Securing Sexuality is the podcast and conference promoting sex positive, science based, and secure interpersonal relationships. We give people tips for safer sex in a digital age. We help sextech innovators and toy designers produce safer products. And we educate mental health and medical professionals on these topics so they can better advise their clients. Securing Sexuality provides sex therapists with continuing education (CEs) for AASECT, SSTAR, and SASH around cyber sexuality and social media, and more.
Links from this week’s episode:
A Brief History of Sex Work in Europe: Red-light Districts Pompeii to Amsterdam
Sex work has been a part of human history for centuries and continues to be controversial and often misunderstood. Despite its prevalence and persistence, sex work is often shrouded in secrecy and stigma, making it difficult to understand and contextualize. However, by exploring the history and culture of sex work in different parts of the world, we can gain valuable insights into this complex and multifaceted industry. In this blog post, we will examine the history and culture of sex work in four different locations: Pompeii, Amsterdam, Barcelona, and Berlin.
Each of these places has a unique relationship with sex work, and by examining their histories and current practices, we can gain a deeper understanding of the industry as a whole.
Pompeii, the ancient Roman city destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD, provides a fascinating glimpse into the history of sex work. Pompeii was a bustling city with a thriving economy, and sex work was a common profession for women. The city had a designated red-light district, the Lupanar, where customers could choose from various women and sexual services. The Lupanar was decorated with erotic art and inscriptions, and it is clear that sex work was accepted and celebrated in Pompeii. However, it is essential to note that the women who worked in the Lupanar were not necessarily there by choice. Many of them were enslaved people or prostitutes with little or no control over their lives.
Amsterdam is perhaps the most well-known destination for sex tourism in the world. The city's famous Red Light District is a significant attraction for visitors, and it is estimated that there are around 7,000 sex workers in Amsterdam. Prostitution has been tolerated for some time and was officially legal in the Netherlands in 2000. The government has implemented several regulations to ensure the safety and well-being of sex workers. Sex workers in Amsterdam must register with the government, undergo regular health checks, and pay taxes on their earnings. They also have access to social services, including healthcare and legal assistance. While there are still issues with exploitation and trafficking in the sex industry, the Dutch approach to regulating prostitution has been praised by many as a model for other countries.
Barcelona is another place with a long history of sex work. In the 19th century, the city had a thriving red-light district in what was known as the Barrio Chino. However, in the 20th century, the neighborhood fell into disrepair and became associated with crime and poverty. Today, sex work is still prevalent in Barcelona, but it is mainly underground. No designated red-light districts exist, and many sex workers operate out of private apartments or on the streets. The Spanish government has taken a more punitive approach to sex work than the Dutch, and prostitution is technically illegal in Spain. However, enforcement of these laws is lax, and many sex workers can operate with relative impunity.
Berlin has a unique relationship with sex work, as it is one of the few cities where brothels are legal. The city's famous KitKatClub is a popular destination for tourists and locals alike, and it is known for its wild parties and sexual freedom. However, despite the legality of brothels in Berlin, there are still issues with exploitation and trafficking in the sex industry. Many sex workers are migrants vulnerable to exploitation by pimps and traffickers. The German government has implemented several regulations to combat these issues, including mandatory health checks for sex workers and a ban on flat-rate brothels.
Sex work is a complex and multifaceted industry that has been a part of human history for centuries. By exploring the history and culture of sex work in different parts of the world, we can gain valuable insights into this controversial topic. From the ancient city of Pompeii to the modern-day brothels of Berlin, each location has a unique relationship with sex work that reflects its cultural and historical context. While there are still many challenges facing the sex industry, understanding its history and culture is essential to creating a safer and more equitable future for sex workers.
Stefani Goerlich: Yeah, you know, I mean, sexy is a big word, but we did spend our spring break, uh, at two separate sexology educational events, and we crammed a whole bunch of what I'm gonna call independent study into our family vacation as well. So, uh, yeah, it was a sexy, sexology, sex therapy vacation.
Wolf Goerlich: So I know. And I think anyone following this podcast has caught on to the secret. It might be out. People may be on to you. I know that you are a little bit of a history nerd.
Stefani Goerlich: I am.
Wolf Goerlich: I know you like to reach back in time for lessons about what to do to date and into the future.
Stefani Goerlich: All about groping, groping past centuries. Yeah.
Wolf Goerlich: Let's start with the oldest place we went to, Pompeii. What did you think of Pompeii?
Stefani Goerlich: Um, first of all, I discovered I am far too pasty for Pompeii, right? Everything else aside, I was not expecting the degree of sunburn that Pompeii left me with. That is a very bright, um, very sunny, very reflective ancient city. So, um, I had a sensory experience from the very get-go. But otherwise, I thought it was fascinating because, uh, how about halfway through our walk through Pompeii, I started noticing, um, penises, penises carved into the walls and the corners of the city of Pompeii, which is not something you see walking around modern-day Rome or Florence.
Wolf Goerlich: That's not like a travel sign. Or, like a blinking, you can walk.
Stefani Goerlich: OK, so not today. But it turns out that's what they were back in the day. They were phallic directional arrows pointing toward the red light district in Pompeii.
Wolf Goerlich: Ah, OK. All right. And so the red light district in Pompei, One of the things that struck me about Pompeii was how big it was. Like when I've seen Pompeii in movies, documentaries, or books. You know, it feels like, Oh, here's a house, and here's another place, and here's where someone was, and here's a road, and you're done. And so I was astonished at the size of it. At its peak, it was around 20-30,000 people. So there are a lot of folks. Of course, it was a trade city. So many people were coming in, sailors and whatnot, and yeah, and unsurprisingly, there was a healthy, thriving red light district.
Stefani Goerlich: Not just healthy and thriving, but incredibly public. Right? In America today, when we think about prostitution or sex work, we think about it as being hidden away, as being marginalized. I mean, Backpage was called "back page" for a reason before FOSTA killed it. It's never really been a public-facing part of our culture. And in Pompeii, it very much was the red light district was not a hidden place. As I said, the Penis directional arrows were carved right into the walls to point the way, and they advertised and didn't just advertise their existence. They announced their specific sort of erotic specialties through some sometimes very explicit frescoes. And I found that fascinating and also, um, a little bit funny, right? We don't think about ancient people as we think about Socrates and Aristotle. And maybe if you're feeling like Randy and esoteric some Diogenes, but we don't usually think about ancient sex workers. When we think about ancient art, we certainly don't think about pornographic frescoes, yet we saw several when we visited Pompeii.
Wolf Goerlich: I want to come back to advertising their specialties because I had a degree of cynicism and skepticism when I heard that. But to your point, the frescoes were very explicit. They were in the red light district. They were over specific gateways and doors and whatnot. But weren't you telling me they were initially hidden away for a long time?
Stefani Goerlich: So we need to define 'originally' because they weren't hidden away in Pompeii, in Pompeii, and anybody that's seen my, um, 10,000 years of cyber sex talk has seen examples of this in Pompeii. Erotic art hanging over the family living room, whatever the ancient Greek equivalent of the couch was - the chaise - was not uncommon. So in the original context, they were very public-facing. However, when Pompeii was first rediscovered, the Victorian archaeologists who were excavating Pompeii were shocked and appalled. And these erotic scenes were very quickly removed away from Pompeii and moved to primarily the British Museum, where all good stolen artifacts go to live. And they were hidden away in a closed gallery only available to adult men. And it was, um, considered very shocking. And the fear was that if they let women into the gallery, even other female archaeologists, it would upset their delicate Constitution. So while it was incredibly normalized in the original context, original for modern times, it was a little bit less cavalier with these depictions of sexual expression and some pretty impressive acrobatics.
Wolf Goerlich: Have you ever read the book "The Wolf Den"?
Stefani Goerlich: I have not. Tell me more.
Wolf Goerlich: Uh, it is a book that is historical fiction. It's right up your alley in Pompeii, set in that time. And it's called The Wolf Den. Because, as we learned on tour, um, the workers in this area were called the she-wolves. So I may need to buy you a book. I'm going to buy you a book right now.
Stefani Goerlich: I do remember them talking about prostitutes being called Seawolves. Yeah, that I remember, but I haven't read the book.
Wolf Goerlich: Well, I'm buying it for you as we talk. So here is my question. Did they advertise their specialty by fresco? That doesn't seem an excellent way to do it right because writing a fresco or a fresco to paint this art takes a long time. Um, I can't imagine, like, Oh, you get a new person in. She's to wait for all the paint to dry and everything. Do you buy that? That seemed very surprising to me.
Stefani Goerlich: I don't have a solid reason to question it. I suppose we could start looking for an ancient historical pornography expert to come on the show and interrogate. I wouldn't oppose that, but they didn't have texting. I mean, they didn't have paper and watercolors or websites. It makes sense to me that there would be some form of visual advertising. Every business, throughout time, has used some form of visual advertising. And fresco was the art medium of the day. So perhaps I mean, I can get behind the idea that these were the billboards of the day. And I can get behind the idea that sex workers, then as now, have their boundaries, limits, and the things that they enjoy more than others and would prefer to engage in. So, why not give them the benefit of saying this is how I would prefer to spend my evening, and I'm good at it? Come see me.
Wolf Goerlich: Fair enough. Fair enough. So we left Pompeii after you bought a flying Penis. Um, which is a weird thing to say, but
Stefani Goerlich: They are common Good luck charms in southern Italy. So I did indeed buy a little bronze phallus.
Wolf Goerlich: Yes. So we now have our house decorated with that, um, but we left there, and let's shift gears to more of a modern red light district. And, uh, I'd love to hear your thoughts on, like, the compare and contrast. Um, Amsterdam, the Amsterdam, the Amsterdam Red Light district that everyone talks about so frequently these days,
Stefani Goerlich: Everybody is obsessed with the Amsterdam red light district. It has become, I think, almost a Western utopia, right? People in America talk about going to Amsterdam as if they were going to Shangri La, and then you get there, and it's a very sort of matter-of-fact experience when you're in the Red Light district. We, you and I, hired a private guide to give us a tour of the red light district, and, uh, I often get compliments on having raised a very like, open-minded, and sex-positive child in my son. And I remember you looking at me about halfway through our tour and going, "Was that a good idea to bring him?" Maybe he's uncomfortable, and my kid is looking at me and going, "Yeah, yeah, this is not the most fun thing I've ever done with my mom." But we're in it. We're stuck. Let's just power through it. Let's power through. So, pro tip, no matter how professional and open you are about sex in your work or family life, maybe don't take your kid in the two or the red light district.
Wolf Goerlich: Well, maybe, maybe not, Right. And you pointed out earlier how we tend to be very concerned about these things in America. We are in the age of 'Oh, there are groomers.' Um, and I don't want to, like, belittle the fact that some people do have, uh, childhood traumatic experiences. I don't want to, uh, lessen any of that, but I would say in Amsterdam, there seems to be a lot more comfort, uh, with, um, exposing folks to things at an earlier age and building up maybe, maybe a little bit of a different tolerance, right? It reminded me of, like, um, in Israel, where there are very low peanut allergies, and one reason there are low peanut allergies is you feed your kid peanuts at an early age, and they just get used to it.
Stefani Goerlich: Prescriptive Bamba.
Wolf Goerlich: Prescriptive Bamba. Exactly. So one of the things that stuck out to me was, there's like kindergarteners walking around in the red light district, there's schools in the red light district.
Stefani Goerlich: So I'm gonna split some hairs a little bit. Kindergartners were walking around the red-light district. There was signage like street signs everywhere we went that clearly indicated that this was not a child-friendly zone. It was like a silhouette of a woman with a child holding the hand of a silhouette of a child with a big, like no sign through it. So they made it clear. Don't walk your kid through the red light district; I should clarify that the kid I walked through is 23. So I wasn't walking a minor through this area. But we did see a kindergarten in the red light district. It was on the edge but in the red light district, right next to some of the windows.
Wolf Goerlich: Yeah, and our guide had explained that because of how people grow up in that area, there's a lot greater degree of comfort, and you just, you know, avert your eyes. In one of the conversations that we were having, the guide and I were like, Oh, yeah, when you're a guy in a locker room, you just keep your eyes front. He's like, Yeah, it's pretty much the same thing when you're growing up, you learn where to look and where not to.
Stefani Goerlich: And that was one of the more interesting cultural lessons I learned on our spring break because I remember when you and I walked through the red light district. So the way it's set up in Amsterdam is that the sex workers rent out space in what are effectively foam booth-sized rooms that have glass front doors. And they stand in these windows, and they advertise, and they beckon, and they wink, and they flirt. And people who are interested in hiring them will come to the window, and they will negotiate through the glass. And then, if an agreement is reached, the woman opens the door and lets the client in, and there's a small sort of more private room in the back. When you and I were first walking through, I remember commenting to you that to me, this felt kind of stigmatizing, a little bit shaming, because sex workers weren't being afforded the privacy that they have in a brothel setting, like in Nevada. And it seemed to me, or it felt to me as an American walking through that, um, it was almost like, Oh, well, if you're gonna do this work, then you're gonna stand here in front of everybody and do it. And that was how I interpreted that setup. And then we took a tour of the wider city of Amsterdam. And the tour guide told us that it was a big deal in World War Two when the Nazis occupied the Netherlands. If your curtains were ever closed, if your curtains were closed, the Nazis assumed that you were up to something, and you were much more likely to be investigated to have your door knocked on to be, um, viewed with suspicion by the occupying forces. And so culturally, this culture of open windows came out of that. Whereas people in the Netherlands don't close their curtains at all at home, it's not considered, uh, well, it's, it's considered, um, rude. It's considered as if you have something to hide. It's people who leave their curtains open as a signal that we are not doing anything we don't want you to know about. We are not doing anything we're embarrassed about and don't care what you see. And that was hammered home when you and I took a canal cruise, and we floated past a houseboat, and you and I saw a couple in bed sipping wine and waving at us as we went by. And if I had been in my bed in my bedroom and strangers were suddenly looking at our window, I would have been mortified. But that was very much the cultural norm for them. And so that was one of my big learning experiences. Was the cultural reaction I had that it's somehow, you know, like a way of publicly shaming sex workers to have them have this window set up? This display booth sort of system is a sign in the Netherlands of how little stigma and how little shame there is around it, that they're not doing anything that needs to be hidden away, that they're not doing anything that they would be embarrassed for their neighbors to see. And that cultural difference was an impactful learning moment for me.
Wolf Goerlich: Yeah, I remember that. And I agree there's just a general sense of openness and acceptance, and you layer on top of that, you know, the union that the sex workers have and all the protections around that, and it is a very different experience. I want to ask one final question before we leave Amsterdam, though. Yes, because we toured the Museum of Prostitution.
Stefani Goerlich: Oh, we did.
Wolf Goerlich: And one thing was, you get to stand in one of the red light windows, and there's a little simulation there. Um, so that was interesting. I had people winking and flirting with me. Um, I like this. This is unique. But coming out, they had a bunch of quotes on the wall, and one of them was, I'm not a prostitute. I'm a sex therapist. Yeah. How did that hit you?
Stefani Goerlich: Um, I get what she's going for. And at the same time, I wasn't OK with it only because professional sex therapists in the States, especially female sex therapists, deal with a lot of stigma around our work. A lot of people are uncomfortable with the idea of, um, mental health professionals focusing on sex and intimacy, and a lot of people just don't understand what we do. It's not uncommon for me and my colleagues to get inquiries from potential clients who think we're sex workers – and there's no shame in sex work. I'm very pro-sex work, but that's not what I do. And so those aren't the conversations I necessarily have consented to. And then some people don't necessarily make a good faith mistake, but instead assume that because we're comfortable talking about sex and sexuality, we are an easy target for obscene phone calls or other forms of sort of, um, explicit harassment to just because of the nature of the work that we've chosen. So while I understood the spirit of what she was trying to say, especially in the Dutch context, um, it was frustrating because that is such a popular tourist spot. I'm like, great, every American who walks through this museum is gonna walk away; reading the reverse of that is also being true. I'm not a sex therapist, I'm a prostitute, and I support people making whatever choice they want to make for their lives. But I also think it's important that people be clear about who does who and who does what and not necessarily put that on people whose work is not connected directly to sex work. So for me, that kind of reinforced one of those ongoing frustrations that women in my field have. And I wish it wasn't there. It's not the greatest thing I've seen, but it's also really representative of one of the most common misconceptions about my work. So if nothing else, it was a great conversation starter.
Wolf Goerlich: Yeah, I know that's, uh, something that comes up from time to time. So when I saw that, I was like, uh, I knew you'd have opinions.
Stefani Goerlich: Before we move on from Amsterdam, can I share my favorite moment of our tour of the red light districts that had nothing to do with the sex-work piece?
Wolf Goerlich: Sure. Yeah.
Stefani Goerlich: Our guide was explaining to us the differences between coffee shops and, um, cafes and other places where people can procure, um, magic mushrooms, psychedelics, um, marijuana. And he wanted to hammer home to us where to shop and where not to, even though this was not a question either of us had asked him. And at one point, he stopped, and he paused us, and he very definitely said everything you could want or need you could get at the coffee shops if you are walking down the street and somebody very politely offers you some crack, you say no. And having, you know, spent most of my career as a social worker in an urban context. Um, the idea of being very politely offered some crack. I'm picturing a tea tray with little assortments, and I know it's the Netherlands, so maybe the pipe is Delft or Spode. You know, it's just a very polite encounter, and the visual made me giggle, and I wanted to share it before we got too far from this trip, and I forgot about it.
Wolf Goerlich: That was pretty funny. He was a great tour guide. All right, so speaking of tours as we continue on the tour of our tour. The next highlight in my mind would have been the Barcelona Erotic Museum. So we went down to Barcelona, another city with too much sun. I think between the two cities, Pompeii and Barcelona, we both got a little bit sun-kissed or at least a little bit sunburned. Uh, and we walked through the erotic museum wisely, letting your 23-year-old kid not come with us this time. I think we invited him. He's like, you know, comic books sound nice. I'm gonna go over to this other museum and let us, uh, let us wander. But this is a museum. It's not a small one, either. It's probably one of the largest I've been to; it surely rivals the one in Las Vegas. I think there are over 800 artifacts in that museum. Again, there are many common themes that I've heard from you, right? There's a history of, um, clay and porcelain. And there is a, uh, exploration of, um, you know, the evolution of these objects and sexualizing of these technologies in China and Japan and, uh, you know, really sort of highlighting how all these technologies were used for erotic exploration over the years. Um, and by years, I'm talking like, you know, three or four centuries, um, they had had better frescoes of Pompeii than Pompeii did. That was interesting
Stefani Goerlich: Because most of the erotic pieces have been removed from Pompeii to protect the poor, innocent tourists.
Wolf Goerlich: Ah, that's true. That's true. Also, I think that the images were just color-enhanced and everything. They looked better in the gallery than hanging off the red light district. Uh, well, what was your sense of that museum?
Stefani Goerlich: I liked it. I thought it was comprehensive and well laid out, which we don't always see in these more niche or independent museums. If I had to make a recommendation between the Prostitution Museum in Amsterdam and the Erotic Museum in Barcelona, I would steer people towards the Barcelona Museum. They had a much more comprehensive historical overview. They had things going back to ancient Egypt up to modern times. Uh, what I appreciated was their collection of vintage and antique. Um, not to be crass about it, but I can't think of a more polite term fucking machines, uh, things with feathers and bicycle pedals. My favorite things were the seesaw with holes in the seat that went into insertables and, you know, so many ways for things to go horrifically awry. That sounds cool if you're just imagining it. But it's cool to be able to see them in person. And I thought that from a sex history fan place, they gave a comprehensive, accurate, and grounded experience. I loved it.
Wolf Goerlich: They also had a very wide collection of very old vibrators. I'm like, that looks like a terrifying machine. Why would you put that anywhere near you? Um, but yet people do, and people did.
Stefani Goerlich: My favorite was the history of the panties exhibit because that's not something people think about as having a defined history. But not only am I a history nerd and a sex history nerd, but I also am a fashion nerd, so that kind of scratched all of my itches into one delightful little Venn of coolness, which made me happy.
Wolf Goerlich: And it was one of those moments where, as a husband, I was caught off guard because, like, Oh, baby, look at this. I'm like, what? What am I looking at? Look at how this fabric and these designs evolved. And would you find this sexy? Other people found this sexy, but this was 200 years ago. I'm like, that looks like a pair of boxers. I know, but check this out.
Stefani Goerlich: And I pulled something out that I wanted to share from that exhibit. It said that few people know that the first thing women took off from men was panties. Wearing underwear was one of the first signs of power. And I love this line; without our panties, they would not want to take them off. So it was fascinating to know that, like high heels, panties are another object that started as a male-gendered garment and became female. And I loved this idea that, um, you have to have something to remove it and that it tied into a lot of the, you know, lectures that I do on power exchange. And, uh, Janet Hardy and Dossie Easton's idea that power exchange can only exist where the submissive person has the power to give right. The panties are only sexy because we're wearing them to be removed. So it was just a cool line and an interesting historical bit that I didn't know. And it tied nicely into some of the things that I often say when I lecture.
Wolf Goerlich: Well, and that also ties into that burlesque, uh, experience you had, right? What was the line about? Burlesque is the art of-
Stefani Goerlich: Oh, yeah. So in Berlin, I took a couple of different formal pieces of training, one of which was a SAR hosted by Caleb Jacobson, who's been in our podcast from the School of Sex Therapy. And one of the classes that we had at that SAR – for those who don't know, a SAR is a Sexual Attitudes Reassessment – session was that we went and had a lesson with a burlesque dancer, and she said that burlesque was the art of choosing what to reveal and what to hide. And I thought that was interesting because, you know, I've seen a lot of burlesques, and I'm always curious as to how the performers decide what to wear. And some of them have seen many more layers than others. And I've never heard it put so beautifully that burlesque is the art of deciding - choosing what to reveal and hide.
Wolf Goerlich: And that is exactly what we saw with the evolution of the garments. Uh, with the evolution of, uh, the books for, uh, wives and for husbands. Um, of course, the Kama Sutra was featured in, uh, in that, uh, material. But there's also a book for young wives that was played out. I don't know why they would call this a book, but it was played out in a series of porcelain. That was from the Chinese dynasty. Uh, I think it's the Qing Dynasty.
Stefani Goerlich: Pillow books?
Wolf Goerlich: Yes, exactly. Yeah, So it was. It was interesting to see across cultures, across times, across mediums, um, this desire to connect. I thought that Barcelona Museum bridged nicely that connection between Pompeii and Amsterdam and a lot of the ongoing conversation we've had in this podcast and whatnot. Uh, even though, again, the vibrators looked incredibly scary.
Stefani Goerlich: to be fair, some vibrators today still look kind of scary.
Wolf Goerlich: Yes, yes. Um, but I just don't think steampunk and your most personal parts of your anatomy go together, but, uh, I mean, some things should not be steam-powered, but you're right. Some of the tools still look pretty scary. And I know we had spent some time, um, in Berlin with, uh, with toy designers and toy makers. And there's a phrase for that, right? Like there are scariest or initial prototypes, or what was it called? Was it Frankenstein? That was what she alluded to.
Stefani Goerlich: I'm not sure which one of our myriad visits you're thinking of. So you're gonna have to fill in that story.
Wolf Goerlich: Well, we went to, um, basically a design and prototyping area of one of the toy manufacturers, and it was fascinating. I think it was Frankenstein, as she called it. So if I'm wrong, I'm sorry. But some of the early things certainly looked terrifying. Not as scary as the ones in Barcelona again. Steam-powered should not be a phrase when it comes to these items. You wanna talk about safety and security? Steam-powered is not among them. However they were, they were showing some of these other new designs. They were calling them Frank and Frankenstein; I think earlier prototypes. But it was fascinating to see the, uh, lab and all the, um, you know, the 3D printers and the machines that would extrude resin and the other machines that would cut it in plastic and the other machines that would test things. And we were fortunate to be hanging out with some friends, uh, new to me. One of them was, you know, that the woman and the couple had been friends of yours for, you know, a hot minute now, uh, but he - the man of the couple was really into this. So he's like, Oh, yeah. And here's how this machine works. Here's how that machine works. And that can touch your body. But that should not because, uh, it's porous. And there are other things. So there's a fascinating tour of the materials and the science, uh, behind making, uh, making toys.
Stefani Goerlich: We got to see their 3D printing lab and, effectively, piston machines that were going to quality test the strength and endurance of various insertables. It was fascinating.
Wolf Goerlich: We did. What else did you like about Berlin?
Stefani Goerlich: Um, well, I mean, we're gonna do a whole separate episode about the most. I can't say something I liked necessarily. But the most unusual experience in Berlin.
Wolf Goerlich: Um, yeah, that. So stay tuned for that episode.
Stefani Goerlich: Uh, yeah, You'll know it when you see the title, guys. I promise. I cannot say enough about the School of Sex Therapy SAR. It was one of the best continuing education events I've ever done. And I know that you weren't there for it. So that's probably not the best thing to pick is my favorite. Still, you were at a conference last week, so we were both doing our professional things, and it really was a tremendous experience, but of the things that you and I did together, I enjoyed seeing the street art. I liked walking around and absorbing the culture. Um, I would love to say that I enjoyed Greater Berlin and Germany's dining options, but I can't.
Wolf Goerlich: Nobody says that.
Stefani Goerlich: No, nobody says that. Not even the people that live there. Paprika Bugles is not terrible in a pinch when you can't find any other dinner. But not a great culinary city.
Wolf Goerlich: Oh, just to pause. There. This happened one night. I was down at the bar, and we had no food, and you were ordering food. And you're like, Oh, yeah, the food's here. Will you go get it? And so I stepped down from the bar and walked to the front of the hotel to get what you had sent. And, yes, you got paprika Bugles and caramel popcorn. Uh, and that was the dinner for that night. Uh, that was a choice.
Stefani Goerlich: I mean, it was a desperate choice. Built out of late nights and closed restaurants.
Wolf Goerlich: Yeah.
Stefani Goerlich: But it wasn't as bad as our pizza margarita with chopped-up falafel.
Wolf Goerlich: I don't even know what that was. I don't even know what that was. Oh, also related, um, if you want burgers in Paris or Berlin, Uh, five guys, five guys is having a moment over there. Uh, it has exploded. Every time we went by five guys, the line was very long. And it makes sense because we ordered burgers that same night that you got the falafel pizza. However, that happened. And it was the worst burger I'd had since, like, high school cafeteria. I mean, the high school cafeteria probably would have been better.
Stefani Goerlich: True, but, you know, complaining about the food aside, you had originally asked me what I enjoyed most. And in addition to, uh, the SAR that I did at the school of sex therapy, you and I also did a study abroad program our first week in Berlin with the Sexual Health Alliance
Wolf Goerlich: Yes, with our friend, Justin Lehmiller.
Stefani Goerlich: Yeah, and Heather McPherson, that whole crew, we love them. And as a part of that, we did a walking tour with a gentleman that does this cool sort of AR-enhanced tour of the History of Queer Culture in Germany. And we got to see, you know, the spot where Magnus Hirschfeld's Institute for Sexual Science stood in the twenties and thirties before the Nazis destroyed it. And we got to see where the famous, you know, gay and lesbian clubs of the Weimar Republic once stood. And we got to learn about the oppression of people with disabilities and the eradication of people with disabilities and queer people and, of course, Jews during World War Two. And I found that to be, frankly, too long of a walk. We did 5.5 miles; there could be some driving involved. But other than that, the experience itself was impactful and phenomenal. And I learned a lot about Jewish – I'm sorry, German culture as it relates to the body to nudism, to naturism, to sexuality. And then also just more about why Berlin is the way Berlin is today. Why is the club scene considered a protected cultural artifact in Germany? Why do the people drawn as ex-pats to Berlin find a home there? And it was a fascinating long walk journey for us that I would do again. I did it again the next week.
Wolf Goerlich: Yeah, it was good from an information standpoint tour of the club scene and the development of the history. And it laid the groundwork for something that I still struggle with. When I think about Berlin, Berlin is an interesting city. It's very, very cosmopolitan. I think what we say like a third of the people are not from Germany. Um, so it's there's a lot of cultures mixing. It's got a New York feel, or what have you? Um, but it's this city of paradoxes in the city of opposites. It's at one time, like, really laid back. That's the other time, like really Go, Go, go, go, go! It's at the one time. It's very sexually open and, of course, is known for many freedoms. And you already mentioned the club scene. Um, but as the other time, there's a lot of, uh, still sort of formal solid ways of looking at things that, uh, that you can kind of see between the graffiti and the clubs and the queer culture chipping away at it's this unique city in terms of feeling very modern, but also, like very secondhand. Uh, and I don't mean that necessarily in a bad way. But after the war, of course, everything got rebuilt quickly. So it almost doesn't feel, in parts, European. It feels like it was just thrown up very fast. And I suppose it was so getting, uh, getting my hands around, uh, what Berlin meant was was a challenge, uh, to be honest. And I know we spent the most time of everything we did over our spring break in Berlin. And so those two tours, those walking tours, helped me understand that context.
Stefani Goerlich: Yeah, I totally agree. And I think that people tend to think of Berlin not dissimilar to how they think of Amsterdam, right? People here talk about Berlin as if it were this hedonistic, never-ending rave of drugs and sex, and, um, who knows what, and it is. Don't get me wrong. But it is also a hedonistic rave of drugs and sex and who knows what, that has history and a cultural context and thoughtfulness behind it, even in its extremism, even in its boundary testing, boundary-pushing, Um, in some ways, you know, boundary defining self. It's not a place that indulges without reflection. I think everybody we met, even those that go to the Kit Kat Club and don't leave for three or four days because they don't have to. It's not an escape from self. It's not, um, a form of, uh, laziness, or I don't know what word I'm looking for. It is a vibrant and intentional response to a very specific cultural experience that I think of as somebody that is not necessarily a club person. I gained a lot of respect over the last couple of weeks.
Wolf Goerlich: In addition to those paradoxes, I want to just pull out something you said there because I think you said it much better than I do. There's this sense of respecting boundaries while also this sense of at the same time pushing boundaries, which I found very intriguing.
Stefani Goerlich: They talked about how there's a section in the tiered garden that is clothing optional that is nude, and it's not fenced off and hidden the way it might be. A nude beach here would be an open part of the park, and there aren't necessarily any rules or restrictions against public nudity. It's just this culture of common consent around where and when this is appropriate, so they don't need to have a lot of tight regulations in place because it's understood that this is so normalized that we don't need to hide it. We also don't need to flaunt it. It just exists alongside the rest of everything else. What's happening in a very normalized way? If I'm the right word, it's just very naturalized. There's no need to hide. There's no need to flaunt it because it simply is. And that, I think, is a mindset that we don't see in many other places.
Wolf Goerlich: I agree, I agree, and then I think that is bringing us to the end of this episode. We did other adventures and little side quests, but I think those are the main topics I wanted to pull out and get your insight on while it's still fresh. I mean, we're recording this, and we flew home yesterday. Yeah, so I know it's still fresh in both minds. We're still a little bit jet-lagged. We probably will be for a few days. And I'm sure a lot of this, uh, will find its way into future episodes and color our perspectives, and along the way, you mentioned Caleb and Justin and-
Stefani Goerlich: And Heather.
Wolf Goerlich: And Heather, there's a lot of folks that we ran into that, uh, either have been on this podcast or will be joining us on this podcast, which is always great to meet people in person.
Stefani Goerlich: I was excited because this spring break was my European tour of all of my favorite sexologists from around the world. Caleb's based in Berlin. Uh, my son and I had dinner with Silva Neves in London. The three of us spent the day wandering around Prague with Jim Pfaus. We spent a week learning with Justin. It was a tremendous opportunity that I couldn't mention. I can't not be grateful for to be able to have time to go and meet and learn from and connect with these amazing voices in sexual health and sexual research, sexual therapy, and to just kind of have time to immerse myself and you and our family with me in this amazing, inclusive, empowering, inspiring group of people that we got to meet and learn from over the last few weeks.
Wolf Goerlich: And more and more beyond that, right, we're not gonna be able to name everybody, but I think it's been quite a ride. So with that, um, you know, we're ending. And before I say thank you. Are there any parting thoughts of wisdom you want to drop?
Stefani Goerlich: Yeah. You know, every time you and I do an episode, one of the things that you always ask me, And when we have a guest, you ask, our guest is what's the practical takeaway, right? What can the people listening to us ramble on do with our ramblings in a given week? I don't know that This is an episode where we can say these are steps you can take or things you can do. But sometimes I feel like learning a new perspective or hearing about how other people do something, maybe a little differently than we do. Reflecting on the act of challenging what we assume or know to be true is its sort of takeaway moment. Right? And you and I both had opportunities to do that. You and I learned something new over the last couple of weeks. We rethought a position. We had a moment of emotional or intellectual growth, and I don't know if there's a practical thing we can suggest this week. You know, everybody, you should go. And I don't know, change your passwords to Erotic Museum Barcelona exclamation point. But hopefully, you know, listening to this and hearing a little bit more about our experiences gives you the opportunity to do some of that reflective work or some of that, huh? I didn't know that its own form of practical application gives everybody a chance to think about what we assume and consider what might be different somewhere else.
Wolf Goerlich: Yeah. Before you assume that someone is being shamed with an open window, understand if open windows are part of the cultural zeitgeist, uh, before you assume a certain, uh, way of doing consent or yes, means yes or no means no. Check the club's rules. Which is another thing you were telling me about that clubs in Berlin had different ways of, uh, handling, consent, and handling - Um, what was it, uh, safe words?
Stefani Goerlich: Yeah, the, um.. In America, we usually think of red, yellow, and green. As you know, Green means to keep going. Yellow pause and check in on me. Red means stop. I'm done. I want it over. Uh, in one of the clubs that I visited with one of the trainings that I did, we found out that that's not how they interpret it there, that they use green to mean need more – Wait, No, sorry. Red means 'too much.' Yellow means' need a little bit more. And green means' just right'. Uh, which, again, is a simple thing but can be a big mindset shift. If you're an American visiting a club and you hear somebody calling red, your partner doesn't drop the flogger immediately. You might think that their consent is being violated when they ask them to lower the intensity level a little bit. So you're right. That's another sort of small thing that can have a big impact because it forced me as I was watching demos as I was experiencing that space to recontextualize and pause and think about what I was seeing and hearing because the way that I would naturally interpret it was not what it meant in that context.
Wolf Goerlich: Absolutely. So, if nothing else, we open our minds to different contexts, cultural lenses, and ways of being and moving through space. I think it is always a good thing. Well, with that. Hey, love. Welcome home.
Stefani Goerlich: I'm so glad to be home. It was a wonderful, wonderful couple of weeks. But I am so glad to be home. And I am glad to be able to share our - just a handful of our stories with everybody who listened to us this week. Thank you for that.
Wolf Goerlich: Thanks so much for tuning in to Securing Sexuality, your source for the information you need to protect yourself and your relationships.
Stefani Goerlich: Securing Sexuality is brought to you by the Bound Together Foundation, a 501c3 nonprofit, from the bedroom to the cloud. We're here to help you navigate safe sex in a digital age.
Wolf Goerlich: Be sure to check out our website, securingsexuality.com, for links to more information about the topics we discussed here today, as well as our live conference in Detroit.
Stefani Goerlich: And join us again for more fascinating conversations about the intersection of sexuality and technology. Have a great week.