johns

Amnesty Sweden rejects decriminalization proposal

Translated from Swedish

Original by Erik Magnusson published at sydsvenskan.se on 8 May 2014

Counter-proposal on sex purchase

Malmö. Swedish Amnesty goes against the positive view of purchasing sex expressed by Amnesty International.

At its annual meeting in Malmö this weekend, the Swedish section took a clear position against legal prostitution.

Last winter, Amnesty International caused an outcry among Swedish women’s organizations when its International Secretariat in London presented a proposal saying the organization should advocate the decriminalization of the buying and selling of sex.

According to the proposal, it is a human right for both men and women to prostitute themselves and legally sell sexual services.

Legalization is described as a way to grant prostitutes greater autonomy.

Ever since the proposal was presented, the Swedish section of Amnesty International has worked on a consultation response that goes against the parent organization’s proposal. Swedish Amnesty International has endeavored to anchor each syllable in local associations and women’s organizations.

–        ­We take a decision this weekend. We have considered the questions carefully. Our proposal is well established, says Sofia Halth, chairwoman of Amnesty Sweden.

–        We are against the policies proposed by the International Secretariat. We propose our own starting points for how we want to work on this issue, she adds.

According to the Swedish official response, it is just right to make it legal to sell sex. It is said to be in keeping with the Swedish Sex Purchase Act and described as “an important step in preventing abuse … committed by police and others.”

By contrast, Swedish Amnesty firmly opposes the decriminalization of buying sex and pimping.

The Swedish Sex Purchase Act has already been copied by Norway and Iceland. Similar legislation is underway in France while Belgium, Finland, Ireland and the UK are also looking to introduce similar laws.

However, there are countries such as Denmark, Holland and Germany where the prerequisites for sex-purchase laws according to the Swedish-Norwegian model are not given.

There is much anger among Amnesty members in Sweden that the organization would globally act to decriminalize the purchase of sex, but Sofia Halth maintains a diplomatic tone in her comments on the proposal by Amnesty’s International Secretariat.

She believes that the proposal’s anchoring in human rights is “inadequate”, that it has a too one-sided focus on legislation, and that the legal issues the proposal refers to are “not clearly enough formulated”.

–        In addition, the material has been developed with a selective focus on the research that exists, says Sofia Halth.

Swedish Amnesty is expected to urge the organization to shift its focus on the issue of prostitution at the annual meeting in Malmö.

They want to move from affirming “free choice and consent” to working towards a world in which nobody is forced to sell sex because of discrimination, coercion, violence, vulnerability or poverty.

Swedish Amnesty wants for prostitution to be opposed not only through legislation, but also through a variety of social interventions.

“Those who sell sex are often at the bottom of the social ladder and are subjected to serious human rights violations. The Swedish section therefore thinks it is an issue for Amnesty, but that we should focus on these grave violations against people in prostitution,” says the proposed Swedish official response.

Amnesty International will not take its final decision on the organization’s position on prostitution before fall this year. Amnesty has sent out invitations for an international consultation this summer.

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Views of a John

Translated from German
Original published on magazin-forum.de on 07 February 2014

He is married with children, says his marriage is a happy one. Nevertheless, Achim buys sex, from whores [sic] on the street. He doesn’t have a guilty conscience. He considers prostitution a service.

Achim, are you a bad person?
Why?

Because you go to whores [sic] who prostitute themselves on the street.
Well, there’s nothing to it and it’s not prohibited. On the contrary, prostitution is explicitly permitted in Germany.

What appeals to you about street prostitution? You could go to a brothel too, after all.

I do that too, depending on what I feel like, but sometimes there’s little money. The curb is just cheaper.

Because the women there are being exploited. No woman sells herself on the street voluntarily.
How do you know that? My experience is different. I have gotten to know many women there a bit better by now. As with everything in life, there are these kinds of people and those.

What have your experiences been specifically?
I have used street prostitution for quite a few years now and that means I also repeatedly meet women who have worked there for years. Many prostitutes are addicted to drugs, need the money for their next fix.  There are also a lot of hobby whores who have a regular job during the day and who earn something extra at night. Some are unemployed too, topping up their benefits. Exploitation, as you say, is nowhere to be seen.

What about the prostitutes from Bulgaria and Romania who are on the streets of Saarbrücken?
Yeah, there are a lot of pretty ones among them. I am a frequent customer there and if you ask me, this is a very good development in the city. There is considerably more supply than there used to be.

I was asking you about the exploitation of Romanians and Bulgarians, though.

I don’t know much about that. After all, many of them hardly speak any German and if they do, they don’t say anything. But I do think that there are pimps behind that. Sometimes you see them too.

And yet you go there?
There have always been pimps and there will always be. There are even really famous ones: Bert Wollersheim, for instance, has a big whorehouse in Düsseldorf. There was even a TV series about it. Did anyone get offended about that? No, on the contrary. It’s only the foreign pimps everyone gets outraged about.

You don’t?
Well, it’s better not to have anything to do with them and I don’t book a woman who is being publicly molested by one of them. I don’t want to support that.

But you are kind of doing that. Prostitution exists because there is demand for it; pimping is a consequence of that.
We often discuss this question in our internet forum. I can’t change the world. It is how it is. How about you, then? Do you go to McDonald’s, do you buy at KiK and Schlecker [stores known for worker exploitation]? They also have bad working conditions.

Well, comparing McDonald’s and Schlecker with the brutality of pimping is pretty gutsy. 
I don’t do that. But when I read that the sewers in Bangladesh sew the stuff for KiK, I feel sick. I am a great friend of women and want everyone to be all right. Again, I am against pimping. But I won’t be able to abolish it. I’d rather go to a whore who doesn’t have a pimp. Generally I prefer German prostitutes.

Why?
Because German women do prostitution more respectably; the service is better. Women from the Eastern Bloc like to pull a fast one on us johns.

What does that mean?
Often the girls are just not good. Promise something they don’t keep or want to end it after a really short time already.

You will have to explain that to us.
I wouldn’t like to do that; it’s too intimate.

Too intimate for the whorehouse, isn’t that a contradiction?
Okay, I will give you an example. Intercourse with a girl in the car costs 30 euros. But often it doesn’t actually take place; the girls are just pretending.

What do you mean, pretending?
Okay, that I am not going to tell you. They call it “Falle schieben” [‘pushing trap’]. How exactly that works is something you can read online.

You don’t think that’s okay?
Of course not. I pay what is asked of me, and I want to get what was promised in return.

 “I love my wife a lot; we are a good couple”

You don’t want to be recognizable in this interview. Why not, if all this is so normal?
For me and my friends it’s normal; we’re men. But I don’t want to be recognized by everyone once the interview has been published.

Do you have a wife, by the way?
That question is always asked;  of course, I have a wife and two children. And since you are about to ask me that anyway: yes, I also have a job; I’m not unemployed. I’m a composition floor layer for a large company in the Palatinate.

What does your wife have to say about you curb-crawling?
We don’t talk about it; everyone should have their secrets in a marriage.

Aren’t you cheating on your wife if you are deceiving her like that?
I would never do that.  I love my wife; we are a good couple.

Also in bed?

How is that with you, are you satisfied? The question is indiscreet but I will answer it anyway. Yes, we have good sex, but I simply love variation.

So how often do you buy sex?

Any time I feel like it. It differs; sometimes once a week, twice. Sometimes not at all. Sometimes spontaneously, too. Sometimes I notice I girl that I think is attractive; then I stop.

And then what?
I don’t understand the question.

Well, how does it continue from there?
How do you think it goes, I approach the woman, then it’s discussed what things she does and when we agree on the price, she comes with me.

In the car?
Yes, usually.

A little uncomfortable, don’t you think?
My car is large, comfortable and has good upholstery. Besides, I can fold down the back bench, then there’s enough space.

Sex in a parking lot, basically in public: is that where the kick lies?
None of this is public. We aren’t standing around in any well-lit parking lots either, but in a dark corner where nobody sees you. And the lights in the car stay off too.

And you like things like that?
Otherwise I wouldn’t be doing it. And besides, again, it’s not prohibited.

What do you think about prostitutes?

That something went wrong in their life, or else they wouldn’t be standing there. But I’m not responsible for that and I won’t be able to change it either. Buying sex is a service to me; similar to how I lay composition floors for other people, women go to bed with me for money.

Many whores [sic] offer the whole nine yards, not using condoms and things like that.
That’s for them to decide; I don’t have a death wish. I have my regular program that I always get. But I don’t want to talk about that here.

Maybe the whores [sic] have to do that because they are being forced?
No idea. I don’t force anyone and certainly not a woman. That’s very important to me.

(Editor: Name was changed on interviewee’s request)
Interview: Martin Busche

A John Comes Forward: “I don’t see them as people”

Translated from Norwegian

Original published by Martin Gedde-Dahl on www.nd.no on 06 February 2014

A John Comes Forward

Father of two Ottar Stangelang buys sex without feeling any shame.

-If the money doesn’t go to her, at least she got herself some good dick, says Ottar’s friend and laughs loudly and hoarsely at his interjection into the conversation.

Ottar disagrees. He has no illusions about having given the more than 200 – a number he later has doubts about as it is “impossible to keep count” – women he has bought sex from any pleasure.

–I know she gives as little of a damn about me as I give about her, he says.

We are at Grei café in Skippergata, a few blocks further out towards the docks than proper folks normally go. The address was the 1838 site of Henrik Wergeland’s courtship of his would-be wife Amalie Sofie. Today the place serves as the local pub for Oslo’s prostitutes. Meeting here was one of the conditions Ottar had for appearing as a sex buyer with his name and photo: “If it’s to be done, it must be done right.”

“Right” in this context means beer and fernet in a locale mostly populated by Eastern European-looking women in worn bubble jackets.

The initial background was finding a sex buyer’s reply to Danish ex-prostitute Tanja Rahm’s blog entry “To those who buy sex” which was published in Aftenposten and read by more than 500,000 Norwegians over the course of only a few days. Even though the subject is given many column inches and attention in a series of debate shows on TV and radio, there is a group that has remained unheard for the most part: the actual addressee of the text, the sex buyer. 13% of Norwegian men state that they have bought sex, but so far none of them have come forward and answered the accusations. Ottar wants to give “the sex buyer” a face.

I read the introduction aloud: “Dear sex buyer. If you think I ever felt attracted to you, you are terribly wrong.” Ottar responds with a roar of laughter.

– Who is she talking to? Haha! A sum of money gives me “wham-bam”, miserable sex and unloading. Nobody goes from you feeling pride.

– Surely there are some? Some prostitutes offer a so-called “girlfriend experience”.

– When it comes to feelings I prefer the real deal. But yeah, sure, there are probably those who dig stuff like that. That’s what she doesn’t get: people are different, there’s no such thing as the sex buyer. The same goes for whores, by the way: they are individuals with unique feelings, thoughts and opinions.

He takes a short break, sips his beer and adds:

– But I’m sure as hell not interested in them. They’re not people in my eyes.

Before you write him off as a monster, let me specify: Ottar Stangeland appears to be a good guy. Polite, bright, funny and well-spoken. You would probably like him, at least when he’s not talking about prostitution. You would hardly reject him as being especially evil or stupid, at least not as some kind of social deviant or as somehow incapable of telling right from wrong. The father of two from Stavanger is, on the whole, pretty normal. Aside from some stories of drunk debauchery, a slightly more colorful group of friends and a few more things weighing on his conscience than average. Yes, and a more passionate relationship with buying sex, an interest he has had since he was on a guys’ trip to Denmark at age 17 and paid for sex for the first time.

– We knew there were whores there and we had our minds made up that here we would fuck something that’s not white – try something new! – so we got Thai from the shop. It was a revelation. A hell of a lot better than that fake courtship in the city. I saved myself hours of lying and spending money for maybe being allowed to touch a tit.

Is the reason that you buy sex that you dislike the pickup situation?
– I’ve never had any trouble getting by, but when I pull ladies in the city, I feel like I’m selling myself. I see it from a whore’s perspective, if you will. I’m completely aware that she’s lying, because I do it myself.

 You think buying sex is more honest than one night stands?
– Yes, and you end up spending roughly the same. We can also see it from the other side. You know the saying “all women are whores”? It’s an over the top statement, but there is some truth to it. To stand at the bar and rake in drink after drink from guys who are lying to get to sleep with you – that’s a form of whoring. Just like so many other things people do.

Ottar asks me to clarify that he is currently in a relationship and doesn’t avail himself of prostitutes (“beyond faithful” as he phrases it). He only buys sex when he is single, and preferably abroad. As the singer of the punk band Haggis and with his job as a travel journalist, among others for the men’s magazine Alfa, he has accumulated many days of travel, he says. And wherever he travels, there are temptations.

– They’re everywhere, in different shapes – and I try everything. Street whores, brothels, or whatever there is. I have no preferences.

Don’t you have any criteria? Some say they only buy sex from women who aren’t being exploited.
– Haha! If you want to be sure of that, you have to stop buying sex – and many other things people buy without thinking about it. It’s not my responsibility to ensure the well-being of people I don’t know. I take care of my nearest. The whole point with the whoring is the distance. You buy a service, and done.

And you manage to distance yourself?
– Yes. But I understand that it can be horrible. I have daughters myself, and I wouldn’t wish this profession on them for anything in the world. It’s just the men who sit and grin, the women don’t have it so damn great. That Danish one should walk a few meters in real whore’s shoes. Look at the girls who stand out here teeth chattering waiting to be taken along in those rape vans. Fucking hell. The whole thing is on the shady side, but that’s the stuff that’s really dark.

The reason they are standing out there is that there is a sex market, though. If you agree that they have a horrible life, how can you not feel some responsibility?

– And your clothes are most likely made by small Indian children’s hands. You can say stuff like that about anything. Everything can be dragged into a moral abyss by telling horror stories. That mentality of “if I don’t do it, someone else is going to do it” – well, that is actually the case too. Should we all, like, quit it, then? Stop buying whores?

Yes?

– That’s a utopia! Like the war on drugs, it’s impossible to win. It’s much better to do it like in Portugal. Let them pay tax! It’s gotta be better for them to become a part of society than to live with fifty other girls in an apartment where they are beat on by some Nigerian baron or something.

Could a happy industry exist? Or is that an inherently boring thing?

– From what I know about women, I don’t think it’s possible to separate sex and feelings one hundred percent. Not over time, and continue to be happy.

You don’t believe in the sex-loving happy hooker?

– She does exist, but she’s the exception that proves the rule.

Ottar’s friend is more optimistic, and starts dishing out about women he knows who thrive in selling sex. Completely ordinary mothers of toddlers who make a year’s earnings by going on a summer tour in a trailer.
– It’s those who are independent and have full control that are happy.

Ottar interrupts.

– They thrive when they’re raking it in, yeah. It’ll be like this for many whores: do they like the men? No. Do they like the job? Meh. Do they like the money? Haha, you bet they do!

What do you think about girls who sell themselves? Do you look down on them?

– Absolutely not! You have a tough profession there, all respect to those who can do it. I know I said I don’t see them as people, but I actually think they are worth as much as everyone else. What I mean is that I don’t see them as my people. I don’t behave towards them like people.

Ottar speaks quickly and animatedly. Every sentence opens up new associations and thoughts that don’t always lead to a conclusion. A parallel between buying sex from trafficking victims and clothes produced with child labor subtly glides into experiences with Colombian street prostitutes and ends in a rant against the Swedish justice minister, Beatrice Ask, who recently came down hard against hash after having been fooled by a false report of a hash overdose with a deadly outcome.

– I mean, she knows nothing! And people like that are supposed to tell us what’s right and wrong. People who haven’t lived a day in their lives. Those who yell the loudest about morals are those I trust the least.

“From the top down” people, he calls them. “Those who declare themselves judge over other people’s actions but don’t want to show their own weaknesses.”

– The only things that are black and white are the keys on the piano, says Ottar.

– At least I’m honest about that shit.

Reason, Emotions and Buying Sex in Norway

Translated from Norwegian
Original published by Joacim Lund at aftenposten.no on 04 February 2014

 de  German version

Reason, emotions and buying sex

The law against buying sex is an emotional subject. Has it become a fit of moralist panic?

The law against buying sex is condemnable, says Bent Johan Mosfjell of the online magazine Liberaleren. It takes away our agency over our own bodies.

Aksel Braanen Sterri was of the same opinion when he wrote about the surrogacy debate in Morgenbladet one year ago:
“When you sell your time and your labor force, you sell a limited part of your agency over your body and its functions to your employer,” he wrote.

That sounds logical. A carpenter offers his physical labor for money without it being prohibited to buy his services for that reason. What is the difference between him and a prostitute if it isn’t morals?

“The happy hooker”

There are examples of women who thrive in prostitution. Their poster girl in recent years, Hege Grostad, has been given much space in the media. When the Danish former prostitute Tanja Rahm expressed a diametrically opposed (and more representative) view of prostitution in Aftenposten, Grostad called her a moralist.

Technical knockout. The moralist card trumps most debates. Presumably that is why even the Prime Minister is now using it.

Prime Minister is bluffing

“I want to stress that the law against the buying of sex was not a law we introduced for moralist reasons (…). It was not because we got up on our high horse and said that buying sex is wrong or something like that,” said Solberg at the Norwegian parliament’s Q&A hour last Thursday.

A spectacular political bluff. Contributing to a change in attitudes was and is one of the most important objectives of the law. It’s right there in black and white in the introduction to the hearing minutes. For a good reason.

Laws affect morals

University of Oslo researchers Andreas Kotsadam and Niklas Jakobsson wrote this in their 2011 article “Do laws affect attitudes?”, in which they examined Norwegians’ views of the law before and after the law against buying sex was introduced. The young population’s views of buying sex had become more negative; the same applied to the population of Oslo, where prostitution is most visible.

In Norway, the law has worked in a very short time. In Sweden, where there are 15 years of experience with the law, the population has bigger moral qualms when it comes to the purchase of sexual services. According to an official Swedish report (SOU 2010:49), 70 percent where against criminalization in 1996 while 70 percent were for it in 2008.

Signaling effect

The debate around the law against buying sex is complicated. It is perfectly legitimate to discuss to what extent the law is working toward its objectives (experiences from Sweden and international research indicate that it’s working) and who is affected (the law is connected with efforts by the authorities to provide support measures that will get people out of prostitution).

All this should be evaluated. But it’s also a debate about values. The law against buying sex signalizes that purchasing sexual services can never become the same as hiring a carpenter, and that feelings and views belong in this debate. Moralism? Pshaw. Morals? Yes – and yes, please.

“Die Welt” Interview with Tanja Rahm

Translated from German

Original by Per Hinrichs published on www.welt.de on 19 January 2014

[Translator’s comment: original was published under a inconspicuous site header that reads “Ex-whore”. It is unclear whether the use of this word was agreed upon with Rahm.]

 “Prostitution and slavery are the same thing”

Why I am no longer a whore: “Die Welt” interviewed Danish Tanja Rahm about her experiences of violence growing up, the guilty conscience of her former customers, and exit programs for prostitutes.

“Dear sex customer, If you think that I ever felt attracted to you, you are terribly mistaken. I have never had any desire to go to work, not once. The only thing on my mind was to make money, and fast.” – That is the beginning of an open letter written by the Danish former prostitute Tanja Rahm, which was published first in the Norwegian paper “Aftenposten” and later also in “Die Welt”. Rahm, who now works as a writer and therapist near Copenhagen, has been widely praised but also criticized for her statements. Since then she has commented on her blog tanjarahm.dk, on Norwegian TV and in numerous interviews. “Die Welt”, too, asked to talk to her about it.

Die Welt: You made many degrading experiences with men in your work as a prostitute. Why did you decide to do this job of all things?

Tanja Rahm: I’m not even sure it was a free choice. I grew up in a very dysfunctional family with alcohol and drugs. When I was 11 years old, a pedophile man abused me and french-kissed me. At 17 I was sexually abused multiple times by various pedophiles. At 13 I wrote a poem about what it’s like to be a prostitute. I don’t think that any 13-year-old girl dreams of becoming a prostitute. I think that my low self-esteem and the feeling of not being loved and my hunger for attention led me there. I didn’t even believe that vocational training or university were options for me. I didn’t trust anyone and was scared of being hurt. When I prostituted myself, I thought that I was of no use for anything else, that I was worthless. I wasn’t picking one of several jobs, it wasn’t about becoming a nurse or a teacher or a prostitute. I thought the only thing I was good for was giving my sexuality away. The men who sexually abused me taught me that. And so I decided I could just as well do it for money, so that I could see what I’m worth.

Die Welt: So you tried to strengthen your self-esteem through the sale of your body?

Rahm: Of course I noticed that men found me attractive. Many said so, too. But nobody told me I was good at writing or drawing. Everything in my environment was focused on my sexuality and my looks.

Die Welt: Is this personal background something that’s representative of other prostitutes?

Rahm: Yes. I have spoken with many prostitutes and about eight out of ten made similar experiences of violence and abuse. When a man buys sex today, he needs to know that he is highly likely to encounter a woman who has suffered terrible things and is selling herself for the wrong reasons – namely because she wants to be worth something. It’s only later that these women realize that this only makes it a lot worse and they lose whatever self-esteem they had left.

Die Welt: And yet many commenters in Scandinavia and Germany write that you were naïve when you entered the job. That’s just the sort of thing that happens to prostitutes, they often say. Were you really too naïve?

Rahm: Everyone is welcome to call me naïve. I was emotionally destroyed by the time I was in my early twenties, I had internalized that only my sexuality is worth anything. I think I wanted to take control of myself back then. That was definitely naïve, because as a prostitute you have no control whatsoever. After all, you never know who the next customer is, what he wants and how he will treat you. It’s a very dangerous situation. When a customer choked me, I had no control whatsoever anymore and that was precisely what he wanted: he wanted my life to be in his hands.

Die Welt: But you earned well.

Rahm: It was never about the money to me. It wasn’t the money that made me a prostitute. If I could undo those three years and restore my self-respect, I would pay back every Danish krone that I earned in that job.

Die Welt: Were you ever actually forced to have sex, for example by a pimp?

Rahm: I was never forced to have sex with customers by a third person. But nobody helps you out of that milieu. Nobody helps you when you tell them what you do. On the contrary, everyone around you wants to keep you in prostitution. None of the assaults I suffered during my work were reported. Nobody told me I could get access to psychological counseling. I only ever heard: drink your tea and then see the next customer. Because both the greeter and the receptionist received a share of my earnings. If I didn’t work, they earned less too.

Die Welt: Did you experience violence with customers?

Rahm: Frequently, yes. One time a customer tried to set the room on fire while I was still inside. I couldn’t get out and when the police arrived, the brothel owner called me and yelled so loudly that the officers could hear it: You have to come back immediately! She didn’t care that I almost died. I was also raped by a man who kept me imprisoned for one hour. Porn was running in the background while he pushed my head into the pillow. I was stalked by customers; taxi drivers who drove me home from work demanded to have sex with me because they didn’t respect me.

Die Welt: You wrote that there were many psychopaths among your customers. What did those do?

Rahm: Something they all have in common is that they never perceived me as a human being, but as a prostitute, a commodity with which they could do what they wanted for 20 minutes or half an hour. Many customers dehumanize prostitutes; to them, they are living dolls. Many commenters write that, too: Well, what do you expect, you’re a whore. That’s cruel and inhumane.

Die Welt: Prostitution is said to be the world’s oldest trade. Does prohibition make sense at all when the demand is so high?

Rahm: The world’s oldest trade is still agriculture. Women turned to the profession of prostitution because there was nothing else left to them. They had no right to vote, no access to education or regular jobs. That’s why they did this. Today, in 2014, we have access to education, jobs, careers. There is massive social progress that is just not supposed to apply to prostitutes. And besides, it is men who are making the big profits: the pimps and the traffickers who bring women over here from Eastern Europe. It’s a big industry, a money machine, that passes on only the tiniest portion of the profits to the prostitutes.

Die Welt: So what are people to do?

Rahm: It is my wish that Europe will stand united and take action against prostitution and prohibit it. It would also be a signal to the rest of the world that we tolerate no slavery, no violence, no sex for money. We also need exit programs for prostitutes.

Die Welt: In Denmark, prostitution is prohibited. But there’s still commercial sex there.

Rahm: That’s correct. And it’s not acceptable. Only recently I read a website where sex buyers review prostitutes. It’s nauseating. They don’t care if the women were kidnapped and brought to the brothel or what kind of background they have. One customer writes that he was unhappy with the woman’s appearance, so he turned her around and took her brutally. We have to take social responsibility and recognize prostitution for what it is: a crime against humanity. Punters must be punished, not women who usually sell themselves out of desperation. There is also still slavery in the world, but that’s illegal, of course.

Die Welt: Is prostitution comparable to slavery?

Rahm: It’s the same thing. Someone is exploiting a person, with or without money changing hands. It’s a form of slavery. Only that this isn’t about skin color but sex.

Die Welt: Why did you stay in a job that was so damaging to you for three years?

Rahm: Because I couldn’t get out. I wanted out much sooner. I suffered from depression, anxiety, and many other problems. I only made it through the last year by regularly using cocaine; I just couldn’t have done it otherwise. Many other women also used drugs or drank alcohol. I was much more hurt than before the job; I didn’t think I could make the exit. And every man that bought me confirmed my negative impression of men.

Die Welt: One argument frequently heard from your critics is that you are shifting the blame onto the customers, that you should rather take responsibility for your own life. What do you think about that?

Rahm: I know that it’s difficult for many to understand the problem that is prostitution. I would of course be very easy to say everyone is responsible for their own affairs. But you don’t need to be a psychologist to see that sexual abuse can lead to prostitution. We have all heard it countless times. That’s also why I don’t understand that many men stress freedom of choice in their attacks. I felt like I had no other options at the time. Men destroyed my blossoming sexuality, abused it, ruined it. How was I supposed to be in a position to make good decisions? I think that the freedom of choice argument is used to ease the conscience of buyers. For if they were to acknowledge that abuse is what drives many women to the brothel, they could hardly justify it anymore. And in countries where prostitution is socially accepted and legal, any debate is quickly nipped in the bud.

Die Welt: Now the debate is gaining momentum again.

Rahm: Yes, the letter was published in Scandinavia, Iceland and Germany and it will probably be published in Great Britain, the US, Spain and France too. Things are changing. I want to shake people awake.

Die Welt: Many sex buyers and prostitutes claim that the women enjoy it. Is that self-deception or can the so-called ‘happy hooker’ really exist?

Rahm: Of course I can’t say what these prostitutes feel or don’t feel. But from my experience I know that many active prostitutes don’t know what they are getting into and only realize what it has done to them once they have exited. You’re not just selling a thing. Every time you receive a customer, you sell a part of yourself. It eats you alive. I don’t think that there are happy hookers. If the job was easy, why would I have quit?

English translation of Tanja Rahm’s open letter

Tanja Rahm’s open letter in the original Danish

German translation of Tanja Rahm’s open letter