Red Light Special: Amsterdam Style

Prostitution. One of the oldest professions in the history of human culture. Recently I went to Amsterdam and got to see the infamous Red Light District. Now if you have not heard of the Red Light District . . . well let me tell you all about it! It is the oldest district in Amsterdam, Netherlands. The district is home to a multitude of sex shops, window prostitutes, sex clubs and the custom condom store. So not somewhere you want to take your children at night. Now at first when I got there, I was definitely not prepared for what was in front of me. The red windows with the prostitutes looking out at you, trying to entice you to buy a few minutes of the night. It was definitely overwhelming especially when you come from country that is so prudish and uptight. Now I have nothing against prostitution or the legalization of it but one girl in particular frightened me. She was a little blonde girl with both hands on her hips standing in the window smiling out to the crowd. She looked kind of like Avril Lavigne. Anyways, she was a great actress. Her face was smiling and even her eyes were smiling. Me and her locked eyes for a moment and that is where I got creeped out. They say the windows are the eyes to the soul . . . well there was no soul in there for me to see. Not like I go around doing soul checks or anything but looking back at me was nothing. No one was in there. Now the other women or transgendered women didn’t strike me in this fashion. They were still “human”. Just that one in particular instance I was afraid. It was like the grotesque. I couldn’t look away. It made me wonder how many times her soul had been split. Then I started thinking about what these women were like in real life? Who were they? Did they have families? So I began researching. When we think of prostitutes here we think of these women who are victimized into selling themselves because they are unable to work a “normal” job or are snatched off the street only to be forced into a life of degradation. At least that’s the story of what happens here.

When I began reading the first and second hand accounts of the lives of those people that have encountered the red light district, I began to see another face of something that people would want to demonize or abolish. The Netherlands is one of the few countries that has legalized prostitution. Not only is it legal but prostitution is a legal means of employment and those who are employed in that profession have to pay taxes just like everyone else. In fact, the red light district is one of the safest areas to be in, excluding the occasional pick pockets which you can find in any high volume tourist area. Inside the area however, there are more police officers than in the other parts of the city and often most of the ladies will hire private security or body guards to keep them safe, which is something that can not be guaranteed when prostitution is illegal. Security is so tight that you’re not even allowed to take pictures of them. No really…you WILL get shook down if you try to… Which is for the better because although the ladies are in the windows on display, most of their families aren’t aware of what they do on the side as an income. So although most people would want to treat them like objects, we must remember they are also real people with real lives. They deserve to have some privacy too! Being on display like that is also one of the most uncomfortable things that most of them have to deal with. Imagine how it must feel to be a work and having a crowd of tourist gawk at you all day while you’re trying to make a living to provide for your family.

When it comes to the actual “sex” factor, I uncovered a few interviews and blogs from some of the prostitutes and it was actually quite interesting. Most clientele they encounter on a daily basis they don’t have sex with. Most are there just because they want to talk to someone, some are tourist who get too shy, some are tourist that are too drunk/high and some are there to fulfill some random fantasy they are too ashamed to asked their wives or girlfriends for. When sex is involved though there is always the usage of contraceptives. Not only that but the ladies are required to get frequent testing as required by law. When prostitution is illegal, things such as condoms or testing are not something that is always monitored or required.  That leaves room for accidents such as pregnancy or stds. Even a “hand job” in the red light district requires the usage of condoms. So when you look at it at it from that stand point it doesn’t seem so terrible after all. Regardless of the “laws”, people are going to be participating in something that has been going on for centuries. When it’s legalized there’s a more controlled area, with security, std testing and protected sex with the usage of condoms. Also when it is legal, there’s designated areas that someone can safely go participate in the buying or selling of sex.

When it comes to profession of prostitution, obviously not everyone is cut out for that job. Just like not all of us are cut out to work in any other industry such as farming or factory work, etc. Successful prostitutes are able to separate sex and love and provide a service to their clientele. From the accounts I read of people who went and purchased ladies, the women were very professional and business-like when it came down to it. Some of them have boyfriends, husbands or even kids with their boyfriends/husbands. They live normal lives outside of the red light district and just treat the job as what it is…a job. In one interview, the woman couldn’t see herself working anywhere else. How? Well for her, this position had very flexible hours, great pay and essentially she was in charge of her own business. She claims that most of the women who work the district also felt that, not all, but most. Most of them were not the “victims” that people were always assuming they were and most of them didn’t need to be “saved”.

Now although prostitution is legal there, there are still many stigmas and controversy around them and their profession. For example, I read one account of a lady that was trying to buy a house and was denied due to her profession. Some people feel that the although the government has legalized it, that it is only because they want to control It more. Then there’s the whole idea that because sex is so open and discussed that it doesn’t cause a repression in society which eliminates the cause for some people to act out in ways that may be unsafe. The Dutch have been a forefront in the world in terms of the legalization of not only prostitution but of the softer drugs such as marijuana. What we can see in terms of the results of their “radical” law-making was the decrease of not only crime but the usage of heavy drugs such meth. Also the amount of human trafficking has drastically decreased. So what first appeared to me to be something quite grotesque, after reading about it and hearing the accounts from both sides of the fence definitely opened my eyes in terms of what was actually going on behind the scenes of something that could be so wrongfully misunderstood.

I personally wouldn’t sell myself or be in need of purchasing a few minutes with a prostitute but that’s just me and I would never intend on speaking for the actions and thoughts of another. I was inspired to write a book about the grotesque but in doing the research found that there was more to that lifestyle than my first inspired idea would pay homage too. I would never care to perpetuate a stereotype that indeed was not the truth. In the society we live in now, we tend to want to hide or mask the aspects of life that make some people uncomfortable but that is not always the best solution. We have to remember not to judge others and by taking the time to really learn what it is like in the shoes of another it will open up a whole world of understanding for us all.

Below are some of the links for the interviews and blogs that I read in the event you wanted to check them out too.

My Experience With A Prostitute In The Red Light District: Amsterdam

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