... Prostitution was legalised “for the government to make a lot of money,” Beretin says, strolling past a woman in a lime green lycra shrug (and nothing else) while another woman, nude except for black hold-up stockings, leans against the bar. Quite a few people agree with Beretin – and not all of them are brothel owners grumbling about their tax bills. But that isn’t how the legalisation argument was won 12 years ago.
The idea of the law, passed by Chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s Social Democrat-Green coalition, was to recognise prostitution as a job like any other. Sex workers could now enter into employment contracts, sue for payment and register for health insurance, pension plans and other benefits. Exploiting prostitutes was still criminal but everything else was now above board. Two female politicians and a Berlin madam were pictured clinking their champagne glasses in celebration.
It didn’t work. “Nobody employs prostitutes in Germany,” says Beretin. None of the authorities I spoke to had ever heard of a prostitute suing for payment, either. And only 44 prostitutes have registered for benefits.
What did happen was the opening of Europe’s biggest brothel – the 12-storey, neon-wrapped Pascha in Cologne. Not to mention a rash of FKK, or “naked”, clubs where men can spend the evening drifting between the sauna, the bar and the bedrooms. Bargain-hunters might try the “flat rate” brothels, where an entry fee of between 50-100 euros buys you unlimited sex with as many women as you want, or cruise the caravans at motorway truck stops, or the drive-through “sex boxes” in the street-walking zones. (They look like stables and are known as “verrichtungsboxen” - “getting things done boxes”.) ...