translation: Inge Kleine
Feminismus im Pott (1) have published their position on “Sex Work” in a paper I very much want to comment on:
Late to the show, but as a woman personally concerned I want to add my two cents to this, too. First of all, it’s nice of you to you address the topic and there is one thing on which I agree with you: Stigmatisation is vile. However, and this needs to be spelled out very clearly, it is not our biggest problem. Our biggest problem is in fact what punter do – to us. You are labouring under some deep lack of logic if you think you are helping prostitutes by finding a nicer term for what they (have to) do. A friend took the trouble to post an entry from a punters’ site in which he reports on what is happening in the “Freudenhaus Hase” – “The Hare House of Pleasures” (2) which you have joined forces with in order to battle the stigmatisation of prostitutes.
The report very clearly describes a “hatefuck”, a rape. Things like that are simply written off as “shock postings” by you, something you needn’t tackle. Why ever not? This is precisely what happens in prostitution. To be very blunt here: The prostitute will not even be able to report this to the police, after all sex for money was agreed on, and so the sex was a bit rougher than agreed to, so what? This is how police and other institutions will react. Why? Because they do not define prostitution as violence. Most prostitutes do, however. The majority of prostitutes suffer from disorders related to trauma. You simply deny this by calling prostitution “sex work”. What was posted there was not an isolated incident, it is a daily occurrence for us prostitutes. How can you say in one breath that you are in solidarity with us while you do not on the other hand want to look at what prostitution actually is? Do some reading in the punters’ fores on what “sex for money” really means. And then ask yourselves if “paid abuse” is not a much better term.
According to your definition of sex work – and you were nice enough to call prostitution from financial hardship or because of a drug-addiction a grey area – there are maybe about one hundred sex workers in Germany. All of them independent, self-determined, well-adjusted to their job. But what about us, the other prostitutes? We are several hundred thousands in Germany alone. Seriously, what about us? Are you not in solidarity with us? Don’t you like what we tell you about prostitution? Is it too much of a “shock posting” for you? For us it is everyday life, or was.
The stigma cannot be combatted without an abolishment of prostitution. Prostitution and the punters need the stigma of the women concerned to degrade them, hide them, enact violence on them. The Madonna and the Whore as a principle. There is no prostitution without stigmatisation.
What is also sadly lacking in your position is any context in society. Merely saying “prostitution is gendered under the current relations of power” doesn’t do it. With other relations of power there wouldn’t be any prostitution. Defining sex as a “service rendered to a man” would be offensive, it would be offensive for men to be able to say that they have a right to sex, it would be offensive to operate from a mindset that accepts the buying of women for utilisation, one which does not question or which accepts that this often does happen against the woman’s will. How do you think punters think? The way punters think is to say, I paid, she said yes, and so I needn’t bother whether she does this voluntarily or not, whether she likes this or not. The way punters think is to say I feel like sex, I’ll buy someone to do it with and then I’ll live it up like a board game on which I play a little chess and push my pieces around for a bit. Is that a kind of thinking we want to see more of? I don’t think so.
And then your paper completely lacks any analysis of the effects of prostitution. There will never be enough women to do this voluntarily. The larger group will always have to be coerced. By saying that prostitution should be recognized as sex work you are enabling an mindset that renders it acceptable in a society to – as you call it – buy “sex services” (only that tied to these “sex services” there is some sort of woman who somehow has to dissociate from all of this stuff). This means an increased demand. How often have punters said to me: “I’m doing this, it’s not illegal after all”? How many punters would NOT go to prostitutes if it were illegal?
It is nice that you keep showing a few examples of häppy sexwörkers again and again. But what about the legion of women who remain in the shadows behind them? Who have to bear the consequences of what publicly accepting punters’ actions has effected? There is an incredible number of johns in Germany. 1,2 million men visit prostitutes each day here. And their numbers are increasing. Are they all to visit your one hundred häppy sexwörkers? I wish, but with a rise in demand yields a rise in supply. Voluntarily or not. The “sex work is work” attitude increases: demand, supply, and thus also forced prostitution and trafficking. That can’t be what you aim for.
I’m not even going to spend more time on the organisations you are fraternising with. Brothel keepers, both male and female, people who say human trafficking doesn’t even exist, people who rejoice at a tightening of welfare regulations because this means more women entering prostitution. Neither am I going to say anything this time about your complete blindness to punters, you apparently don’t want to know that punters are perpetrators. Prostitution cannot be freed from sexism, classism and racism, because it is a system that is based precisely on these structures, needs them and reproduces them.
Punters are perpetrators. And they provide the demand. The solution lies in decreasing the demand. By spelling out what punters do and by making them take responsibility. Punishing the punters decreases trafficking, as we know from Sweden. It decreases violence against women, not only in prostitution. For me this is the more important battlefield in my battle and I do not wish to have my abuse defined as work.
(1) Feminismus im Pott: A group writing on feminist issues based in the “Ruhrpott“ area in Germany, a formerly highly industrialized area.
(2) Hase = hare. Hase is a fairly common German surname, in the plural (Hasen) it is also a (sexualized) term referring to women or girls, like “bunny”.
(c) Huschke Mau