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When I tell people I'm flirting with 30, they tell me I look like I'm in college and I have the energy of a pre-adolescent. Well, that's good because did you know there are 195 countries in this world? My goal is to travel to as many countries as my age. My current count? 14. Yikes. Better get jetsettin'! Read More

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Let’s Have Sex Tonight in Amsterdam… Please?

September 29, 2016.happynfull.1 Like.4 Comments
A first time visiting female’s perspective on Amsterdam’s Red Light District

Dear Travel Diary,

It’s 11am on Tuesday and Amsterdam’s Red Light District is empty and quiet aside from some tourist groups (including ours) and a group of locals stepping out of the massive old church located in the very center. I know, ironic, right?

Walking through this area, I learn that the government legalized brothels in 2000 (whether there is any correlation to hypothesizing the world was ending during Y2K, I do not know). We pass through the repetition of restaurants with signs written in Chinese characters, coffeeshops (where you buy and smoke weed), sex toy shops, and cafes (what we call coffeeshops in the US – I know, confusing). As I walk, I peer through the floor to ceiling doors with glass windows. Most have a velvet red curtain draped over them and the lights are turned off. I guess prostitutes don’t work the typical 8-5 grind.

Walking row after row of empty windows, I finally spot a voluptuous African woman, her face half shielded by a compact mirror that she is holding in one hand, while sweeping a dusty, metallic, electric blue eyeshadow over her eyelid with the other. She has firefighter red lipstick on and is wearing a black lace bra and underwear set with 2-inch heels. She is getting ready for her afternoon of suitors.

I wave to her, but she does not see me. I am left wondering who wants to have a nooner and can’t help but think how early her shift has started.

We return to the same exact block around 8pm and there is a newly created atmosphere in the air. The sun has set and the diverse range of tourists have risen. Couples are holding hands, lone men are walking with sweatpants on, groups of giddy bachelors are laughing and hooting, teenagers are snickering at the dildos and blow up dolls through the windows, and families are walking down the canals. Everyone wants to see the Red Light District at least once. It’s intriguing.

There is a certain buzz lingering around that I would best describe as unspoken and suspenseful, yet light and erotic. People walk by in silence, either making eye contact or breaking eye contact from the various prostitutes trying to lure them in for a love session that can only be described as transactional.

The women come in all color, shapes, and sizes. They wear clad lingerie, some have the school girl thing going, others look like they are trying to play hard to get, staring at their phones rather than into their lusters’ eyes. Perhaps they are just bored or tired. Others are hustling tonight, shaking their asses in their thongs, playfully tapping their bare butts with their hands.

Some women are beautiful, they look like they could be models or the next Kardashian.

The majority are not personally my type, but it’s reassuring to know there is someone for everyone out there. If you stop to think about it, it is kind of a beautiful thing. A person that you’re unattracted to just might be the most attractive person in another person’s eyes.

I’ve noticed that the girls are strategically placed together by type. The Latinas are off on one block, the thick women are off to another, and the really skinny girls are clustered on another. Some surprise me as I think they are mannequins, standing freakishly still, with a California bronze spray tan from head to toe. It’s hard to tell with the lighting and makeup that some of these women are real. Many have implants.

Oh, and the blue light framed windows? Those are the transvestites who seem to be popular tonight as their lights are on but their curtains are draped over. Hopefully tourists have done their research and know what the blue light means, or something tells me they are in for a surprise.

Coming from America, I’m not sure how to feel about all of this public display at first. Sex is so taboo yet we all know it has been around for centuries and is presently readily available anywhere in the form of escorts. But how do I feel about it being displayed like I’m shopping for the best pizza to satiate my temporary hunger?

Pan camera to an earlier moment just this afternoon. The scene is this: Chris and I are starving and we enter a pizza-by-the-slice spot as Chris is craving pizza. We are scanning the variety available to be selected…. pepperoni, sausage, BBQ chicken, pesto… There are at least 12 pies to choose from,  but looking at the unheated, hardened cheese staring back at me, I turn to Chris and shrug, “Eh. Doesn’t look fresh. Let’s see what else is down the block.”

In many ways I chuckled inside as this is exactly what shopping for a prostitute is like. Most men wander the endless blocks until they can confirm, “Yes! She/he is the one to spend my hard earned cash on!”

At first, I felt sad for the women behind the glass windows. So many of them in their 20’s, selling their bodies for 50 euros for 15 minutes. I have learned through extensive Reddit and Quora consensus this is the general cost. For 50 euros you can have 15 minutes of vaginal and oral sex. I don’t know why this disturbs me, it seems so cheap. Then again I don’t know the last time I made 50 euros in 15 minutes!

But I later learn that a window rental at night costs around 115 euros. I’m sure this is for a tiny window. The corner windows look like prime real estate and have to be more. This means a prostitute needs to sleep with at least 2.3 men just to break even for the night. But more pressing than that, I can’t imagine all of the men a prostitute has to pretend to like in one night. Wrinkly? Bad odor? Bad breath? Drunk? Hairy? Unattractive? I can’t imagine maintaining a healthy relationship after seeing the surplus of men knocking on the door.

But something inside me shifts after observing windows for about an hour. I no longer feel sorry for the prostitutes (unless they are in the involuntary sex slave trade business or in human trafficking). I start to feel sad for common everyday women who might potentially be the wife or girlfriend of these men. I notice the men who are knocking on doors aren’t bad looking at all. Most seem like 20-30 years old, and can pick up a girl just fine in the bar. They seem to be fit, charming, or athletic.

It turns out, the most common type of patrons are foreigners on business trips. Others seem to be first time tourists doing it just for the novelty of being able to pay for sex with whoever they want. According to Amsterdam Red Light District Tour, about 60% of men are married or have a partner.

For kicks and giggles, we watched a 30-something, attractive, slim, nicely dress and shaven man knock on a window. He walks in. Some words are exchanged. Money is exchanged. The curtains close. Turning to Chris I say, “Okay. It’s 9:35pm. If all on the internet is correct, he should be out by 9:50.” Like clockwork, the door opened and the man ran out into the street and walked into the bar next door, camouflaging him in with the rest of the crowd. I’m left in awe at how accurate the internet is.

As we walked by the red light district again the next evening, we noticed the same girls wearing the same outfits as the night before. While the first day I was curious and eyes wide, tonight I feel like I’m just staring out at pizza, right after inhaling a 22-oz rib eye and baked potato with all of the works on top. I have somehow quickly gotten use to the behavior of both genders and no longer flinch. The pizza is just there.

Have you been to the Red Light District?

How much does sex cost in the Red Light District?

To read about what to do and eat in Amsterdam, check out my Amsterdam budget travel guide.

Comments (4)

  • vinneve . October 11, 2016 . Reply

    I have read similar stories in Berlin. The blogger is from there. Interesting post. Yes, I learned about some place I have never been yet. Thanks for the infos.

    • (Author) happynfull . October 12, 2016 . Reply

      Thanks for stopping by, Vinneve!! I didn’t realize Berlin had something similar, but not surprising given how big the city is. I visited Berlin once and love the creative culture.

  • Julie Cao . November 4, 2016 . Reply

    Interesting insights about life in the red light district, but I really dont know how do I feel about the prostitutes and the clients there.

  • Swathi . November 25, 2016 . Reply

    This really is an interesting read Emily. You have give a much better view of red light district though I felt the same when I was there.

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