A brothel tour during Frankfurt’s “Bahnhofsviertelnacht“ – the annual celebration of Frankfurt’s red light district – What counts as “information” on prostitution in Frankfurt.

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translation: Inge Kleine


Merely walking through the area around Frankfurt’s Central Station where brothels stand wall to wall gives me the strange feeling of being in the wrong place here, as an onlooker. Looking up along the “Laufhäuser” (1) (operational room window to operational room window to operational room window (2) …) I experience the infallible need to want to go “to the room” rather: There at least I’d know how to act, there I know the procedure, the programme, that which I have to say, but here, like this, as a spectator in the “demi-monde”? Weird. To be here is like returning to your ex who hits you: It is like arriving home, everything is familiar and still feels all wrong. And this is how it feels when I tag along on the brothel tour organised by Doña Carmen e.V. and find myself standing in a room of the Laufhaus at Taunusstraße 26: Memories of my time in prostitution assail me.

The small rooms.

The coloured walls.

The dim light.

The blocked windows.

It is cramped. It is hot. It is bleak.

(And I know exactly how shabby this would look if somebody actually switched on the lights.)

Breathe in. Breathe out. Today I am here as an onlooker. Above all: a listener.

I’m in this operational room with several women, it’s getting cramped. The woman guiding the tour, Juanita Henning, introduces the woman to us (us? I just wonder, could I be confused with the other participants, most if not all of whom are unlikely to have anything to do with prostitution and who therefore have hardly any idea of it?) – introduces the woman to us, who will answer some questions. Since I do not know if this is her real name or her “working” name I’m not writing it here, but abbreviate it, she is called “D.” here.

D. is standing at the room’s only window that she has opened an inch. (Thank God. If I now had to smell this brothel mix – cigarette smoke, sweat, sperm, rubber – I think I would lose it.) She looks tired and wearied, and this is visible even in spite of the lack of light in this room. D. appears to be older than 45, she is wearing leisure wear and a baseball cap, maybe this is the end of her shift? “A woman to woman talk about prostitution” is what we were promised, and while we do that, a Doña Carmen member runs off and gets the money Doña Carmen pays for D. to answer our questions and to talk to us.

D. is a dominatrix, before that she was a beautician. She started 10 years ago. Why? “I got in through a woman friend.” “Women get into prostitution through women”, Juanita Henning says. (This, while the data provided by the police etc. show that between 80% and 90% of the women do not work on their own account, but with a man in the background.) I ask D. how much she pays for the room per day: € 100. And at what price her service starts: € 50. I look around the room, a trestle, corsages on the walls (“dressing up all costs extra”) and strangling collars etc. I remember that I always experienced being a dominatrix more exhausting than other things, I hated it, being booked for this. Doing standard service means that you can at least step away from the active part, check your fingernails in an unobserved moment or pull a face, but being a dominatrix means to focus 100% on the client, to get into his mind, having to do actively what you do not really want to do, i.e. giving satisfaction to such a man’s phantasies which you find disgusting. But I do not say this.

D. speaks in short sentences and not much. Now and then she is interrupted by Juanita Henning who finishes her sentences for her or who “straightens out” something. But it isn’t easy to straighten anything out with so many contradictions as are generated within the next quarter of an hour.

“You’ve got to be the type for becoming a dominatrix”, D. says, correcting this a few minutes later: “I am not a dominatrix by passion. I don’t really care what I do in here. It doesn’t affect me.” What does she offer? “Nothing really happens here. I don’t have to get undressed, I’m not touched. There are no sexual acts here. Very rarely a guy satisfies himself.”

What she does then?

“Oh, nothing really, I tie them up a bit, degrade them verbally a bit. That is nothing really. Now and then I slap them a little, very lightly. This here is only phantasy really, nothing more, no sex or anything. Nothing real.” It sounds a bit as if the punters just hover in here, give her 50 Euros and then disappear again, while she possibly shouts “filthy pig“ after them. A woman asks if she ever feels disgust. “No, why should I, nothing really happens in here. And it’s got nothing to do with me, nothing at all.”

Nothing happens. It’s got nothing to do with me. I wonder what the connection is between this obsessive minimisation, this diminution and denial and disassociation.  I am sorry for D. D. is paid by Doña Carmen to talk and answer to us today. And I would have done the same, I would also rather have been paid by Doña Carmen to say something: after all that’s one punter less. And to be honest, what else could she have said faced with more than 15 bourgeois, settled women? “No, it makes me puke, I find the men repulsive?” I wouldn’t have said that in such a situation either.

And Juanita Henning is fast and diligent: “About being disgusted, what kind of a question is that, it’s only ever directed at sex workers.” D.: “Imagine you are a nurse, that is the same.” A woman: “But they sometimes feel disgust.” Juanita: “You can’t compare that now, can you!” The woman: “So you’re not disgusted?” D.: “No, never.” Juanita: “Disgust is also some form of attraction in some ways. To feel disgust means to find someone attractive.”

I feel very dizzy by now. Is that because the place is so hot or because the situation is so absurd? The entire room is full of bourgeois women, and D. says there is nothing happening here, but what do the men pay for then? And how can this be, that this has nothing to do with her while she is in here, after all, when it happens. And then disgust is attraction. My head spins. This here is so grotesque that I’m doubting my senses for a moment.

A woman asks if there were transgressions sometimes. No, says D., she is always in control of the situation. No violence, ever. “I do not want this discussion of violence here”, Juanita Henning emphasises. “Violence is not prostitution. That is not prostitution!” “True, I decide what happens here”, D. says. But that is not really true – she only fulfils the johns’ wishes. And that these wishes come down to “nothing really happens here” – who is to believe that?

How many punters does she see a day? “That differs”, D. says, “One, two sometimes.” “But how can you then pay for the rent?” a woman asks. “Well, it’s three or four sometimes” D. says.

What happens then, one woman wants to know. “Well, first I’ve got to get the john into my room. Then I sit him down on the bed, and if he says “no” I say “yes”, D. laughs, and then the money transaction is done and then the best thing is for him to get a ball in his mouth so he cannot talk me to bits.” Her laughter sounds quite bitter. The longer we stay the more I feel sorry for D. Not only that she can’t talk about what happens here and that she is desperately trying to minimise everything although her revulsion comes through, she also does not seem to make much money. She doesn’t have regulars, she says.

Whether she talks about this to her acquaintances, a woman asks. “Not really”, D. says. “Only very few friends know what I do. I tell the others that I work in a fitness studio, they never ask about my work anyway. And when I have a partner I tell him what I do, but we never talk about it either.” Whether she talked to the other girls in the house? “Nope” she says, it’s only “hi and bye”. I immediately think that my friends and acquaintances always ask me what I’m doing. But prostitution makes for loneliness.

“What about the other girls here”, one asks, “you are a special case, aren’t you?” D. waves that off, “Yes, them, they have to do more, more performance and more clients, like 6 or 7 a day, but I don’t.” But why, I wonder, do they have to do more? If you’re supposed to be able to live comfortably by this, and that, although D. has only very punters? Because the others, unlike D., have a pimp? And then of course this defining herself against the others, and I cannot even blame her for this. In such a situation, it is a natural reaction to say, “I’m not doing too badly, look over there, they really have it bad, they really have to go at it.” Prostitution hierarchies. The escort lady looking down on those in the small brothels. And those in the small brothels looking down on those in the Laufhaus who have to let themselves be ogled, on their stools in the corridors, because this has long since become a popular sport among men, “whore-ogling”. And those in the Laufhaus look down on those in street prostitution. Defining yourself against those below at least conveys a feeling of not having ended up at the bottom yet.

“Don’t let anyone trick you into believing this is all so bad!”, D. shouts after us, as we leave the room after having thanked her.

After this there is a discussion in Doña Carmen’s rooms. Juanita Henning answers questions. It is a bit like a curiosities cabinet, just with more brain washing.

Asked if there was a problem with pimps here, Juanita responds by saying: “Pimps, they don’t exist, that is an invented term to stigmatise the prostitutes’ environment.” And Doña Carmen’s board member and co-founder Gerhard Walentowitz adds: “It is only two pimps a year who get sentenced. In all the country!” Then she compares homosexuality to prostitution in order to point to the discrimination. I sit here and wonder since when prostitution is a sexual orientation or preference. But Juanita goes for it now in full force. Prostitution is prohibited in order to control all women’s sexuality, also that of those who aren’t sex workers, she explains. Women are only permitted to have intercourse with men they feel connected to emotionally or socially. And it sounds a bit as if prostitution was liberating and very very feminist. “Men have a monopoly on buying sex. I don’t see anything reprehensible about this. But we women should learn to do the same. We need more call boys and such.” The aim, it seems, is that ALL of us should have sex in the future without caring about the other person, their sexuality etc. It’s just that easy, it seems.

“But the woman is selling her sexuality”, a woman remarks. “She doesn’t, that has nothing to do with her sexuality at all”, Juanita Henning says, who just a minute ago told us prostitution was about the liberation of women’s sexuality, “this isn’t about her sexuality. This is only about the man’s sexuality, this is only focussed on his needs.” Aha, I think, a moment of clarity, but that is over now: “That is why women do not become sick in prostitution, sick in their minds, disturbed, they don’t have any of that, because, this has nothing to do with them and their sexuality. They just briefly place their bodies at the man’s disposal.”

A woman asks about the Hell’s Angels. They’re no problem, Henning says. “None at all. There is no violence in prostitution here. They collect the taxes for the tax office.” Incredulous second question: “They collect the taxes for the tax office?” “Yes,” Henning says, “the city has commissioned them to do that and then practically collects them from them.” “So there’s no problem?” – “No, no problem.” “And forced prostitution? And the women from abroad? Who are beaten or who have taken their passports off them?” – “That’s mere clichés.” “Mere clichés?” – “Yes, mere clichés, all of that.” My head spins. Alarmingly, there are women here who believe all that. “I have never thought about it this way”, one says, “but yes, it’s true, it is like that, with women’s sexuality, and it is unfair, that there are no brothels for women.”

Why women come to Doña Carmen, one asks. A justified question, I think, since there are apparently no problems. “They come because of the taxes,” Henning explains, who a minute ago enthused about the Bulgarians and Romanians in prostitution here being able to finance themselves a nice little house of their own and above all being able to feed their families. “When they exit, they get problems with the tax office that estimates their earnings, and then they’re through. That is why they come here. When they exit, they are all broke and with debts. Totally poor.”

What else besides tax advice could prostitutes want from an association that says there is no forced prostitution, no trafficking, no pimps, no violence in prostitution? “But do the women really do this voluntarily?” one asks? Juanita Henning snaps: “The question alone is already so discriminatory.”

Once outside, I ask some women whether they believed what they heard inside. “Partly”, they say. Some thought it quite exaggerated. But others fell completely for what they had been told in there.

I return to the action “No place of pleasure”, an action that unlike Doña Carmen, is not mentioned anywhere in the city’s Bahnhofsviertelnacht programme. Abolitionist activists, women from several organisations, have placed coloured posters on the ground to commemorate the women murdered in prostitution. Although it is only the confirmed cases, and only of women who were “working” in Frankfurt, they are frighteningly many.  People come closer, place roses and light candles. It is a saddening view, and it is in fierce contrast to what I have just heard, and also in immense contrast to the surroundings: By now the streets are overcrowded, noisy, drinking, celebrating people among punters who are coming out of the brothels as if they’d just bought some cigarettes at a late night shop. Activists hand leaflets to people, engage in discussions. Most are affected by this. Some wipe away some tears, others recount that they have such a case in their families, and others tell us about prostituted women murdered in Frankfurt who have not as yet rated a mention in any report.

In a side street, strippers dance on a float. In another street, completely stoned people wander around in front of a drug room (3). A transsexual prostitute walks the streets, looking for takers. And I wonder: Does anybody have anything to celebrate here? Is this not inappropriate, to scatter glitter onto this misery, this violence here and to turn it into a circus? What is going on within these people who come here to have a party? Do they realise that their bout in adrenaline that comes from being in such a “demi-monde” area, is deeply bourgeois? That what is a one-off occasion to them is everyday life and practice to others?

And I wonder if this is what the City of Frankfurt takes to be proper information on prostitution? The brothel tours are no longer part of the official programme, that is true, Doña Carmen however is, it is to “inform” about prostitution with a presentation later, and a discussion following this. Along with all the churning out of hollow phrases, the distortions and minimisation that float around in my mind, I also wonder what is going on here, with the Hell’s Angles and the taxes. Dear City of Frankfurt – is this true? Are you collaborating with organised crime to get the dough for the tax office? And if you aren’t, why don’t you object to being presented like this? Is that good for this “demi-monde-ohhhhhownaughtyexciting” image? I’m surprised. An organisation that relentlessly speaks of “so-called forced prostitution” and “so-called trafficking” is supposed to enlighten us on prostitution according to the official brochure published by Frankfurt City, but people only learn about all the murders for example, all the violence by punters, all the data we have on prostitution, through a few tireless women activists who are not even part of the official programme. It seems as if Frankfurt doesn’t care about its prostitutes at all. At least when these can no longer pay any taxes due to their premature demise.

At home, I find reports in a punters’ fore on the internet, about women in the Laufhaus where D. has rented a room. It is quotes that make me shudder.

“Soo hot! Then we can ride this hot mare when she’s pregnant AO” (AO: without a condom.)

“Yes, this gal is “unfortunately” not all there! Well you go and be nailed and enspermed by around 30 guys a day. And Crystal does the rest with her.”

“Great photos! She really must have had it given to her last night, red as her pussy is!”

“S. is a very devout whore, sometimes she does AVO (4). She’s drugged, totally spineless. You can do what you like inside her, put anything up her from down there. Bottles, candles etc. She only does AO. She’s got a little sponge in there for contraception, lol. I regularly fuck her hard and jerk off deep in front of her uterus.”

“Hi guys, I too was with the (not meant badly at all) pregnant garbage can “S” and I have enspermed her (as much as was possibly) beautifully and deeply. The girl is only as already mentioned highly pregnant (the child comes out and away in February she says) and unfortunately she is really badly unhinged and so crass beyond anything, that you can hardly really concentrate on the fucking. (and it’s really hard to talk with her) She is still very nice in spite of that and I laughed a lot with her, we both had our fun, but I somehow feel sorry for her too. I’ll definitely go and visit her again these days… “

“Was there yesterday, too, and looked around for her, but in the room where she was and which you can see on the photos there’s a more plump Turkish woman now with 3-6 moles in her face … she then let herself be fucked and enspermed AO for € 25. Sex toys are no problem. In another forum there’s a description that she inserted a dildo she had found somewhere.”

“I’ll eat my hat if she isn’t pregnant …. She’s totally through: Fat ball belly, greasy hair, her feet displayed in flip-flops totally damaged, totally ruffled greasy bleached hair … When I think back to how she started … But she is clearly directed from elsewhere too much pressure on her or money pressed from her…”   (source)

“Early evening S. was already rather stoned, be that due to her medication or other psychoactive substances. She was sitting on the bad in one of her curious whore-rags and meowed when I came in. She let my manful mouth kiss and my greedy grabbing fingers on her tits and pussy happen just like that. Without gabbing I first undressed myself, then her. A three finger probe in her bulging pussy, furrowed by the birth, evinced a solid sperm level in the whore” (source)

L. is known to be one of the largest sperm repositories in BHV (Bahnhofsviertel). There is nothing to add to the description above, I find her typically gypsy-whore-pretty. As soon as you approach her room she begins a show with showing her tits, massaging her cunt (in my case she was wearing a bra only, no panties) and she immediately grabs you at your pants. “Come, sweetie, squirt sperm in my pussy”. What is a man to do? The price at € 30 was okay too. (source)

But none of that is a problem, right? Because disgust means finding somebody attractive. And is never felt in prostitution ever, at all. That’s what I learned today.

And a beer to that, a cigarette, some loud music, and partying with the colleagues – Bahnhofsviertelnacht Frankfurt olé! If this here isn’t a reason to celebrate, what is?

(C) Huschke Mau 2017





(1) Laufhaus (running house): a very frequent type of brothel where the women sit on bar stools in corridors or on their beds and the johns walk through the corridors and pick a woman.

(2) “operational room” – I can’t find any term for this: “Verrichtungszimmer” – the term was also used for these drive in “sex boxes” favoured and then abolished by some German cities. “Verrichten” or “etwas verrichten” = getting something done, going through some routine to have it done with.

(3) Frankfurt (like many German cities) has rooms/ facilities where those with a drug addiction can be supplied with medication in a controlled and safe environment.

(4) Anal without a condom