Could Drive-In Sex Garages Make Prostitution Safer?

August 30, 2013 by Justin Lehmiller


This week, the Swiss city of Zurich unveiled a novel ideal for making sex work safer: drive-in sex garages. The way it works is that the city is turning over a small park to sex workers, who will simply stand along the side of a roadway where customers can drive up and negotiate their desired sexual activities and rates. When a deal is struck, the client will pull into a private garage in order to complete the transaction. The garages will not be luxurious (see an example here), but they will be equipped with bathrooms, lockers, and laundry facilities. The garages will be open all night every night (from 7:00 PM until 5:00 AM), and will contain signs reminding workers and clients to use condoms.

The goal of this publicly funded, $2.6 million dollar project is to move prostitution away from certain downtown areas and to provide some degree of protection for and regulation of sex workers. Although there will not be video surveillance of the garages, there will be on-site security, as well as panic buttons inside of each garage. City officials hope that this will reduce rates of sexual assault from customers, as well as violence and exploitation by pimps. In order to work in one of the garages, sex workers will need to obtain a permit from the city and pay taxes in the amount of $5.40 per night (which is definitely not enough to recoup the initial cost of the garages, let alone pay for maintenance and upkeep, given that only a few dozen workers are projected to take advantage of this opportunity. In short, this definitely isn’t a money-making scheme, so much as a way of relocating and regulating prostitution). The city will also offer regular health checks for licensed sex workers.

Prostitution is nothing new for Zurich, where it has been legal for over 70 years. The Swiss people aren’t the first to invent drive-in sex garages either—in fact, the German city of Cologne installed a drive-in sex brothel in 2001, which has reportedly led to “a considerable decline in violent acts against the women,” according to one social services group.

So what do you think? Are drive-in sex garages the future of safer sex work? Are there better or more cost-effective ways of reducing sexual violence against prostitutes? Weigh in with your thoughts below.

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Written by
Dr. Justin Lehmiller
Founder & Owner of Sex and Psychology

Dr. Justin Lehmiller is a social psychologist and Research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute. He runs the Sex and Psychology blog and podcast and is author of the popular book Tell Me What You Want. Dr. Lehmiller is an award-winning educator, and a prolific researcher who has published more than 50 academic works.

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