The following is a translation of an article published on the German feminist website Emma. The article was originally meant to be published elsewhere but was censored, as the introductory paragraph explains. You can find the original here (without introduction, which was on the main Emma page).
On Monday, the ‘taz’ paper published a harsh polemic in favor of prostitution and against Alice Schwarzer, signed by Doña Carmen, Juanita Henning’s Frankfurt “whore’s association”. She was last in the spotlight in June 2009 when she demanded the right to flat rates in brothels on behalf of “77 whores.” She bought large ad space in several daily newspapers (which costs 25,000 euros in the SZ paper alone). Now Doña Carmen claims in taz that speaking of “poverty prostitution” is “xenophobic” and “racism in disguise.” To Henning, migrant prostitution is a kind of “entente cordiale from below” (verbatim; orig. “Völkerverständigung von unten”). After the text was published, taz editor Heide Oestreich asked Sabine Constabel whether she would be prepared to write a response. The social worker has been working to help prostitutes in Stuttgart for 22 years. Approximately 90 percent of those she works with are in forced prostitution or poverty prostitution and come from Eastern Europe, while the “self-determined whore” that Doña Carmen likes to speak of is a rare sight. Constabel wrote the demanded response to Doña Carmen for taz. But taz did not like the text. Editor Ines Kappert rejected its publication – and editor-in-chief Ines Pohl, who was also informed, did not react at all. She probably has other things to worry about: she has to explain why she removed a piece by a taz editor that criticized the relationship of the Green Party (die Grünen) with pedophilia. So here is the piece by Sabine Constabel that was supposed to be published in taz.
Where is the conscience switched off?
The first time I encountered Juanita Henning of Doña Carmen was in 2009, after she had organized a panel discussion in Stuttgart. She criticized the raid of the ‘PussyClub’, the closure of the flat rate brothel and the arrest of the owners. And she lamented a “conservative, fundamentalist coalition with xenophobic resentment.” She was mainly talking about the police and public prosecution. Her reaction to outrage over a flat rate in the brothel: “The women arrived at an hourly pay of 10 euros; that’s completely okay.”
That sentence is still ringing in my ears. Henning thought ten euros per hour were adequate payment for the prostitutes. Two of the women were only sixteen years old! Ten euros for lying on a bed, enduring one john after the other. Johns who were waiting in line behind the curtain that was used for a door, waiting until the man in front of them was finally done and it was their turn.
The tone is the same now as it was then. Still the former social worker only sees the independent autonomous prostitute who has freely chosen this, free from any coercive force. Age, where they are from, education, experiences of violence, none of it counts, none of it means anything.
But what about Ancuta, the 24-year-old who just called in tears because her abdomen hurts so badly and she can’t work anymore? She still owes rent for the last three days. That’s 240 euros or 7 johns. Letting yourself be penetrated seven times and seven times oral. Seven times too many for Ancuta. But if she loses her room now and has to return to the brothel, she will have to pay twice that.
Or Angela, who so badly wants to learn to read and write. Because she doesn’t want to be a “slut girl” anymore. Or Donka, who is pregnant again and now needs money for her third abortion. She is only 19 and really wants to go back home, to her 4-year-old son. She shows pictures of him all the time and says she thinks only of him day and night. She says he is the only reason she endures this “horrible work.”
And Rajna? She has been walking the street for three days now. Because it’s cheaper. Before that she worked in a sauna club and paid 70 euros every day as an entrance fee, 40 euros for staying the night, 25 euros in tax and 30 euros for the accommodation of her husband, who was there to protect her. And that’s without her having eaten anything and without money for the husband to spend in cafes and arcades. And without having sent anything home yet. Then there was trouble, her husband used his fists and now she has a black eye. Yet again.
And Noémi? Does she count for Doña Carmen? Noémi has a sore throat and is terribly afraid she may have syphilis again. Many have that here. Because the johns don’t want to use condoms. Especially not for ‘French’. Noémi gets tested every couple of months, brushes her teeth all the time and has a sore throat anyway.
Noémi says it took her a whole year to get used to this work. For the first year, she was so disgusted she vomited after every john. Now she doesn’t cry every day anymore. Only sometimes, when she thinks about everyone at home waiting for her to send money. At least 500 euros every month. She has two unemployed brothers and a mother who all demand support. “What should I do? Everyone is counting on me.” Intercourse without a condom, including oral? Everyone has to decide that for themselves, says Henning in an interview with Stern.
And Monica, Ruska, Veronica, and all the others? One story is much like the other. They are everywhere: in the brothels, the clubs, the apartments, on the street, in escorting – wherever you look, you find women like them. And they are not the pitiable exceptions. The percentage of foreigners of the newly registered prostitutes in Stuttgart is at 90. And Eastern Europe is leading the top ten.
Alice Schwarzer says, prostitution is about power. Yes! It’s down to the existing power relations that many men think they have a right to buy women. And to do with them whatever they feel like. The younger the better, why not from an Eastern European ghetto and who cares if she speaks German. What good would that do, after all?
And there are quite a few among the johns who buy fair trade products. Their breakfast eggs don’t come from chickens in battery farms and they avoid factory-farmed meat. This they owe themselves; for this they have enough of a conscience.
Where does that get deactivated while your own cock ravages the body of the woman? The conscience. While interpreting the prostitute’s efforts as ‘taking joy in her work’? Where is the conscience placed in temporary storage when you overlook the cosmetic fault of a discolored eye or badly covered-up burn marks on the skin–you’ve paid for it, after all?
And who stands for these women? Who is still at their side?
Certainly not Frau Henning with her Doña Carmen – which seems to be a one-woman operation. These people negate the experiences of prostitutes, deny their reality, oppose every help and every protection these women so urgently need.
Because it is very convenient for them that the police cannot enter the brothels and rented apartments, since law enforcement authorities took away all right of access and all right to intervene with the reform of 2002. Now Doña Carmen, which calls itself a “whore project”, is demanding that the following sections be dropped from the German criminal code: Section 180a, which criminalizes “the exploitation of prostitutes”, Section 181a against procurement, and even Section 233a against “the facilitation of human trafficking”!
Obviously it still isn’t enough for the lobbyists that the reform of 2002 made criminal proceedings dependent on the testimony of victims. Far too often meaning young women would have to testify against parents, husbands, brothers, neighbors. It’s no surprise that dedicated police offers have been calling the reform the “Pimp Protection Act” for a long time.
Henning presents herself as Doña Carmen, “Association for the Protection of the Social and Political Rights of Prostitutes”. Wouldn’t “Brothel Owners’ Lobby” be a whole lot more honest?
In 1988, a woman could say the following in the Hydra publication “Beruf Hure” (Occupation: Whore): “However, I find that exiting prostitution, getting out of the milieu, is the most important thing in the life of a prostitute.” A sentence like that would get you blacklisted in today’s circles. Just like this one: “I had a certain measure of inherent pressure, after all, namely my revulsion for any kind of john […] and my ever-diminishing identity and the loss of my self-assurance.”
Between all these lobbyists, the only thing I can do is trust in the tenacity of Alice Schwarzer. Trust that she won’t stop fighting against the trivialization of prostitution, and against the slave market that is spreading among us and which is a disgrace. It affects all of us.
Sabine Constabel, EMMAonline, 21.8.2013
[emphasis the author's]
Here is another very insightful text on prostitution in Germany by Sabine Constabel, translated by Ulla Wojciechowski.