It was all rather underwhelming and equally upsetting. It was a little tricky to find, I over shot it while walking but when I found it, it was obvious and surreal. It’s a place on Earth I never thought I’s find myself. But curiosity got the better of me. I got there early judging by the closed curtains. It was around 7pm as I didn’t want to walk by myself too late. So I decided to visit the Museum of Prostitution to understand where I was better. This was the part that upset me the most.
So in my head, the Red Light District was like Alecky Blythe’s The Mistress Contract. Women on display, you pick, you go into a bedroom, do it, leave. It would be a typical bedroom with carpet and wallpaper. I knew not to expect Belle Du Jour or Moulin Rogue luxury but I wasn’t expecting hospital like quarters. Tiny tiles rooms straight through the windows that are doors. Simply express an interest, she’ll open the door and close the curtain behind her. She gets an average €50, you get an average of six minutes and everybody’s supposedly happy. It would appear making it legal has made it a business, cheap and efficient for maximum profit.
The museum also told the heart breaking story of a woman who had been trafficked here. Despite the happy ending of her pimp being imprisoned, she felt she could do nothing else but keep prostituting herself to make enough money to get back home to Poland. Another wasn’t so lucky. She was murdered in that very museum. That’s right; the museum was a working brothel before someone was killed there. They should tell you that shit before you go in. I joke but it’s all too common and her murder is still unresolved.
I was also struck by the windows themselves. I was expecting clean cut; just the window, the iconic strip light and the girl. Most of them had shelves with drinks, hair spray and cigarettes because the windows are an extension of the room. I witnessed the odd iconic slow beckoning finger but most of them looked bored, playing on their phones, straightening their hair, sharing a laugh with the girl opposite. It all seemed normal. Like another day at the office, but I suppose that’s what it was; it’s just a job. It’s a novelty to the people on the other side of the glass. You wanted to stare, I wanted to stare, I wanted to understand but that felt rude. I didn’t want to be rude.
The people (why do I say people, it was mainly men) who worked the doors of the sex shows weren’t as tactful. Neither were the prices, €2 for a peep show. Constant live sex acts. Constant! Even in my prime, I don’t think I could go constantly, even if you paid me. Needless to say, I didn’t go in. The museum changed my perspective. I imagined in legalising it, it became a woman’s choice to enter that profession. That was true in most cases; but sex trafficking and pimping is still happening, even in Amsterdam. I didn’t want to encourage this behaviour if young women were being forced into it. But I did, didn’t I? I visited. I stared. I saw groups of tourists being taken around. They must give the tourists a show. There must be a Red Light District.