Traumgirl explores the myths and stereotypes around sex work, laying bare the women behind the industry in a bold narrative which will change the preconceptions of anyone who didn’t already have an existing knowledge on the topic. Performed by Anne Welenc, she explains that Traum is German for ‘dream’ – and the performance is the world debut of the show, a strategic response to the world famous Traumboy, which explored the myths around male sex work.
An interesting foray into a world most people will never inhabit
Performance artist Anne Welenc greets the audience naked, projecting her vulva onto a screen as she straddles a pink glitter bubble machine. An introduction thick with symbolism – the nod to web-camming; the theme of performance and inhibition; and the juxtaposition of the naked body and the dress up which Welenc will systematically take us through as she narrates her experiences.
Dressed in a power suit, Welenc details the origins of her life, born to a German-Polish family steeped in the shame of poverty. Desperate to get out, Welenc fled to an acting school in Switzerland – the "land of money". With the fall of the euro, her money was rendered almost useless and so began her foray into sex work. Welenc introduces her stage persona, Kim, as she adorns herself in red latex and a neon wig. Cavorting provocatively around the stage, seductively licking her fingers, she details her exploration of a range of sex work mechanisms – starting with escorting, and landing in brothel work.
Welenc has posted a mobile telephone number on the wall, and invites questions from the audience. She answers each of these with candour, though the sceptic in me assumes these questions are set and will be the same each evening. This is the most interesting part of the show as Welenc takes us through the answers to questions such as "Have you ever fallen in love with a client?", the overarching societal narrative being that sex workers require a man to come and white knight them out of the industry. "Did you ever feel ashamed of enjoying sex with a client?" provokes Welenc’s consideration that society thinks any woman who enjoys sex is broken, so she may as well get paid for it. And "Do you always feel safe?" – to which Welenc gives a resounding yes. Because she works in groups with other women, which is the same for street workers. And to hit the point home, Welenc poses that as a woman, she has to be aware of imbalances in size and power every day of her life. This isn’t a risk attached to her work – it’s just part of her daily experience.
Traumgirl is an interesting foray into a world most people will never inhabit. Welenc’s clever use of costume, display and stage serve to echo the themes of her discourse, intrinsically separating the woman from the work, whilst emphasising that they are also the same. Welenc charges €180-€250 an hour, because she’d "rather fuck than serve drinks" – and this is a concept we can all get on board with. Especially with the six-deep bars outside Summerhall. The piece starts to fall away toward the end, when Welenc randomly bursts into an ethereal song that’s hard to understand the words to. Aspects of the performance could also be slicker – like the costume changes. This is a fantastic exploration into the myths which threaten the safety and independence of the sex industry, whilst tackling head on the stigma workers encounter.