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Bordellos with flat rates, package deals, everyone-at-once gangbangs and airport quickies. This is just a tiny sampling of the erotic specialties on offer these days in Germany, where prostitution has boomed so dramatically since its legalisation in that opponents - ranging from radical feminists to Christian conservatives - carp that it's now the "bordello of Europe".
In the past two decades, the number of overwhelmingly female sex workers has more than doubled to ,, according to some estimates. And you don't have to go to Hamburg's notorious Reeperbahn street to find them. Berlin alone has some brothels; Osnabruck, a small university city, has 70; and another or so exist across the rest of the country. Their neon-red lights and windowless facades dot even picturesque little towns known primarily for their cuckoo clocks and gingerbread.
Romanian prostitutes pose in the brothel Pussy Club in Schoenefeld, Germany. Credit: Reuters. The Pascha brothel in Cologne, for example, services an estimated men every day. The storey building, open 24 hours a day, is the biggest whorehouse in Germany, with rooms as well as a restaurant, beauty salon, boutique, launderette, tanning studio and several bistros.
About women work there, supported by 90 other staff. An entire floor is dedicated to transsexual services. Every day, more than a million men in Germany visit sex workers - most of whom hail from poorer neighbouring countries such as Romania and Ukraine. The country has become a prime destination for male sex tourists looking for cheap, legal and relatively hygienic pleasures of the flesh. Busloads of pleasure seekers from nearby countries - even, now, from the Netherlands, a country once known for its lax attitude towards prostitution - simply cross the border into Germany instead of travelling to faraway sex-tourism destinations such as Thailand.
The battle lines on commercial sex services confound the usual political fronts, pitting feminist against feminist, and putting human rights activists and church officials on one side of the barricades and social workers on the other. The incoming German government - a centrist coalition led by Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats - dared to broach the subject during coalition negotiations, only to drop it again pretty quickly in light of the ensuing brouhaha: There simply isn't a consensus within either party about what to do about it.