In 2002, Germany decriminalized prostitution, reportedly due to pressure by the sex trade lobby and a few brothel managers who petitioned the government to develop safety standards and reduce the stigma and violence found in the sex trade. This law effectively rendered the prostitution industry a legitimate business. Today, this experiment is failing. Violence, abuse and trauma have increased for prostituted women in Germany. Some 400,000 women are now in prostitution, the vast majority poor women from abroad, with a linked exponential spike in sex trafficking. Alarmed by this state of affairs, prominent German trauma experts and psychologists signed a petition in December 2014, calling on their government to repeal its decriminalization law as a preventive measure against sexual violence and trauma. Below is an interview with Dr. Ingeborg Kraus, who initiated the petition.
Q: The media has recently labeled Germany the “Bordello of Europe” when describing countrywide mega-brothels. Are these a product of the decriminalization of prostitution in Germany?
Dr. Ingeborg Kraus: Yes. The 2002 law is the most liberal prostitution law in the world in that it eliminates any kind of regulation. The law renders prostitution “a job like any other job” and calls the women “sex workers.” This was supposed to make the industry safer and less exploitative, but it hasn’t worked. Even the Bundeskriminalamt [German federal police] reported that the sex trade and related human trafficking has become more organized and aggressive as a result.
Q: What is the reality for prostituted women?
IK: Today, approximately 90 percent of prostituted women in Germany come from the poorest European countries, especially Bulgaria and Romania. Most of these women don’t speak German and don’t know their rights. The reality looks like this: For its opening weekend, the Pussyclub brothel chain in Stuttgart, offered beer, bratwurst and an unlimited number of women for a flat rate of 69 Euros. Close to two thousand sex buyers were expected that night. The women, mainly Romanian, broke down crying realizing they would have to cope with so many men. Some brothels now have menus.
Q: What is a “brothel menu”?
IK: Since the law destroyed any questioning of the harm in men buying women for sex, the acts are becoming increasingly dangerous, violent and degrading. Buyers pick from a long list of sexual acts, most of which could easily be defined as torture. They are too graphic to describe here, but for example you can order a “sandwich” (two men and a woman), “blood sports” (involving cutting the woman) or myriad “à la carte” selections involving urination, ejaculation, defecation or worse inflicted on women. The brothels have “gang-bang” floors if a man wants to bring his friends and nudist floors where all women wear are stiletto heels. Even Ellen Templin, a well-known dominatrix and brothel owner in Berlin, says that before the 2002 law she sold sexual services to men, but since the law, she has to sell sexual violence. These acts cause extremely deep, enduring and traumatizing harm to the women.
Q: How did you get involved in this field?
IK: For many years, I worked as a psychologist specialized in trauma with victims of war rape in Bosnia. The goal of sexual violence in conflict and rape as a weapon of war is for the victor to dominate by destroying the enemy from inside, from within their culture. With rape, women are not only deeply traumatized, they are dishonored by their communities and as a consequence often rejected by their own families and by society. This destroys the core social structures of a community.
Q: Do you see any parallels between your work in Bosnia and prostituted women in Germany today?
IK: When I returned to Germany, I also counseled women who were in or had left the sex trade. Learning about their life journeys, it became clear that prostitution was, in all cases, a continuation of violent experiences in their biographies. It surprised me that even in peaceful Germany, approximately half of the female patients I treated had experienced sexual violence as children. Also, the psychological effects of sexual violence on women, whether in war or in prostitution are clinically similar. Many rape victims of the Bosnian genocide were forced into prostitution. The only real difference between a “rape camp” and a German brothel is that, in the latter, money is changing hands.
But I see other parallels between the experiences of Bosnian women who survived sexual violence and the realities of prostitution in Germany as a result of decriminalization. The vast majority of prostituted women here come from disenfranchised countries. They are being been bought and traumatized primarily by men with economic and social power. Even the women who may know they are heading to a brothel in Germany, often sacrificed by their own families to earn money, cannot imagine the daily violence that awaits them. They are overwhelmingly very young, 18 or 19 years old. When they are too traumatized to continue, the traffickers typically send them back home, and like so many women who survived sexual violence in conflict, they are scorned by their own families and societies. Germany doesn’t want them either; they become women with destroyed lives and without a country, so to speak.
Q: What role can the medical community play in addressing the situation you are facing in Germany?
IK: There is no “occupation” in the world that causes as much harm as prostitution, so we have to stop thinking about it as a so-called free choice. Women are in the sex trade because of lack of choice. Our group of German trauma experts has developed a very clear understanding that prostitution is violence. The striking asymmetry of power and the potential for violence in the relationship between the mediator (trafficker or pimp) and the woman generates a form of enslavement and highly dependent relationships. Some patients can experience suicidal ideation, dissociative disorders, depression, post-traumatic stress disorders, anxiety, drug addictions and the list goes on. In our long years of psychotherapeutic experience, many of my colleagues and I are now weary of trying to patch up an endless stream of extremely damaged women. We must focus on working preventively as well. I managed to unify leading German trauma experts who all agree it is time to start tackling the demand for prostitution and enact the Nordic model in Germany. I am also in contact with French and Danish psychotraumatologists who share our point of view. I would like to see the medical community in Europe coalesce on this issue.
Q: This is a massive undertaking – are you hopeful?
IK: We have to tackle this dilemma from many angles. Earlier this year, the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in New York marked the 20th anniversary of the World Conference on Women in Beijing. My colleagues and I took this opportunity to send a letter, signed by close to 100 organizations worldwide, to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, urging Germany to abide by international law and repeal the 2002 decriminalization law. We just launched a Change.org petition to mobilize the public. Our voices have been ignored so far, but the government will have to respond at some point. While things are changing slowly, we’re seeing progress. Mainstream publications like Der Spiegel are examining prostitution for what it is and are critical towards the sex trade lobby. We can no longer sit back while thousands of women (and some men) are subjected to unimaginable pain and suffering every day at the hands of exploiters and buyers until they are physically and mentally shattered. The oaths we take as medical providers forbid us to remain silent.
I admit it — the main reason I bought an opening weekend ticket for Mad Max: Fury Road was to, specifically, piss off the various men’s-rights advocates angrily telling me that, as a man, I should boycott it for being feminist propaganda. Continuing my life’s goal of doing pretty much the opposite of whatever the defenders of manliness tell men to do, I of course bought a ticket for an opening weekend 3D showing in order to give as much money to my feminist overlords (ladies?) as possible.
Was it the massive triumph for feminism that would finally break the back of the patriarchy that both its biggest haters and boosters predicted it’d be? Probably not.
But it was, first and foremost and above all else, a Mad Max movie. And the most interesting thing about Fury Road is how it reveals that, contra the wailing of Return of Kings’ “resident economist” Aaron Clarey, the Mad Max franchise has always on some level been a feminist franchise. It’s a franchise about toxic masculinity, and how all of us — including the “good guys” — are infected by it, and how there’s no hope unless we can someday build a world without it, which might mean building a world without ourselves.
One of my own male role models, Kurt Cobain, said, “Women are the only future in rock and roll”; I’d apply that to culture in general. Not that women are genetically or inherently superior, not that there’s nothing wrong with our culture’s idea of femininity — but the most toxic behaviors, the ones that killed the world and continue to kill it? They’re all packaged together in the culturally approved madness we call masculinity. And our best hope might be handing the reins to the half of the population that wasn’t raised to call that madness their birthright.
In Fury Road, Furiosa might be, as her name implies, filled with rage, but she’s not mad the way Max is. She remembers a better way to live, the Green Place, the Land of the Many Mothers; all Max remembers is the screams of the dying. She can be both a hero in war and a leader in peace. A hero is all Max knows how to be.
Far be it for me to compare an armchair Internet warrior like myself to Mad Max (though I’ve already compared myself to the Hulk, so why not). But I’m not the only radical guy I know who instinctively analogizes activism to war, who sees interactions with political opponents as fights, who carries the baggage of toxic masculinity even when trying to fight toxic masculinity, who sees political conflict as a zero-sum Thunderdome where “two men enter, one man leaves.”
And Mad Max, of all places, came out with a message against that nonsense 30 years ago, with Beyond Thunderdome — which is when Clarey should’ve started writing about Miller as a betrayer of manhood, assuming he was old enough to read and write then — when Tina Turner, a strong female leader figure 30 years before Charlize Theron, sang a song that sums up activism, feminism, and the problem with male allies in one line:
A habitual user of drugs and hardcore pornography has been found guilty of murdering a vulnerable woman by carrying out a “perverted sexual assault” in which a shampoo bottle was forced into her abdominal cavity. Majella Lynch, 51, suffered a fatal infection and died in hospital after the brutal attack by Daniel McBride, 43, at her flat in Southampton. The details of the attack were so shocking that a juror hearing the trial at Winchester crown court fainted when the prosecution opened the case.
DCI Ellie Hurd, of Hampshire police, said McBride had carried out a “horrific, humiliating and sadistic attack on an extremely vulnerable woman for his own perverted purposes”. She said: “Having invited himself into Maj Lynch’s home, he callously inflicted horrendous internal injuries to her, leaving her to die a prolonged and no doubt excruciatingly painful death.
“Daniel McBride has repeatedly lied about what happened that night and showed no remorse for his actions, which can only have added to the uncertainty and distress of her friends and family. I hope today’s verdict and the sentence which follows can provide a degree of satisfaction that some justice has been achieved for Maj.”
QotD: “The visionary feminists of the late Sixties and early Seventies knew that women could never find freedom by agreeing to live the lives of unfree men”
In 1970 the movement was called ‘Women’s Liberation’ or, contemptuously, ‘Women’s Lib’. When the name ‘Libbers’ was dropped for ‘Feminists’ we were all relieved. What none of us noticed was that the ideal of liberation was fading out with the word. We were settling for equality. Liberation struggles are not about assimilation but about asserting difference, endowing the difference with dignity and prestige, and insisting on it as a condition of self-definition and self-determination. The aim of women’s liberation is to do as much for female people as has been done for colonised nations. Women’s liberation did not see the female’s potential in terms of the male’s actual; the visionary feminists of the late Sixties and early Seventies knew that women could never find freedom by agreeing to live the lives of unfree men. Seekers after equality clamoured to be admitted to smoke-filled male haunts. Liberationists sought the world over for clues to what women’s lives could be like if they were free to define their own values, order their own priorities and decide their own fate.
Germaine Greer, The Whole Woman, 1999
Hotel staff are likely to look bewildered if you offer them a tip for carrying your bags. They do not expect to have to tug their forelocks to earn their crust, and there is usually a clear career structure in hotels, which is how staff aspire to get on after they notch up the requisite training and qualifications.
Service has not generally been itemised on restaurant bills since 1993, after unions representing restaurant staff signed an agreement with employers to regulate salaries across the industry. So your waiter is not on a minimum wage (Sweden does not even have one), has probably undergone formal and sometimes prolonged training at a specialist vocational college, has a sense of pride in his or her work, and faith in the future. Therefore they do not want a tip, let alone expect it – with the implication that their living is dependent on your caprice, rather than on the right to receive a living wage.
It’s not quite Barcelona in 1936, but rather a legacy of the country’s idealistic, egalitarian past and its surviving consensus approach to industrial relations.
Six members of a child sex ring in Aylesbury have been found guilty of participating in the abuse of two schoolgirls which went on for years on a massive scale.
Eleven men went on trial for 51 offences between 2006 and 2012 including multiple rape of a child under 13 and administering a substance to “stupefy” a girl in order to engage in sexual activity.
The jury took more than 42 hours to find six of them guilty of a range of offences against the girls, who spent days giving evidence and being cross-examined at the Old Bailey.
Four defendants were cleared, while the jury could not decide on one of them. Sentencing was adjourned to 7 September.
The men groomed the victims by buying them gifts such as alcohol, DVDs, food and, occasionally, drugs.
While aged just 12 or 13, one of the girls, known in the trial as A, was passed between 60 mainly Asian men for sex after being conditioned into thinking it was normal behaviour, jurors were told.
The vast majority of the charges related to this child, while three charges related to girl B.
Prosecutor Oliver Saxby QC told the jury the youngsters were “easy prey for a group of men wanting casual sexual gratification that was easy, regular and readily available”.
He said the girls’ ideas of what was right had been completely distorted, and that they thought what was happening was normal and natural.
Saxby told jurors: “Notwithstanding that they were children, they spoke in terms of these men being their boyfriends. And they were passed from man to man – sometimes on a daily basis.
Coda did strip shows for seven years and says “there is completely a difference between female and male strippers. Women have to get their money, they are paid a house fee [EDIT: I think he means they pay a house fee] then have to sell and do whatever it takes to get money off men at the end of the night. With what we do, people have paid for tickets to see a show. We have to deliver to ensure repeat customers but we are doing it because we love performing.” Forbidden Nights was created two years ago “because women’s entertainment had been stagnant for 15 years”, says Coda. “It was all dry humping and bananas with cream — everything we are against. Women want variety without having a willy in their face.” (Willy is one of the terms the boys favour; “winky” is the other.) “We wanted to do a show we could bring our mums to. We do a bum flash that brings the house down but that’s the really naughty bit.”
Why, it looks completely different for men and women!
Sexual behaviours/practices are not innate, they are culturally influenced; even something that seems (to a Europeans/North Americans etc) as innate as kissing, is not a universal practice:
The anthropologist Donald Marshall memorably described the people living on the Pacific island of Mangaia as the most sexually active culture on record. Men spent their late teens and 20s having an average of 21 orgasms a week (more than 1,000 times a year) without a single mouth-to-mouth kiss before Europeans arrived. Clearly human beings do fine with or without locking lips.
However, after an exhaustive exploration of the scientific literature and research, I am convinced the kiss is a wonderful example of a human behaviour where “nature” complements “nurture”. We seem to have an inborn drive to connect with another individual this way, but the shape it takes is influenced by our cultural mores and social norms. Just as Darwin observed nearly 150 years ago, kissing-like behaviours appear to be part of our evolutionary heritage, but the way we express them at any given time and place is heavily influenced by what’s familiar in our own societies.
As the anthropologist Helen Fisher points out, even in societies in which kissing wasn’t done, people “patted, licked, rubbed, sucked, nipped, or blew on each other’s faces prior to copulation”.
The most unusual kissing-like custom I’ve come across was described by the anthropologist Bronisław Malinowski in 1929. Lovers in the Trobriand Islands near New Guinea would bite off one another’s eyelashes during intimacy and at orgasm. “I was never quite able to grasp either the mechanism or the sensuous value of this caress,” he wrote.