Top image courtesy of Leo.
This article originally appeared on VICE Germany
Offering and accepting money for sex is legal in Germany, just like it is here in the UK. But contrary to the UK, the Germans have also legalised and regulated all other aspects of the sex industry. Running a brothel, soliciting sex in public places – it's all A-OK, as far as the law is concerned. Pimping, forced prostitution or prostitution of minors, of course, isn't. Sadly, despite all that regulation, human trafficking and forced prostitution are still rampant in Germany.
Many sex workers in Germany work from brothels – sometimes in enormous fuck factories like Pascha in Cologne. Pascha holds 126 rooms on 11 floors, and receives around 800 customers a day. The women working there pay €160 (£135) a day to rent a room, so at a rate of about €50 (£42) per half hour, you don't have to be a maths genius to figure out how many men a sex worker has to work with to make a living – plus taxes. But in most brothels, sex workers just rent a room for a bit less than that and work for themselves, (theoretically) setting their own rates and choosing what they will and won't do. The brothel makes money from renting out the rooms only.
Leo, 43, runs a brothel like that, but wouldn't tell me what his tenants pay for the rooms. When I ask how much he makes, he tells me he saves that answer for the taxman, his bank and his accountant. The website for his brothel features slogans like "Non-Stop Horny - Legs Open 24/7", and photographs of the rooms show large beds, palm trees and full length mirrors. During the week, about 10 women work in this brothel, up to 15 women on the weekends.
Leo might not be a pimp, but that didn't stop him from posing with a roll of €50 notes outside of his club. "As a brothel keeper I'm a landlord, not a pimp. What the women do, with whom and how often is their business." To find out more about what his line of work entails exactly, we asked him some questions.
VICE: Why did you become a brothel keeper? Couldn't you do anything else?
Leo: I was trained as a mechanic, but I soon realised that it got my hands dirty and I'd never make the kind of cash I wanted – even with overtime. I studied Business Management too, though that was 20 years ago. My friends and I decided to open a brothel when we heard it would mean a lot of money for very little work.
That wasn't exactly true – just having a nice car and a gym subscription doesn't make you a brothel owner. My two friends left our venture, but I'm still here. I know now that a brothel is a business like any other and must be run professionally. I started being able to live well after about five years in the business. I've been doing it for 15 years now and I still like it.
Do your parents know what you do?
Yeah, my mother knows. I don't know if she's actually cool with it, though. She doesn't ring me up to discuss my conscience. That wouldn't work with me anyway – I've been doing what I wanted and what I thought was right since I was 14.
On the internet, your brothel advertises with phrases like "In, Out, Cool" and "Non-Stop Horny – Legs Open 24/7". Do you hate women?
I know how to best run my brothel. If you want to know how to advertise for a brothel, speak to my advertising agency.
What would the cops find if they raided your house?
Used condoms, the girl's invoices, fresh duvets and probably a few dirty towels – there are times that the guys ejaculate faster and more frequently than washing machines can handle.
Do you ever sleep with your tenants?
I'd never do that. The best evidence for that is that women want to work with me because they're sick of how they're treated in other places, of being asked to sleep with those faux playboys after finishing work. I separate my work from my private life. My friends don't get mates' rates. I'm not working half the night so they can fuck for less. Usually, people go to a club and get nowhere and there's nothing going for them on Tinder, so they come here in the middle of the night. If my mates have blue balls, they can ring me and ask if any of my tenants are available. But they pay their 50 Euros for half an hour like everyone else.
Are all johns sad losers?
Not at all. Simply put, we get two types of customers here. The first group are guys who come here to get what their wife can not or will not do. At home, they fuck missionary style under the covers, but they have more options here – like getting a blowjob, or doing it doggy style. These johns are uncomplicated and often don't want to kiss. They can do that with their wives. My tenants like them, because they're mostly polite and shaved and they shower before and afterwards.
And then there's another group of people – mostly German-born – who have been watching YouPorn since they were 14 and want to do things that they've seen there. Some women come out of their room wondering how an 18-year-old knows about things that they've never heard of.
Watch: 10 Questions You Always Wanted To Ask a Sex Worker
Do the women working at your brothel want to be there?
The women working in my brothel have to speak German or English. As long as I can talk with them, I can work out if something is wrong. I've got no time for pimps. If I see a car coming and parking in front to pick up money from one of the tenants, I march right out and tell them that that sort of thing isn't happening here. I won't have anyone working against their will for me. If I ran a restaurant, I wouldn't hire a waiter who for whatever reason doesn't want to serve food either.
Have you ruined any women's lives?
I think that women who come to work with me should know what they want and what they should leave at the door. I don't have a bad conscience. When I see that someone is in trouble and working for a pimp, I don't mess around. I say directly that I want nothing to do with it. If she has different personal problems – like debts, for example – then of course, she can work at my brothel to get out of them. And if I notice that they don't pay off those debts but go drinking or gambling instead, I speak to them. I'll do it once, I'll do it twice – but by the fifth time it's silly. At some point, everyone has to take responsibility for their own actions.
How can you be sure that no one is assaulted or raped in your brothel?
Every woman working with me does only what she wants to do. No means no, and that's just as true in sex work. The worst are the men who think that because they have money or a big mouth, they can get more from the sex workers. If a guest can't agree with a girl on something, he can speak to the madam and she'll make sure he understands. If none of the girls agree to take him to their rooms, then that's tough luck. That happens when a guest is drunk, or when he smells. Nobody likes a stinker.
Have you turned girls away because of their looks?
Yes, of course. If I think a woman's looks wouldn't inspire a man to buy her a drink in some dive bar, why would I expect anyone to pay to have sex with them?