The Telegraph 29 January 2015
The “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.
I visited both a few months ago while investigating what 12 years of legalised prostitution had done to Germany’s sex industry. The answer? It had ballooned into a €15 billion a year business – three or four times its size before the law changed in 2002. I met people running escort apps, online virgin auctions and outdoor “sex boxes” where men queued up in their lunch breaks.
It’s not what Chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s Social Democrat-Green coalition had in mind when they celebrated their liberal new law. 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. Sex goes for around €50. Prices are low and falling. There are at least 400,000 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. What stayed with me throughout my week-long trip to Germany’s brothels and red-light districts, was a sense of my own good fortune at not being faced with the same decisions as these women.