Personal and Professional Stories of A Working Human
I managed to work for quite a long time without having many problems when I lived in Amsterdam. I was a hooker, I loved it. I even enjoyed that comradery that the hookers all had, it was the closest group of friends I’ve ever had. So many different nationalities, and so many different accents. A very small amount of them were dutch, most spoke English at least to a certain level, a lot of them spoke Dutch as well because they had lived there for so long. It’s hard to learn Dutch in a city where most people don’t speak Dutch to you if they think you are a foreigner, but once you get regular men they become for comfortable and speak Dutch around you or quite often would tell you (unsolicited) how to say certain things. Well that being said, I would say only about 30% of the men I saw were actually Dutch. A huge number of British and American men came to see us for the novelty. They were mostly nice but even the nice ones pretty much treated you like you were below them. I don’t think they all meant to, I think a lot of it is just that they are a part of societies that teach them that prostitution is something only desperate women do, and desperate women, well we all know they are just pathetic right? Which, obviously to me, is another layer of sexist that is just so ingrained in people’s minds that they don’t even realize they are doing it. That doesn’t make it ok, but it’s pointless to punish someone who doesn’t even realize they are doing something wrong. Often it’s enough to talk to some men, and just show them that you are a smart capable human being, and that’s enough for them to at least begin to start seeing sex workers as human beings.
I don’t know many women who weren’t as some point attacked. There is something about the forbidden, even in a society where it’s decriminalized or even legalized, that makes the worse people seek it out. I honestly believe if we had a more normalized view of sex and sex work, we would have far far less violent attacks on sex workers. I believe that it is when you repress natural tendencies and when you deny sexuality and sensuality that begins to breed a dark evil in people.
I would say, most often women were attacked because the man who wanted to hire them felt like they were just property to be fucked, so if they were refused or felt rejected (remember some of these people have very fragile egos) they would violently take it out on the worker. There were also just a few men who came to us because they had these violent fantasies and they thought, or hoped, that because we were hookers no one would care if they took out their violent urges on us.
The police were fairly decent. They treated us as well as a normal person, if we had to hit our alarms, and they would actually hurry to help us. I point this out specifically because if you have ever seen police responding to calls in the U.S. that involve prostitutes they don’t always respond with urgency. I won’t say they respected us, some of them definitely still saw us as an abnormal bit of society, but they treated us like humans, not just the sluts some people portray us to be. Not that being a slut is bad, but I can’t think of a proper word to use that encapsulates the level of disgust people have for sex workers, or women who have sex with whomever they please. Like our sexual freedom offends people, whether we are women or professionals.
Some of the women had pimps, or “boyfriends” as they would usually call them. I think most of the women I knew had some sort of manager/boyfriend even though they didn’t want to tell people that. That is a very complex issue that I think does need to be dealt with. We needed security, and the police can’t constantly be our security because the police force in the whole of Amsterdam is not that large, and it isn’t in their budget or job descriptions to be security for us. I believe that’s why many of them had boyfriends, was for protection. They were pretty aggressive you’ve probably read the booklets if you’ve ever been to Amsterdam, but you cannot take pictures of the prostitutes. Their boyfriends will seriously come after you. I did not like these men. For the most part I felt like they were stealing these women’s money, but as I said, the security issue was enough to make most of us thankful for some of these men, especially the less shitty ones.
It has been 10 years since I lived there so a lot of this may have changed. I stopped keeping up with the politics there when they elected some conservative idiots and I just didn’t want to think about all of the stupid things they were doing to the city.
But what Amsterdam taught me about sex work, is that even systems that appear on the outside to be very tolerant, can always do with major improvements. Their system was nice is some ways, the fact that we had a place to be and didn’t have to worry about being harassed by the police, and the fact that we could even call the police for help and they would respond and arrest that person, and also they could keep certain people out of the area if they had been repeat offenders, I liked those things a lot. It made me feel like I was a worthy person who actually did belong in society. The other side of things has a lot to do with the lack of regulation, and the problem there is that those who regulate rarely seem to know what they are doing so even with regulation it’s not always going to be a better system. I don’t think any system in the world is yet perfect, but I think if anywhere has the space to make a better system it would be if Amsterdam would begin to be more progressive again and work with the sex workers to create a safer and more female controlled space for sex workers.