Interview to a registered sex worker.
May 2022. Berlin.
What is for you to be a sex worker?
Yeah. To me, the definition is quite broad because… so… Sex and beauty and affective labor and care are the things that we exchange for usually money, sometimes services, sometimes material things. But in my interpretation, all sexualized labor usually occurs in exchange for something else, whether it be protection from a man or a home. So in a way, I think a lot of marriages involve sexualized labor. And I think all women and a lot of people of other diverse genders know that sexual relationships can sometimes occurs in exchange for other things. I think the definition is much more broad than people often define it as.
But you’re asking for me specifically. Hmm. What is it to be a sex worker in the course of, like, an average day for me? I’m like a muse, a therapist sometimes, like a physiologist, a counselor, a life coach, an artist, a dancer, a ballerina, an entertainer. And then you get to the sex.
The reason I like it is it hits all my skills. And I was never able to find another job that did that. Sex work took in all of the different things I’m good at and bundled them in this way. It’s a lot of different types of labor in exchange for a fee. It’s just like working.
How long have you been doing this job?
About eight years now? Yeah, maybe eight and a half..
Can you name three motivations that led you to choose this job?
So many. Obviously, I was doing costume design and professional dancing at the time, and that wasn’t making enough money.
Curiosity. I would say because I can remember so many times when even as a child, someone mentioned topics around sex work and I found them deeply intriguing. I found the women, the prostitutes, deeply intriguing. And so when a friend of mine said that they were doing sex work, I was like, ah, that’s a thing that girls like us can do. Like, you know, raised, educated and nice girls, right? A career option for me. How exciting!
Are you a registered sex worker?
Yes. Most of the time. So I’m registered here in Berlin. And I have all these rights here. Like, I’m in a conflict with my boss, with an agency, and I’m discovering that, like, all these things that she’s done over the past few years of working with me that have seemed really awful and have been really difficult to deal with, like trying to convince me to offer services that I don’t want to do, such as anal. Apparently it’s an actual criminal behavior that there are laws about. And now I’m going to seek justice for those problems and those things that she did. So it’s really exciting for me because I worked under criminalization in the U.S. for six years and no one ever said anything about me having rights. So then I moved to Germany because criminalization was exhausting, is bad for my soul, bad for my body. It started really affecting my health, the stress of worrying about the police all the time. And so, yeah, sure, it was important to me to work as fully legalized, even though I often got the advice don’t register if you’re not an EU citizen, because then if the law changes, you can, you know, be deported. They can fuck up your shit. The U.S., if they find out it’s bad for your status in your home country. But it was important to me to do it anyway because I wanted to be legal and above board and pay taxes and just be like a normal citizen.
The main reason it was a matter of protection. You decide to be legalized. The main reason was actually peace of mind, because I never got arrested in the U.S. but I saw people around me get arrested and I personally can’t live that way. I know people who can, and a lot of us worked unregistered during the pandemic during lockdown because we needed money when it wasn’t legal here. And that was scary, but it was nothing compared to what I felt under the fear. And living in the US where you can be thrown in jail. Here the worst they can do is give you a fine if you don’t work in the way that they want you to, don’t register, etc…
What kind of sexual services you offer? In your opinion, what are the most recurrent requests and practices here in Berlin?
This is so interesting because the preferences of the clientele in Berlin are vastly different from the men in the U.S.
So in the U.S. I always offered a girlfriend experience, which means sort of the same thing all over the world. It’s basically the money is handed over and then the money is forgotten about. And you create an experience that’s just two people engaging as they would in, quote, normal circumstances on a date with a girlfriend, with a partner. So that was in the U.S. That’s what most of my clients wanted. Most of them were married, older or middle aged men who hadn’t had sex with their wives in a while or needed care that they weren’t getting anywhere else in their lives. And I provided that for them. And the money was sort of not discussed, which is best regarding criminalization. And then it was mostly about talking, discussing, being able to intelligently converse about politics, feelings, which seems in short supply in the world, like helping people talk about their feelings. It’s really, really needed.
Especially men often don’t have a place they can go to talk about their feelings. And so all of those things are still really needed in Germany.
I was in Boston at the time and it was quite vanilla and then I moved to Berlin and it’s like Do you offer this? Do you offer that? Can we do hard? You know, like Germans relate so differently to their sexuality. It’s fascinating. They’re much less afraid of sex and much less afraid of nudity. And since it’s not illegal here, there’s this illicit thing that goes away and then they need something more. So I think a lot of the American men get off on the secrecy and get off on the oh, my religion told me growing up, this is taboo, you know, and that creates enough hype around the normal sex act itself or oral sex. For some people, oral sex is like wildly transgressive. I’ve had clients who never got a blowjob before or never got a blowjob from their wife or, you know, 70-year-old man never had a blowjob. Wild. Haha. Yeah. Yeah. Your eyes are like, what? I know. It’s crazy, right? Crazy.
And also, a lot of my clients in the US would book me specifically to go down on me because their wives wouldn’t let them do that, which I find really interesting. But here people usually need like sex isn’t mysterious going to see a prostitute isn’t taboo. And so for some reason, the norms are different. So people require something kinkier often. So here my services have sort of shifted. People definitely request girlfriend experience, but not most of the time. And so now I work in a bordello and the environment there is so different because it is transactional sex, it is a sex factory. It’s like, how many clients can you turn over in the shortest period of time in the US? I would have a minimum one hour, usually minimum 2 hours. Here it’s minimum 20 minutes in the bordello. It’s about turnover. You get them off and you go to the next guy so you can make as much time, as much and many clients on your shift as possible. And the boss really encourages this turnover because then she makes more money. And so it’s, you know, under the full force and weight of capitalism, which is stressful trying to come back to services specifically.
So I offer things that would also surprise but not. Just as a point of interest. A lot of the girls or workers here don’t offer kissing. They don’t allow men to go down on them. They don’t allow clients to engage with their center of pleasure. So that’s the service I provide at the bordello. What’s inclusive is sex with condom and blowjob with condom. But if they want to touch my pussy, that’s extra. If they want blowjob without condom, which is illegal, but we offer it, it’s extra. If they want anal sex, it’s extra. Kissing is extra. So it’s very, very capitalistic. You get one position, you get like 5 minutes of blowjob, one position of sex, and then you’re out of there. We’re not going to cuddle like one guy really wanted to cuddle and he only wanted that. He could only afford 20 minutes. And they were like: Ernestine, will you deal with this motherfucker, he wants to fucking cuddle? He wants someone to take care of his feelings.
When you have three clients max in a day, you can give a lot more of yourself for that amount of money and that amount of time. But when you have clients for 20 minutes who want like your soul and eye contact and some like emotional intimacy, do that eight times in a shift and you are fucking dead, you know. And then 21 times in a week it simply isn’t possible. So I have reduced the amount of emotional care I do, and when people are rude to me, I’m rude back and they still pay the same money and then they just leave. Like it’s actually quite liberating. So the services they offer now are very different than they did in the US, but mostly from an attitude and approach.
Maybe a quarter of them really are looking for intimacy. Yeah. And then the other three quarters, it’s like sheer physical gratification, which is also very refreshing to have a society where that’s allowed. Right. Because in the US like wanting physical gratification in and of itself is shameful in a way that it’s kind of not here. Like there are still religious undercurrents in Germany of course. But people seem to have overcome them better. And this is the specific case of Berlin, which is a truly unique maybe not representative of the whole Germany.
Have you ever done any street work?
I’ve never done the street based work one. I’m terrified of police. I have concerns. Even before I was a sex worker, I hated getting pulled over and all that shit. On the street, you just have way more exposure. And you know, there’s a reputation. That street based work is associated with more violence. And also it’s inconvenient in a profession where if a client smells bad or is unclean, it sucks. It feels it’s more energy and it is just more emotional labor to deal with a situation in which a client is not clean. Having access to running water is super important, and being comfortable in a comfortable space is really important. So I never was in a situation where it felt necessary. I always felt happy to have people in my apartment. In the U.S. I had a whole separate apartment for work, which was expensive but important. And then I’ll see people in their hotels or whatever.
Do you think it is possible to do this work at the same time to protect your privacy?
Yeah. I mean, there are so many senses of privacy, like so. Well, this is how the pandemic felt to me. We were all encouraged: sex workers just do everything online. And I tried that and I did a couple of online sessions and I just didn’t feel great after it. Not like it wasn’t like sobbing, but I was like, Oh, I didn’t get the same juiciness that I do when I see a person in person, then it’s more work. You have to do more things. You get paid less. And then I tried to do Twitter and so I tried to turn that into an Onlyfans fan page and I was starting out just doing my normal ballet stuff or like burlesque stuff or naked ballet and photos. And then everyone was like, We want more, we want more and more sexy stuff. And then I saw, I filmed a couple of masturbation sessions and then I just had a total breakdown one day while editing one of them, because I’ve always had body dysphoria, I’ve always been larger than I trained as a professional ballet dancer. Like I don’t want to edit video of me masturbating.
I got to a place where it felt unconventional and then I was like, okay, we need to stop doing this. And it was an issue of privacy. Because of the commercial pressures of the time and the pressures of the pandemic, I really felt the need to deeply assess why I didn’t feel comfortable doing it, which in retrospect is hard to say out loud, because, of course, if it didn’t feel consensual, I shouldn’t have felt pressure to do it. But cops were busting us and giving us €5,000 fines for seeing clients at the time. So it felt really necessary. I’m so glad those times are in the past.
But it’s like a very different offering. If I masturbate in front of a client, it’s like this is a one off moment in time. He can remember it in his memory, but other than that, it’s not recorded. And I had control in that moment. Right. But the consent issue comes in where you make video content. And even if people pay for it, first of all, in the modern age, who knows where that ends up, right? Who knows? Like, can only fans really promise that no one can ever harvest up from their site and use it for their own purposes?
In the digital age, nothing is private that you put online. If you want to put something online, don’t have the expectation that’s at the place I function from is like even when you send emails, don’t expect that no one else will ever see that. In the U.S., it’s like the NSA is surveilling everything. The FBI is surveilling everything. Like I just assumed I was, you know, even if I was talking about an illegal service on the phone with my best friend who’s like, I had this claims about high NSA, you know, and then I think like, okay, well, maybe I shouldn’t talk about this, but it’s like I had a difficult client. I want to talk to my best friend. Fuck it. So I assume I’m never private at any time with digital things or phone communications. I wonder if people here have it different when they’re working, have a different interpretation of that, because Germany sort of gives you the idea that you have more entitlement to privacy and that since the services are legal, there’s not this element of assuming you’re being surveilled by the government at all times anyway.
That aside, like it felt nonconsensual to me to put video content out there and not know how people were going to use it and like what their faces were going to look like. Not to be able to control the experience. I’ve never met these people who knows how they’re using it. So it didn’t feel consensual to me and that felt like a major breach of safety and privacy.
Apart from that, I would like there to be platforms on the Internet that can guarantee more safety than I felt past.
The other huge question is when do you register? How private is that information? And I really grilled the people in the registration office about it at the time, like who will see this information? They said: the tax office -period. That’s all it gets deleted a few years after and then it’s wiped from the system and no one ever can see it ever again. The thing is, Germany doesn’t have a great history with making lists of people who are divergent in any way. So it’s a very real fear in the community having to register.
We actually went through so many drafts of this de criminalize future poster graphic because we were like, no, we want the horror in place to be smashed. It can’t just be in the picture.
At first it was just like floating around, but we were like, no, we want it torn. You want it smashed because we want it to be a political statement that people know we have to carry this fucking Hurenpass around. And then if the police come to the board, well, they can be like proven better. It’s like, ooh, you’re a prostitute. You know, it’s just not a good look for Germany specifically and for us as a community in general, like having to carry this card around. And it’s hugely stigmatizing in itself. So that’s a decision I’ve made to forego privacy based on the current system here.
Do you try to choose the type of proposal you accept?
Yes, absolutely. What I find interesting is how picky the girls at the bordello are. A lot of them have very strong racial preferences of which clients they will see and which they won’t. I don’t have strong racial preferences, but if I don’t like the look of someone, I won’t see them. They’ve had a bad experience with someone. I won’t see them. So. And as I said, with fetishes like you have to figure out where boundaries are in this country because people will ask you to do pretty much anything. Like people have asked to cut my hair, which I’m like no fucking way, you would have to pay me $10,000 to ruin this. Are you joking? And people, you know, scat play. That’s not my thing. Not going to shame it. But I have had several guys just beg to have their mouths farted into and I won’t do that either. I did have an experience and natural act. Through peeing on a client. It made him so happy that I’d never done it before, but it made him so happy that it was worth it.
The request that I found the most interesting came from a client in Paris, and I really had an interesting exchange in my head when I was trying to decide if I wanted to do this. But he is an Islamic pastor. That’s not the right word. But you know what I mean? He wanted me to come to his church and in the church there was an antique Coran and he wanted me to piss on it as an erotic game and like destroy it and say bad things about Islam and bad things about Muslims. And having had a formative experience in the US after 911 with a lot of anti-Muslim hatred and violence. It’s like, Nope, that one’s not for me. Even if it was fully consensual from the person doing it, that one wasn’t for me. And then another client who’s man of color asked me to call him the N-word and like do a power game based on his race. And I did that, but I had a really long conversation with him about it first. Like, can you just tell me, like, I’m curious, like, why. So that I understood that it was for him coming from a really, really a very healthy place. Not to be patronizing, but just like I needed to understand it in order to actually do it. But he was really articulated about it, which was helpful. So yeah, I do draw lines, but it’s usually a gut feeling thing.
And just to understand how it works when you say no and you don’t want, the person has to go, right?
At the bordello one of the things I really like, which I never had before, is there’s the house timer and we have this video screen. All the places where the clients come in, there’s a video camera and we can see from the back room where we hang out. And if there’s someone I don’t want to see, I can just tell her no. And if I introduce myself and then I don’t want to see him, I can just tell her no. And I don’t have to give a reason and she has to be the one to tell him. And so I don’t have to deal with any of the pushback or questions or flack or so. That is really nice. And if a client starts behaving badly in the middle of the session, there’s either the panic button or I can go out and get her and say, No, I’m not doing that. And this happens actually, probably like at least once a week a girl comes in, it’s like he’s being ridiculous. He took off the condom without my permission. Can you get him out of here? And she has to get him out of there. And I’ve seen when these women physically remove the men from the place. A guy was on cocaine and he had to be like lifted out of the door and she did it. And that feels really good in a way that I can’t even describe. I never had that back up before. I never had this notion that I could call the police if a client took off a condom without my permission. If I get raped, there’s a justice system here that I didn’t have access to before.
In your opinion, what’s the stimulating part of the work you do? What’s the difficult or hard part?
I find people just so fascinating. I’m an introvert, but, like, engaging with people in this way really gives me a completely organic high. If I have a good interaction with a client, I’m just glowing afterwards, which is really cool and that feeling lasts for a few days. So I get a lot out of the work that I do when everyone behaves themselves appropriately.
What is disappointing is that people don’t always behave themselves properly. Historically, men do use us as an outlet for the feelings they can’t address anywhere else. Then there’s a big problem with masculinity in the world. Like, boys are educated a certain way. Unfortunately, some guy comes into the bordello who’s like, Mommy told him that he deserves the entire world with cherries on top and expects and expects and expects and will take everything that you give and say this isn’t enough. So because the bar here is so low, like in the U.S., I had to screen clients to make sure they weren’t cops, so they had to provide me a lot of information about themselves and they had to provide a lot of money. And that kept a lot of people away. And that didn’t mean that it was always the best behaved men all the time. But here any dick who’s Tom, Dirk or Johan who’s walking down the street with a €50 bill in his pocket, can come to the bordello. And if somebody doesn’t have any money in their pocket, they can come too and ask to be introduced to the ladies. And we all have to do our little lingerie parade in front of them and say hi and smile, and then they can turn around and leave, which happens all the time, like at least once a shift.
They’ll be like a pair of guys, like young guys who are clearly drunk. Clearly. Hi. Just come in to get their jollies off on looking at the women’s bodies and then they go home and masturbate. Or then they go home and giggly to each other.
So boys didn’t think they could just come in and ogle us. And I can tell in their eyes when they’re not going to stay. It’s super obvious when boys come in pairs like they’re not going to stay there. I’m going to put money down, and when they do, it’s the bare minimum. So you just kind of, you know, and it’s hard to talk about because people use this as an excuse to say that our profession should be abolished. But men don’t always behave themselves very well and men have a lot of issues and they feel over entitled to sex and they feel like the female body should be theirs for free all the time because capitalism really clearly engineered it that way. And we get the brunt of that. And I keep talking to my therapist like I’m constantly educating people all the time. If it’s not my client, then it’s a reporter or it’s my union comrades who aren’t sex workers, or it’s my fucking bank that doesn’t understand that my job is, you know, I’m like, wherever I go, such a teacher. And it’s exhausting and I’m tired of it.
I wish one time people would just understand, but when I have the energy, I use it to educate the clients about how to properly treat women. And when I don’t have the energy, I just mentally leave the room and think about my cat or my grocery list or my weekend plans or whatever, because sometimes I don’t have the energy to educate men about how a woman should be touched and how a woman should be treated. But I have the skill to not experience that as trauma. So. I educate where I can. I find that exhausting. I wish men were just better at the species.
Can you share any memorable experience with a client? Whatever you want.
So many stories. All of my clients keep asking me to write a memoir because I have so many stories. Really hard to pick.
I mean, it’s crazy, like super moving, amazing things happen all the time. I had my last client on Tuesday said that he couldn’t put his finger on what it was about me, but I’m like a magic woman. It’s like you have magic. You like, I knew these two girls when I was 18 and they both had magic in them. I’ve never seen it. You have magic in you. Lovely thing to say. Oh, my God. Yeah. Often the clients pick up on these really specific things about me, and then I’m like, Ooh, you’ve known me for 10 minutes, and you already noticed that. That’s really cool.
I love the experience of being wined and dined, and I have clients who buy me my favorite wine and take me to really expensive restaurants and people have taken me to the ballet before, which is my favorite, favorite thing because I can never afford to go on my own. So when a client takes me to the theater, the symphony or the ballet, that feels really lovely. Yeah. So the good guys, like, more than make up for the bad guys, which makes it all worth it. If that wasn’t true, I wouldn’t keep doing the work.
A guy flew me to Boston a few months ago. He’s an intensely fragile, emotionally fragile man and requires a fuck ton of care. Like, didn’t speak to me once for two years because I was too transactional in the way I talked about money. But last time I was there in Boston a few weeks ago, he got a hotel room with a beautiful bathtub. And when I saw it, I was like ohhh –because I don’t have a bathtub right now.
And so he went out specially and got me these lavender bath bombs and then just like told me, you know, it was like, if you want to take a bath, go take a bath, shut the door. I will be in the other room. You enjoy the moment. I had my book, had this bath bomb that was like sparkly pink and blue, making the water glittery like a fucking unicorn had been in there. And I just lay back and relax and unwound. And he would peek in every now and then, literally just making sure you’re enjoying yourself.
There’s an aspect of the work where sometimes people just want to be the cause of a pretty woman enjoying herself and sometimes not even in a sexual way. And those moments are just like, okay, yes, I’m living my best life. Thank you very much. Clearly what I deserve.
Do you think there would have been a specific circumstance in which you wouldn’t have chosen to be a sex worker?
I don’t like thinking about that actually, because to me it’s destiny, it’s my career, it’s my calling, my vocation. So if my friend hadn’t told me I’m doing escorting and it’s really great, she hadn’t mentored me into the business like I suspect I would have found it in a different way. It was so serendipitous the way that that happened because I reconnected with her after a long time and then just out of the blue. And then she trusted me enough to tell me that she was doing the stuff. And then I was like, Tell me everything. So but isn’t it interesting to think about where would I be if that hadn’t? I don’t want to think about where I would be if that hadn’t happened. Like we exist in such a subculture that it’s not easy to get exposed to, especially in the U.S. And this is one thing that we’re really working to change, because we think everyone should have access to basic information about what our lives are like. So I really do the work because I choose to do it. And not all good old days are good days.
I still couldn’t imagine doing anything else.
I came out to my family a couple of years ago, and ever since I’ve been trying to feel I have to try to advocate for why I’m doing what I’m doing, because they struggle to understand. And so I have this discussion in my head all the time. Would you really, really be doing anything else really that made you happy? I can’t I can’t envision that. It’s too much a part of who I am. My dad says all the time Can you talk about something that’s not sex work now? Like, what else happened in your week? What else did you do this week? And I’m like, I spent all my time doing either sex work or sex work activism. And all my best friends are sex workers. What else should I be talking about? I could describe all of the things my cat has done this week like that. Or let’s talk about politics…
About the impact of Covid in the whole sex work sphere in Berlin. What has changed? Before and after Covid. How is that transforming the landscape?
Yes, and in multiple ways. To me, the most interesting and terrifying way was criminalization came to Germany.
We had a period of time that was the first illegality was about five months long, where the hygiene concept stated that we were not allowed to see clients in person at all whatsoever. So it was so weird because I was working in the US under criminalization for six years. I finally get my shit together to move to Berlin and then a week after I get my often announced title, the first lockdown happens and suddenly all of these sex workers in the community are like, have never worked under criminalization before. And I’m in the position, it’s like totally dystopian position of having to give people advice on how to tell if a client approaching you is actually a cop, how to screen clients so that you know that they’re not cops, how to function in this underworld that none of these workers have ever had to face before. It was awful. I actually started taking antidepressants because it was so emotionally gutting.
So I wasn’t registered yet at the time. I was only seeing private clients. The impact has been just huge in every way imaginable economically, emotionally. Everyone I know who had some sort of preexisting mental health condition had a breakdown, had a relapse. Our physical health has been impacted. Our community health has been impacted. Not having access to each other like this very tight actress community I was part of. I didn’t see any of them for six months. Like it was devastating in every way. It was devastating in every possible way. And the worst of which was like the government didn’t stick up for us. Like the conservatives started writing all these papers on how this is a really good time to just criminalize the industry because it’s bad for health –period. End of story, even without COVID.
And that’s actually why we founded the Sex Worker Action Group, because we’re like, wait a minute, this this moment could very clearly go in an anti-sex work direction. And we can’t let that happen. We have to stop that from happening. And I think that in in some way, we’ve been successful at that, which feels amazing.
But post-COVID, the clientele has shifted. People’s financial circumstances are very different. People’s disposable income, like were a luxury service, were the first to go. So the first week of the Ukrainian war, the bordello was dead. And I really got this impression that people had given all their disposable income to donations for the refugees. And we’re not spending money on us, which is like, okay, I can do that tradeoff for a couple of weeks. But any kind of financial insecurity impacts our industry disproportionately.
I’ve been on unemployment. It’s crazy. I have access to that. Here is new immigrant. That was wild. But we’re also seeing a really different clientele now. The problem is that in a pandemic, the people who are going to still keep saying sex workers are the guys who are okay with taking big risks and the clients who are risk averse, who tend to be the better clients because they’re more cautious, they schedule and ahead of time, they’re more thoughtful, they’re safer. And so during COVID, it’s felt like the guys who’ve continued to see us have been really the bottom of the barrel. And me when I work independently, my cancelation rate over the past couple of years has been like 90% of people who make appointments, either canceling or not showing up and not calling. Like our cancelation rates, everyone said this are just appalling right now. Like people are flaky, like you’d never experienced before. So I get the feeling that it takes very little to make a client change their mind. It takes a lot more horniness or drive or wherever that came from for them to book us in the first place. It’s also a younger demographic because, of course, we are the pandemic disproportionately affects older people and it’s more dangerous for them. So the clients who are ill with clients who are older, who often are also the guys who have more money because they’re more established, have stayed away, which has been really difficult. And then for Berlin, hugely, the tourist population and the business tourist population have dried up. So there was this week at the hotel, a couple of months ago in March, when like there was a convention in town, like a business convention in town. We were mobbed and they were all speaking French. I was the only person who could speak French and I made so much money and I was like, Yes, they’re back. And then the next weekend I had these two Swedish tourists back to back one guy from Finland. And I was like, Yes, the tourists are back. So that’s huge for us. People having the ability to travel because the demographic in Berlin is not the most well-heeled. It’s not like in Munich or Hamburg or whatever. Like the guys here don’t have as much money, so we need the traveling income. So yeah, the people who’ve been seeing us during COVID like categorically do not treat us as well. I can confidently say that across the board, everyone I know has experienced that and also paid for it and it really sucks. And there’s been a lot of bad behavior and a lot of different ways, and the legal system didn’t protect us during this time. They didn’t provide for us and think about us, which was the worst part. There’s like, Oh, obviously sex work shouldn’t be okay right now, but they didn’t think about the implications of that. Eventually is the key word there. If you don’t have an audience, you don’t have a job. And then the point of what you give and what you take and how you survive out of that, it’s very it’s very fragile. There’s a very thin line that suddenly. It’s a little like you’re completely alone. You’re completely on your own. And no one is going to stand up for you.
And I think it’s so revealing. The amount of well, the amount of development, domestic violence, of intimate partner abuse in the home went insane, people overdosing on all sorts of things, people drinking alcohol went insane. This is what happens when you don’t minister to the soul and you don’t minister to the basic needs of the body. Sex is a basic foundational need of most human beings. And so when these services are not available, when art isn’t available, when you don’t have any space where you can like sit in a room in the darkness with strangers and just have a moment to be with your feelings. All kinds of harm is going to happen from that. So I hope that we’ve learned our lesson about that. Art is not a luxury. Sex work is not a luxury. These things are fundamental needs of any society.
I know that violence was particularly hard on sex workers of color. I think just because it’s always I always get shitty messages. I always have. So it didn’t seem to get particularly worse. But like the percentage of people, the shitty people messaging me, we’re actually going to become clients or something. Thoughtful messages. Yeah. Those people, like, vanished. They’re coming back now. The bordellos clearly surviving right on the edge of its financial capacity, which means the owner is stressed, which means she’s pressuring us to work longer, take more shifts, like accept clients that we wouldn’t. She’s there’s a lot of pressuring from bosses right now because they’re trying to, you know, recover from this economic downturn that affected them, but it affected us much worse. So it’s making working conditions worse. The fact that everyone’s so financially stretched.
Taking it from there, I will introduce next question. According to your experience from all this we’re talking about, what do you think are the biggest battles that need to be fought in sex work in Berlin right now?
Our Call to action has a list of demands here for Whores Day, which we’ve never done before. And I found it just delicious. The biggest one is this registration issue. I’m working with a lot of other people on a collectively worker owned escort agency project right now, which you may be asking about it all over the place. And the very first issue is, does everyone have to be registered? And so for me, right off the bat, we had to make a lawyer because we’re in this special class of workers where because we need to be protected by the government we have to do this registration process.
Yeah, it really. It’s impractical, it’s difficult. It’s violent. It’s burdensome. It’s expensive. It’s racist, it’s anti-migrant. It’s all the things the when you really unpack it and we really think about it and start talking to politicians about it, the ideology behind why we have to be registered is so misogynist, actually, and comes from a place of we can’t trust women to know what’s good for them. We have to control their behavior. So in every way, it could be problematic. It is problematic. And in the actual counseling sessions, where you do go to be registered, the way that they speak to you is absolutely not okay. And they don’t know what they’re talking about. And the information they do give you is not relevant because none of them have ever been sex workers. So we’ve been lobbying about to start hiring sex workers and that this dialogue with these politicians or in these government officials is really disappointing because they’re just like, Oh, we would like to change. We know they’re a problem, but we don’t have power. We don’t have the ability. We’re doing the best we can, you know, just like so mealy mouthed, like Jesus Christ, like get down in here in the trenches with us and try to make people’s lives better. Fuck you with your government. Cut government salary. Jesus Christ. I’ve never had a salary in my entire life.
Never had health benefits, any of these things. Like if someone else paid for.
My health care, I would just have a spontaneous orgasm. It would be amazing. But it’s a lot of these things like post-COVID, we want the same access to power.
No registration for anybody. Full decriminalization. So what we ask for when we’re asking for decriminalization is a lack of it’s not a lack of regulation, but it’s a you cancel the clause in which still exists. And I think I’m saying this accurately, there is still a clause in the con because that’s saw the stop because that so whatever the fuck it is and this isn’t my area of specialty, but where it says prostitution is illegal and then the prostitution because that’s from 2001 says it’s well no, but it’s legal under the following conditions and then the prostitution shits because that says it’s legal under the following conditions, including registration. So things were actually much better between 2001 and 2016 when we didn’t have to register. A lot more people had access to being able to just make money in safe workplaces. But there are people now who worked in my same bordello back then but can’t now because they would have to be registered and then are like out in the cold and it sucks. So we don’t want to be in this special category. We want it to not have to be stated in law that we deserve to work, that we’re workers just like other workers. We don’t want to have to have it written into law that we have rights because of course we have rights as fucking human beings just like everyone else. We should not be in a special category. There should not be language in the law that says anything about us at all other than regulating safe workplaces. And you don’t need people to register to have safe workplaces. You don’t need to raid a brothel to make sure all the women are working there legally, like in order to be able to have a safe place to work. It does not prevent trafficking. It does not prevent abuse. I have experienced such abuse from employers since I’ve moved to this country, since I stopped being independent, moved to this country and have two employers. One of them. You know, I’m basically printing out the emails she sent me and sending them to the police because they’re criminal coercion. They’re sexual coercion. They’re not legal. So. The system is not working. I left. It’s like saying this all the time, but like the system does not protect the women. And that’s the main thing that the CDU and SPD want to do. They want to protect the women, or so they say. But it’s not happening, we’re not protected.
We’re in a special category and we don’t want to be in a special category. We’re human beings. We have the same rights. It says in the shoot that you have the right not to be raped. What the fuck does that mean in your course of your work as a sex worker? Why the fuck does that not need to be written into law? The language that is used is so fucking derogatory in the fact that you even come from the premise of saying feeling like you need to put that in the law. It’s a horrible.
That’s the main thing we want. We want to be decriminalized, which means not that our workplaces aren’t regulated, but that it doesn’t say in the law we are allowed to work or we are not allowed to work. We want that eliminated from the law.
What are the strategies, political gestures, social, cultural actions that could be done? What would you suggest to generate a better state of knowledge and rights and to achieve changes?
I think from my experience, eight years of working and doing activism alongside, the main thing is that people don’t understand what our lives are like. We need to tell our stories more and we need it to be more acceptable for us to tell our stories.
I’ve been removed from Instagram because I told the truth about what my life is like, because it’s illegal, which is the law about not being able to post on online platforms about sex work. So that’s deeply problematic. And there’s a version of that that just came into power in the UK.
So there are laws against us telling our stories in public, which sucks because in my opinion that’s the best way. You know, the turning point in the gay rights movement really came when everyone realized they had a gay friend or a gay sister or gay family member or gay coworker like. And the same is kind of happening with abortion. It’s like, say its name out loud in front of people. Everyone knows someone who’s been a sex worker. Everyone’s had contact with sex workers. We have always been everywhere. We have always been everywhere. So people know us. They just don’t know that they’ve met us. And that’s what we need to change.
I try to live as I’m proud as I possibly can, which is a luxury because I’m a white person and I’m here legally and I’m registered. I have the backup of a Union and all of these rights and protections. So I’m really lucky and my family knows what I do and I don’t feel like I would lose any of the humans in my world if they suddenly found out that I was a sex worker. So I decided to live in this completely authentic, colorful, bold, like, out loud way so that the people who need to keep, who need or want to stay quiet about what they do for a living, because it’s not so much of their soul. It’s not so much who they are or not safe, have the access to privacy to be able to do that.
I tell my story to who will listen whenever I can, including journalists, including politicians, including conservatives, including assholes, including clients and my family and all of their friends, and know people who think that’s like, that’s too much information. I’m so uncomfortable. I’m like, I don’t care. You should keep listening. Suspend your discomfort.
The things that are going on in our activist movement in this town are really exciting right now. The demo and the Whores Day actions are giving a lot of attention. There’s a lot of buzz. So I have high hopes of it being the best demo ever. We need to work towards visibility in the US. I had this dream that as a lobby for sex workers rights and for decriminalization, we would become so loud and so widely known that it would not be possible to ignore us anymore.
My main goal as an activist in the U.S. was that every politician would have to have a platform on sex work, either be pro criminalization or per legalization or pro decorum. But they would have to state a platform. Right now in the US, politicians don’t have to do that. They don’t have to have a platform. If anyone asks, they say, I’m anti-trafficking. That’s not a platform. That’s not a position. Everyone’s anti-trafficking except for the people doing the trafficking. That’s like some of them even aren’t doing it because they want to like.
In Germany it’s different because there is this law that exists. And so there’s this, you know, people either say, well, it’s the law, what you’re going to do. So that’s my position.
Or other people, virulent conservatives are like, this should not be legal. It’s immoral or in the more sinister case, it’s bad for the women and we’ve been trying to work towards a place where each of the political parties has to discuss with us. Their platform has to have accountability to the sex worker community about their platform. But we need to occupy more public space in order for people to feel like this is a decision that’s going to affect voting, because a lot of Whores vote, but it’s not a constituency that is solicited by politicians. So we need to change that as well. We need to be loud about the fact that we vote.
Those of us who can. That’s another thing I was working towards in the US and I’m working towards here. Having a Union is a massive part of that. We’re getting into the public conversation in a way that we never have before. And another thing that I just have to mention is the review of the Constitution, because that’s starts in July. The company, the government, we just received very reliable information that I don’t know if it’s public yet, but will be soon. The company that the government has hired to do the research in quotes that will inform whether or not the law should continue as is or be changed is the Criminal Justice Institute media section. And it’s a company that studies criminal behavior. So we’re bummed about that and we’re bummed that we weren’t given a seat at the table for the conversation of who to hire to do the review.
Or there used to be this roundtable working group on discussing how the law is actually working out in practice, because when it was implemented in 2016, the government was like, okay, this is the law. We think it’s going to do good things, but we want to study whether or not it does good things, which is good, right? But then the problem is they didn’t ask sex workers, is this doing good or bad things in your community? So you want a seat at the table and swag. The action group gets emails from various government entities and like doing a research project on sex worker health in partnership with a charity. I’m like, it’s not that they don’t have our information. That’s not why they haven’t reached out to us. They’re just inconvenient political realities that are the reason they don’t reach out to us. So this is a big struggle. This has taken all our energy over the past year and will take all of our energy for the next year. Because now that this agency that has come from this organization has come out that is anti-trafficking and pretty much anti sex work in the past, we think that the result of the review will not be favorable. And so that just makes more work for us to do. So it’s exhausting to think about because now we need to fight harder. Now we need to be louder. And now we need to advocate more strongly.
How being American helped you in this registration process?
So this is interesting. When I had to hire a lawyer to… hum… I came here on an artist visa, and then I tried to add sex work to that visa and the Ausländerbehörde stopped on that application for a full year and didn’t send me a response. And I followed up and followed up and they didn’t send me a response. So I hired a lawyer and the lawyer got the answer. And the answer was no because it gave some stupid bureaucratic reason which I fixed to send it back. Then they said, yes, this lawyer was very expensive, very wonderful, and I’m still paying her and will be for the next like two years. But part of the things that I learned in this process of hiring this, was that the U.S. has a treaty with Germany that says that you cannot deny a visa to a citizen of the United States if they can show that there’s any kind of economic viability to what they’re trying to do.
So if the work is legal and they have any kind of evidence that they could actually make money doing it, they can’t deny the visa. So that’s a privilege that I have that other people don’t and that I think I probably can’t imagine Cuba has such a treaty. So this was pretty interesting to learn about.
Um, I’m the only American currently working at the bordello, and I’m told by the clients that it’s very unusual to have Americans working at these six working establishments in Berlin. As I said, the word on the street in the community is do not register if you don’t hold an EU passport.
The U.S. officials can see the Residency Permit in my passport, which says that I’m a sex worker, which is probable cause for arrest in the U.S. So that’s scary. Going through customs always was scary and now it’s scarier. And I completely understand people not wanting to have that on their visa and so they don’t have access to legal sex work in this country.
So the disadvantage to being American is that. You have increased legal exposure if you are on paper as a whore. The advantage to being an American is it’s a wealthy, powerful country. Being a white person, I have access to. Even with the clients, I’m perceived as being a bit more powerful because I’m an American and there are assumptions, cultural assumptions that go along with that. I think I get treated better than some of the other women because I am American. And there are assumptions that go with that. I have on paper the backing of this powerful country. And I think that does serve me in some ways.
The other thing is, clients can’t believe that I live here. They’re like, you moved from California to Berlin? What? As if the only consideration is whether. And I’m like, I don’t want to live in the U.S.. I don’t want to live in California. I want to be legal. You know, it’s just clients don’t understand that. They don’t know that it’s illegal.
Other places, they have no idea. Which is amazing to me. Germans need to be educated about the fact that we have this cool thing here. The other countries, just not even France, has legal bordellos at the moment.
I’ll ask you to think about an image which you feel identified with, it can be, I don’t know, space in the city, an object, the situation in landscape that it’s inspiring for you. Taking into account the person you are, the professional you are, your experience as an individual regarding your work.
I was listening to a podcast this morning called The Oldest Profession that I highly recommend. It’s about the history of amazing the sex workers of the past and telling their stories. And they were describing a bordello in the US from the 1800s in Chicago that was just so over-the-top that it had a gold piano. It was just a picture of opulence.
How I perceive myself is sometimes a product of my surroundings and the bordello I’m working in right now, the decoration reminds me of my grandparents. It’s this very specific idea of Germans from the nineties of what nice is. And I am not really down with it. I want more gold, I want more opulence, I want, I want to work in a place that has a gold piano, oh, this is my image.
In my head when I’m working, I am being this Victorian courtesan, working in luxury and opulence. And my life goal is to make my actual world setting meet this image that I have already when I work in my head.