I am currently reading Clemens Meyer's Im Stein, a panoramic mosaic of the sex industry in Germany (review to follow). Meyer doesn't make any moral judgment, but just lets the voices of the prostitutes, brothel owners, pimps, johns, and the police speak for themselves.
Prostitution is legal in Germany. Sex workers pay taxes and receive the same health and pension benefits as any other employee. Is this a good thing? I guess the only logical answer is: it's better than the alternative. I watched the German talk show Günther Jauch the other evening which dealt with the topic. The guests included a young woman who abandoned her studies in computer science to become an enthusiastic prostitute, as well as a bordello magnate who was proud of his exemplary "customer service" ( you might still be able to watch the show on the Mediathek.)
There are an estimated 400,000 sex workers in Germany - more than in any other country in Europe. The overwhelming majority are "independent contractors" and are from countries to the east, such as Romania, Bulgaria and the Ukraine. No question that many are the victims of human trafficking and were "tricked" into the profession in their desire to leave the poverty and dismal prospects in their home countries.
Still, there are a vocal minority who are proud of their independence and vehemently deny that they are being exploited in any way. One anonymous "sex entrepreneur" made her views known in Die Zeit. This woman turned to freelance prostitution after being treated shabbily by the local employent office, where she was only offered minimum wage jobs (actually, there is no minimum wage in Germany). Now she is simply following the neoliberal agenda:
"Niemand kann mir einen Vorwurf machen. Ich liege nicht der Allgemeinheit auf der Tasche, sondern habe das getan, was uns von den Verfechtern des Neoliberalismus ständig gepredigt wird: Ich habe festgestellt, dass es für das, was ich anzubieten habe, einen Bedarf gibt und habe mir meinen Arbeitsplatz selbst geschaffen. Ja, ich verdiene einen Teil meines Lebensunterhaltes mit Sexarbeit und ich bin froh, dass ich mit über 50 diese Möglichkeit für mich entdeckt habe."
("No one can accuse me of being a financial burden on society. I have simply done what the proponents of neoliberalism constantly preach: I discovered that there is a need for the services that I offer and created my own job. Sure I make some of my income by performing sex work and I'm just happy that at the age of over 50 I 've discovered this possibility for myself.)
I wonder what the moralistic libertarians in America ike Rand Paul, who are constantly complaining about the "lazy poor people",would say to this enterprising woman.