price competition and sex work


Price competition in a handicraft store

There is currently some debate here in Europe about how to deal with prostitution.


For example France is currently discussing a law proposal, with which wooers would need to pay a 1500 Euro fine. The proposal invoked protests, last but not least by a group of 343 french people, which called themselves the “salauds” and who say that:

Qu’il nous arrive ou pas de payer pour des relations charnelles, nous ne saurions sous aucun prétexte nous passer du consentement de nos partenaires. Mais nous considérons que chacun a le droit de vendre librement ses charmes – et même d’aimer ça. Et nous refusons que des députés édictent des normes sur nos désirs et nos plaisirs», assènent-ils dans le manifeste.

translation without guarantee:

Wether we pay for fleshly relationships or not in no way we would want to get on without the assent of our partners. But we think that everybody has the right to sell his/her charms – and even like to do so. And we do not accept that deputies impose norms on our wishes and pleasures.

This opinion is contrasted with the fact that the “assent” of a partner especially in sex working seems to be more and more often not an assent. Anne Zelensky president of the League for womens rights is cited in the same article with:

A part quelques rares exceptions, la majorité des personnes qui se prostituent le font par contrainte économique ou psychologique.

Apart from some rare exceptions, the majority of persons which are prostituting themselves are subject to economic and psychological constraints.

The word “prostitution” can be used in german also for mechanisms outside of the sex context. That is “someone prostitutes him/herself” if he or her has to make rather unpleasant offers, has to display more data than desired etc. So at least in german the word “prostitution” is negative and in context of sex it rather means to sell sex under price then just to sell sex. For that reason a lot of people use the word “sex worker” if they refer to the profession itself, rather than to the profession with an emphasis on its negative connotations.

Here in Germany we have a law under which sex workers can legally perform their job, that is they can register their job, pay taxes and get social insurance, if they are here legally. As Germany is one of the rather few countries where prostitution is legal, sex tourism has increased. The law was introduced in 2002 by the red-green coalition. But according to a citation of Ekin Deligöz in an article by Katia Tichomirowa in the Berliner Zeitung one has to notice that:

Lediglich ein Prozent der Prostituierten sind sozialversichert.

That is only about 1% of sex workers are socially insured in Germany.

Alice Schwarzer who is a publisher of the german feminist magazine “Emma” sees prostitution rather critical and thus has launched a petition against prostitution, the magazine “Emma” provides informations on that issue (e.g. here). In particular the magazine discusses the question wether prostitution is really voluntary.

In fact according to the European parliament (via Ecre)

…the total number of forced labourers in the EU Member States is estimated at 880 000, of which 270 000 are victims of sexual exploitation,…

In contrast to the above (according to Spiegel Online) Johanna Weber, who just founded an association for sexworkers claims that

…der größte Teil der Frauen macht diesen Job selbstbestimmt und freiwillig.

(translation without guarantee: The majority of women makes this job self-determined and voluntarily.”) The association has launched a plea for prostitution, which is also supported by the sexworker organisation Hydra, which supports also a petition against certain stronger regulations and control of sex work.

So as you can see there is a lot of controversy in the debate. And there certainly need to be more assessments about what “voluntary” really means.

The article in the Berliner Zeitung mentions that in the current coalition talks between the two major parties CDU and SPD, which may form the new german government it is rather clear that sex work will stay legal in Germany but that there have to be more regulations, including the possibility to conduct police razzias in clubs.

Sex work may be very hard work. From a physical point of view it is, depending on service, often quite more bodily intriguing and health endangering than e.g. the work of a physician and from a psychological and performative point it may also be quite demanding. The usual service of a sex worker includes to make the customer feel welcome that is indispositions, malaise and critique have usually to be hidden, the customer usually expects a (fake) world tailored to his(her) needs. This is usually one of the main differences to unpaid sexual relationships.

Unfortunately this may go sofar that some customers think they have bought the sex worker, i.e. they don’t know the limits, a reason why sex workers may seek the protection of procurers etc. In short sex work may include rather unpleasant and dangerous work and it should thus in particular at least be paid well. The costs on the side of the sex worker have to be made more visible.

Especially regarding the question of voluntariness sex workers should have always the possibility to change their profession, if they wish do do so. This is of course often quite not the case. They should have access to a decent health and social care and access to unabusive means to protect themselves. But unfortunately the price competition in a free market may lead, if there is an overabundance of workers or comparable sex offers in general to low renumerations (drugs are another issue). And especially social insurance is in Germany not affordable for everyone. This competition gets worse the less there are other ways to work. Furthermore a lot of especially foreign workers don’t even know about their rights or have basically no rights because of their legal staus and come partially from backgrounds with even worse working conditions or are victims of criminals.

It is thus understandable that alone due to all that problems forbidding prostitution maybe regarded as a way to provide more protection to exploited sex workers. That is if wooers face prosecution then this may repell at least a big part of possibly exploitative customers. It is though a measure which may clearly be problematic for voluntary sex workers, as one sees at the protests.

So a question is wether there are enough other measurements apart from forbiddance which may help in the fight against exploitation and abuse. There are certainly some and some are not easy.
One key point, apart from the problem with criminals, seems to be the awareness and education of wooers. So one could for example lessen the drastic consequences of forbidding prostitution altogether by the introduction of a kind of “permit of conduct”. That is wooers would need to regularily undergo self-payed (eventually socially balanced) psychological and medical treatments in which their need for paid sex services should be questioned, before they were allowed to use the service of a sex worker. That would allow for permit razzias, the medical checks could reduce the risk for sex workers and the checks could at least in principle help wooers to reflect more on their life and in particular help to make the access to eventually necessary therapies easier.

So concluding I think at the moment, similar to the coalition talks, that sex services should stay legal, but not without more restrictions and measures against abuse and exploitation.

2 Responses to “price competition and sex work”

  1. Voludique Buhlendz Says:

    Ziemlich fraglich wozu das ganze Prost-tataa aus der Prosti-tüte führen soll !

  2. Tom Ding Says:

    How are Berlin girls ?

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