German Exhibition Explores Myths and Realities of Sex Trade

SEXARBEIT Prostitution – Lebenswelten und Mythen  at the Museum De Arbeit


‘A museum in Hamburg opens a new show exploring the role of prostitution in German society. The country is home to an estimated 200,000 prostitutes, who together form a highly lucrative industry that is older than Germany itself.’ 

‘The world’s oldest profession is also, these days, one of the world economy’s most important. Hamburg’s Museum der Arbeit (“Museum of Work”) estimates that over 200,000 Germans — mostly women — work in the €14 billion-a-year prostitution industry. The work is legal in Germany, at least under the proper conditions, and since 2002 registered prostitutes can even claim national health benefits. As legitimate businesses that are fully integrated into society, they are also required to pay taxes.
On Nov. 4, the museum will unveil an exhibition of posters, photographs, figurines, and other historical relics with the idea of examining both myths and realities behind sex work. The focus is on changing attitudes toward the skin trade in Germany from the 19th century to the present. No alley goes unexplored, apparently — prostitution for drugs, different ideas about preventing disease, sex-work immigration, and visions of prostitution in art are all major themes.
The show’s curator, 50-year-old Elisabeth von Dücker, says prostitution is nothing unusual — it’s a “profession,” a “traditional service.”
To make that point, she relies on a large historical archive that tracks the tricks and the tools of the trade. A few highlights from the collection, which travels from Hamburg to Berlin and Bonn in early 2006, include a registered prostitute’s account book from 1861, documentation of sex work during the Nazi era, “working clothes,” like heels worn by a Reeperbahn window-prostitute or a male hustler’s cock ring. You’ll also find official condoms distributed to Germany’s army, the Bundeswehr, as well as photos of prostitution activists marching in the streets during the 1990s.

Legal as it may be, however, the world’s oldest profession is still socially unacceptable in many parts of German society. Still, the profession is an important part of a well-functioning German society. 

“I call it the McDonald’s effect,” says Andreas Harms, a 34-year-old bordello operator in Hamburg. “No one claims to go in, but the place is always packed.”

 Spiegle Online article


The following from Gender Studies Hamburg ..  Note: this is translated from the original by google translate, so not totally reliable.

Sex work. Prostitution – life worlds and myths.

04.11.2005-26.03.2006, the Museum of Work:
sex work. Prostitution – life worlds and myths

Among the sex workers and social topics virulent TRAFFICKING IN WOMEN worked historians, anthropologists and social scientists a major traveling exhibition. During the term there is an accompanying velseitiges!

The starting point:

Working conditions in the sex trade have fallen into the public eye with the Act of 1 January 2002, which abolished the discrimination of prostitution as immoral and she recognized as a service.
is a law against women / human trafficking and forced prostitution in some perspective overdue in Germany. However, there are extremely divergent political positions. The political debate over the latest example of punishing the design – modeled after the Swedish model – neither in the public debate seems to have arrived as an issue yet in the midst of society.
In the prostitution industry to work in Germany according to estimates by the Federal Government about 400 000 female prostitutes. About the one half of whom are immigrants, many of them illegal residents. They are, though voluntarily engage in prostitution to feed their families in the poor countries of Eastern Europe or Latin America, exposed to increased violence and exploitation by traffickers inside, landlords and pimps. Of international networks such as TAMPEP for these women, legalization of stay required. Will
pay in Germany, 1.2 million men a day for sexual services of prostitutes. The annual turnover in the sex trade in Germany is about 14 billion euros.
The trafficking of women are abducted, according to UN estimates in Europe alone, 500,000 women and girls forced into prostitution. About 10 billion in annual revenue this brings in the 21st Sklavinnenhandel Century, the one female traders.

Hamburg is the one as the “capital of the prostitution industry.” Here at least 4,000 women are working full time in the sex trade, over half of them are migrants without legal residence status. Up to 1,000 young men offering sexual services in Hamburg.
On the other sexual Hamburg after the EU enlargement of the central trading and import services and places of international prostitution. Hamburg as a port city that was in fact already been around 1880th

The aim of the exhibition

The need to address Sexwork of Sex Trafficking in Women, Violence, and differences of double standards in dealing with prostitution in other countries has the following objectives:

  • to inform the general public about prostitution and trafficking in women and in the spirit of a liberal education beyond a critical and in the media often existing or trivializing voyeuristic gaze.
  • Insights into the current and historical conditions of the little-known public worlds of work and life giving.
  • Respect for the profession is still stigmatized group of female and male prostitutes produce.
  • Openness to promote lifestyles nonneutral.
  • Awareness and vigilance to violence and reach dimensions in everyday exploitation in forced prostitution phenomenon.
  • overall social and political influence through the exhibition, the catalog, events, discussion forums.

We show:

The exhibition tells of the work and private lives of women and men in the sex industry. Are historical retrospectives it up in the era of early industrialization.
Historical and current aspects are: women and girls especially from Eastern Europe, forced prostitution, migrants in the sex trade, marriage market, prostitution in the border area of eastern Europe (eg, Belarus, Latvia, Lithuania).
In our exhibition project it will go even to the delicate task of the different social positions to prostitution, forced prostitution and trafficking in women exhibition according prepare for a broad audience.
Both on sex workers as well as to SEX-TRAFFICKING IN WOMEN we obtain counseling and self-help organizations for sex workers and trafficked women and one in such a way that its content and policy work in the exhibition catalog and visualized (interviews, text and film documents, information materials, etc.) or is planned in the program at events put on public discussion.

Conception and planning of the exhibition

Responsible: Dr. Elisabeth v. Ducker, research associate of the museum work. (Email: )
. Scientific cooperation with Emilija Mitrovic, social scientist and lecturer at the University of Applied Sciences Hamburg
(email: e.mitrovic @ )
For the duration of the project there is an interdisciplinary working group composed of the cooperation partners. The collaboration with lecturers and students from four disciplines represented at the University of Hamburg is a special feature of the exhibition project. The work is coordinated by the Museum.

Target groups:

Exhibitions are places of information and education, reflection, remembrance and awakening.
With its three-dimensional exhibits or pictures installations, they offer conversation events at a public meeting place.
Especially the Museum of Work provides with its conceptual anchoring of women’s and gender history is an important awareness-raising work to phenomena of sex work, the roles of women and men, the hierarchies and power structures.
With the exhibition, the accompanying catalog and the program we want to trigger many “aha-effect” and want our visitors to go with a piece of new world-view home.
We are a broad audience appeal. In Hamburg, a collaboration with schools targeted (in the Hamburg curriculum for sex education and other subjects appear the terms prostitution and trafficking in women does not), a critical awareness seems necessary, in women especially in times of growing AIDS and increasing. In the museum of the work there for years the best results in the interaction between museum education and schools.

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