Interview with the swedish activist and prostitution survivor Merly Asbogard

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Sweden is the first country in the world to endorse the Nordic model – the Sex Buyers Act. Under the Nordic Model, pimping and buying sex are prohibited, while women in prostitution have access to support and rehabilitation. This law was enforced in 1999. Since then, the purchase of “sex services” in the country has decreased by about 50%, and fewer women are trapped in the sex trade. However, the battle never ends. The sex trade lobby often insists that the law did not reduce the sex trade, and it only adversely affected women in prostitution. Want to know the truth? Read the interview I had with Swedish prostitution survivor and activist Merly Asbogard. Enjoy reading!


Huschke Mau: Dear Merly, would you please introduce yourself and your background?

Merly Asbogard: I was born in Colombia in 1985 and came to Sweden as an adopted child in 1986. I was raised in an almost exclusively white middle-class society with a lot of racism. When I was 14, I was forced into prostitution by a friend of mine who took advantage of the fact that I had been severely sexually abused in school. I stayed in prostitution for 16 years.

HM : what about your organization?

MA: Gardet is a feminist organization for women with a strong online presence. We discuss the different types of men’s violence against women and children and also illuminate the structural patriarchal oppression that women suffer from in Sweden, but also in other countries. We have a little over 600 members and 44 thousand followers on Instagram.

HM: Prostitution is legalized in Germany. We are often referred to as the ‘brothel of Europe’ – with prevalent forced prostitution and human trafficking. We, women who survived prostitution and activists, want the Nordic model to be introduced in Germany as well. In Sweden, the Nordic model has been around for 20 years. Can you explain to us what is the Nordic model?

MA: The Nordic model is a law that criminalizes punters, i.e. sex buyers because it takes on the feminist perspective that prostitution is part of men’s violence against women. The slightest punishment consists of fines, the maximum is a penalty of 2 years in prison. Now the Swedish government wants to cancel the fines and put a prison sentence on every sex purchase. This hasn’t happened yet but is very likely coming soon. One is also working to punish sex purchase even if Swedish men have purchased sex in other countries.

HM: During the discussion about the Nordic model in Germany, the same arguments of the pro-prostitution lobby, come up over and over again. According to them, Sweden is a very gloomy place for women in prostitution. I would like to ask you some questions about that. First of all, has the number of punters increased or has it decreased? In Germany, it is assumed that 1,2 million men go to prostitutes every day, statistics assume that one in 5. men do this.

MA: This is a difficult question to answer because the Nordic model was introduced at exactly the same time as the rise of the internet which offered an alternative venue for buyers. That said, according to every evaluation report the number of punters has decreased, even though only about 10 % of Swedish men bought sex before the law.

HM: Is it true that migrants are expelled from Sweden, as we often hear when they are picked up in prostitution?

MA: That’s how it used to be. But now we know more and know better and make individual assessments and it is being examined in which circumstances the woman in Sweden was in prostitution and what the situation in her home country is like. As an immigrant, you can legally stay in Sweden for 3 months, as a tourist, alternatively, you can ask for asylum, or you try to find a job. If you do find one, you can stay. Victims of human trafficking or prostitution are eligible to apply for asylum-seeking status. However, it’s impossible to claim prostitution as a valid occupation for Visa purposes. But you always have the right to ask for asylum, and prostitution and human trafficking are explicit reasons to grant asylum in Sweden!

HM: is it true that prostituted women have problems finding an apartment or also become homeless because the law prohibits landlords from renting rooms to women for the purpose of prostitution?

MA: Nope! That’s a lie. It’s against the lease law to use the apartment for prostitution, but just because you’re in prostitution, you are not denied the lease. And I don’t know a single case where even a single woman lost her lease for being prostituted. This really only happens with brothels or pimps.

HM: Is it true that prostitution goes “underground” when you introduce the Nordic model?

MA: Of course it’s illegal to advertise prostitution now, but you can still find the online ads. But human trafficking business is driven underground for more than one reason. However, having to sell their “goods” forces them out of their complete invisibility.

HM: Is it true that punters are more brutal in Sweden? We often hear the claim of the pro-prostitution lobby, that the “good” punters stay away, keeping around only the inherently lawbreaking violent ones. So is there more violence against women in prostitution in Sweden?

MA: No, Sweden doesn’t have a single murder of a woman in prostitution by a punter. Whether brutal or not, the type of john remains the same – violence has not increased.

HM: Is it true that children are being taken away from prostituted women in Sweden?

MA: No, you don’t lose your kids here because you’re in prostitution.

HM: How would you describe the difference between the situation in Germany and the situation in Sweden?

MA: There are worlds apart. I would say the main difference is how society sees prostitution. We had the case here in Sweden, where a public figure was caught in a brothel and subsequently lost everything. Swedish society does not accept men buying women. Over 75 % of all Swedish people support the Nordic model!

HM: When we introduce the Nordic model in Germany, is there something we can improve on? something to pay attention to?

MA: Yes, make sure you provide enough exit programs and that enough information is available about all aspects of prostitution. And set up enough rules and behavioural guidelines for all parts of society who regularly have contact with women who are in danger of falling into prostitution or are already in it.

Coronavirus and Prostitution – urgent!

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author: Huschke Mau

translation: Inge Kleine

Dear friends,

As an ex-prostitute there’s something I urgently want to tell you. Because other women in prostitution can’t do it right now. That’s because they are currently busy with something else …

… with surviving.

Corona has a tight grip on our social lives right now, and I welcome all measures by the government and by the states that have been taken now (even if very late), and hope you are all reasonable and isolate as much as possible not to endanger older people, those with immune-deficiency, cancer, other prior illnesses, etc. We now have to show solidarity, above all solidarity to the vulnerable. And that is precisely who I want to speak about now. Because women in prostitution, and I belong among them, too are a vulnerable group and the question is, which measures can now count as solidarity with regard to this group.

The City of Stuttgart has just now PROHIBITED prostitution because of the Corona-virus, and before you cheer and clap: this is a catastrophe.

I’ll explain why:

Like almost everywhere, prostitution in Stuttgart consists by 80% to 90% of women from South-Eastern Europe in forced prostitution or prostitution out of poverty. These women often have

  • No health insurance, or very inadequate insurance
  • Obviously no employee status or a very inadequate one
  • Very often no entitlement to any welfare or social benefits (HartzIV)

These women, as well as the vast majority of German women in prostitution, are there by force and poverty. If they don’t do it today, they won’t have any money tomorrow, nothing to eat – and nowhere to live.

What will happen in Stuttgart now is that these women either can’t afford to stay out of prostitution, or anyway aren’t permitted to because of their pimps. They’ll do it clandestinely, BECAUSE THEY HAVE NO CHOICE. And that is the sticking point here. They’ll have to do it, and if caught, they’ll be fined. The fines collected by the state which they then have to pay off in instalments mean more money they’ll have to make with more prostitution, AS THEY HAVE NO OTHER CHOICE. And by the way, the rent for the rooms in the brothels is likely to remain the same these days just like on all other days. That means: the fines and the rent will add up to even worse debts incurred by these women than what they already have to deal with, and that means they will be even LESS ABLE TO EXIT PROSTITUTION THAN NOW.  And: they will expose themselves to even worse health risks in these times of enforced secret prostitution. Because the dough’s gotta be made. For food, rent, pimp, and the children in Romania. And that means: Since many johns are staying away anyway, johns have more power and can more easily insist on sex without condoms.

Does this look like protection? DEFINITELY NOT.

So please do not rejoice when you read this news. Because it is terrible for the women affected.

What would really help?

Continue reading “Coronavirus and Prostitution – urgent!”

A wolf in sheep’s clothing: sexual assistance

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The speaker of the faction of the Green Party in German Parliament, Miss Elisabeth Scharfenberg, mentioned to the newspaper “Welt am Sonntag” she could imagine that municipalities pay for so-called “sexual assistance”, this means sexual services for old, demented or disabled people. Since this incident there have been much reports on the media that these people were entitled to sex and that they suffered loneliness, a lack of intimacy as well as tenderness. This made me extremely angry not only as an ex-women in prostitution, but also as a thinking and feeling human being. What is really presented to us?

First of all, “sexual assistance” is an euphemism for prostitution. If you take a look at the offers, you will find: kissing, smoothing, cuddling, petting, oral sex and classic sex. Where is the difference to “girlfriend sex”, to its “intimacy and affection” to which women in prostitution have to bring themselves to do it and which often leaves them emotionally traumatised?

It also makes me angry that it is tried to make us believe one hour with a women in prostitution could solve a problem for the old, demented or disabled people which they really suffer: exclusion from society, emotional neglect, a lack of people working in care which leaves no space and time for a conversation between caretaker and patient, for putting a hand on one’s shoulder, for a cup of coffee or for a small talk. All these problems won’t disappear if you redeem one hour paid sex on prescription!

Furthermore, I am asking myself: what kind of policy it is if, as suggested by “pro familia”, the reaction to assaults on nurses by old demented men is providing them a prostitute? Although these men aren’t guilty due to a lack of impulse control caused by dementia – is this the way how we want to handle with assaults in the future? Who will be the next to get a prostitute on prescription – everyone who can’t keep their hands on themselves? And there it comes again: the theory of acting out the drives, assuming that prostitution was effective against rapes. It has been disproved hundred times, but anyway it hasn’t been silenced yet. And I don’t get rid of the feeling that it’s also about tranquilising the patients. 

With full intention, I didn’t use the female form for “patients”. (remark: in German language there is a difference between male and female form of a word) We’re all waiting in vain for the army of male sexual assistants who provide their services for grandmas. How I read in several articles, the “right for sex” is valid for all. So come on, bring us the young guys! But as I have to read, the demented old women are sent to their rooms alone with a vibrator. Generally, how shall I imagine all this? Do these old women, who possibly experienced mass-rapes by allied armies at the end of the Second World War, who had to exercise “duties in a marriage”, who (until 1997) couldn’t file charges against rape in marriage, do these old women now have to recognise how the old men still use their alleged right for sex and women’s bodies?

When I read that “old and disabled and demented people have a right for sex, too”, I am surprised about the commixture of dimensions. Well, everyone – female and male – has the right for his own sexuality, in case that no one else is burdened. Disabled people have a right to live in places where they have enough privacy for masturbation or sexual exchange. Old men shouldn’t be shamed for the sex they have. Yes, this right for sexuality exists, but there is NO right that males or females are provided another person joining the act. “Sexual assistance” is a wolf in sheep’s clothing which pretends focusing on disabled and old people, whereas in reality it’s about establishing control over women’s bodies. Prostitution is a big business in Germany. Why not to open up new markets? Finally, all shall benefit from the meat market with young, often foreign women, pardon: all men. The demented, old and disabled ones, too.

By the way, Ms. Scharfenberg specified her statement on her homepage: “And that’s why female and male sexual assistants exist – people who come into nursing homes and fulfil sexual desires of its residents for money: When there is no more partner for them. When people are wishing exactly this.” Please consider it carefully once again: “When there is no more partner for them.”

Due to this statement all of us know exactly which suggestion will be made next by the defenders of prostitution from the Green Party.

(c) Huschke Mau

The punter: why men visit prostitutes and what men think about them

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Next to my writing desk there is a box in which I collect bad memories. Every time when I have flashbacks or intrusive thoughts I use to note them on a sheet of paper, throw it into the box and shut it. The box is quite full. Today I churned a lot in this box, because I wanted to write about punters. Remark: in German language the word “Freier” sounds a bit like “freeing someone” and so it’s an euphemism for sexual abuse, an abuse committed by punters and it’s one of many examples that we live in a society which accepts sexual violence against women, normalising and relativising it. Due to a lack of alternatives, I use the term “punter” instead of “sex buyer”, because in prostitution sex doesn’t take place, it’s not about sex which is transferred from “sex worker” to “sex buyer” like a commodity. Strangely, only few things are spoken about people using this violence. In most of the cases it’s about women who should be allowed to do it. Then I get to hear about all these “self-confident, nice, likeable prostitutes” known by someone, but it doesn’t mean any content, because I also know some “self-confident, nice, likeable” receivers of unemployment pay which doesn’t keep me from criticising the system of unemployment pay for paying to less to people who need support. Disliking prostitution doesn’t mean to dislike prostitutes, but it means to understand the system of prostitution which is created by the punters due to their demand.

Some time ago I was asked how to recognise a punter and then I had to admit: if he doesn’t stand in front of you in a brothel, waving with a hundred-Euro-banknote, you can’t recognise them at all. No, even I am not able to recognise them on the streets, even not after 10 years in prostitution. The reason: they are quite normal men, but this isn’t meant as a relativation. If you ask men if they have ever been to a brothel, you will mostly hear lies (“I would never do that”) or they start telling you fairy-tales (“I went there only one time and it was so bad that I never did it again”) – if you her this, run away. Punters are very different guys. All kinds of people are among them, all jobs, all ages, all characters and they all have only one thing in common – more about that later.

About the punters

So, how are the punters, what to tell about them? One thing at first: all the stories about disabled men who need prostitutes to fulfil their sexual desires aren’t true. In 10 years in prostitution I haven’t met any disabled punter. Besides of this, it is discriminating to assume that disabled people wouldn’t find a consensual sex partner. Anyway, it is not valid for female disabled people, because they are abused above average.

It is also not true that “many ones come only for talking.” In all my time it was only 1, yes, in words: one. The fairy-tale of punters coming for talking is obviously only created for showing men as victims who – oh what poor guys – normally have to be strong and dominant and furthermore to make an euphemism for what they really do in brothels.

Punters are very different. I had punters who wanted to fuck me at the window of a skyscraper and to spit at me after that, let me crawl on my knees and squirt into my face. I had many punters who asked: “How much are you?”, thereby admitting that it’s not about buying sex, but a woman. I had punters with an evil grin when they recognised that I had pain, my punter was such a one. I had ones who brought drugs to consume them together with me. I had ones who loved to overstep my borders and to do what was not arranged. There were punters who wanted to show me their cupboard full of weapons when they were alone with me in their lonely house in the woods, together only with two huge dogs, without connection for mobile phone and surrounded by a two meter high fence, liking to ask me repeatedly: “Are you afraid now?”. Some ones felt exactly that I didn’t want to continue, but did it in spite of my feelings. Some ones were perverted or pedophile, some ones have already masturbated in the hallway of a brothel in an apartment building (so women out of prostitution got concerned with it and surely “liked” it), some ones asked me how old I was when doing it the first time. Pedophiles told me that they are attracted to very young girls or children: “I am working in a riding stable, there are very young girls, they’re getting horny when you give them the right saddle”). Other ones offered to make me pregnant (for what reason?). There were punters who were so convinced about their sexual performances that they claimed I was ashamed to take money for it, because “for me, it must also have been a pleasure.” There were punters who negotiated prices again and again and, when I didn’t reduce the price, accused me of being interested only in making money, telling me I should “become human again”, just like prostitutes were a kind of social-welfare-station for men. I had clients who thought they would make me a compliment with objectifying statements like “nice tits”. I don’t know how often I was asked if I “like to fuck”, while I was starring at the ceiling or at my nails, I don’t know how often I got to heat that it was “easily earned money”. If punters recognised that I was only able to serve them after consumption of drugs or alcohol, they gave it to me. Many ones had fun to torture me, fucking me endlessly long, until every part of my body was aching. One stood in front of me wearing a ski mask. Maybe he had the fetish to terrify women, however, it went wrong, because I just came out of the room with a whip in my hands. Another one told me he had chosen me, because he was sexually untrained and he tried with a plastic doll, but this wasn’t so great, so he took me. One was a Christian und refused, after the condom was slipped of, to give me his documents and to participate in the costs for the pill, because this had been “unmoral and murder”. Another punter insisted to force me to have an orgasm (“If I want you to have an orgasm, you have to get one, customer is king!”) and many ones apologised for not getting an erection, because then it would have been without pleasure for me.

If you are thinking that I had stood on the streets, now describing the worst level of punters, you are wrong. All these “nice guys” came to me in a brothel in apartment buildings or in Escort. By the way, customers on the streets aren’t only those ones with few money. In more cases these men prefer to get only few limits, but getting very aroused by exercising power over other people living in miserable conditions.


Accomplices – they know exactly what they are doing

If you take a look into punter-forums, you won’t get a better image. There are men torturing young women who don’t speak any word German with electricity in their cellars and are happy about it: “She’s starting to shiver when she sees me!” The reaction of punter-accomplices in forums: “Respect!” There are men who book a forced prostitute and are happy when she’s not used to fulfill sexual desires unquestioned: “She still doesn’t want to spread her legs, cute! Here you get real feelings, she’s not a machine. I took her anal until she could stand it no more.” Or you get to read about education measures and stepping over limits: “The first half year you should only book her as a slave until she got used to it” or “I am teaching her deep throat and believe me, she will learn it”. “It seemed she didn’t know that according to her insertion she offers anal and everything without protection, lol, in spite of this I did it, because it was offered.” “One year ago she didn’t make anal without protection, at first we had to teach her that she has to make it.” You can see that the sexual practises are getting rougher (jerking off into a face, spitting, fisting, cumshots, gangbangs, pissing on her, deep throat until she starts retching. You don’t get rid of the feeling that it’s not about sex, but torture and tantalising a woman. Again and again you read questions how resilient a woman is, how much anal she stands, how much cum she can swallow without retching, so all in one, how much she can stand and still keep on. “If she offers herself so cheap in a display window, she has to assume that a man wants more than negotiated at first!” They don’t care that in many cases she has to do it. In one thread a punter reports that a prostitute had told him she had three owners and had to be ready to serve clients 24 hours a day, to make everything without protection and she was not allowed to deny any practises. Furthermore, she was only allowed to keep 30 Euro from 130 Euro “wage” each hour. A comment from a punter without empathy: “Well, that causes mental damage, you see it. But at least 30 Euros are much money in Romania.”


About other women, wives and girlfriends

Punters don’t only talk about prostitutes in such a negative way, but also about other women (“German women are annoying for me, these fucked up emancipates”) as well as they talk negatively about their partners – I guess about half of them have a partner. Some ones say they still had good sex with their partner, but they needed variety, like a bon vivant who consumes women’s bodies like a variety of good wines. Many ones don’t have sex with their partner anymore and say their wife would “deny them”, that she was “prude” and that it was her own fault if he went to a prostitute, because he was “forced by her.” Some ones told me that their wife denied practises suggested by them and that now they are sad about it, but anywhere they need to live out their fantasies. If you ask them about reasons, they reveal such big perversions that you don’t wonder anymore why their wives denied it. It becomes evident that men take themselves out of responsibility (to have no more sex is the woman’s fault) and that men believe they had a right for sex and anywhere they have to get it if not provided by their partner. Often they don’t even have a bad conscience. Once I was ordered for a house visit and the man was sitting on his sofa, above him a big-sized picture of his family. When he recognised my look at this picture, he told me happily that his wife was in hospital after the birth of twins, he was very proud about it and wanted to celebrate and because his wife couldn’t, he ordered me instead. Some punters told me in the childhood of their wives something bad had happened, that’s why they didn’t like sex now and, oh what a pity, especially no anal sex, oral sex with swallowing, fisting, or cumming into her face, so they had to go to a brothel. Here it becomes evident that not abuse itself (abuse on his wife, abuse of prostitutes by the punter) is the main topic, but punters even feel as heroes for not enforcing their “rights” on their wives. Abuse of partners goes so far that particularly they are involved into sex with prostitutes. How often did I hear “my partner is a bit bisexual, so I thought I’d do her a favour and order a prostitute and then three persons are involved in sexual actions.” I refused, because I knew that his wife wouldn’t know about the alleged bisexuality and that he only wanted to put pressure on her to do things which she doesn’t really like. No matter if they spare their wives or if they involve them, the punters present this as a favour for their partners which leads to such “nice” offers like this: “Hey, I would like to cum into my wife and you suck it out while I’d fuck you without condom, is that possible?” Men are acting so self-assured in matters of prostitution, because they think they were entitled to it. I was in quite many marriage beds and heard surprising calls of the punter’s wives (“Oh, I have to pick up the phone – yes, Darling, that’s nice, I’m looking forward to the evening with you”) and I wondered how experienced, conscience-less and self-assured they pretended something to their partners – why? If you do something of which you think you were entitled to it doesn’t need to hide his bad conscience, because he doesn’t have one at all! It must all be secret only for the reason that it could be uncomfortable if the wife complains.

In a very disgusting thread in a punters forum you can read that several times a husband ordered prostitutes for a house visit for penetrating them with his wife’s dildo und put it back unwashed – as a personal revenge on his wife who, according to his opinion, has to offer him sex, but doesn’t want to. I don’t even want to speak about all the guys who practise everything without protection and then go home and continue there. Although according to a punter’s opinion, both wives and prostitutes have to provide him sex, he makes an exact difference between them. Often I was told: “You’re too good for a brothel, you don’t belong to here”, which implicated that there are women who aren’t good enough (to be wives?) so that they belong into a brothel. But their disrespect for women hits both, partner and prostitute. It hits all women.

How to summarise that? Punters are men who look at women like useful animals. You can read this point of view in such statements: “I don’t need to buy a whole cow if I want to have some milk.” Punters also like to compare prostitutes with food or commodities: “At home I only eat soup, but I want to have pork meat, too” or “It’s ok to drive an average car, but from time to time it’s nice to have something sporty.”


The nice punter

Again and again I am asked if there weren’t nice punters, too, and yes, they existed. But it wasn’t important how nice someone was, but what he did. I had one who wanted to hold my hands all the time and then go eating with me. I hated these dates, because they lasted so long, in bed, too. He was one of these “nice” punters, and mostly they want to have “girlfriend-sex” which means intimacy, smoothing, kissing, and that’s exhausting, because it steps over personal limits. You have to be more like an actress and it spoils intimacy for you, just because it is demanded without limits. You aren’t allowed to keep something for you, because by imitating they don’t belong to you anymore, they become part of repertoire of entertainment and finally meaningless, because they are separated from the real me. In a future without punters they need to be demanded back and learned again. Moreover, you have the feeling to be abused and to abuse yourself, too, because you don’t leave a “hard core” for yourself to which the punter has no access. It’s like you belong totally to him. This punter wanted me to pretend being his affaire – he was one of the bon vivants who didn’t cope with his wife and he regretted me regularly that I had to serve other disgusting punters. Remarkably, he never got the notion that he was one of these disgusting punters, too. Punters think about themselves not as punters, only the other ones are bad, with exception of sadists who want to be remembered as the worst ones. He offered me a lot of money so that I wouldn’t need to do my “job” anymore, but for punters nothing is for free and they don’t help for free, no, for them a prostitute is public commodity and everyone wants to have a part of it and punters like to “help” for creating their own private prostitute. So I was expected to meet with him, but only with him and without payment. He wanted to shop me.

Men are so convinced to assume their right for sex that deep inside of them, they don’t see why they should pay for sex. If you act well, you had fun, too and don’t need to be paid and if you acted bad, you also don’t need to be paid for not having delivered the service. You can’t win!

The punter’s look at prostitutes is ambivalent: on the one side they wish to have a machine which treats all punters equally (“She has to make what she offers, no matter who comes”), denying a person is not an option, on the other side they want to be someone special – either because they were so remarkably good in bed or because as sadists they could beat up a prostitute very well. They never want to be like anyone else, like number 8 or 9 on the daily list. Instead you shell keep them in memory, for them it’s a matter of their ego.


Why men go to prostitutes

Several studies try to answer the question why men visit prostitutes. But German scientists forget that punters, when being asked, answer according to social expectations and then say “I am a romantic”, “I like to try different things” or “I get no sex at home” and so they are creating a view of punters which doesn’t reflect reality. In online-forums you will get much rougher impressions!

So why do men do it? Some ones are just sadists who hate women and want to teach them a lesson in hard core or hate-fucking. Some ones are poor guys who need to prove their masculinity, few ones are “romantics” aiming at a relationship. They all have one thing in common: they assume to have a right to sex, they have a certain disrespect for women and they are filled up with toxic masculinity. And they all know or at least could know that these women don’t act willingly and don’t like to have sex with them. But they just don’t care.

They order like from a menue: one full-french-service please, anal as the dessert, and then they choose a certain body on which they eat the whole menue. The aspect of choosing a body is the proof that sex is not a service or work: it is not unimportant who makes the service, because it is not only about sex, but about abusing a woman.

Even the “romantics” don’t really look for intimacy. They have a certain image on their mind and pay to get it in reality, no matter how reality feels for the woman. In this matter they are like sadists who also don’t care about the woman’s will. Prostitution doesn’t work without force. There will never be enough women doing it willingly so that a part needs to be forced. Often the punters can’t be sure if they have a forced prostitute in bed, and that’s simply uninteresting for them. The force on women doesn’t disturb them, only if they have to see it, because then their image is destroyed. Sadists are even aroused by knowing about force, whereas “romantics” won’t go to the prostitute anymore because their illusion is destroyed and other ones relativise it, saying in forums: “So what is force? Every morning I have to get up and eat something, that’s force, too.”

In the minds of punters prostitutes aren’t humans. If they say they have pain, “they only complain.” Punters like to have women with who they can do everything and still see a smile: a doll. According to a study conducted by Melissa Farley in 2011, 2/3 of all punters know that many women are forced by pimps, but they don’ care. 41% of them know directly that the woman is a victim of pimps, but in spite of this they go to her.


From punter to perpetrator

There were punters who exactly saw my disgust, but ignored it, for example saying “Don’t turn away if I want to kiss you” or “I have the feeling that you don’t want to see dicks anymore”. Some ones where aroused by my disgust, other ones didn’t come again due to their destroyed illusions. It’s about control over women. Some ones get angry if their illusions aren’t acted good enough, the other ones are happy if the facade of the woman’s self-control is destroyed and like to beat her additionally. The violence for which they pay is only one aspect, the other one is violence which was not negotiated: rape, torture and general violence against the body.

So finally it’s about controlling a woman and to let her do things according to the man’s wishes. And that’s the core issue of prostitution: it is all focused on the man’s needs, sex is always purchasable and he doesn’t need to do anything for getting it, he has free choice of women’s bodies and a rejection isn’t designed. Although punters like to hear that a prostitute decides to reject some clients (because it gives them the feeling of belonging to an elitist group), they can’t imagine themselves being rejected. Every time when I rejected clients, there was a big “No, no”, something which they hadn’t considered until then and something to which they reacted so sensitively as if I owed something to them, as if I was denying them access to a public good, as if I had broken the rules of the game.

If you think that I am speaking about a minority of ill-minded men, you are wrong. Looking at annual sales of the sex industry, it could be calculated that in Germany up to 1,2 million men go to a brothel daily. Every fifth is estimated to do it regularly and 3 of 4 men are estimated to have at least one time gone to a brothel. In these numbers it is not calculated how many ones only watch filmed prostitution (= pornography), because in a certain way, they are punters, too.

In a study Melissa Farley revealed that punters commit rapes more often than men who aren’t punters. You can draw the conclusion that prostitution teaches men: violence against women is legitimated in certain circumstances. It’s not only that many women who have already been abused end up as prostitutes, but also that they become victims of even more violence in prostitution. After having visited a prostitute, the men’s inhibition threshold for committing sexual violence is lower. This means in a whole: prostitution is the consequence of violence against women and in itself, it is violence against women and it is the reason for violence against women.


Prostitution concerns all women

Because of its connection with violence prostitution concerns all women. If one woman is for sale, all women are for sale: how often did I hear from punters that they rather “pay me than anyone, that’s too expensive, flowers, restaurants, and finally you don’t even get sex.” Furthermore, punters often like to play violent porn scenes in real and then define it as normal and as something to be lived out without consequences. Later they will suggest it to their partners or even demand it from them.

Prostitution doesn’t exist independently from our society, instead it is raised by society and needed by society to confirm the existing image of roles: the man is active and dominant, whereas the woman is passive and submissive. She is financially dependent on him, while he can sexually control her and her needs don’t have priority. It is anything but coincidence that the supporters of complete decriminalisation use to say this was still better than marriage, because both, marriage and prostitution, had the same basic principle. What a pity that we live in a society which can’t imagine a kind of sexuality based on equality and causing no damage to each other so that it’s not necessary to pay any compensation.

Instead we live in a society which believes that men have a right for sex in all circumstances, even if a woman is forced. It becomes evident that desires of men seem to be more important than physical and psychical well-being and sexual self-determination of the women. That’s what prostitution is: the counterpart to sexual self-determination. The punters know it or even get aroused by it. So do we want to live in a society in which women have to grind down their feelings of disgust and in the best (!) case men don’t care about it?

Punters don’t look at women as women, only as objects, as bodies. They don’t know how she really feels, why she prostitutes herself, what she really thinks and what a life she had before and if she wants to be here or not. They all don’t care about the woman’s rights, her will and her feelings, and that’s what they all have in common. They pay for the non-existence of dignity as well as an own ego and will of a woman. So, the question is: why do we need an institution which makes this possible?



Against prostitution or against prostitutes? Opposition to prostitution, or abolitionism?

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translation: Inge Kleine


A pro sex industry lobbyist, a woman who was very visible when the German Prostitution Act finally legalizing all sorts of brothels etc. was passed in 2001 (and came into effect in 2002) wrote a very personal statement on Facebook detailing her situation.

She had started out as a woman, a teenager, in prostitution, allegedly “voluntarily”, and proceeded to  small time brothel keeper. Her own “café” cum brothel went bust some time ago, when the bottom dropped out of the market following Berlin’s decriminalization approach, and the woman in question is now where the entire system of prostitution leads women, and needs to have them, to keep them and to lead them, to function: destitute, desperate and with very few if any options left.

In the comments that followed, the usual load of woman hating trolls and people aside, some commenters who oppose prostitution failed to make a distinction between this woman’s political views and her role as a brothel keeper, both of which we all criticise, and her situation as a woman in prostitution, and now as a destitute woman thrown at the mercy of welfare officials.




Today I want to say something regarding my own situation.

The last days have been, to put it mildly, not good. I haven’t slept in three nights now, and wept a lot.

The last days have seen the rise of strange discussions and the dropping off of strange phrases. Things like:

  • Prostitutes don’t know what is good for them, “normally thinking people” know that
  • Prostitutes don’t know what is good for them, “psychologically healthy people” can tell them
  • Prostitutes have not defended their “dignity” enough, instead of, like “normal people” be decently poor (and heroically starve)
  • Prostitutes do not prostitute themselves, because they are in an economic, emotional or other crisis, but because they have a “leaning towards prostitution”

This from women who call themselves “allies”. Some of these women also think it is legitimate to designate prostituted women who are part of the pro prostitution lobby “Nutten” – the most offensive term for “prostitute” in German, and do not realise that when they shame one woman for her prostitution, they shame ALL prostitutes for their prostitution, and that it makes a difference if I disapprove of somebody because of her thoughts, because I think them to be wrong, or because of her prostitution.

Some women let themselves be entangled in discussions with women from the pro lobby. But instead of discussing the concept of prostitution they shamed prostituted women, made them responsible for the misery of the other women and arrogantly set themselves up as speakers for women in forced or in poverty prostitution, without seeing that they were actually talking to  women in poverty prostitution. No, not everything that comes from this lobby is garbage just because it comes from this lobby. Yes, when prostituted women tell us about the exit barriers confronting them, we should be all ear. No, to begrudge or deny a prostitute and brothel keeper like Felicitas Schirow her exit via welfare or social security is not okay. No, it is not her fault if she now, as she says, has to prostitute herself without wanting to do this, because she is being denied payment from ALG2, i.e. the social security that is her due.

Yesterday evening then saw a further discussion about which women we are to meet with understanding for their entry into prostitution, and which do not belong to this group. I have often heard something like “I don’t have any understanding for German women here, there are other ways.” It does not become true by incessant repetition. I am amazed at how often women turn into experts on other women’s lives and then pass judgements. She didn’t have to prostitute herself, she had other options. She prostituted herself voluntarily and thus has made herself guilty of contributing to the general view of prostitution in society, and towards other women. She hasn’t merited anything better now, it’s her own fault she can’t exit because she is being denied welfare, after all she helped get the 2002 Prost Act done. Where do you get this knowledge of other women’s lives? The readiness to judge them so fast? The ability to be blind to all the cracks in our welfare system that you can so easily fall through? The belief that poverty is the only reason for entry? And they even rub our noses into our poverty. There are other people, after all, who are poor too, and they don’t prostitute themselves. So there!

I am so tired and so sad right now.

I had thought, up until now, that we were FOR prostitutes and AGAINST prostitution. I thought our solidarity was for all women in prostitution. I didn’t know it was dependent on these women bearing their victim status in front of them like a shield. I did not know that as prostituted women we owed an explanation to anybody about why exactly we prostitute ourselves, why we entered prostitution, and I didn’t know that we may be condemned, shamed and found guilty if we don’t justify ourselves. I did not know that this solidarity was reserved to those showing proper behaviour.

Up until now I thought we all wanted the same.

Up until now I thought there was a consensus among us to show understanding towards women who are in prostitution and who, for whatever reasons, do not exit (because they don’t want to, because they can’t, because they don’t have any other options, because they have been in prostitution all their lives, because whatever), when they try to make prostitution as good as possible for themselves at least.

That women who explain that at age 60+ they are being harassed by the job centre, can’t find a job and then have gone into prostitution, are being shouted at it was their fault that all the women in “forced and poverty prostitution” are being exploited here, has hit, and hurt me. That women who have had it with prostitution at 60+ and who demand what is their due, i.e. welfare payments that guarantee their existence, are being mocked for not getting them, deeply shocks me. That they are told that this is their own fault is beyond good taste. That women who want to abolish prostitution do not somehow understand that prohibition takes away the possibility for these women to finance themselves without giving them any alternatives, bothers me deeply. A woman who prostitutes herself although she wants to exit does not need any lectures on awful punters. She will know this better. They are HER punters. And neither does this lecture help her. Because she can’t use it to buy herself food. And to charge her with minimising the dangers of “sex work” only because she wants to survive, isn’t fair.

It just isn’t fair.

So much coldness, so little empathy, so few analytical skills as in the last few days, so much readiness to condemn, to shame – to see this has really hurt me.

I am not talking here of all women. But of some, and there were some among them I would never have thought this of. That is paining me very deeply. But even when I said I was being hurt here, they just went on. My explanations were good for nothing. I really have to deal with that one now. For I am only a prostitute. And apparently these are not what this is about.

I want to be perfectly clear about this.

No, abolitionism does not mean to attack prostitutes. It does not mean sorting prostitutes into good and bad women. Into women who conform to our ideas of victims and who say what we want to hear and who get our support and our solidarity, and on the other hand women who do not think as we wish or who do not explain to us why they entered, or who appear too “privileged” for having to do this (because they are entitled to student support – i.e. a public student loan – or welfare, in theory, or whatever) and who we can condemn, shame for their prostitution. To disapprove of people because of what they say or think, is legitimate, if we don’t agree.  To deny solidarity to someone because she or he is prostituting, is NOT ABOLITIONIST. Damn it! It is NOT ABOLITIONIST to attack women for their prostitution! It is NOT ABOLITIONIST to shame women for their prostitution. It is NOT ABOLITIONIST to think it’s okay to impose further prostitution on women, to deny them their exit, just because they think differently from us! It is NOT ABOLITIONIST, to blame women who prostitute so that they can eat, to make these women responsible for other women being forced into prostitution!

I am so aghast that I can’t sleep any more. Some of these things apply to me, too. I, too, was (theoretically) entitled to student support. I, too, am German. I am educated. I studied. Why am I not shamed? But other women in my situation? And why is it not obvious that this means me, too? And where exactly is the difference between these women and me, why are they guilty and I am not? What is this supposed to be?

I am not allowing myself to be separated from other prostitutes. I am not allowing a splitting of the good victims from women who are not deserving of our solidarity. I am not allowing women who were never poor to condemn other women for wanting to survive and to use the possibilities that patriarchy offers them. Often, because they don’t see other possibilities. Often because there just really aren’t any.

I have the feeling that parts of this movement aren’t abolitionist, but merely against prostitution. There is a difference here. Being against prostitution, that is something that can be due to a contempt of the prostituted. Because they are deemed rotten. Stupid. Too traumatised to think straight. Fucked up and without any idea of what dignity is and self-esteem.

And I want to ask all of you to think about that. I do not say that any of you has bad intentions here.

But if you want to help, listen to us.

Do not condemn us.

Don’t play at being experts on our lives.

An analytical analysis of the structures is necessary.

To personally attack prostitutes for prostituting themselves is not it.

If you never had to prostitute yourself because you were never in the situation of entering: good for you. Enjoy that. But do not think it makes you a better person.

It is not abolitionist to use our statements in order to make things more difficult for us.

I can understand any woman in prostitution who tries to make things work for herself there (because she doesn’t want to exit or can’t). Please do not take that which we tell you about our prostitution and use it against other prostitutes or in order to make things difficult for us by pushing regulation forward.

Women who want to exit (and we know they are many) need ALTERNATIVES. The Nordic Model for example offers support in finding alternatives. And financial help and help with officials and authorities. It is a package of measures that is not made up exclusively of penalizing the punter, but that has many other component parts. It does not, above all, place the entire burden on the prostitutes.

A regulatory approach does none of that.

Fines, jail (for failing to pay the fines), registration with the police while that police isn’t trained, raises in taxes do NOT help women in prostitution. Women are usually in prostitution because they see no other option. To make prostitution harder for them, does not magically cause these necessary options to appear!

We need rules and regulations (and punishment!) for punters. For brothel keepers. Yes, the female ones, too. But it would be great to see, occasionally, that many brothel keepers once were prostitutes, and that going from prostitute to pimp was (made) easier than exiting prostitution.

And that is what we want, after all. An easier exit from prostitution. And that women who do not want to, and as we know those are the most, do not have to enter prostitution. Don’t we?

I’ll let you in on something.

My own personal situation is not that good, either.

And I have thought about going back into it for quite some time.

Because I just can’t take this permanent fear in safeguarding my existence and to live in such extreme circumstances any longer. Because right now I don’t see any future, any hope. An activist told me today – yes, you have the choice of shite without money and shite with money. And that is precisely what it is. And I am being despised anyway, from the rest of society, and as it turns out, from some of my allies, too. Because if you despise one prostitute for her prostitution you despise us all.

And I want to make sure my fridge is full. I want to live. I want to eat. I want to pay my kitty-cat’s medical bills. If that makes me egoistical and a perpetrator, as has been stated about other women in my situation, then so be it.

I do not feel not ashamed of this.

What I feel ashamed of is to have women use my statements to make life difficult for other women in prostitution and to scorn them for not managing to exit. I feel ashamed of some women using my engagement to make it so hard for other women, to condemn, to degrade and to devalue them, and when they say what they don’t want, for them to be told to leave thinking to the “healthy” and healthy means: able to think and not “bent” in their moral compass.

That is what I feel ashamed of.

And nothing else.

And I thank all women who have shown me in the last days that their solidarity is for ALL women. ALL prostitutes, including those whose world view they oppose.

Thank you for that.


Paper on “Sex Work“ by the German group “Feminismus im Pott“.

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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