Saturday, August 01, 2009

review: Sonia Rossi


I saw a Dutch translation of Sonia Rossi’s book ‘Fucking Berlin : Studentin und Teilzeit-Hure’ (2008) in the bookstore. Sonia Rossi (fictitious name) is an Italian immigrant who worked in prostitution a couple of years ago. She did that to finance her mathematics study and her unemployed boyfriend, and later also her baby. She mostly worked in Berlin but also made some trips to brothels in other parts in Germany. Her story is very interesting and detailed, she probably also kept a diary during that period.

Usually I only buy the books about prostitution in the Netherlands. But Berlin is close and it would be good comparison material. I thought: how would it be in this part of the world? Obviously I was especially interested in forced prostitution. Horror stories are easy to find about Dutch prostitution, and even about the areas in Germany bordering the Netherlands, but how would it be in other parts of Germany?

What I understand after reading her book is that there are many Eastern European women working in Germany. Many Russian women, but also Hungarians, Romanians, Estonians etc….. To my surprise she doesn’t mention forced prostitution very often. She first heard about it in a club in Berlin from an Estonian woman called Vera who was forced in prostitution during a period of three years starting from the age of fifteen. She also worked in the Netherlands. According to Vera the prisons in the Netherlands are good compared to other countries. Sonia was surprised by Vera’s story because she thought human trafficking was something of the past.

Furthermore she encountered two women in a club in Freiburg, one Romanian and one German, who were rumoured to be exploited by their boyfriends, according to a Russian prostitute called Natascha. Basically these women handed over all their earnings to their boyfriends. Then Sonia explains that many Russian prostitutes tell a story like this: “Becoming pregnant on their eighteenth birthday, married, divorced after a year, ended up in Germany via a marriage of convenience, left their child with grandma in Russia and eventually ended up in prostitution to be able to send enough money back home.” Perhaps I’m prejudiced, but I guess that the women (or Sonia) left out the debt bondage part of the story, because they couldn’t pay for the convenience marriage at first.

And for the rest, there’s a multi-story indoor window prostitution brothel where a young Romanian transvestite man was pimped by his mother from the age of fifteen. He handed over all his earning to her. Also his sister had worked in that brothel.

And really that’s it. As for the rest, the book doesn’t paint a good picture of prostitution. For instance, the club in Freiburg forbade the women to leave the premise. And drugs were used by all the women in that club, except two. As for the clients in general, Sonia explains that many times she has to keep the clients from groping her and putting their fingers in her anus or vagina. Sonia also worked in a brothel in Berlin with a Turkish clientele who treated her like a peace of meat. And the prices are extremely low in Berlin, 20 Euros is not unusual. It must be added by me that in the Netherlands the prices aren’t high either. I calculated that you basically pay 2 Euros per minute. You could go to very luxurious looking brothels in the Netherlands paying only 80 Euros for half an hour of sex.

On the other hand not all is bad. Sonia explains that she actually does enjoy the sex with clients sometimes. And Vera saw it like this: “20 percent of the guests were nice, 40 percent were repulsive, and the rest real assholes”. Perhaps that offers an explanation to why prostitutes could have so different views about their jobs: many are ebullient about it while others absolutely hate it. If you belief Sonia and Vera, then both views are right in a sense; perhaps some prostitutes see the glass as half full, they ignore the bad sides, and others prostitutes see the glass half empty and aren’t impressed by the nicer clients.

BTW: Probably Sonia Rossi is not really Italian. She appeared in the Dutch TV show ‘Spuiten en slikken’ and her accent is more like Eastern European. I would place a bet on Romania, perhaps Bulgaria. And there is no English translation of the book which is originally in German.

No comments: