little over a week ago I was the happiest sexworker in Germany. I had the pleasure of being a part of the Sex Clinic, a performance by Dr. Annie Sprinkle
and Beth Stephens
at Documenta in Kassel.
At the Free Sidewalk Sex Clinic sex counselors gave free guidance to interested members of the public. Everyone was welcome to come and take us up on this offer. The qualified counselors are, for example: sex educators and therapists, pornstars, self-proclaimed healers, strippers, dominatrixes, as well as other sexworkers. As should be evident, the range of our collective understanding of sexual “expertise” was very broad.
Originally the event was intended to take place outdoors directly in front of the very prominent installation The Parthenon of Books, itself set on the exact site in which the Nazis burned banned and censored books in 1933. A performative (verbal) act of liberation, a show of strength against censorship.
Eventually, due to a thunderstorm warning, the Sex Clinic was held indoors in the Fridericianum in the Parliament of Bodies, itself the exact site in which a totalitarian regime once gathered to enact their rulings. On the day of the Sex Clinic however, the site was transformed for three hours into a space in which sexuality could be discussed freely, openly, and full of curiosity and intrigue.
And people came. Hundreds of them. Not one of us counselors had even a 5 minute break. That’s how much of a demand there was for the visitors to be able to freely speak about sex, to ask questions, to share. The “Forum of the Fridericianum” became a space of intimate interaction.
I became practically high on this act progressiveness, riding that high all the way back to Berlin, where just a few days later the surprising decision of “marriage for all” was enacted, opening the floodgates. Criticized by opponents as “rushed,” perhaps sort of like a rushing waterfall that comes from the heavens and brings along with it an inner rejuvenation that also rushes away conservative resentments along with it.
A rainbow must have shone over Berlin on the 30th of June this year, in the innocent morning light, pure and true and sent from the God(desses) of (LGBTIQ+) Deliverance after their threat of a Great Flood in Berlin. People fell into the storm drains, tractor-trailer trucks swam like swans, cellars were flooded, and cows drowned around Berlin – just so that homos are finally allowed to marry. We did it!
Yes, there was something to celebrate, and I would have as well, but despite the rainbow in Berlin over the Bundestag, rain still fell. Not a rain that brings a purifying, cathartic, and spectacular Flood, but rather a persistent weeping from the heavens. And in this rain stands an opposition group that is not easy to ignore with their red umbrellas, protesting against the wave of backlash.
The ultraconservative rollback nabs us, leaving us ice cold and drenched, both our nipples and protest signs erect, high heels standing in puddles.
Sexworkers are protesting on lost, soaking grounds against the Prostitutes “PROTECTION” Act that was passed on the 1st of July. The red umbrellas, the symbol of the Whore Movement, gives us more protection from the weather than the destructive law with the deceptive name.
That this law was enacted remains relatively unknown to the public. It seems that only members of our community are suddenly feeling uneasy and concerned. Every day receive nervous and anxious messages from colleagues: What does this all mean now? I have to enter into a registry? With my real name? Should I actually do that? What happens if I don’t register? What happens to my data? What authority do I have to report to? And who are the people that are supposed to do the health counseling? What would they know about me then? Are you going to register?
These colleagues are: tantra masseurs, escorts, dominatrixes, bizarrladies, prostitutes. They also happen to be personal fitness trainers, office workers, translators, artists, unemployed, spouses, students, parents.
I don’t have an answer for every question. I only know one thing: Whenever a marginalized group in Germany can celebrate a success, another group experiences a backlash that puts them into a legal time warp, sending them back to the 1930s.
Sexworkers are the new LGBTIQ+. The debates continue: Which expression of sexualit(y/ies) do we consider to be legitimate when they don’t serve the purpose of reproduction? Which sexual and which verbal acts are allowed and who legitimizes them? Who needs to justify themselves? Who gets controlled, cataloged, registered, regulated, and restricted? And most importantly, by whom?
From today on all sexworkers have to be entered into a registry, with their legal names, in all municipalities in which they work or will work in the future. For the first time since the Nazi regime, Germany has a “Whore Registry.” For all of those individuals that cannot or do not want to register – whether it be due to a precarious visa status, due to fear of government agencies, or due to the impossibility of outing themselves (family, children, profession) – this means the deprivation of their financial livelihoods. Or: the path to illegality, and with that, an entirely unprotected and lawless zone.