Let’s Talk about Sex, Baby

The red light district in the northern German town     As of 1927, prostitution has been legal in Germany. In 1964, sex workers were required to pay taxes, and in 2002 the prostitution law was updated, granting sex workers more legal rights, such as the right to sue clients who refuse to pay and the right to health insurance and social security. Last Wednesday, the 26th of February, marks the latest update, as the European Parliament voted Yes, 139 MEPS (Member of the European Parliament) to 109, on a resolution proposed by UK politician Mary Honeyball to criminalize the purchase of sexual services, thereby officially marking the EU’s stance on prostitution, and officially marking the start of pressure for the countries of the EU to follow suit.

As said by Honeyball, this “Swedish Model” of prostitution “focuses on reducing the demand, making it the purchaser of sex – invariably the man – who is criminalised.”

While on paper, this theory may seem like a good option to an increasingly hard problem, many others – some 560 NGOs (non-governmental organizations) and civil society organizations, including the International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe and La Strada International (an anti-trafficking organization), as well as 91 academics and researchers, to be exact – are resolutely not in agreement.

Mona Küppers, vice chairwoman of the National Council of German Women’s Organisations, in a letter signed by the aforementioned 560 NGOs to the members of the European Parliament asking them to reject a report by Honeyball, commented : “We think that the systematic criminalisation of sex buyers will not bring the change supporters of this resolution are hoping for. Quite the opposite: the experience in Sweden shows that prostitution does not just simply disappear after introducing the criminalisation of buyers – activities just simply shift underground. This cannot be the solution – particularly not for the women working in the sex trade.” View the letter in its entirety here.

One of the big problems that people have with Honeyball’s argument is its failure to separate willful prostitution from prostitution begot by sex trafficking. In doing this, Honeyball effectively submits an argument against sex trafficking, not prostitution, but under the false name of the latter, thereby adding nothing valid to the legitimate discussion at hand.

La Strada graz    What’s more, even if it is sex trafficking Honeyball is campaigning against, her ideas on how to improve the situation have shown to have the opposite effect. La Strada International, a network of 12 anti-trafficking NGOS, have stated, ” The partners of the LSI NGO Platform have supported many women and men who were trafficked in the sex industry in the past nearly two decades. (..) Criminalisation stigmatises and marginalises both domestic and migrant sex workers and it deprives them of the tools to protect themselves from violence and seek redress. It drives the sex industry even more underground, which results in less access to health, social and legal assistance for sex workers, and significantly lowers chances to identify individuals who have been trafficked.”

Another rather large (rather, rather large)  issue is the statistical information used to back up Honeyball’s argument; namely, that its scientific quality is poor and that many of the references cited by Honeyball have been proven to be inaccurate time and time again. Plainly put, as stated in the letter, A CRITIQUE OF THE “REPORT ON PROSTITUTION AND SEXUAL EXPLOITATION AND ITS IMPACT ON GENDER EQUALITY” BY MARY HONEYBALL, MEP, signed by the aforementioned 91 academics and researchers, “The report by Ms Honeyball fails to address the problems and harms that can surround sex work and instead produces biased, inaccurate and disproven data.” View the full critique here.

It’s a hard line to walk, somehow having to balance the agency of prostitutes as legal, rightful workers using sex as a legitimate means of income and the illegally coerced  and exploited women stuck in the violent cycle that is sex trafficking, but it would seem that Honeyball has not only incorrectly toed that line, but fallen off of it completely.

 

For a full commentary on the (il)legitimacy of Honeyball’s now EU backed resolution, check out these sites:

http://rhrealitycheck.org/article/2014/02/25/european-parliament-shouldnt-criminalize-buying-sex/

http://www.sexworkeurope.org/news/general-news/560-ngos-and-91-researchers-demand-members-european-parliament-reject-ms-honeyball

http://menschenhandelheute.net/2014/02/26/wutender-kommentar-das-europaparlament-stimmt-fur-komplett-verbot-der-prostitution/#more-2704 (auf Deutsch)

 

Finding Love Online

If you’ve seen television recently, then you probably have seen the Match.Com commercial that states, “1 in 5 couples meet through an online dating service.”  Well, they weren’t kidding and it holds true in Europe, too.

Europeans have even taken to mobile dating, finding people via your cell phone based on current GPS location.  Meetic and Vodafone are at the forefront of European mobile dating and are watching as this phenomenon expands. Because of Americans busy schedules, I cannot see mobile dating exploding in America

How do Europeans make themselves stand out when actively pursuing someone on an Internet dating website?  Well, one blogger turned book publisher, Zoe Margolis, has some pointers for those looking for love.  She suggests that you make sure you’re grammatically correct.  She explains that your grammar shows your attention to detail and that you are actually intelligent.  She also suggests not to portray yourself as too picky, too desperate or too arrogant. She differentiates wanting a legitimate relationship from a purely sexual encounter.  Are the majority of people on these sites seeking Mr. Right or Mr. Right Now?  Well, it appears, after some investigating, that these sites are quite similar to a bar.  Each person wants something different.

Oddly enough, economic recessions throughout Europe have made the amount of online daters skyrocket.  Why?  Well, my guess is when you don’t have a job, you have more time on your hands and people use that time to find love.  But most of these sites do require some kind of monthly membership fee, so, you should hope you find someone quickly.

Isn’t it funny, online dating was originally thought to be only for Americans because Americans are presumed to be too busy to find love, a basic human need.  Online dating was even frowned down upon by both Europeans and Americans.  Years ago, it had the connotation of being either desperate or possibly, dangerous (who knows who you could meet…). Now though, a single mother, for example, may have to be selective, in the interest of her children, about the people she takes the time to date or perhaps a busy professional may not have time to go out and meet other singles.

In a world that embraces technology, it appears that online dating around the world is here to stay and possibly, change the way people meet. While I have never used an online dating service and it is currently not my desired method of meeting people, one day it may be the norm. Have you ever used an online dating service?  If so, what did you think about it?

Marc Jacob Causes a Stir In Great Britain

In a world as hyper-sexualized as ours, it is amazing to think that anything could be risqué enough to be banned. For the last 30 years, advertising has steadily increased our dosage of skin, intimacy and overall sex appeal in everything from food to furniture and all of them have found their inspiration from the biggest industry of them all—the fashion industry.

Model Codie Young for Top Shop

From make-up, to lingerie to shoes, the fashion industry has become synonymous worldwide
with raising eyebrows and pushing the limits with scantily clad women draped across glistening, bare backed men. And although the United States tends to be more conservative with its advertising (relative in terms of what makes it on the air waves and in magazines and not including brands like American Apparel that intentionally push the limit), the rest of the world, specifically Europe, has shown a wider tolerance for sex in its media. Plus, magazines like Vogue, Elle and Glamour have several international publications, so that if they can’t run a “sexy” ad in the US edition, they can certainly run it in their other volumes.

Last year, YouLookFab, a fashion blog based out of the US, chronicled the popularity of nude advertising in Europe with brands using women’s naked bodies to sell everything from menswear to furniture. Author Angie S. says this “…it [nudity] is on public billboards and prime time TV where everyone can see it. The example that always comes to my mind is an ad I saw when we lived in France. Nivea shows a naked woman frolicking through a pretty pasture enjoying her moisturized skin. It’s all quite normal…”
All of this has been proven pretty consistent within the EU. So why then, did Great Britain go to such great lengths to ban a Dakota Fanning, Marc Jacobs Ad? Was it more than just sex? Did it reflect the pedophilic nature of women in advertising? Perhaps.

According to The Guardian and the Daily Gossip, “…The U.K.’s self-regulatory Advertising Standards Authority believes that the ad is “irresponsible” and “likely to cause serious offense”.
This ban has the blogosphere going crazy; blogs on The Gloss as well as Entertainment Weekly all reported on the Ad, just to name a few.

Over the last few years, the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has been swooping down on the fashion industry for sexually suggestive advertising and ads that promote unhealthy lifestyle. Earlier this month, they criticized London’s own label “Drop Dead”, calling them “socially irresponsible”, after they featured what appeared to be an unhealthily skinny model wearing a bikini, showing off her collarbone, rib cage and other body parts. The ads were then banned along with Marc Jacobs’.

Dakota Fanning for Marc Jacobs

This brings to the forefront an issue of bigger importance, which is the media’s portrayal of beauty and women. Women are typically the focus of these ads and in an industry so heavily saturated with sex, it’s interesting to see how the government steps in to protect the interests of its citizens. Showing women in childlike advertising is one thing but showing children in hyper-sexual ads is something totally different.

Last year, London’s own Top Shop removed their ads featuring Codie Young, a then 18 year old, size 0 model after several eating disorder support groups raised concern and criticized them for poor social standards.

Drop Dead's Bikini Model. Is this socially irresponsible?

As stated by the Advertising Standards Authority;
“…while we considered the bikini and denim short images might not cause widespread or serious offence, we concluded they were socially irresponsible.”
Regulation is necessary but at what cost? Is fashion a form of art and if so, why are we restricting it? More importantly, is it necessary?

Join the conversation.

German Prostitutes Pay Up

Image courtesy of moonbattery.com

Since the end of last month, freelance sex workers in Bonn, Germany must make use of an innovative, yet controversial, method of paying taxes. On Saturday, August 27, new prostitution tax meters were installed on Immenburgstrasse, an industrial street where prostitutes without storefronts advertise their services. Each worker is required to pay a mandatory tax of 6 Euros per night, regardless of earnings, and to keep a receipt as proof that they paid.

The sex work tax has been in place for some time and was simple to enforce at brothels and other formal establishments, but taxing freelance workers was more difficult—something that the meters should make more simple. Advocates say that this form of taxation will provide a convenient, anonymous way for prostitutes to pay the tax.

Some of the workers are not thrilled about the new method. Sex worker Juanita Rosina Henning sees it is equivalent to double taxation, as all prostitutes already pay income tax on earnings.

In America, prostitution laws are determined by the individual states, but Nevada is the only one out of the 50 states that allows legal sex work, and even then only in a few rural cities. Not to say that there aren’t still sex workers in every part of the nation—the market simply operates underground. For that reason, prostitution is one of the most dangerous industries in America, and there are many who believe that it should be legalized so that the business can be brought up to the surface where it can be taxed, regulated, and the workers can be better protected. If you want to know more about sex work in America, 11 points offers a list of 11 myths and facts about American prostitution.

In Germany, where prostitution has been legal and taxed by the state since 2002, it is apparent that conditions for sex workers greatly exceed that of American prostitutes. Prostitutes can join unions (for example Berlin’s HYDRA) and can receive health insurance benefits. Bonn provides “consummation areas,” garages where prostitutes can go to do their work. Germany even spends 116,000 Euros per year to better protect the workers by placing security guards to police these areas. These garages, as well as special zones on the outskirts of the city, were also partially meant to solve the issue of complaints about sex work occurring in residential areas or other inappropriate places.

Besides the hitch of finding appropriate places for prostitutes to work, the German prostitution industry seems to cast less controversy in Germany than it does in other countries who evaluate it. Prostitution services are used by 1.2 million German men annually, and Germany considers the industry a useful source of tax revenue—officials expect 200,000 Euros per year from the meters alone.

(Click here for more facts and statistics about prostitution in Germany.)

Liquid Foreplay…?

You’re probably wondering what you’ve gotten yourself into by clicking on this post.  “Liquid Foreplay you may say?”  “I’m still working on regular foreplay!”  What am I talking about?  Coffee, of course!

Coffee, the wonderfully caffeinated beverage used around the world to stimulate both the minds and bodies of those who drink it.

Coffee has been used as the all-natural human battery charger since the 15th century, though some legends suggest that coffee was enjoyed as early as the 4th century.  Upon realizing the potential of coffee, nations and traders transported it across land and sea, and in the process, coffee underwent changes in both style and preparation.

Still wondering what coffee has to do with foreplay?  And more so, what does liquid??  I’ll leave the latte (ha!) for another day, but I can tell you all about the former.  While researching the coffee drinking habits of Europeans, I discovered that Italians apparently make the best espresso, and that 1 in 3 Romanians never leave home without a satchel carrying soluble coffee.  The commercial below is for Nescafé, the largest retailer of soluble coffee in Europe.  The language is Romanian.

Interesting enough, right?  Sure, but then I came across something that no barista could be prepared to serve to guests, something representing unbroken grounds (ha?) for the coffee market.  The sanctity of coffee has finally been fused with sex.  Introducing… Magic Power Coffee.

Next time you're in a coffeehouse, ask your barista for a shot of this in your coffee! Copyright: AskWanda.info

Magic Power Coffee is a home-based business venture created on a multi-level network-business model.  You may need another shot of espresso to unpack all of that, but essentially it means that any average cup-of-Joe can order Magic Power Coffee and become rich by selling it to his sexually frustrated friends and family.  And if you haven’t figured it out by now, Magic Power Coffee will have you and your significant other French pressing all night, if you know what I mean.  If the fusing of coffee with sex hasn’t sold you, Magic Power Coffee also claims that it works on both men and women.

In March 2010, Magic Power Coffee opened its doors for the German and the Spanish market, even creating language specific websites.  So, no matter what language you speak, you’ll now be able to understand the meaning of scam.  (Note: The German website has apparently been shut-down and is awaiting review, i.e. the Germans figured it out.)  The Magic Power Coffee business really took off in North America, and now has its eyes on the European and South American markets.  The theory, at least what I take it to be, is that (a) many people worldwide are looking for a way to correct the (insert sexual issue here) they have, (b) Europeans already drink a great deal of coffee, and, (c) since soluble hand-held coffee packets are already very popular in Europe, particularly with Germans, Turks, and Romanians, it won’t be a great leap to introduce another packet sized product onto the market.

I haven’t tried Magic Power Coffee, but maybe I should before I start judging it?  Oh wait, this is one of those get-rich-quick schemes.  Yeah, the ones that were either a lie all along or that cause some kind of bodily harm or are a serious health risk.

Feeling unsatisfied?  Read up on coffee trivia here.

P.S.  Does anyone know where I can find information about a group called the Kaffee Schnufflers?  They are claimed to have been an organized outfit created by King Frederick in Germany to snuff out illegal coffee roasters and smugglers, but I couldn’t find any reliable information that wasn’t in trivia form.  -Eine Bekannte von mir hat diese Seite über eine Kaffeerösterei in Hamburg gefunden. (to translate, copy and paste here)

Come naked to “Nackt!” musical for free

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It’s a simple dare: Come undressed to our musical featuring unclothed actors and we will undo your entrance fee.

That was what the Musical Theater House in Bremen, Germany was offering for the premiere of the rock musical “Nackt!” or “Naked”. In the musical, several actors were to appear in their natural state and the audience was invited to follow their example.

In what was seen by a German blogger as a desperate attempt to revive the sluggish ticket sales, the musical’s organizers soon found themselves in an uncomfortable position: So overwhelming was the response to attend the musical nude, and hence for free, that the theater had to eventually pull the plug on its offer.

German news site, The Local, reported that the theater had made the offer at a September press conference this year. And clearly, the chance to combine two favorite German past times of saving money and stepping out naked proved too irresistible to the country’s army of nudists.

In a statement to the paper, organisers said they were worried that nudist groups known as the FKK had planned to hijack the performances “for their own self-promotion, which has nothing to do with theater, music or the meaning of the work.”

The Freikörperkultur, or FKK, is a German movement whose name translates to Free Body Culture. It endorses a naturistic approach to sports and community living. The followers of this culture are called traditional naturists, FKK’ler, or nudists. There has been an extensive removal of restrictions on public nudity in Germany since about the 1980s.

The concept of nudity, or what two video bloggers call “nakedity” in the video above, is starkly different in Germany than in the United States. There is generally much greater tolerance for exposure in Germany and often has little sexual dimension to it  – quite unlike cabaret shows in Las Vegas, or Janet Jackson’s 2004 wardrobe malfunction at the Superbowl.

There are a good number of nudist beaches in Germany where families show up in the buff and even hiking trails that are reserved for those who choose to trek in their birthday suits. Comparatively, there are only a handful of places that allow nudity in US. Nudity in the open is banned in three states in the US – Alabama, Alaska and Arkansas. In Missouri, only two spots allow for public nudity.

Equally provoking is the musical’s plot itself, which is based on Austrian playwright Arthur Schnitzler’s Reigen. Schnitzler’s play, an unflinching look at sexual mores and class ideology, offered a social commentary on how sexual contact transgresses boundaries of class. It rocked Europe and scandalized the continent when it was performed in the early 20th century.

While this is the first time it’s been staged as a rock musical, the script, which can be read in full here, has been adapted for cinema, television and other plays. The musical is apparently not a classic rock musical, but rather a punk rock theater or a drama project with punk rock music, according to Weser Kurier.

Like Reigen, Nackt! consists of ten scenes where ten pairs collide. One from the pair moves to another scene with a new character entering.

“The piece has always been interesting, because it has a contemporary energy,” the musical’s director Christian von Götz was quoted as saying on a German site nmz.de.”With the nudity I bind the viewer and can thus produce a dramatic, charged atmosphere,” said the 40-year-old, who staged the popular musical “Evita” in Bremen

“Nackt!” premiered on Oct 31, with all its audience dressed – and to no one’s surprise, was not a sell-out. In fact it received some harsh criticism for its sordid sexual scenes that involved a lot of groaning. The portrayal of a rape scene of an under-aged girl almost had one audience member walk out on the show. “That was already borderline,” Svenja Teiwes told mopo.de after the show. “There were moments I was wondering whether I stay or go.” Those who stayed rewarded the cast with but only a brief applause.

The musical will run till the end of November  – and has seven more performances to prove if its worthy beyond its naked cast.

Would you dare to show up naked for an event if you could gain free admission to it? Do you think the theater company should have stuck to their initial offer?

Additional reporting and research by Jon Cecero & Tatiana Alexenko.

Now Showing: SKIN

French Skins Party Facebook Page

A new party craze has hit France. Young French boys and girls, usually 18 to 25 years old, attend “Skins Parties” which France 24 calls “even trashier than Woodstock? Really?” After watching remixed videos on the French Skins Party blog, it appears that the parties are all about dancing, drinking, drugs, and hooking up.

Party goers, or “Skinsofrenes” find the parties via the Internet, Facebook, or local skins event planners. Because the parties are so popular, they are organized months in advance. There are already Skins Parties in the making for the middle of December. The largest Skins Parties happen in big cities, like Paris, Aix, Lille or Lyon.

Skins parties seems to be linked to the British TV series called “Skins,” which began airing in January 2007. The show’s large following has crossed the border into France, where young people are imitating the “skins” lifestyle of partying, sex, heavy drinking, recreational drug abuse and showing lots of skin.

If one TV series can cause this reaction in France, how else can TV influence young people around the world? Do”Gossip Girls” or “GREEK” affect their American audience in the same way, or do the TV shows mimic how American teenagers already act? What kind of messages do shows like “The Secret Life of the American Teenager” or “16 and Pregnant” give young, impressionable American teens?