Cheap sex for the saddle sore: Berlin brothel offers cyclists discount

// 19 July 2009

In this guest post, Charlotte Cooper considers a German brothel that is offering a ‘green’ discount for punters who arrive by public transport or bike

“Release the puns” must have been the call to journalists when news was delivered that a brothel in Berlin was offering a green discount for those arriving by public transports, bikes and the like. Parking this here and riding that, pumping other things and so forth.

The unbridled joy of being able to sidestep any kind of moral questioning of the appropriation of the green movement to move women’s bodies for a little less money in these economically depressing times. So firstly, yes, brothels in Germany are legal and one would imagine a brothel with any secrets to hide wouldn’t be out and proud sourcing journalists to draw attention to its dealings, but then I’m quite sure the very legal strip clubs in our country don’t think there’s anything wrong with charging their dancers to perform and taking the majority of a night’s working wage in the name of running their businesses.

However, highlighting the brothels insistence, as Treehugger does, that it uses only German and/or EU citizens to staff its business is not much of a recommendation of respectability, unless you don’t believe the trafficking and abuse of women can happen within one country’s borders (a 2009 report put one quarter of sex trafficked victims as German nationals), or within the EU, especially considering Germany’s problems in the recent past.

There’s also the teensy problem that these (modest) discounts probably didn’t come at the behest of the women working in the brothel, but the boss (read pimp), who saw a marketing opportunity (again as I don’t know if the women pay residence or simply get a wage from working in the brothel so I don’t know who this effects what they’ll get at the end of the day). Safe to say, these ‘nice motivated models’, trafficked or not, are clearly going to cause you as little consternation about the legitamacy of their existance as their personal enjoyment while you get your concessionary screw session (45min or 15min) thinking about how good and ethical you are for not spewing environmentally unfriendly substances out of your car to get your happy end.

Don’t let my concerned position allow you to think I’m entirely against the fluffy pointless parts of the news to distract from the normal hand wringing, panic stricken, head shaking stuff, but I do have a problem with the normalisation of the sex industry, particularly parts where women’s bodies are bought and sold in less than the best circumstances. Want to take the piss out of greenwashing? It’s not hard. At least when you’re talking about the biodegradable nature of bullets they’re unconcious, unsentient things, not living, breathing humans.

Comments From You

polly styrene // Posted 19 July 2009 at 12:35 pm

Great post. Go on to the front page of “fuck for forest” (purveyors of eco friendly porn) and there is a picture of a naked masked woman kneeling in supplication before a chainsaw.

Or you may want to take my word for it, as it’s hardly a pleasant image. Greenwashing indeed.

Jennifer Drew // Posted 19 July 2009 at 6:44 pm

No need to concern oneself as to whether it is acceptable for men to indulge their free choices in buying women involved in prostitution, just so the Johns can masturbate into their bodies. No, no saving the environment is far more important and naturally it supercedes any notion women should not be men’s dehumanised sexualised commodities.

Who benefits from these discounts – certainly not women but it will increase the brothel owners profits as well as reinforcing dominant beliefs it is acceptable and normal for men to enact their ‘free choice’ in buying women’s bodies for the purpose of male masturbation and/or commit sexual violence against these so-called commodities.

Are women human – not according to the pimp and media who simply reported this without any analysis or critique. No, just add a few mindless jokes and everything is fine because the pimp is helping to save the environment!

Alex // Posted 19 July 2009 at 7:46 pm

Ugh, let’s not convolute the workings of the sex industry by equating it to illegal human trafficking. Many companies are complicit in equally horrific human rights abuses, and yet nobody advocates banning entire industries because of their abuses.

The brothel ran a promotional gimmick, and while you find it disgusting, women who choose to be sex workers find it no different than a boutique having a shoe sale.

Yes those women rent out their bodies, so what? Traditional stay at home mummies sell their entire self, often times at bargain basement prices to their husbands.

I was born very fortunate, my family has money, which allowed them to send me to a good schools and give me a generous allowance. If I didn’t have those advantages, I would much rather work as an exotic dancer or perhaps even as an escort than some low-wage J-O-B.

Sam Rico // Posted 20 July 2009 at 2:06 am


i dont actually know where to start in replying to your post, but i will attempt to just give you a few quick points to think about:

1. ummm, actually many people, myself included, advocate banning/ boycotting/ harshly regulating industries because of their abuses. what the hell were you thinking writing that? have you ever heard of socialism?

2. does it look like anyone on this website supports the idea of ‘traditional stay at home mummies’?

3. i think you completely miss the point with your last paragraph, so i will spell it out for you; why should some women be born rich, and not have to make that decision, while other women have to choose between a low-paid job (as you say,) and what often amounts to being repeatedly sexually abused to make a bit more money (which you would probably get for doing a job no harder than their low-paid job option).

4. you obviously have no idea of the implications of the sex industry on other countries (especially in the 3rd world), nor of the actual implications of the demographic from which most sex-workers are drawn. i hope you do not require further explanation of what i am getting at, because if you do you obviously have no idea of what this debate entails.

Lindsey // Posted 20 July 2009 at 10:38 am


Saying you would rather be a sex worker than a 9-5er doesn’t really mean a lot until you’ve experienced it. I couldn’t begin to understand what it’s like but I don’t doubt that it’s a lot harder than it looks.

lisa // Posted 20 July 2009 at 1:58 pm

The marketing has another level that may be lost in translation. One of the reasons that the sex industry is legal is that it is connected to cultural themes of health (an orgasm a day keeps the doctor away as it were) and naturalism (the Frei Korper Kultur especially popular in the former East). The German Green movement is strongly connected to the FKK and Health culture so the image of health and environmental conscious Germans cycling to brothels works for Germans. (Women also use the sex industry in Germany too although they prefer to purchase erotic massages from females and/or males in the setting of a private apartment).

One of Germany’s sex heroines was Beate Uhse (for Germans her name sounds very medical and matronly) and her sex shops are still market leaders.

Karen // Posted 20 July 2009 at 6:56 pm

Actually, I quite like having a j-o-b. It means i can support myself and pay all my b-i-l-l-s whilst remaining in control of my own body and not having to put up with a bunch of morons slobbering down my cleavage. So some women “choose” to do this for work. How many would if they weren’t trafficked, up to their eyeballs in debt, got kids to support, on drugs or have some other motivation that really they should get some help with from maybe the authorities. The year 2000 has gone. We’ve got nano-technology. We can get across the world in half a day. Yet still some women are having to sell their bodies out of desperation. You go work on the streets if you want Alex, who knows, you may learn something but you know what, none of us should have to and I don’t ever intend to allow myself to become the plaything of some muppet with more money than respect. Keeping my J-O-B and my D-I-G-N-I-T-Y.

Mephit // Posted 20 July 2009 at 9:16 pm

“Traditional stay at home mummies sell their entire self, often times at bargain basement prices to their husbands.”

What an extraordinary and patronising statement. Marriage doesn’t mean male ownership these days: it’s a pooling of your resources and a partnership. I’d like to know exactly where the sale or loss of self supposedly comes in.

Ro Ro // Posted 21 July 2009 at 10:25 am

@ Alex

You say “I was born very fortunate, my family has money, which allowed them to send me to a good schools and give me a generous allowance.”

Am I right in thinking that you don’t actually work then, you just get given money off your parents? So you’ve never actually been in a poisition of choosing between sex work and a J-O-B? This is just a totally abstact concept for you?

Maybe I’m wrong but that is how it comes across, and makes your claim a little hard to take seriously.

This story reminds me of my old flatmate who worked as a lap dancer for a while to try to pay off a large debt. She hated every minute of it (I believe even more than she let on) and often came back distressed but one night she came back in absolute floods of tears, just as I was coming in from my bar J-O-B.

When she arrived at work the management told the dancers that a new club had opened round the corner and to compete they were offering a night of ‘two girl double-dance specials’ for £15. This meant that for doing the exact same work she would only get £7.50 instead of the usual tenner. And guess what? This was after she’s paid her £80 ‘house fee’ so she had no choice but to stay and work it back.

She got paired with another woman who was known to be a drug-user and had been fined once for giving out ‘extras’. This made her feel instantly unsafe.

She said that because of the other club opening it was a slow night and she’d only cleared £40 for a nine-hour shift. At one point in the night, when it looked like she actually might lose money, the other woman had been trying to persuade her to do extras and she’d considered it, in desperation.

After the shift she asked the manager how long this promotion would be going on for and he said ‘as long as it needs to’.

She couldn’t leave right away either as at the time that was her only way of making money.

It was a horrible thing to witness and has shaped my views of the sex-industry ever since.

I really don’t think she viewed this ‘gimmick’ as a shop worker views a shoe sale.

Jess McCabe // Posted 21 July 2009 at 11:19 am

“does it look like anyone on this website supports the idea of ‘traditional stay at home mummies’?”

Hmmm, I guess it depends what you mean by this: the idea that mothers should or have an obligation to work in the home exclusively, or take on the vast majority of responsibility for childcare and house work? I think you’re right, most people would not support that idea. But mothers who chose for one reason or another to work in the home raising their children? Some contributors on The F-Word and commenters actually do this.

Mephit // Posted 21 July 2009 at 2:49 pm

Thanks, Jess.

I’m a stay-at-home parent and, shock horror, I am a feminist. My husband had a job he liked and was earning more than me when we decided to have children. I had a job I didn’t like. So in lots of ways it made sense for me to be the one to stay in the home (we didn’t want to use childcare for the first few years of their lives).

The money he earns is ours and we have a partnership. The roles could equally well have been reversed with us.

I do find it alienating, very patronising and pretty ignorant that some of the comments on here have basically derided and dismissed this choice as unfeminist. What rubbish.

Sam Rico // Posted 21 July 2009 at 3:25 pm

@ Jess McCabe,

i meant the idea of an obligation to be a stay-at-home mummy, and of being one who is, as Alex put it, ‘sell their entire self’ to their husbands. so i wouldn’t consider mothers who choose to stay at home ‘traditional’, so long as that choice is made freely and in a non-coercive relationship. hope that clears it up :-)

Sam Rico // Posted 21 July 2009 at 3:27 pm

hi Mephit,

sorry, i just put another post down which is an attempt to clear up my views on this issue, and unlike Alex, i am not against people, whether a woman or man, who decide to be a stay-at-home parent. this is so long as, as you put it, the roles could easily have been reversed.

Jess McCabe // Posted 21 July 2009 at 3:36 pm

Thanks for your comment, @Mephit

I think it’s important to support parents’ choices to arrange their lives how they want to. There’s plenty that could be said about the system and limitations on women’s choices when it comes to this, but it shouldn’t be about deriding the choice to stay at home and do this work.

For example, though, things like the pay gap mean and social expectations around it being more normative for women to stay at home to parent, do need to be critiqued: when so many different sex couples with children come to this point, they will find the man earns more; that’s not accidental. The whole situation needs tackling so it’s a real choice, not an economic necessity.

polly styrene // Posted 21 July 2009 at 7:29 pm

Being a *traditional stay at home* mummy IS a job. It’s called childcare.

Anne Onne // Posted 21 July 2009 at 9:59 pm

Being a stay-at-home mum is hard work. Stay-at-home mums deserve respect for what they do, and there can be many reasons for a woman deciding that she will stay at home and raise their children whilst her partner will earn most or all of the money.

Of course a stay-at-home mother can be a feminist, as much as anybody who has ever made a choice that aligns with patriarchy or tradition. A choice itself doesn’t have to ‘be feminist’ for a person to be feminist. Are any choices really feminist? Why the framing of personal decisions as being anti-feminist? A person who does out to work is not thinking ‘hah! one for the sisterhood’, they simply do what they feel they need. Likewise someone who stays at home to look after kids isn’t thinking ‘hah! one for the sisterhood!’.

I’m not saying someone choosing to stay at home is anti-feminist, I’m saying I don’t believe an individual choice of one person for themselves is something for others to judge like that. I don’t think such a choice is ‘anti-feminist’ because it affects oneself and is one’s choice, even if it does follow well-worn often oppressive paths. However, as much as it’s not unfeminist, it’s also not feminist either. It’s simply what someone has decided for their lives. It may be the right choice for them, it may not. They may manage to avoid most of the problems associated with it, they may not.

However on a grander scale (on the scale of a society, for example), I don’t think a choice is fully free or equal unless there are other options, and unless people have the support to find the best option for themselves without having to tend back most frequently to the patriarchical choice because it may be the easiest.

On an individual level, every couple should decide amongst themselves what is best for them. A personal choice is a personal choice. However, whatever the fairly egalitarian context of the relationship (assuming that this is not merely an expectation placed on the woman, or something she’s been groomed to expect since infancy), the fact that a woman staying at home has historically been used as a tool for oppression cannot be entirely forgotten or discounted. There’s a reason the patriarchy left all this work to women, and that men have traditionally avoided it.

Someone staying at home is financially more vulnerable, and does work that is less valued and respected by society and often their partner, too. I can’t look past how staying at home has been used as a method of oppression and othering against women in my family over the years, an excuse to keep them dependent on their menfolk whilst at the same time denigrating them for the work they did. Many women are suffering to varying degrees because of this expectation, or how their work is framed.

It is not an equal choice. If it was, we’d have as many men as women staying at home. People would treat women who stay at home to look after kids exactly the same as men who who stay at home to look after kids. Businesses would be flexible enough so that men and women could work out care plans that suit them and their partner/s. Child care and house keeping would be respected as work. The fact that on the whole many more women than men stay at home or work part time to look after kids isn’t an accident.

But it is not. And on the whole, more people expect women to do this work than men. We need to change this so that women and men will both have more options, and women won’t be pressured to stay at home because of their upbringing, social expectations, work problems or putting their partners first.

There can be many reasons to make such a choice, and whilst we can never be completely free of influence by the patriarchy, and we can never change the context,it does not mean that such a choice may not be the right choice for us.

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