With plush red curtains, leopard-print cushions and more gold than you'd find at Posh and Beck's wedding, within about 30 seconds it is clear that the Artemis, is a brothel. The name may be odd for a bordello, since the Greek goddess Artemis was also known as the eternal virgin, but this place has been designed with sex in mind.
Strictly speaking though, the new €5 million facility isn't really a bordello at all -- but it is an interesting experiment that could alter the traditional structures of the world's oldest profession. The women working here when Berlin's Artemis swings open its doors next Thursday won't be getting a paycheck. In fact, they won't even be employees. They don't have to work for a pimp and they certainly won't have a madam. Instead, they are required to pay an entry fee of €70, just like the men who come here seeking their services. Don't expect to find a prix fixe sex menu either -- at Artemis, women negotiate prices directly with the johns.
That's not the only thing Artemis's backers hope will be different. In a country where the illegal trafficking of prostitutes, often against their will, from Eastern Europe and further abroad is a rampant problem, the brothel's management say they will also take steps to keep out crime. Prostitution is legal in Germany, but the company is requiring that sex workers who want to do business here provide their tax number and proof of permission to work in the EU. Otherwise they won't be permitted to enter.
For the prositutes, the main advantage over a traditional brothel, says Artemis lawyer Norman Jacob, is that instead of paying 20, 30 or 50 percent to a madam, all the profits she earns here are hers to keep.
"She can go into the sauna or the swimming pool, get food and non-alcoholic drinks for free," Jacob said. "She can even spend the night here and just sleep. And if she has sex she earns money."
In Berlin, the concept is getting a good reception -- at least among sex workers. "We think it is really positive that it is all so transparent," said Katharina Cetin of the Berlin-based prostitute support group Hydra, "and the environment itself is attractive and hygienic. We also like the fact that no alcohol is served." But while Cetin has no problem with the concept, she is wary about being overly enthusiastic at this stage and says it is too soon to judge the actual working conditions.
More Vegas than St. Tropez
Located at the Western edge of the city, Artemis is housed in a former warehouse spread over 3,000 square meters. Although the outside of the building is about as erotic as a corporate office park, the interior is a bizarre cross between mid-1990s Las Vegas and a cheezy British "Carry-On" film. The historical decorative flourishes, presumably designed to give the place a touch of class, are almost overwhelming: Greek and Roman statues nestle under Moorish arches, pseudo art deco frescos adorn the walls and even the odd Chinese character on black lacquer is thrown in for good measure. Pretty much every era which has ever been deemed erotic is represented.
The four-floor den of sin, which can accommodate up to 100 prostitutes and 650 male clients, is also equipped with saunas, jacuzzis, cinemas and a swimming pool, complete with the requisite mini-tropical island. Leopard skin textiles and strategically-placed mirrors abound, and there are both areas for sex in the open as well as private rooms for the more discrete.
Artemis's backers pumped millions into the project, hoping to repeat the success of other mega-bordellos in Germany. And when the flood of tourists arrives in Berlin next June as Germany plays host to the World Cup soccer tournament, Artemis will be awaiting them. Located just three train stops from Berlin's main Cup venue, Olympic Stadium, Artemis managers are hoping that football fans will seek even more traditional pleasures after games.
"We didn't even think about that when we started the project," said attorney Norman Jacob. "But obviously it's very nice for us that it is happening. Business will be booming," he added smiling. "Football and sex belong together."