“Prostitution is the ultimate self-determination of women”. “One no longer says prostitution, we speak of ‘sex work’ and ‘sex workers'”. Such statements reflect the change in perception that the so-called “oldest trade in the world” is currently undergoing. Out of the shadows and stigma into visibility.
THE PROSTITUTION MYTH
Women who sell their bodies now face far less stigma than in the past. The third wave of feminism brought with it a new preference for ‘agency’ or ’empowerment’ that has taken the place of victimization. This is reflected in the language by talking about “survivors” rather than “victims” of e.g. violence. This change has been essential however there is a theory that this masks the power and oppression structures of systemic violence and abuse. This is also the case withprostitution, which is masked by myths and euphemisms.
Husche Mau knows the reality. She herself was one of those women and sold her body to men for over a decade. After leaving the sex business, she campaigned against prostitution and for prostitutes. She vehemently resists the term “voluntary prostitution”. Huschke Mau sees every situation in which prostitution is practiced as a compulsion. “Invisible constraints” she calls the usual factors that lead to prostitution. Lack of money and drug addiction are the most common reasons, she says. That is why prostitution is always forced prostitution. There is no such thing as voluntariness in this context. Those who refuse to perform requested practices, have sex without a condom, or feign enough desire are subject to nasty visits from pimps. There are penalties for delay, disorder or dissatisfied customers. A downward spiral in which the precarious financial situation is maintained or worsened. Leaving or changing brothels is also difficult. Here too, one cannot speak of voluntary participation. The reality is ransom. Most don’t have the money for it.
ABUSE, NOT LUST
Situations in prostitution have nothing to do with lustful encounters. Many men who buy sex do not want satisfaction or even affection, as is often the myth surrounding prostitution. There are power relations and violent scenarios that are much more likely to be reality. It has its own words, such as “Hate Fuck“. This means that the suitor releases aggression and negative emotions in violent sexual acts. The border to rape is not only blurred, but crossed. Prostitutes have to constantly endure verbal humiliation, devaluation and objectification. Evidence of this can be found in online forums where clients exchange ideas. To describe the posts made in these forums as “humiliating” and “dehumanising” would be and understatement.
THE SWEDISH ROLE MODEL
In Sweden it has been illegal to buy sex since 1999. In addition to the criminalization of sex buyers and pimps or brothel operators, the ban on buying sex according to the “Nordic model” also provides for the decriminalization of prostitutes and the financing of exit programs. In Sweden, the model brings demonstrable success. The purchase of sex has undergone an image change. The demand has dropped significantly, being a client is now frowned upon.
Huschke Mau is committed to introducing the ban on buying sex in Germany. She speaks openly about her time as a prostitute. A rarity. Many in the milieu – both active and no longer active – do not want to talk about it. Many are afraid of stigmatisation, reprisals and violence. There is a lack of protection and support, says Huschke Mau. She wants to break the cycle, enlighten women and help prostitutes to get out. Her network Ella offers a hotline for women in need. In the online forum there is an additional area for guests. The network seeks exchanges with people who are also committed to the abolition of prostitution. Otherwise, the forum is reserved for prostitutes and former prostitutes so that they can exchange ideas in a protected environment. Prostitutes can also receive support in the form of food vouchers for supermarkets. If someone has received a fine because of the corona-related ban on prostitution, the Ella network can also help. In addition to statements of solidarity, the Ella network makes it clear on its website: “Prostitution is not a service and not a profession, but the cause and effect of unfair gender relations. […] Prostitution is sexual violence.” With her book, she seeks to enlighten and make it clear how people get into prostitution. In the interview trailer, Huschke Mau talks about the supposed voluntary nature of prostitution. For many women, she says, prostitution is the last resort. There is no other option. How can one speak of a voluntary option if there is no alternative?