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.

7 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 ?

  3. bordellmutta Says:

    @Tom Ding ask:
    “How are Berlin girls ?”

    They are efficient, but you might be disappointed if you expect
    extras. From my experience for example asian man are used to
    massaging, nice words etc. -you usually won’t get that in Berlin.
    The girls do their job and then they want to see cash.

  4. Carol Says:

    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.

    Being protected by a procurer is often worse than being without a procurer.

  5. connaisseur Says:


    It is not just asian men who are unhappy with the service of german prostitutes. At minute 19:11 you can hear the german singer Micky Wolf sing a song about two prostitutes in the city of Hamburg.

    “Babs und Gila lieben nur für’n Schein. Groß und klein und dick und dünn – mehr als Routine ist nicht drin….”

    The translation is difficult because there is a wordplay with the word “Schein”, which means on one hand “shine” also in the sense of glamour, likewise “zum Schein” means “in pretence” and “Schein” is a also a word for “bank note”.
    Babs and Gila are female first names (Babs is the short form of the common name Barbara and the name Gila may be a reference to the actress Gila von Weitershausen who played a prostitute in a film. The name can be as such or it could be an abbreviation of the common german name Gisela). Likewise the word “lieben” has more possible meanings – like it is used here it could mean “to love” or “to make love”.

    So Babs and Gila lieben für’n Schein, could mean Babs and Gila make love only for the money or Babs and Gila love only in pretence or… So here an incomplete translation:


    Babs and Gila make love only if you pay. Whether large or small or big or thin – that’s what’s provided is routine.

  6. gluecozyoverdösi Says:

    Interesting discussion here I was led here by the comments of conaisseur.
    I have just set up a little platform for comparative language studies and we have currently a discussion about shifting means in conjunction with loanwords. So could you please explain this ;

    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.

    in more detail? It seems there is a big difference between “making unpleasant offers” and “displaying more data than desired”.

    By the way are the words “dünn” and “rou-tine” supposed to rhyme? I mean the Umlaut ü sounds more lie an “u” than an “ee”, like uber and über seem to be very similar, don’t you think so?

  7. nad Says:

    Here a link to “Digitales Wörterbuch der deutschen Sprache (DWDS)” which explains the second meaning of “to prostitute (oneself)” since I haven’t found out whether this double meaning exist in english as well. They explain the other meaning in the following way:

    1. ⟨sich, etw., jmdn. prostituieren⟩ sich, etw., jmdn. auf unwürdige Weise (für etw. Niedriges) öffentlich preisgeben, herabwürdigen

    translation without guarantee:

    1. (to prostitute oneself or somebody), oneself, something, in an unworthy manner (for something ignoble),, to publicly divulge, to debase

    They give the following examples:

    -er prostituierte sich (als Künstler, Wissenschaftler) dadurch in der unwürdigsten Weise
    -der Musiker ist vom bürgerlichen Kunstbetrieb prostituiert worden
    -Er prostituiert sein Talent – wie einst Balzac – zu leichten und nur für die Stunde bestimmten Machwerken

    translation without guarantee:

    – he protistuted himself (as an artist, scientist) therefore in the most unworthy way
    – the musician was prostituted by the white-bread art world
    – He is prostituting his talents – just as once did Balzac . for easy and just for the hour intended botches.

    As already the word “debase” (like debasing a coin) indicates – there is quite some emphasis on devaluation here. That is “to prostitute” means that you have to “hand out, offer” something that you firstly think could be better presented/worked out and/or secondly could be sold at a distinctive higher price if sold in another context (if better presented/worked out).
    Data can be per se very valuable. And if you for example feel forced to present some business data in a context where it may be abused (i.e. in particular “incorrectly valued”), like for example in a business presentation, where you are not sure about the intend of your audience and where there may eventually be not sufficient means for abuse protection (like in this case) than one could call this “prostitution”. So in particular the word is also used in business contexts.

    It is a noteworthy feature of “setting values via trade” that in case of oversupply, when prices decline, it may make no sense to “work out” things, because you (probably) won’t get enough in return anyways (like eventually in this example).

    The “ü” is between “i” (as in “thin”) and “u” (as in “mood”), but considering pronounciation it is generally a bit more close to the “i” than to the “u” in particular there are some dialects/languages where the “ü” is more or less replaced by an “i”, like for example if you type into this yiddish dictionary the word “happy”, then one result is “glick”, which is in german the word “Glück”.

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