Amsterdam’s Red Light district consists of street after street, alley after alley lined with windows occupied by women of every age, ethnicity and body type. After six months of witnessing this, I had to know how it worked. How they worked. What these women in the windows thought. What they did. What they didn’t do. One day, I hired one to find out. This is what I learned.
How did you got into prostitution?
(She holds out her hand face up) Money first.
Oh, sorry, sorry. (I hand her 50 Euros and she stashes it in a cabinet underneath the sink in the back of the room)
I was alone with three children. I was working at a store and it closed. I had to turn to this.
How long have you been a prostitute?
You start work early. (It was 8:30 in the morning)
I start my day at 4:30 in the morning. I come here and clean. Then I start working. I prefer to work in the morning because there is not so much paparazzi, not as many tourists taking pictures of me.
Do people take pictures of you in the windows?
How do you feel about that?
Why is that?
Because this is something that is private. I want my privacy. If someone wants to take a picture of you they should ask first. This is not something that people understand. They would not understand. I am afraid my picture will end up on the Internet.
How does it feel when people look at you in the window?
Very badly. It is not just me. All of us feel this way. There is an older lady that is 65 in the window next to me. Her whole family knows that she is a prostitute. Her son comes here and helps her clean. He brings her food. We are a curiosity for people all around the world. I understand that, but when they see us, they laugh at us. I came here to work and they are laughing at me at work. They are laughing about me.
Does your family know you are a prostitute?
Oh, no. No. No.
How much do you charge?
50 euros for 50 minutes. For something normal and quick, but not all of them want sex.
What do they want if they don’t want sex?
(She holds up a bottle of baby oil)
Yes. Or they just want to masturbate or they pay to massage me. A lot of people do not want sex. I get married people a lot. They are married but they are in the Netherlands alone. They tell me that “I am married but I am in the Amsterdam and I have to come here. I had to enter here, be with a lady, do nothing, but I had to come here. I had to do that.”
Is there anything you would not do?
I wouldn’t not be anything without protection. I wouldn’t doing anything without a rubber. If he is drunk, I charge more money.
How do you feel after you have sex with one of your clients?
I feel that it is time for him to go.
Have you ever fallen in love with one of your clients?
Twice I have in ten years. I had relationships with both of them. I am not dating anyone now. Both times I ended the relationship.
What do the people you date think of you being a prostitute?
The first guy was a drunk and he did not care. The second guy did not want to talk about it. He only thought I did it once a month.
It is hard to have sex with someone you love?
No, prostitution is different than sex. I rent my body. I rent my time. I rent my time and my body. I offer a social service. Sometimes people come just because they want a friend. They only want to talk to me.
What do they want to talk about?
One guy wanted to talk about his wife and his children. Another wanted to tell me about how his ex-girlfriend left him for another man but he was still in love with her.
What was the first time like?
It was very scary. The second time I was scared. The third time I was scared.
Has anything bad ever happened?
Don’t you have alarms in the rooms?
Yes (pointing to a silver button similar to a doorbell on the head board of her bed)
Have you ever had to push that?
Yes, because he got on my nerves. But it was not bad. I was not scared.
Does it get easier over time?
What do you think people think about you?
I don’t know. I wouldn’t guess what goes on in other people’s minds. My mind is one world. The minds I see on the street are another world.
How many days a week do you work?
All of them. Sometimes I take a week off and come back.
Do you think you feel differently about your job because prostitution is legal in the Netherlands?
Oh, yes. Yes. Yes. Of course. They protect us. There are countries where people have to hide from the police and lie.
Would you do it if you were illegal?
If I had to work I would.
How old are you?
(Laughing) I will not tell you that. I am older than I look.
Do you ever get any virgins?
Yes. (Laughing) Once I know they are virgins, I don’t want to think about it. I hope it goes quickly. I don’t feel good about it. That happens to all of us and we all feel badly about it. It is not very often that it happens. None of us want to do it.
Do you ever get couples?
Yes, but they both do not want to have sex with me. The man just wants to have sex with me. The women just wants to watch. Women love to watch.
Do you ever get single women alone?
No. But that is not for me.
Do you get more than one guy sometimes?
Sometimes. It is very strange. I try to charge extra, but they do not want to pay. That has only happened to me once in two years.
Do you think you will be a prostitute for awhile?
Would you say that you are proud of what you do?
In one sense, you have to be very strong to do this.
If there was something you wanted to tell people about prostitution, what would you tell them?
We are not as bad as they think. I do this because I have to work.