Usually the first question I get asked if I tell someone that I went to Amsterdam is if I visited The Red Light District. Most of the people see it either as a place of debauchery, either as a supreme place of liberties. I think there is still a lot of prejudice and misinformation about De Wallen (the largest and best known red-light district in Amsterdam) when it comes to anything related to sexuality because this still is a taboo subject in a lot of countries.
Most travelers who visit Amsterdam consider the Red Light District another part of their itinerary alongside visiting museums for example, so not everyone goes there to benefit from the services offered by prostitutes. The district is a safe one and the nightlife is obviously buzzing with excitement: you can find coffee shops, bars and clubs; you just have to be in the mood and ready to party. I have never been to a place where strangers become friends as easily as there. If you are traveling alone don’t be worried because for sure you will be able to make some friends to hang out with.
Walking near the canals that reflect the red light of the neon, you will see a lot of places that offer live sexual shows and shops full of erotic toys. I couldn’t leave the district without visiting the Museum of Prostitution – Red Light Secrets, which I recommend you to visit if you get the chance because you will be able to understand better what is actually going on in De Wellen. The regular ticket costs around 10 euros. The building where now is the museum is a former brothel from the 17th century and it is located in the center of the district. After you enter the museum you will be led in a small cinema where you will watch a short movie which will help you form a general view of this neighborhood and about the job of the women behind the showcases. Next you will be able to understand this job better because every room you walk in has a story to tell (whether there are displayed sex toys, or objects forgotten by the customers, displays which give you information related to the prostitution, etc.). You can visit rooms similar to the ones the prostitutes work in, you can listen to their secrets, to experience how it feels to sit in the window and to read the confessions of the visitors. You should totally visit it since it is considered an eye-opening glance into the secrets of the famous Red Light District.
Visiting the museum I learned that the generic name used for the clients is John. When it comes to prostitutes, everyone over 21 can become one. How do you become one? It is not enough just to rent a window. Since it is a legal job, who wants to practice this job has to register at the Dutch Chamber of Commerce, to follow the ordinance of general regulations issued by the local authority and to pay taxes. Actually, prostitutes are considered self-employed and they pay taxes just like entrepreneurs do.
For keeping themselves safe, prostitutes have alarm buttons. When it comes to their job, there are a lot of services that they offer, but the most wanted ones are: non-sexual, oral, vaginal penetration, manual and ones which are part of the fetish sphere. They are not allowed to work without using a condom which is a way to protect both them and the client. If you see a window with purple light instead of red, then it indicates that the prostitute is a transgender.
In The Red Light District there are 290 windows available for rent and around 900 prostitutes are working here daily. The time of an average visit is estimated being around 10 minutes. There are approximately 42 million people around the world who work as prostitutes, from whom, sadly, 90% are dependent on a pimp. Even though De Wallen is the most famous place when it comes to prostitution, Thailand is considered to be the center of it with over 250 000 people practicing this job.
Given these facts, I think we should be more open-minded and stop judging the women and the men who choose to work in The Red Light District. The dutch government understood how drugs, sexually transmitted diseases and trafficking can be controlled. By legalizing this kind of activities, they prevented the horrific incidents related to this so called sexual industry that are happening all around the world. Prostitutes are normal people just like me and you, who in their free time are studying or taking care of the loved ones. I really think people should stop stigmatizing these persons once and for all and better start to mind their own business. This job would not exist if there were no clients, so it’s time to give up the prejudices and accept it.