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Secrets of Amsterdam’s Red Light District

SECRETS OF AMSTERDAM’S RED LIGHT DISTRICT


The Red Light District in the morning. 

"Hey, baby, come here, come here," a thick black prostitute said to me, stepping out from her little window in the Red Light District of Amsterdam.

"What?" I said.  I stepped toward her.

"What’s your name, baby?"  She held out her hand to shake mine.

I shook her hand, trying not to think of the army of jism germs running up my arm. 

"James," I said.

"I’m Wet Pussy, James."

"Whoa.  You must have had weird parents."

"Come on in, baby."

"Didn’t the other kids in school give you a lot of shit?"

"Come inside.  Special.  Fifteen euros."  She pulled on my arm, and tried to forcibly pull me into the little room.  But I am powerful!  Much stronger than a prostitute!  I stood my ground.

"Honestly, when I think of it, it makes me sort of angry.  It was actually cruel of your parents to name you that.  One could even call it abusive."

Wet Pussy didn’t laugh once at my jokes.  I knew this wasn’t the right Red Light prostitute.  If I was going to interview a whore for the sake of you fuckers and this blog, it was damn well going to be a whore who thought I was hilarious.


One of the many entrances to the RLD. 

Fortunately, Emma came at me not too long after.  Emma was a twenty-four year old Dutch girl of mixed ethnicity.  She was slight, no more than 105 pounds.  She was cute, but not beautiful.  She laughed at almost everything I said, so I liked her much more than Wet Pussy.  This is why I’m a fiction writer and not a journalist – my interest is mostly in subjects who find me amusing. 

Normally, Emma charged fifty euros for "fuck and suck" and one hundred euros for a half hour.  I offered her one hundred euros if I could ask her questions for a half hour (only questions, you dirty-minded beasts), and she agreed.  For better or worse, I didn’t tell her I was going to put her answers in this fucking blog.  Emma, if you’re reading this now, I’m sorry.  Please still like me.

(Eventually Emma told me her real name which, unsurprisingly, is not Emma.  In fact, she said she didn’t even remember what name she had originally told me, because she changes it all the time to amuse herself.  But I’ll continue calling her Emma here for the sake of her anonymity.)


The windows.  If the club owners or pimps catch you taking photos in the RLD, they throw your camera in the canal. 

We entered her little booth, which is about eight feet by twelve feet.  There was a small sink on one wall, and a door to the bathroom.  Against the far wall, was a double bed with a beach towel for a blanket.  By the bed were plastic gloves and condoms and sex toys.  The first thing I did when inside was wash Wet Pussy off my hands.  The second was to convince Emma that by "ask her questions" I didn’t mean "get a handjob."  She said that some men come in saying they want to talk, but they all end up having sex with her.

"Not me," I told her.  "My wife – well, it’s not well known, but she likes to beat me."

"Beat you up?"  She laughed. 

"Yes, viciously," I said.  "But I can’t tell you who she is, because she’s very famous.  All right, she’s Jenna Fischer from THE OFFICE.  I can’t believe you got that out of me."

Emma laughed again, and shrugged.  THE OFFICE isn’t on in The Netherlands.  Red Light Prostitutes just aren’t Jenna’s demographic.  However, they are mine, as I later discovered Emma was a fan of both SLiTHER and DAWN OF THE DEAD.  This, along with my innate charm and my prostitute-hypnotizing abilities, may be why we got along so well.

Actually, the first twenty minutes we were together, Emma mostly interviewed me, asking all sorts of questions about my job.  I told her I related to her.  Living in Hollywood, I too have to smile at many men I actually have disdain for.  The only difference is, the cock in my ass is metaphorical.

"And you like you job!" she pointed out.

Yeah, that too.

Honest to God, Emma was delightful.  She was funny and sweet and if you met her at a party the last thing you’d expect her to be would be a prostitute.  She speaks four fucking languages, reminding me again what morons my American brethren and I are.  If I met her at a party, I’d think of setting her up with my brother Sean – my only hesitation being that Sean is somewhat of a rogue, and I’d be unsure about unleashing him on such a nice girl.

Emma worked for herself.  She doesn’t have a pimp, she says, but about half of the women do.  She paid 80 euros a day for the room.  The girl that would come in at night would pay 110 euros.  Emma would have to pay the landlord whether or not she made the money, but she almost always made the cash.  She’d have a few clients almost every day, most of whom were paying fifty for the "fuck and suck".  She made a little under 100,000 euros a year.  She never went to college, so it was a damn good living.

Emma had been a prostitute for two years.  She was a rarity in the district, she told me.  She was Dutch.  Most of the girls in the District come from other places, many from Eastern Europe in search of a better life.  But Emma was born and bred in Amsterdam.  I asked her if anyone she knew ever saw her in the window.

"That’s why I work in the daytime now," she said.  "I used to work nights, but no more.  It’s too crowded."

Emma has a younger sister who was walking through the Red Light District on her way home from work, when she saw Emma in the window.  Her sister began bawling, and Emma began bawling, and Emma ran out and hugged her and promised she would never do it again.

But here she was, back in the window.  Her sister didn’t know she came back. 

Emma loved her sister more than anything in the world.  She showed me pictures of her family.  She had a very cute niece and nephew, and a handsome live-in boyfriend.  Her boyfriend drives a limo and doesn’t care about her job.

"How can he not care?" I asked her.

"We’re weird."  She laughed.

"He doesn’t care at all that you have sex with other men?"

"We’re both just really weird," she said.  "We’re nice, but weird!"

Despite her pleasant demeanor, Emma hated her job.  When she has sex with men, she completely shuts down mentally and emotionally.  She’s gone.  It’s an ability she had before she ever took the job.  She doesn’t know where it came from. 

I told her how I sometimes take our cat, Andy, to the vet.  He’ll fight and scratch Jenna and me when we try to put him in the Sherpa bag. But, once he’s in there, he just disappears mentally.  When we’re at the vet, the vet can take him in and out of the bag and he just hangs like a lump because he’s somewhere else emotionally.

Emma laughed.  "Yes, like that!"

After a while Emma got comfortable and took off her cowboy boots. I was surprised to see she was wearing white tube socks, which didn’t exactly match her black bra and black super-mini.  I told her the socks made it a very sexy ensemble.  She laughed and told me she never takes off her shoes with a client, which might tell you something about the level of intimacy she has with the men.

"I don’t have regulars," she told me. 

Regulars expect more and more from you, physically and emotionally, and Emma gives all that she’s willing to give the first time around.

I asked her if our half hour was up.  She pointed at the clock on the wall and said, "The clock doesn’t move."  I thought this was a Dutch way of saying "time stands still."  I thought she was paying me a compliment – that I was so wonderful and engaging that she had lost track of time.  I was truly flattered.  I smiled brightly.

When I looked back at the clock a few minutes later, I saw that it was still on the same time.  It wasn’t a Dutch phrase at all, but she actually meant the clock doesn’t move.  It was broken.  I asked her how she knew when a half hour was up.  She said that she could do it in her head.  I told her that was impossible, and she laughed and admitted that the half-hour would essentially be up whenever the guy had an orgasm. 

I told her I was sure that it was over a half-hour, but she asked me to stay.  She said it was a slow day.


B-A-N-A-N-A-S.  Bananas. This is where the girls will fuck bananas. 

Emma wouldn’t take everyone as a client.  She learned over time how to read people, if they looked "dark" or not.  And, she admittedly did a little bit of racial profiling.

First of all, she wouldn’t take Moroccans.  Moroccan men, she said, were often violent and abusive, and many of the women wouldn’t take them.  In fact, she wouldn’t take any Africans.

She also wouldn’t take Turks, because "they treat the women like nothing, like they are a piece of meat."  (She would, however, take other Arabs, who were fine.)

Indian men are also a no go.  They are "weird".

She covered her face with her hands, embarrassed, "I know, it’s so racist!"  (It’s important to remember, Emma is half-black).

She also wouldn’t take Dutch men, who she said were meaner than most.  She guessed this might be because they were men who frequented prostitutes instead of tourists looking for a novel thrill.  Many of the men she saw had never been with a prostitute.

The nicest nationality?  Italians.  Followed by Americans, followed by the Irish.

"English men are okay, but they are always wild and drunk," she said.  "The Irish men are always drunk too, but much nicer."

Every once in a while a man would beat her up.  The cops are good about this, and always believe the woman, but sometimes it takes them a half-hour to get there.  And, by then, the guy is usually gone.

Sometimes men will decide they didn’t like the experience, and will try to take the money back from her.  But Emma will fight them for it, or yell for the cops, and usually they leave.

Once a Taiwanese man went into a rage screaming at her.  He threw a beer bottle at her head and she ducked just in time.  Emma showed me the chip in the tile on the wall where the bottle hit.  Emma chased him out of the bar, screaming at him.  Some Hell’s Angels in a bar nearby grabbed the man and held him while Emma kicked him in the balls.

"Most of the men are nice, though," she said.

Emma said she’s going to quit working in the Red Light District in two months.  She’s been saving her money, and once she’s had enough, she’s not going to come back.

"You’re definitely going to leave?" I asked her.  "Won’t the money bring you back?"  I told her I’ve had a few friends who were strippers.  They were always saying they were going to quit.  But the money was like an addiction.  They’d quit for a few months and then be back.  

No, she said, she was definitely going to leave.  She doesn’t spend her money on drugs or clothes.  She saves it.  She’s not addicted to it. 

She got quiet for a moment, thinking.

"Sometimes I’m afraid of leaving," she said, quietly.  "Because if I keep thinking about what I did in here, if the memories… If the memories keep coming back… What’s the English word?" 

"Haunt?" I said.

"Yes," she said.  "If the memories haunt me."  She smiled, but she didn’t look happy in the least.  She went on to explain that once she’s out of this room she may be forced into thinking about what she’s done, the reality of it catching up to her, and she doesn’t want to experience that.  As long as she’s here, inside of it, she doesn’t have to truly know it.  Even the slightest objectivity seemed to be scary.

I can’t fully express how normal Emma appeared to be in her speech, style, and sense of humor.  I asked her about her family background.  Her father, she said, was abusive to her mother but not to her.  He left the family when she was young.

So what made her come to this job in the first place?

She said it was just an idea she had one day, to try it and see how it was.

I thought of how simple choices can have such an enormous effect on people’s lives.  The choice to stick a needle in your arm.  The choice to pull the trigger.  The choice to jump off the ledge.  The choice to sell your body.

We like to think there’s a great divide between "us" and "them", that there’s something innately different about us.  But the only thing that separates us is that one choice, that simple action.  And ALL of us, if put in the right situation on the right day when we’re in the right mood can make an unusual choice.  As I spoke with Emma, "There but for the Grace of God go I" had resonance.  

I thought of all the tourists outside, the fifty-year-old moms and pops from Indiana pointing and snickering at the girls in the windows.  It’s comforting for them to think these girls are so different, so "other".  I wondered how they would feel if these girls went in and pointed and snickered at them while they were trying to sell shoes at Macy’s, or balance their accounting budget, or whatever the fuck they did.

I suddenly felt incredibly sad.

I asked Emma if there wasn’t any damage to her body.  I mean, how could a woman have that many men enter her without discomfort?

And here comes the best part – Emma, a bit shyly, admitted to me that she doesn’t really fuck the men.

Huh?

Emma said the first day she worked here she had actual sex with eight men.  She came back the next day, very sore, all torn up inside.  She told one of the other girls how much pain she was in, and the girl said to Emma, "Oh, baby, you don’t actually do it."

That girl taught her how to "fake-fuck."

Emma showed me with a dildo.  She sits on the man, reverse cowgirl position (her ass toward his face).  She takes his penis between her vagina and her hands, forming a sort of fake vagina.  And she yells, "Oh, baby, you feel so good!" while she rides him, until he comes.

I laughed hard at this.  This was a fucked-up job for these women to have, and this gave them at least some little bit of power over the men.  Emma seemed to enjoy that I enjoyed her deception. 

She told me that sometimes she fake blows them as well, where her hair hangs over the proceedings and she uses her hand.  "But that is a little more difficult." 

"What if the guy has a penis that’s bigger than your hand?" I asked.  "Won’t he know? Like me, for instance.  I have a very, very, very large penis.  It’s sad, actually.  It’s almost freakish."

She said she’ll look sheepishly at the man and tells him, "I’m sorry, it is too big.  I am very small and it will not fit."  The men are almost always proud of themselves and their large members, and they never put up an argument. 

In Emma’s two years of fake-fucking, she says she has never once been caught.  Frankly, that leads me to believe that most of the guys who have sex in the RLD don’t have much experience with women.  Shocker.

God help me, I feel guilty as hell betraying her secret here.  Honestly, Jenna tried to talk me out of it.  But I’m thinking few enough people read my blog that it will actually make any substantial difference for the girls of the RLD.  May they fake-fuck on…

I looked at my watch and saw that I had to leave to catch my train to Brussels.  I had been hanging out with Emma for over two hours.

Emma called her boyfriend to have him pick me up in his car to drive me to the train station, no charge (even in the Red Light District, the celebrity perks are everywhere).

I said goodbye to Emma.  I told her I was happy to now have one friend in Amsterdam.

I told her if I’m ever in the RLD again, I’ll definitely look for her, to stop by and say hi and hang out. 

What I didn’t say, is that I’ll hope with all my heart that she’s no longer there.

Go fake-fuck yourselves,

James

© 2007 – 2009, Just Linda. All rights reserved.

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  • Dylan

    ajksdh hi Anton, for the record I’m Turkish and I am not Arabic. Turkish people don’t even speak in Arabic, though have similar words in both languages but that’s all

  • Anton

    Oh man, great read however how do not you know that Turks are not Arabic?

  • annie

    Wow it was great.
    Btw Turks are not Arabs.
    Thanks a lot :)

  • Ann

    Having just visited there about 4 hours ago I am so glad to read your article. Everything I saw kind of left me sleepless, my head is buzzing with a thousand questions about these young women. Your article answered a few. Thanks James.

  • marcus

    Great read. Best ive rwad aboyt the rld. Thanks alot.

  • s macneill

    wow !!

  • hk

    Hi, I’m a new reader, and just trying to learn a little bit more about Amsterdam, as my boyfriend it moving there for work.  This was such an interesting post.  It really puts perspective into the life of one of these girls…. makes me feel quite sad.  

  • Karthiksdreams

    The best blog post I’ve ever read…I couldn’t stop reading even for a second

  • Bldi39

    Great insight.My wife and I just Returned from Amsterdam.I felt sorry for the prostitutes and wondered how they became prostitutes.Your blog answered many questions.
    Dave

  • Shikamaru_nara31

    James, this is probably the best blog post you ever wrote in your entire career

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