In Germany, Sex Workers Get Special Training To Serve The Disabled

Crossing two taboo topics: prostitution and the sexuality of the physically and mentally handicapped.

Bridging a need?
Bridging a need?
Dietrich Mittler

NUREMBERG - The cozy office of the Kassandra counseling center for sex workers in the southern German state of Bavaria, features one bright red sofa, a large wooden table and pastel-colored painting on the wall. This is usually where men and women who wish to leave the sex industry come in search of training classes to change careers.

But a different kind of training is underway this evening. Seven workers have come to earn their diplomas in "qualified sexual accompaniment and assistance."

Barbel Ahlborn, who heads the Nuremberg counseling center, is proud of the courses that Kassandra developed with Pro Familia, a family planning center. "This is a unique model project for the nation,” she says.

The training has taught sex workers Erika, Birgit, Kai, Elisabeth and Romy, as well as Richard and Kurt (all names have been changed), how they can help disabled people to blossom their sexuality.

The end of the course is celebrated with some sparkling wine, pizza and salad. But participants know that their having a certificate in accompaniment and assistance is not going to change what many people think – because their very line of work, i.e. prostitution, is still taboo.

Even more alienating to many, they believe, is the idea that paid services should be available to those with physical and mental disabilities. Says Romy: "Public opinion will be split – some will welcome this, but the many who have always been against sex workers will say it’s perverse."

Simone Hartmann, deputy head of Pro Familia in Nuremberg doesn’t see things quite so pessimistically. "Today, the sexuality and sexual autonomy of disabled people is no longer a taboo subject, even if it isn’t yet absolutely normal to actually deal with it," she says.

That much was clear at a Munich conference on the sexual and reproductive rights of disabled people, which was held a few months ago. While many heads of facilities for the disabled no longer disagree with the fact that handicapped people have a right to express their sexuality, to publically acknowledge that their establishment allows sex workers to operate in it is an image issue, they say.

Meanwhile there are frequent discussions on Internet forums about the sexuality of the disabled. Can paraplegic men, for example, have sex? And if so, how? In her blog, the female partner of one such man reveals that: "Over time, by learning to caress parts of the body we didn’t use to find erotic, we rediscovered each other in new, more intense, ways."

Prostitution or “sexual accompaniment”?

Erika, who moonlights as a sex worker, says she thinks people have the wrong idea about “sexually accompanying” the disabled. "It’s not always about intercourse, but also touch and tenderness," she points out. She tells the story of her first visit to an old man in a retirement home, an experience she calls one of the very best she’s had as a sex worker because of something he said. When she left, he whispered: "If the others only knew how wild we were being!” And yet: "All we did was dance and touch each other a little."

Now the Nuremberg native will be providing services to physically and mentally disabled people as well, for which she charges 150 euros. Her partner knows what she does: "He’s a grown man, not a boy, and he knows me and knows I’m not crazy – just a little different from other people.”

Social worker Kurt says that he first became aware of the sexual needs of the disabled from working as a group leader in a facility for the mentally handicapped. "Sexuality is something that must be experienced but these folks don’t have the chance," he says. He doesn’t have concrete ideas about his new line of work yet – "I think a lot of it will be about explaining, helping people learn about their bodies, letting them see and touch a naked man, that kind of stuff,” he says.

Unlike Richard, who only wants to work with female clients, Kurt says he can see himself with men although it would depend on whom. Kurt has grown children. They know about his plans, "and it’s no big deal, they think it’s cool," he says.

But Birgit, a lively slim woman who’s been earning her living as a sex worker for the past 26 years, says that her daughter did not welcome the news when she told her.

While qualifications in sexual accompaniment and assistance may be a new milestone, several therapists in Germany have been urging awareness of the issue since the 1990s , and there are individual practitioners around the country offering services – as a general rule, caressing, body contact, massage, in some cases sexual release but without kissing, oral sex, or intercourse. Indeed, to the annoyance of Kassandra’s Ahlborn, Pro Familia has even drawn a line between prostitution and “sexual accompaniment.”

"Prostitution is legal in Germany. Sex workers are independent business people. They pay taxes,” she says.

Course participant Kai, who has worked as a professional for many years, believes that the prejudice against sex work is unfair. "It’s serious work," she says, pointing out that not all men are lucky enough to find life partners and sex workers bridge a need. She adds that she’s happy that the joint effort by Kassandra and Pro Familia has lent an open “note of seriousness to our work."

For her part, Pro Familia’s Hartmann is aware that prostitution is a sensitive issue. If Pro Familia teamed up with Kassandra to run the course, she says, it was because it was necessary: "Particularly in Bavaria, the need for appropriate and qualified people to work with the disabled in this regard was becoming ever more pressing,” she says.

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New Delhi, India: Fumigation Against Dengue Fever In New Delhi

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 வணக்கம்*

Welcome to Thursday, where America's top general reacts to China's test of a hypersonic weapon system, Russia is forced to reimpose lockdown measures and Venice's historic gondola race is hit by a doping scandal. French daily Les Echos also offers a cautionary tale of fraud in the crypto economy.

[*Vaṇakkam, Tamil - India, Sri Lanka, Singapore]


Top U.S. general says Chinese weapon nearly a "Sputnik moment": China recently conducted a "very concerning" test of a hypersonic weapon system as part of its push to expand space and military technologies, Gen. Mark Milley, the U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Bloomberg News. America's top military officer said that this was akin to the Soviet Union's stunning launch of the world's first satellite, Sputnik, 1957, which sparked the Cold War space race. Milley also called the test of the weapon "a very significant technological event" that is just one element of China's military capabilities.

Brexit: France seizes British trawler: A British trawler has been seized by France while fishing in French waters without a license, amid escalating conflict over post-Brexit fishing rights. France's Minister for Europe said it will adopt a zero-tolerance attitude towards Britain and block access to virtually all of its boats until it awards licenses to French fishermen.

COVID update: Russia confirmed a new record of coronavirus deaths, forcing officials to reimpose some lockdown measures, including a nationwide workplace shutdown in the first week of November. Germany also saw its numbers spike, with more than 28,000 new infections yesterday, adding to worries about restrictions this winter there and elsewhere in Europe. Singapore, meanwhile, reported the biggest surge in the city-state since the coronavirus pandemic began. Positive news on the vaccine front, as U.S. pharmaceutical giant Merck granted royalty-free license for a COVID-19 antiviral pill to help protect people in the developing world.

Iran nuclear talks to resume: Iran's top nuclear negotiator said multilateral talks in Vienna with world powers about its nuclear development program will resume before the end of November. The announcement comes after the U.S. warned efforts to revive the deal were in "critical phase."

First U.S. passport with "X" gender marker: The U.S. State Department has issued its first American passport with an "X" gender marker. It is designed to give nonbinary, intersex and gender-nonconforming people a marker other than male or female on their travel document. Several other countries, including Canada, Argentina and Nepal, already offer the same option.

China limits construction of super skyscrapers: China has restricted smaller cities in the country from building extremely tall skyscrapers, as part of a larger bid to crack down on wasteful vanity projects by local governments. Earlier this year the country issued a ban on "ugly architecture."

Doping scandal hits Venice's gondola race: For the first time in the history of the Venice Historical Regatta, a participant has tested positive to marijuana in a doping test: Gondolier Renato Busetto, who finished the race in second place, will be suspended for 13 months.


"End of the ice age," titles German-language Luxembourgish daily Luxemburger Wort, writing about how the ice melting in the Arctic opens up new economic opportunities with a new passage for countries like Russia and China but with potentially devastating effects for the environment. The issue of the Arctic is one of the topics that will be discussed at the COP26 Climate Change Conference which kicks off in Glasgow on Sunday.


$87 billion

A new United Nations report found that extreme weather events such as tropical cyclones, floods and droughts have caused India an average annual loss of about $87 billion in 2020. India is among the countries which suffered the most from weather hazards this year along with China and Japan.


Air Next: How a crypto scam collapsed on a single spelling mistake

It is today a proven fraud, nailed by the French stock market watchdog: Air Next resorted to a full range of dubious practices to raise money for a blockchain-powered e-commerce app. But the simplest of errors exposed the scam and limited the damage to investors. A cautionary tale for the crypto economy from Laurence Boisseau in Paris-based daily Les Echos.

📲 The story began last February, when Air Next registered with the Paris Commercial Court. The new company stated it was developing an application that would allow the purchase of airline tickets by using cryptocurrency, at unbeatable prices and with an automatic guarantee in case of cancellation or delay, via a "smart contract" system. Last summer, Air Next started recruiting. The company also wanted to raise money to have the assets on hand to allow passenger compensation.

📝 On Sept. 30, the AMF issued an alert, by way of a press release, on the risks of fraud associated with the ICO, as it suspected some documents to be forgeries. For employees of the new company, it was a brutal wake-up call. They quickly understood that they had been duped, that they'd bet on the proverbial house of cards. Challenged by one of his employees on Telegram, the CEO admitted that "many documents provided were false", that "an error cost the life of this project."

⚠️ What was the "error" he was referring to? A typo in the name of the would-be bank backing the startup. A very small one, at the bottom of the page of the false bank certificate, where the name "Edmond de Rothschild" is misspelled "Edemond". Before the AMF's public alert, websites specializing in crypto-assets had already noted certain inconsistencies. The company had declared a share capital of 1 billion euros, which is an enormous amount. Air Next's CEO also boasted about having discovered bitcoin at a time when only a few geeks knew about cryptocurrency.

➡️


"A weapon was handed to Mr. Baldwin. The weapon is functional, and fired a live round."

— Following the Oct. 21 on-set shooting death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, Sante Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza told a press conference that the "facts are clear" about the final moments before Hutchins was shot. The investigation continues to determine what led up to that moment, and any possible criminal responsibility related to how the "prop" gun that actor Alec Baldwin fired was loaded.

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Share with us your favorite gondola memories or worst crypto scams — and let us know what the news looks like from your corner of the world!

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