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Sex workers feeling pinch of coronavirus pandemic: 'There are almost no clients because there are no people on the street'

Brothels in Berlin and Amsterdam lament losing business

Photo by Horacio Villalobos - Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images

As businesses around the globe are forced to shut their doors and people everywhere shelter in their homes over fears of the spread of coronavirus, what's often called the world's oldest profession appears to be feeling the financial pinch.

What's happening?

"Over the past week, business has gone down by 50%," Aurel Johannes Marx, who runs a three-room brothel on the edge of Berlin, told The Associated Press.

The coronavirus has chased away customers despite disinfectant dispensers now installed next to washbasins at the "Lankwitzer 7" brothel and Marx ordering staff to open windows and hot-wash all towels and sheets, the AP said.

In fact, the outlet said authorities ordered all entertainment venues, including brothels, temporarily closed Saturday. Berlin has 332 COVID-19 cases at present with several dozen infections traced to bars and clubs, the AP added.

Did you know there is an Association of Erotic and Sexual Services Providers? Well, Susanne Bleier Wilp — a former sex worker — is the spokeswoman for the group and told the outlet that the coronavirus has raised anxiety and uncertainty among the 100,000 to 200,000 sex workers in Germany, where prostitution was largely legalized almost two decades ago.

“There are those who are withdrawing from the business entirely at the moment for safety reasons," Bleier Wilp added to the AP, noting also that other sex workers are requiring customers to disinfect themselves — which medical experts say won't do much to stop the coronavirus from spreading during close physical contact.

Salome Balthus, a Berlin sex worker, told the outlet that most of her colleagues prefer to stay at home.

“But they know that nobody is going to compensate them for loss of income," she tweeted, according to the AP. “90% of all dates are being canceled anyway. As always, we're left to fend for ourselves."

Balthus added to the outlet that “many of us will face housing problems in three months at the latest. In which home should we stay then?"

The AP said most sex workers are self-employed and they won't benefit directly from the German government's half-trillion-euro package of loans it's making available to companies getting hurt by the coronavirus outbreak.

“That means they bear all the risks themselves," Bleier Wilp told the outlet, adding that a provision in the country's infectious disease protection law might allow self-employed sex workers to apply for compensation.

What about Amsterdam's red light district?

More from the AP:

In the Netherlands, Amsterdam's famed red light district was similarly hard hit after the government on Sunday night ordered the closure of schools, bars and restaurants for three weeks and made a point of mentioning that sex clubs also were affected.

By Sunday night, the normally packed canal-side streets and narrow, cobbled alleys that are normally a tourist magnet were largely deserted. On Monday, the windows where scantily clad sex workers pose to attract customers were largely empty. Some had signs taped to the glass saying: “The office is closed" due to the coronavirus restrictions.

“There are almost no clients because there are no people on the street even. So the brothel owners decided to close down," an Amsterdam sex worker who goes by the pseudonym Foxxy Angel told the outlet in a telephone interview.

Angel added to the AP that she's already spent her savings when she couldn't work for three weeks due to the regular flu.

Still, the Prostitution Information Center in Amsterdam has established an emergency fund for sex workers in financial trouble and is aiming to raise 6,000 euros — $6,590 U.S. — and will give 40 euros to all applicants to cover costs of shopping, medicine, and phone bills, the outlet said.

“I'm at the end of my money now, so I'm coming up with different things to make money," she explained to the AP. “I'm going to go back on [web] camming and selling porn online."

One last thing…
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