Sex workers not welcome? Shocking discrimination from within the community at this year’s Folsom Street Festival in Berlin.
I am used to being treated derogatorily because of my line of work. For example, when I look for real estate, when I ask for a loan, or when I tell the doctor what I do for a living.
If I am lucky, I get a short „Oh“ but often I am confronted with clear contempt.
Being blatantly discriminated against by a festival that claims inclusion and even writes on its own homepage „Sex work is work“ (!), shocked me.
A chronology of what happened:
I have been attending Folsom Berlin regularly for ten years. Sometimes I joined a booth of one of the magazines I wrote for, sometimes I was part of the VIP booth of the Folsom.
This year I wanted my own booth together with two cooperation partners. We wanted to rent a considerable area for this purpose. One cooperation partner had already applied for an area for himself, which would then later have been included in our group of three.
I had already dreamed of bringing my new banner – 2×6 meters in size – and was looking forward to being able to leave my old „mini-banner“ from previous years at home.
Then the first roadblock: I was denied renting my own booth by Folsom.
The reason given: This year, special consideration must be given to the protection of minors, and „prostitution must not be advertised“. This was alledgedly „a requirement by the city“.
Supposedly, this requirement – no advertising of prostitution – was also „specifically mentioned“ again in a conversation with people from city hall.
Well, on my flyers and my poster, it only reads „the dominus“ and nothing else. No price lists, no offers, no proposing of specific sexual positions, or anything else.
My thought process was: „If this requirement really exists, it won’t affect me. The way it is, I’m not going to bother even the most severe defender of youth and virtue.“
And really, most sex workers do fine without directly representing their activities in advertisements – we want to appeal to fantasy.
So I thought, never mind, I won’t have my own booth, so I’ll just join a booth like I’ve done in past years.
I don’t need much space anyway and since I’m not an official exhibitor but just present, no one can say anything. Because it will not really bother anyone if I stand there as a dominus, a sex worker, as I have always done, right?
Where would be the danger if I made contacts for my business through the Folsom? And for whom would there be any danger at all?
So I informed my followers via e-mail that, as originally planned, I would be present at the booth of a certain cooperation partner.
Folsom reacted within hours. Fast, angry, and threatening:
„…anything that is connected to prostitution in any way can not be part of the festival …“
And they even wrote an extra message to my cooperation partner, who was, (Quote) „informed about this. If you do not adhere to this, we are forced to close down your booth.“
Wow, what a nasty exclusion.
Exclusion according to law or according to Folsom’s own judgment?
So I have also been forbidden to stand at the booth of my cooperation partner (even without my advertising material). And should I do it anyway, Folsom would close down their booth.
In response, I ask: Does this apply to all booths? Because I constantly see sex workers who are used as booth staff, standing there, and like me, are functioning as audience magnets.
If I told my followers that I would be standing at the booth of the big bar Prinzknecht, would that be okay, or would you also write to them and threaten them with closure if I stood there?
Did they even check with the city to see if they actually explicitly didn’t want me there?
I would have done so in their place, by the way – because with my booth rent and that of the second cooperation partner, a fat four-digit amount more would have gone into the Folsom’s funds.
So, I asked if they could show me the passage/the requirement, which obviously forces Folsom to exclude me because of my sex work.
I immediately received an email from the newly elected board but without answers to my questions.
Once again, they reference the „legal situation“, which they do not share but must adhere to.
Besides, they knew exactly that I had never been present at Folsom with my small roll-up banner.
I inquired at the district office specifically: Does such a requirement about the promotion of prostitution exist and if it does, how is it to be understood? The answer still makes me smile:
„We didn’t put a condition [no promotion of prostitution] in our permit for the Folsom Europe.“ and „I can’t imagine that any authority did.“
What did the Folsom do when I confronted them with this statement? Yes, that’s right – they backpedaled and wrote, „We never said there was a specific, written requirement from any authority.“
Oh, yes, you did, even several times!
So, it is not any legal rule that is being followed but instead, this exclusion was simply at Folsom Berlin’s discretion as to how a „respectable event“ should proceed.
And a respectable event does not include hookers. By the way, the location where male and female streetwalkers are visible in Berlin is not far away at all.
It’s really fascinating how every time there’s a need to „clean up“ in sex positive spheres, they start with the hookers first.
Especially at such a street festival, where so much, and open sexuality can be seen (which I personally find great and have supported for years) it is not at all comprehensible why then the Folsom is setting such an example of modesty with sex work of all things.
Particularly not when sex work is almost invisible within such a context as Folsom anyway.
Well, I guess fuck what the hookers want – there are only a few, and actually only one who talks about it so openly.
I WILL NOT ATTEND THE FOLSOM FESTIVAL TOMORROW.
The reason is simple:
When I’m (officially) invited as a private person, but told to (quote) „leave my business cards at home,“ it feels a bit like back during the turn of the millennium when I was asked to bring a woman to corporate events so that „people wouldn’t see that I was into men.“
And it is unfortunately also like fetish people at pride being constantly asked to „visually adapt“ and not to walk around with dog masks, for example, so that they please „only slightly deviate from the norm“.
Should I be on the lookout before I give out my business card? Should I avoid the booth of my cooperation partner so that they do not run the risk of being closed down?
I will not participate in this, and I will certainly not support such discrimination by playing along.
Folsom has made me an offer to discuss the issue – after the event, of course. I will certainly get back to them on that.
And then we will talk about discrimination. I will then explain to you, that sex work will soon be included in the general equality law. Among other things, this law ensures that today, for example, an employer cannot say, „I won’t give you a job because you’re gay.“
This means in the future, that no one can deny me a booth, an ad, or the like just because I am a sex worker. I could even sue them if they do.
And that’s a good thing.
Because what you have done here is discrimination – and very clearly so.