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Please refresh the page and retry. T he "mega brothel" in tonight's Channel 4 documentary of the same name isn't that big, by German standards. Paradise is six stories high - half the size of Pascha in Cologne. The answer? I met people running escort apps, online virgin auctions and outdoor "sex boxes" where men queued up in their lunch breaks. They were hoping for employment contracts, health insurance, pension plans — not motorway stops crammed with grubby caravans whose red lights flash, all day, every day, at anyone stopping for a loo break.
Paradise is more or less at the top end of the market. The Stuttgart flagship, like all seven branches in the chain, has a vaguely Moroccan theme - think brass lanterns, swirly carpets and low sofas draped in naked women and men in red bathrobes. Prices are low and falling.
There are at least , sex workers in Germany, and the market is saturated. I saw enough pale and hairy middle-aged man flesh in Paradise to last me a lifetime. But, after the initial shock of the nudity, the scene quickly became banal. Though both of those scenarios exist sadly, the latter is more common than the former , the reality tends to be both messier and more prosaic. The vast majority of sex workers in Germany are immigrants. Several have been pressured into it by hard-up family members.
Many have pimps, who are sometimes their boyfriends. Almost all had underestimated how unpleasant the work would be. By the time I went home, it was clear to me that the German experiment has not been successful. Employment contracts have failed to materialise. Instead, the brothels rent rooms to sex workers by the day. They need to sleep with at least four men to break even. They want to save the social security contribution. The idea that clients might act as the eyes and ears of the police in spotting signs of forced prostitution has proved a complete fantasy, too.
There have been petitions and demonstrations demanding changes to the law. While Channel 4 was filming its documentary, police raided the entire Paradise chain and Michael Beretin is currently in remand, arrested on suspicion of pimping. Sweden adopted it in , and Norway and Iceland have followed suit.