The Red Light District
Having always been fascinated with this area, a supposed mecca of sexual liberation, it was one of my first places to visit in Amsterdam. I spent a lot of time wandering around, trying to understand the types of people who visit here. For context, I was well-dressed and heeled for a night out in town.
This led to some uncomfortable situations.
The first was a confident women standing in a window. She gestured for me to come towards her, and I obliged. She asked if I wanted to make some money, and I said I'm not interested in working in Amsterdam though I am a sex worker back home in New Zealand. Her accent was thick but she seemed switched on. I would have liked to ask more questions about her work, though I wasn't sure of the situation and I was too scared to go inside in case I became trapped.
The second was a man who came up and started walking alongside me, a little too close for comfort. He asked me lots of questions about what I was doing, who I was with, where I was from. When he asked if I would like to make some money, I politely declined and walked away. I'm glad he didn't follow me too long. Throughout the night, I had four men approach me in this way, though the first was the only one to talk about money. It was difficult to escape these situations as the streets were crowded, so I stayed polite but firm, not making eye contact.
The third was the man at the counter for the live sex show. I walked up, and he told me to hold on a second as he admired my frame. Once he was finished, he ask how he could help. Being polite, flirty, and hoping for a discount, I asked for a ticket to the show. He said they were always open to hiring new people and I would be excellent. I responded I had no partner for the show and he said he would happily volunteer. No discount, I paid the whole 50 Euro. He led me to the show, where I met with 3 bouncers who were more than happy to see me and asked why I was alone, again. I started thinking about a story I could spin because I feel this is going to be a common issue. Maybe I'll buy myself an engagement ring.
The Show: I walked into a couple on stage having sex. As someone who doesn't really watch or enjoy porn, to see it in front of me was underwhelming though fascinating. I spent most of the time looking at their facial expressions. They looked completely blank. The single women who performed strip teases and toy shows between the couples were particularly disappointing. A lot of people know of my fondness for strip clubs and I've spent more money on good strippers than I wish to admit. However, these women looked dead inside, their motions completely robotic, and they kept looking to the curtain waiting for it to close. One woman redeemed the night for me - she was high energy, engaging, and I was convinced she was enjoying her time on stage.
A staff member at the live sex show I attended took some time to talk to me and answer my questions. He said the demand for seeing sex workers is diminishing rapidly as tourists prefer the fantasy of sex over the real thing. The shows were often full, but many windows in the side streets were empty. Tourists are now bringing their wives, sometimes their children, so the opportunity for these women to lure them into the rooms is limited.
Heading back one final time through the back streets with the workers, I encounter a large rowdy group of white men, probably on a stag do, encouraging one of their less attractive mates to approach one of the windows. From a distance, I could see this woman was not impressed, and I watched on as she rejected this man, and walking away, the group yells obscenities at this woman. She must be used to dealing with men like this on a regular basis and that frustrated me on a number of levels. I don't believe any sex worker should have to deal with this kind of behaviour.
Overall, the atmosphere felt tired and bored. The women were disinterested and it's easy to see why. Despite being legalised, their model is still flawed and restrictive. Decriminalisation is the best way forward for sex workers.