What America Needs: A Strichplatz Or Two... Or Dozens

ZURICH, Switzerland—Well, it's been just over five years ago almost to the day that Switzerland opened its first "Strichplatz" area, and according to an article in USA Today last week, it's been a big success.

And what is a "Strichplatz," you ask? Perhaps one clue is in its literal translation: "Stroke place." Yup, it's a spot where people can drive into a stall and have sex with a prostitute—all with the approval of the local citizenry, who were getting tired of seeing the local pros plying their trade on the banks of Lake Zurich and the Limmat River. So when the city planners came up with the idea of building a number of small drive-in structures consisting of little more than three walls and a ceiling, where customers could just drive up, select a woman who'd paid her annual prostitution permit fee ($43) and her daily "work permit" fee (€3.50/US$4.68), drive into the structure with her and have whatever kind of sex the pair agreed on. The Swiss even provided a helpful poster (above left) showing one possible sexual position—and another warning to use a condom to prevent AIDS.

According to the USA Today article, the thing only cost about $2 million to build, with an annual upkeep cost of about $800,000—and in 2014, the city has added plank beds in case the johns balk at "doing it" in their cars—or on their motorcycles, which are also accommodated, though walk-ins are discouraged. Drive in, get off, drive out—that's the deal. (Those without vehicles can head down to the local red light district, the Harnigstrasse, where the legally sanctioned streetwalkers hang.) The Strichplatz also has laundry facilities, showers to wash up after sex, and even a cafe.

And by all measures, the Strichplatz has been a success. Zurich’s social services department reported last week that there had been no case of serious incidents of violence in the five years of operation. Of course, each box has an alarm button if the woman is attacked or feels threatened, but they haven't been used. Indeed, according to an article on TheLocal.ch, "Before the sex boxes were introduced, prostitutes gathered on the riverside Sihlquai area near Zurich main train station, and violence was a daily reality."

"The department also noted the key role of the Flora Dora outreach team which helps sex workers on site," the article added. "Flora Dora workers provide police with up to 100 leads a year in cases of possible people trafficking."

So the question remains: What major city in the U.S. couldn't use a Strichplatz of its own?