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Germany's legalized sex industry is booming

BERLIN — A decade after Germany legalized big-money brothels and recognized prostitutes' rights as workers in some of the world's most liberal prostitution laws, business is booming. Organized sex workers say the trade is safer and healthier than ever, but a surprise campaign is invigorating longtime enemies of the oldest profession who argue that the changes have turned Berlin and other towns into city-sized discount stores for sex.

Drive-in sex: Coming to a (Swiss) corner near you

ZURICH — Drive-ins may not very popular in Europe, but a new take may well prove to be. From this week, men seeking prostitutes here will be directed to a former industrial zone where nine “sex boxes” are being unveiled.

Zurich opens its first prostitution drive-in 'sex boxes'

Zurich's first red-light drive-ins are open for business Monday. The so-called “sex boxes” work in a similar way to fast-food service: Drivers place their orders for one of 40 prostitutes and then proceed to one of nine wooden booths.

Alexis Wright 'Zumba madam' pleads guilty in prostitution case

Alexis Wright pled guilty Friday to prostitution, conspiracy and tax evasion.

Canadian province Ontario legalizes brothels

Ontario's top court has legalized brothels in the Canadian province, a ruling that is meant to protect the safety of sex workers.

Strauss-Kahn released from jail after two days of questioning over prostitution ring

Former IMF chief, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, was released from prison in the northern French city of Lille during questioning by police over alleged involvement in a prostitution ring

Welcome to Bangkok: The fast-food makeover of Thailand's sex industry

Economic crisis, and changing consumer tastes, have altered a key part of Bangkok's booming sex industry.
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Thai bar girls dance at a go-go bar in Bangkok's red-light district of Patpong on December 3, 2008. (Christophe Archambault/AFP/Getty Images)

BANGKOK — Let me start by stressing it’s not a good idea to describe your profession as a “freelancer” in Thailand.

It doesn't matter if you're a writer, photographer or a graphic designer.

In Bangkok, freelancer is a term generally reserved for a prostitute who isn’t affiliated with a bar.

Using that same logic, “looking for freelancers” might get you more than you bargained for.

Unless, naturally, you are in Thailand for that kind of thing. That would be you and about a million other men.

After all, Bangkok hasn’t become the sex capital of the world because they make fantastic green curry. (And it truly is fantastic!)

It’s become the hot spot for sex tourism because of its liberal attitude toward “compensated dating.”

Yes, it is dating in a very broad sense of the word, but it isn’t just about the sex.

Being in Bangkok for the first time — and still full of preconceived stereotypes — I am consistently surprised how much of what happens in the sex scene here is hardly about sex.

It used to be that lonely men from the West traveled to Thailand for a few weeks at a time and hired a “freelancer” here, think companion, for their entire holiday.

This girl would become their “girlfriend” for a limited time and would get added benefits of being taken along on holidays and shopping trips, sometimes year after year.

While these sort of arrangements still happen, Bangkok’s sex scene has become largely the fast-food version of itself.

The competition is huge and the girls who work in bars must accrue a set number of customers each month or they get penalized.

Meanwhile, the economic crisis of the last few years has sent many of them to the street, trying their luck as “ street freelancers.”

But with the “Hangover Part II” crowd that tends to frequent Bangkok these days, it has become increasingly harder to find customers willing to pay for a whole night, let alone a week or month.

So freelancers have come up with new rules to cope with today’s fast-paced environment that their mothers‘ generation of companions hardly had to deal with.

Take, for example, the gruesome and competitive practice of “per session” pricing.

A British man I’ll call Jack learned this rule the hard way and he was quite surprised how the Thai sex operation works.

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Bonn introduces "sex tax"

With new “sex parking meters,” Germany takes another big step in the regulation of its sex industry.
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A "sex meter" ticket machine, resembling a parking meter, to tax street prostitutes in Bonn, western Germany. Bonn, the former West German capital, was the first city in Germany to introduce a parking meter for prostitutes in order to tax those who just work the streets. (Oliver Berg/AFP/Getty Images)

Leave it to Germany to streamline the unruly sex industry.

Bonn became the first city in Germany to introduce “sex meters” for prostitutes as a means of extending a general tax on prostitution beyond brothels to the streets of Bonn, AFP reports.

Bonn’s “sex tax” currently covers levies on sauna clubs, erotic centers and as well as the sex meters that were rolled out in August that — through the end of 2011 — brought in around 250,000 euros ($326,000.) City spokesperson said the local government was pleased with the results and will continue levying the tax.

The sex meters, devices similar to curbside parking meters, were installed in an industrial area near the city center in an area that’s used by prostitutes to solicit clients. Each sex worker must buy a “parking ticket” for six euros per night worked, regardless of how many customers they serve.

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Map of the day: The prostitution economy

How many people work in the world's oldest profession around the world? The number may shock you.
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A sex worker poses in a room at the upmarket Xclusive brothel in Sydney's Bondi Junction on July 1, 2008. (Greg Wood/AFP/Getty Images)

Yes, prostitution is the "world's oldest profession." 

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