitary conditions that were found in the club, I'd hazard a guess that the workers are being exploited. If they aren't bothering to clean the massage tables or the whirlpool? I'd bet they aren't being respectful to the workers.

But who's responsibility is that? Since sex work is legal, the worker could theoretically go to work in a different place. Undoubtedly, for some workers that is easier said than done. Many sex workers in Germany are illegal immigrants - which limits job opportunities. Legal workers also encounter barriers - transportation, flexibility of hours, child care, etc.

Which leads me to my final point. Unions. Sounds like a union is needed. When the government gets involved in regulation in the sex industry, often it is the workers who get hurt. But when the workers negotiate with management to set the rules, things tend to work out in a more equitable, less paternalistic fashion. Of course, a union isn't likely to provide protection to the undocumented workers, but it could help to establish an industry standard. Which may end up providing some better treatment for all members of the industry.

So - here's to unions. And sex workers standing up for their rights. And receiving the unequivocal support of workers from all industries. Work is work. And each of us deserves to work in a safe, non-exploitative environment.

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