Men tied with pantyhose
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She argues, drawing on a wealth of data and specific case studies (based, among other things, on police files), that in the 30 years under investigation the prostitutes were in fact not victims but women who reacted actively to the difficult economic circumstances they found themselves in. They were predominantly but not exclusively working class, and the numerical ups and downs of recorded cases of prostitution mirror female employment patterns in Germany as a whole.
Selling Sex in the Reich approaches the topic by increasingly widening the focus. While the introduction provides the historical and scholarly context, the section of the book titled “The prostitute experience” considers individual fates in a period when women had limited educational opportunities and lacked financial security.
At the same time, however, there were attempts by prostitutes to unionise and to improve conditions, not least with the help of their own publication, Der Pranger, in the 1920s.
“The prostitute milieu” analyses the wider context – the pimp and the procuress who were, contrary to stereotype, not “in any sense an isolated, criminal underworld community”.
“The prostitute and society” gives insights into reactions by the wider public – such as petitions and letters of complaint – with a useful focus on local, mundane, day-to-day reactions and concerns instead of occasional wider moral panics. It becomes clear that anxieties associated with prostitution are significant in times of change and crisis – deviant female behaviour being perceived as having a destabilising impact on state and society; “the whore” becomes the scapegoat, allowing policymakers to reassert traditional roles.
The book’s final chapter, “The prostitute and the state”, draws the threads together: it shows that prostitute-management strategies and the controlling interference of the state in individual lives did not emerge as radically at the end of the Weimar Republic as we like to believe; what happened in reality was that the authoritarian measures reached their apogee in the Nazi era.
The case study of a Hamburg employee in the 1920s illustrates a worryingly smooth transition from being a well-educated social worker to becoming responsible first for sending prostitutes to institutional homes and then to concentration camps. For the theories of internment and treatment of prostitutes, the year 1933 appears less significant than a host of postwar policies and localised disparities.
Harris’ eye-opening and thought-provoking analysis of the history of prostitution in German society contributes substantially to our understanding of continuities across periods and to a more precise characterisation of the prostitutes’ working environment.
What is more, she challenges popular ideas associated with the topic and questions scholarly approaches that may perpetuate simplistic patterns of interpretation.
A study on a European scale, as Harris suggests at one point, would be an exciting follow-up and a book to look forward to.
The Single Dude’s Guide to Buenos Aires, Argentina.
I went down last December to the Southern Cone of South America, and after a very dull time in Uruguay, I headed over to Argentina to visit Buenos Aires, the “Paris of South America.” While I had a pleasant time there, I am sorry to report that Buenos Aires is not Single Dude recommended.
To give credit where credit is due, I first have to say that Buenos Aires is a city that well deserves its name. There is something in the air there. It feels good there, slightly breezy with a nice chill vibe. It’s a thoroughly nice town and I enjoyed spending a week there. That being said, I don’t plan on returning unless I’m going for a business opportunity. Buenos Aires has some significant drawbacks for the single dude traveler.
First of all, Buenos Aires is not a great value for the single dude wallet. While not ridiculously expensive like a town like Singapore, it’s pricey compared to similar destinations worldwide. The economists have a measurement of economic exuberance of different countries in the world, and the country with the most optimism/speculation/inflation these days is Argentina. As a result, things in Buenos Aires cost much more than they should. Crappy hotels are $30 (120 pesos) at the absolute minimum and it’s easy to spend three times as much for a mid level place. Getting around anywhere in a cab will be at least ten bucks. And a beer with a personal pizza will set you back $15 every time. In a decent bar drinks will be $4 (16 pesos) minimum.
It’s not exorbitant but it’s a far cry from Vietnam or Mexico where $10 will get you a room or a great meal and $2 a drink at a nice bar, so in my opinion there should be a real good reason to spend three times as much on everything and fly all the way to the Southern Hemisphere for a visit.
Let’s see what else there is to consider:
Food: If you’re a foodie, Buenos Aires is absolutely the wrong place for you. The food is overpriced and universally bland. They just don’t put flavor in their food there – no spices, herbs, pepper, nothing. And every menu in every restaurant is pretty much the same, with three pages of unseasoned steaks, bland over cheesed pizzas and salads that taste like packing material. Dining is definitely not cheap, and dinner for two with wine will run you $50 while providing a completely bland experience that will leave no culinary impression. The only way I could eat there was to bring my own hot sauce with me to the restaurants. There isn’t any variety in types of cuisine either. It’s not like any other mega-city I’ve been to where you can get delicious ethnic food from all over the world. Buenos Aires is an extremely homogeneous culture and I didn’t see a single Thai or Mexican or Ethiopian restaurant as you would find on every block in Hell’s Kitchen in New York City. For such a major city, BA has a shockingly bad food scene. This alone is a dealbreaker for me. The wine is good though and competitively priced, so that’s a mitigating factor.