Okay. I did not want to go at 11.30 in the night to see someplace where women sell their bodies to men who have an appetite for more than what they can get elsewhere.
I also did not want to go and see, what is an essential part of the tourist trail in Amsterdam. I did not want to see sleazy corners with scantily clad women. I had visions of Grant Road and Kamathipura in Bombay and NOPE! I did not want to go.
However my friends insisted it’s worth a look, coz it is unlike anything I will ever see. Ok, bearing in mind I had read somewhere that drug related crime and teenage pregnancies are at the lowest in Holland. I thought the information did not compute to making any sort of sense. So I went. Curiosity leading me once more.
Midnight in the Red Light area of Amsterdam and it was crowded, men and women, some seeing the sights, some living near the 'sites', some working, some gaping, some customers, few pick pockets, some observers and ..MANY women workers.
Here is the best way to describe its dimensions:
One long very narrow street..say about 800 metres long. Now build straight blocks of houses on either side of the street, about 3-4 floors each, add a canal (Amsterdam you see) in the middle. Now every block has huge glass windows on all floors. The colours most apparent everywhere is a deep red. In each window is a female, they are all display windows, with lit interiors, carpets, a bed with cushions, curtains and a VERY VERY scantily clad woman in the middle..beckoning, dancing, sitting, or staring. So its basically like a shopping centre/ complex with the only thing on sale being a human / female body. In every window, on every shelf.
Now multiply this with 30 more such streets on a grid, interspersed with canals. Add a few shops selling sex toys, S&M material, gay and lesbian shops, couple of beer joints...and you have the Amsterdam flesh market.
What was unique was the complete lack of sleaze. This is a market like any other, supplying, what is obviously in high demand. Its business, its professional, it is well lit, it’s clean and it promotes safe sex. It’s taxed, licensed and monitored. There is no shabbiness and cloaks and darkness. No shame in seeing other people there. There are groups of stag parties, hen parties, women in small groups. Everything you ever dream, wish or imagine of related to sex is available here. yes it has special zones for men:men, women:women, women:men, men:women:men, women:men:women, every colours of skin, hair and eyes, every size and type. It’s a market that caters to all, with some dignity to their approach to themselves.
This is how it works; you walk around looking at what is on display. You like something you stop and stare at the woman in the window. A bouncer materialises and has a conversation with you. You tell them what you want/ how much you want to pay. He will check with the girl. If she says ok, the window opens, lets you in, she pulls curtains around the window and you are gone for a bit. Curtains open after payment is made and you are out and about.
What I found shocking was the clinically clean professional approach to everything. it was like buying fruits or vegetables, you look, you think, you pay and you have it. As if nothing is wrong with a woman selling her body. The fact that a whole market exists for men and casual physical encounters. A whole market!! Some people would say that no one is forcing these women to selling their bodies, which does imply that they might be doing this out of their own free will. Which woman would want to have 30 different men in one night? Ok there may be exceptions. But this approach annoys me to no end. This is women who can make quick money from selling their bodies. And there are men who should not be in this market at all. I am being holier than thou here, but this is my opinion.
What disturbed me was
- the clothing (or lack of) of the women. I am not a prude but most women made me gape in shock..wearing spaghetti noodle like clothes which you can iron on the back of a 2p coin.
- the approaches to attracting a customer (supply is high. So there is competition). Dancing, beckoning, and writhing, around poles, on beds and on the floor. It looked strange coz the women can hear the music inside the glass window….so it’s like watching a drama without the sound from the outside.
The lanes are so narrow that quite a few times I was staring right into a pair of well made up eyes that looked past me, to the next man, searching for a customer. What touched me was the blank look in the eyes. They had no expression. Yes the eyes had a come hither approach, and so did the body language, but the expression on the face was of world weariness, augury of the old. It was depressing.
I walked out of the market, surprised by the scale of the market (it is never ending) and the unassuming approach to the business. I felt sick thinking about the fact that this is what happens here every night, every month, and every year. This is a constant market, supplying what men demand. It’s shameful that women in a developed country should have to resort to selling their bodies for earning money.
I have a lot of opinions about this, all of which I don’t want to express here.
This ladies and gentlemen is Amsterdam.