Twitter Facebook Instagram Google+ Tumblr YouTube E-Mail WhatsApp Sign In Check Close snapchat
Search
Exit Clear
Hard Science Hard Science

5 Things You Didn’t Know about Sex Workers in the Red Light District

5 Things You Didn’t Know about Sex Workers in the Red Light District:

AMSTERDAM _ Sex work is very different in the Netherlands compared to most other countries in the Western world. For one thing, it’s legal. And for another, it’s often highly visible.

On any given day, hundreds of scantily clad women sit behind windows in Amsterdam’s famed Red Light District to sell sex in broad daylight amidst throngs of gawking tourists and stag parties. It’s quite a culture shock for many visitors, to be sure, who instantly become curious about how this whole thing works. Last month I learned the ins and outs of the Red Light District, so to speak, by taking a guided tour of it.

The tour was given through the Prostitution Information Center, an organization founded in 1994 by a former sex worker who wanted to create a resource for the public for obtaining accurate information about prostitution in Amsterdam. Our guide was a Dutch woman who has been a sex worker for decades.

The tour was an eye-opening experience—and that’s coming from someone who writes, researchers, and teaches about sex for a living!

So let me tell you some of the key things I learned about what it’s like to be a woman today selling sex in the Red Light District.


THE WOMEN IN THE WINDOWS ARE INDEPENDENT CONTRACTORS
In order to work behind one of the windows you need to register first with the local Chamber of Commerce, where you basically set up your own prostitution business in which you are the sole employee.

Once established, you can rent windows, which are basically the offices used to conduct your business. These “offices” can only be rented with a short lease—and I mean short as in you can’t rent the space for more than eight hours at a time!

In exchange for a set fee (which is always paid in advance, no matter how much or how little business you do), workers receive temporary access to a small storefront for, um, advertising, as well as a private area in the back with a bed and sink.

Because all workers are independent contractors, they are effectively their own bosses. This means that the women decide for themselves when they want to work, for how long, and how many clients they want to see.

THEY’RE VERY SELECTIVE ABOUT THEIR CLIENTS
Speaking of clients, the women who work behind the windows are pretty choosy when it comes to who they’ll do business with, and it’s not uncommon for them to turn prospective customers down. That’s right—just because you’re selling sex doesn’t mean you have to sell it to anyone who has the cash.

Patrons are likely to be turned down if they are rude or disrespectful, give any hint of being violent or dangerous, are excessively drunk, or appear to be seriously lacking in personal hygiene. Chances are that if she avoids making eye contact, she’s not interested in you or your money.

THEY’RE NOT REQUIRED TO GET STD TESTS
In a country where prostitution is legal and government-regulated, mandatory STD checks are surely a thing, right? Nope, not in the Netherlands. The law doesn’t mandate that sex workers use condoms either.

That said, there are several organizations in Amsterdam that provide free or low-cost health services to sex workers. As a result, most workers do get tested with some frequency. Most workers will also insist on using a condom with everyone for every sex act.

THEY’RE PROBABLY NOT MAKING AS MUCH MONEY AS YOU THINK
As our tour guide told us, the going rate for “basic sex”—by which she meant penis-in-vagina intercourse—is 50 Euro (about $55 USD) for a 15 to 20 minute session. Of course, you can negotiate to do more or stay longer, but only if you’re willing to pay extra.

However, it’s important to note that the cost of renting a window in the most desirable area during peak hours can cost as much as 150 Euro (approximately $166 USD).

That means that a worker needs to see three clients per shift just to pay the window fee. But even then, she’d be losing money because this isn’t tax-free income. Sex workers have to file income taxes just like everyone else. The only way to make a solid income from working in the windows is therefore to see several clients—meaning something like six to ten per shift.

WORKING THE WINDOWS IS USUALLY A SHORT-LIVED CAREER
Our guide told us that most women who work behind the windows only do so for a relatively brief time period of one or two years.

There are several reasons for this, including the fact that competition for windows has increased recently because the city has closed many of them. As a result, this has led the cost of rent to rise. However, the price of sex has not increased, which means it’s no longer as lucrative as it used to be.

Many women who start in the windows ultimately leave to do private escort work instead, which was our guide’s career path. Escorts can work out of their own home or a client’s home and, therefore, don’t have to pay for an “office.” They can typically command more money, too, which means they can afford to see fewer clients. Escorts also tend to have regular customers, which makes their income—and client interactions—more predictable.


Justin Lehmiller, PhD is a sex educator and researcher at Ball State University and author of the blog Sex and Psychology. Follow him on Twitter @JustinLehmiller.

Follow For the Articles on Twitter and Facebook for more Playboy Sex & Culture.


More From Hard Science See all Hard Science

Playboy Social

Never miss an issue. Subscribe and save today!

Loading...