Prostitution : The human being dehumanized
A conversation with the German psychiatrist Dr. Lutz-Ulrich Besser, founder and director of the Center for Psycho-Trauma and Trauma Therapy Lower Saxony.
SOLWODI: Is prostitution a job like any other?
Lutz-Ulrich Besser: This activity is not at all a job like any other. To anyone dealing with this topic it should be clear that this very intimate process when a « john » penetrates the body of a woman – even if it supposedly happens by mutual consent – only becomes bearable if the woman splits off her feelings from her consciousness. Women in prostitution are often in difficult circumstances and are urged, pressed and forced by pimps. This involves exploitation and sexual humiliation – and is an attack on the woman’s dignity.
SOLWODI: What significance do previous experiences in childhood have for the step into prostitution?
Lutz-Ulrich Besser: Women who were subjected as a child to so-called sexual abuse had no way in their childhood to realize what happened to them. The fear, the disgust, maybe the pain can only be overcome by strong dissociative phenomena, ie a separation from consciousness. However, this experience remains virtually frozen in the brain. The main mechanism is here a « standing-beside-oneself », a choice « not-to-be-myself-any-more ». As their feelings and body sensations are separated from consciousness, prostitution is for many sexually exploited women a repetition or continuation of humiliation and exploitation of their own body from childhood.
SOLWODI: Can these women heal?
Lutz-Ulrich Besser: Such phenomena can of course be treated today. Once the women are not forced by economic hardship or violent pimps, the crucial question for healing becomes whether the woman has the inner strength to realize that all this is not good for her and that she must get out of there.
SOLWODI: What should be done to reduce trauma in prostitution?
Lutz-Ulrich Besser: Above all, information is required. One must also address the men and create an awareness that an abuse of women takes place in prostitution. The men think: « I buy myself a woman’s body, so I have the right to use it. » This ability to buy the women is the real problem. The men do not realize this in the moment, because they are paying money for a commodity over the counter, so to speak. But this is always, well, I would say, a dirty business.
SOLWODI: How do you assess the situation, especially in Germany?
Lutz-Ulrich Besser: The Prostitution Law adopted in 2002 by the Red-Green government was certainly well-intentioned, but its effect was that Germany actually became the brothel of Europe. The consequence of legitimizing prostitution has been that large brothels exist like supermarkets. When you look at the talk shows where brothel owners, as a matter of course, convey the message that they take money for providing a beautiful setting for the love maids and their clients, you see how skewed the situation really is. In fact, this is about the exploitation of femininity and of women.
SOLWODI: What would the information you mentioned look like?
Lutz-Ulrich Besser: In addition to fact that prostitution has existed since time immemorial prostitution, there has been an increase in sexually problematic behaviors, which is particularly attributable to ubiquitous pornography. In two clicks, even children and young people are on porn sites on the Internet, and I’m not talking about the illegal ones! What this means for the development of children and adolescents and for their ideas of what constitutes sexuality – I find this is a very, very, very dangerous development. The more this fuels fantasies, the more they become reality of course. I would introduce much stronger prohibitions, especially in the area of pornography, and would not only punish child pornography. But the state profits from it and the porn industry; the sex industry is a highly profitable industrial branch, so I fear that politicians do not really have an interest in intervening. Human sexuality, as an instinct, is primarily a pleasurable social interaction between two equal adult human beings. Prostitution, however, is highly antisocial.
About Dr. Lutz-Ulrich Besser: