All sorts of businesses are being negatively impacted by emergency orders shutting down various social activities. This is particularly true of bars and restaurants, and operations ranging from veterinary offices to theaters are feeling the pinch. But what about sex workers? It turns out that brothels are seeing a massive drop street traffic (if you’ll pardon the pun) as people hunker down in their homes to wait out the COVID-19 storm. And that’s particularly true in Germany, where brothels are both legal and numerous in the larger cities. (Associated Press)

It’s 7 p.m. on a Friday night, a time when Aurel Johannes Marx’s three-room brothel on the edge of Berlin would normally be preparing for its first customers. Sex for sale has long been a staple part of the German capital’s freewheeling nightlife. But amid concerns over the new coronavirus, even the world’s supposedly oldest profession is suffering a sudden slump.

At the “Lankwitzer 7” brothel, with its soft red light and bawdy paintings on the wall, disinfectant dispensers have been installed next to the washbasins. Marx say he’s ordered staff to hot-wash all towels and sheets, and open the windows more often to let the warm, sticky air escape.

Still, customers just aren’t coming round anymore.

“Over the past week business has gone down by 50%,” Marx said, blaming the decline on the general drop in nightlife that’s occurred since the virus arrived in Berlin.

Regardless of what your personal feelings about legal prostitution may be, the middle of a viral pandemic is probably not the best time to patronize such establishments. If you were looking for something to define the exact opposite of social distancing, going out and paying to have sex with a stranger who has probably provided similar “services” to multiple other strangers that same day would have to be near the top of the list.

The report includes a quote from Susanne Bleier Wilp, spokeswoman for the Association of Erotic and Sexual Services Providers. (They apparently have a union. Who knew?) She describes an air of “fear and uncertainty” among the up to 200,000 prostitutes (!?) in Germany. She goes on to describe how some of the women have taken to requiring customers to “disinfect themselves” before services are rendered.

Look, I’m no doctor, but I’m fairly sure that bathing yourself in Purell isn’t going to do much good if you’re just going to turn around and do the deed with an infected prostitute. Even condoms aren’t going to help you stave off the coronavirus under those conditions.

Currently, the operation of a brothel in the United States is only legal in eight primarily rural counties in Nevada. This story got me to wondering how American brothels are holding up during the pandemic. Sure enough, their business is off as well and all of them are taking extra precautions. Customers are required to wear surgical masks as soon as they enter the facility and keep them on during sex. (The ladies do not wear masks.) They are also slathering the sanitizer around and the famous Mustang Ranch is requiring customers to have their temperature taken upon arrival.

As with the “precautions” being taken in Germany, this really doesn’t sound like any sort of effective pandemic containment strategy. State and municipal governments around the nation are already ordering all manner of businesses to shut down or at least reduce hours to help contain the spread of the virus. How is it that such rules aren’t being applied to brothels? Then again, if you can’t manage to control your impulses enough to avoid going to a prostitute in the middle of an epidemic, maybe a case of COVID-19 was always destined to be in your future anyway.