The city of Berlin has prompted outrage from locals after offering a graphic picture book on prostitution to children via its official website. The book, titled Rosie Needs Money (Rosi sucht Geld), is advertised as a resource for youth aged 6 to 12 years old.
According to Equal Opportunities Officer Kerstin Drobick, the book is designed to explain prostitution to children of families residing in a red-light district of Berlin, located in Kurfürstenkiez, known as Kurfürstenstraße.
“In the years in which the Tiergarten Süd and Schöneberger Norden neighborhood management offices dealt with the issue of street prostitution and also had many conversations with residents, this was one of the topics: What do I say to the child? The Tiergarten Süd district management has faced this courageously,” Dobrick says in her defense of the book.
“An order was placed for a children’s book that tried to explain to the children what was happening there. Interestingly, extensive research has shown that educational books for children aged 10 and over avoid this explanation.”
Drobick also explains that the book on prostitution, which features graphic illustrations, was created with the participation of “primary school children and other people” as part of a community project.
Rosie Needs Money is written from the perspective of a child named Maryam, whose family relocated to Germany from Syria.
Maryam narrates as she and her equally-young schoolmate, Martin, look for Rosie, a woman from Bulgaria who is in the sex trade. Maryam says that her mother told her that Rosie is often “looking for money” in the street. Rosie is described as having many friends who are also migrant women from Bulgaria, Romania, Russia, and Lithuania.
“But they don’t seem to find much money. Their clothes are not enough. Their breasts and legs must freeze in winter,” observes Maryam. “Today we decided to finally ask Rosie what she does with men. Actually, we already know. They give her money and want to make love.”
Martin then appears to reference pornography, saying: “It’s different from mom and dad. Mom makes love to dad, but Rosie’s men don’t make love, they make sex like on TV.”
In the book, Rosie suggests that men use prostitutes due to lonliness, and advertises the sex trade as a legitimate and important field.
“You want to know what this has to do with love and sex? Everyone acts as if love and sex are always the same. Men say this to me and to their wives at home. But sometimes love is gone. Or the sex. That’s why my customers just want to talk to me and they give me money in return,” Rosie tells the children, before explaining how she has sex with clients in a flippant way.
“Most of the time it’s like this: Men want to put their penis in my vagina. A few times in and a few times out – and you’re done. There’s nothing more to it than that.”
The book also explains that Rosie gives condoms to the men which they “put over their penises for sex.” This is done to prevent pregnancy and as “protection against disease,” a statement that is accompanied by a disturbing child-like drawing of a smiling penis with a pink condom on it.
Bizarrely, the book concludes with quotes from children and young people who live in areas where street prostitution takes place. Most of the sentiment is overwhelmingly negative, and presented as examples of attitudes towards prostitution in youth which require discussion.
“I’m ashamed to live here… I can’t sleep well at night… Why is there no prostitution next to a town hall?” wonders one youth.
“I’m afraid of the johns. Even though I have curtains, I’m afraid to change in my room. Why do we residents and the ladies have to suffer just because the men can’t find a wife?” asks another.
Speaking to Reduxx, Elly Arrow, a German advocate for the abolition of the sex industry, calls the whole book “schizophrenic,” noting that the children quoted in the book clearly don’t want to see the industry normalized.
“They’re suffering, scared of johns and pimps,” Arrow said. “One girl astutely comments that somehow prostitution is not happening next to City Hall. German politicians are happy to enable prostitution and overlook criminal elements, as long as they can rake in tax euros, its not happening in their backyard, and it’s overwhelmingly the mothers and daughters from impoverished Eastern European families standing by the street side.”
“Berlin prides itself on tolerance and inclusion, sacrificing minority girls and women – for example, from the Roma minority – or refugee boys and young men from Syria, to the whims of sadistic German men. And anyone who uses the street is likely to have a sadistic streak as the human misery is so palpable,” she added.
“The brochure is unbelievably irresponsible. It is right to teach kids to not disrespect women in street prostitution but the brochure makes it out that these women could become a child’s friends! Due to a language barrier and the presence of sex buyers and pimps this is implausible and dangerous. Kids in the latter part of the brochure even state the whole situation makes them afraid but the brochure tries to actively remove that fear,” Arrow told Reduxx.
“Youth in [the red light district] are already exposed to visible drug use, witnessing highly objectified, barely clothed women, and the men intimidating and harassing them. The quotes from girls indicate they realize that men might look at them and want to do to them what they do to the women. That alone is highly destructive to girls’ self image and body image,” she said.
In addition to the children’s book, Berlin government officials have previously given a presentation titled “Sex work and neighborhood in the Kurfürstenkiez” for community members using the facilities at a local elementary school.
Arrow said that the decriminalization of the sex trade in Germany has resulted in the exploitation of migrant women, as well as boys and young men, and emphasized that there had been a recent increase in the numbers of women from Ukraine who had fled their home country after the Russian invasion. According to government statistics, the amount of women from Ukraine registered as “prostitutes” doubled between 2021 and 2022.
Last year, Reduxx reported that Google searches for terms such as “Ukrainian girls,” “Ukrainian porn,” and “war porn” spiked during the first week of the conflict.
It was later learned that a Berlin-based “sex work” advocacy agency “made up of trans and non-binary sexworkers” used social media to solicit Ukrainian refugee women for information on entering the legal German sex trade.
UPDATE 09/26/23: German residents are now reporting that the PDF file featuring the book on the Berlin Government’s website has been removed.
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