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With Legs Wide Open – A Whore’s Ride Through History

26. March 2024 – 26. August 2024

Opening: Tuesday, March 26, 2024, 7 pm
Duration: March 26, 2024 – August 26, 2024

The whores from the Museum of Sex Work speak out!

How does the clothing that whores wore in the Middle Ages feel? What health knowledge have they always shared? In which parts of Berlin did queer culture and sex work intersect? How did sex workers experience the Holocaust and German colonial history? What might a brothel look like in a better future, where STI tests are always free, the tea is always hot and Hurenpässe are no longer necessary?

A sex worker led collective has curated a German and Berlin history from a whore’s perspective using archival material, oral history and artistic interventions. The central idea: Nothing about us without us! Sex work history as whorestory, as a critical examination of institutional devaluation, regulation, and surveillance, but also as a visualization of sex work culture through the ages, from the Middle Ages to contemporary activism.

The communities of sex workers and queer people have always been closely overlapping and intertwined. Both stand outside the norms of the traditional family and reproductive labour and their realities challenge social constructions of gender and sexuality. Our struggles have been one and the same – we have walked the same streets, visited the same bars: Whores stood on the front lines of Queer liberation.

In the Schwules Museum, located in the historical ‘red light district’ Bülowkiez, a fictitious institution is therefore being created for the duration of the exhibition, a lively, erotic, magical, funny and deeply political “Museum of Sex Work“. This museum has various departments, including an Apothecary, a Cloakroom, a Department of Complaints, a Department of Health, an Office for the Reclamation of Public Space, a Department of Destruction, a Department for Horizontal Labour and a Chapel. What has been compiled in these departments is not a chronological overview of the cultural history of sex work, but rather a queer, playful, sometimes magical linking of documents and associations – about alternative body knowledge, working conditions, non-normative sexuality, celebration and memorialization of ancestors, German bureaucracy fetishism, colonialist and National Socialist alienation and mourning.

The history of sex work has so far been written, if at all, mainly by its regulators and oppressors. In public discourse about sex work, there are many opinions and very strong feelings but little data. Those with expertise which only comes from lived experience are almost never asked. So-called “Schutzgesetze” have been developed largely without involving sex workers. In With Legs Wide Open, this story is written differently. A narrative unfolds that is characterized by pride, self-determination, and the fight for justice. The Museum of Sex Work at Schwules Museum presents – with legs wide open – an unprecedented display of the art of survival and a political vision of worker’s rights for all.

Curated by a sex-worker-led collective

Participating artists: Emre Busse, Ernestine Pastorello, Ginger Angelica, Gómez Diego, L´Adios, Rori Dior, Una You, Valentin Rion.

Funded by the Berliner Senatsverwaltung für Kultur und Gesellschaftlichen Zusammenhalt.