Thursday, September 1, 2011

NYT: Sex Work in Other Countries is So Weird!

Posted By on Thu, Sep 1, 2011 at 1:59 PM

This machine is fascinating enough for Times coverage!
  • This machine is fascinating enough for Times coverage!
Yesterday's Times included a classic example of the "sex work is wacky in other countries" newspaper article genre: "In Germany, Sex Workers Feed a Meter". See also "Spanish Prostitutes Ordered to Wear Reflective Vests for Their Own Safety" and innumerable articles about Amsterdam.

There always seems to seems to be an undertone of "isn't it hilarious/weird that they're treating these women like PEOPLE?!" to these things. This one is better than most about that, but still:

The city of Bonn has begun collecting taxes from prostitutes with an automated pay station similar to a parking meter, proving again that German efficiency knows few if any bounds.

They got a quote from the Bonn Minister of Topical Jokes in there:

The women wait for customers on a stretch of the Immenburgstrasse in a largely industrial part of the city. In addition to the Siemens-built meter machine, which cost $11,575 including installation, the city has built special wooden garages nearby where customers can park their cars and have sex.

“They are called, in fairest and finest administrative High German, ‘performance areas,’ but I believe the Italian prime minister would say ‘bunga bunga,’ ” said Monika Frömbgen, a spokeswoman for the city. Still, she said, the serious issue that the meter was intended to address boils down to tax fairness.

Good one, Frau Frömbgen! Although hopefully these women are not in their early teens, right? Anyway, as with any tax, some people think it is not fair:

“The other night I worked all night but didn’t get any work, but I still had to pay it,” said a young woman from Hungary who gave her name only as Monica and said she thought the new system “stinks.”

But in the end,

Advocates for sex workers say the tax is unfair because prostitutes in Germany already pay income taxes. But the meter itself is not an issue, said Mechthild Eickel, a spokeswoman for Germany’s Alliance of Counseling Centers for Sex Workers. “An automat is no worse than a person,” she said.

So nobody there is actually upset about the machines, and this is only an interesting story because it involves sex workers. Because I'm pretty sure the NYT doesn't generally cover the enforcement of minor employment taxes in other countries? Which, fine, you know, sex makes things interesting! If it didn't I'd be out of a job! But I just wish that sometimes that, given we live in a place where instead of taxing sex workers, we criminalize them, leaving the threat of jail to make it that much easier to rape/murder/steal from/take advantage of an already-vulnerable population, these stories would focus just smidge more on this part:

The city estimates that it has 200 sex workers, of whom about 20 ply their trade on the street. The Bonn government spends $116,000 a year for a private security company to guard the area and to provide security for the sex workers.

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