In the previous blog I told you that Amsterdam was all about drugs and bikes. This of course was a blatant untruth designed to keep those of you with a more sensitive nature at ease. But I can spare you the truth no longer.
What Amsterdam is really about is SEX! It is in the air like marijuana. The city long ago recognized that a tax funded by drugs and sex would always be a profitable one, based as as it is on men’s insatiable appetite for both. The ups and downs of the economy have little effect on either and any performance anxiety is easily remedied with a little blue pill.
So Amsterdam didn’t just turn a blind eye to marijuana and prostitution, they legalised them. Then they encouraged them. Then they taxed them.
So, they regulate the prostitutes, tax them, and check them monthly for diseases. What they don’t do is offer any sort of quality control, which is a serious oversight.
They created a Red Light District where the prostitutes are free to ply their trade, and ply it they do! They are not however allowed to be on the streets, an obstacle that was overcome by the simple idea of placing the prostitutes in shop windows and creating displays of the merchandise, just like any other retail business. Each shop front is divided into three foot cubicles. The cubicles are separated by curtains. Each cubicle has a piece of merchandise displayed in the form of a shapely or not so shapely prostitute. Some cubicles are furnished with a chair for the girl to sit on:
The chair usually has a towel on it – to protect the chair from what, I wonder?
The merchandise sits on the chair in a provocative costume that looks suspiciously like underwear, but doesn’t cover very much. There is a lot of black and red lace involved.
The usual look is one of boredom. She will often be smoking, chatting to her neighbor, or if her neighbour is busy she will pull out her Iphone from wherever she is concealing it, and start social networking – a misnomer if there ever was one. What this lady offers is far more social than a few texts.
Those ladies who aren’t bored are still hoping for business. The more energetic woman sits with legs apart and breasts thrust towards the window. She winks and smiles at the men walking by. She makes every effort to attract the customer without actually being able to speak to them. The more aggressive (or desperate) even knock loudly on the window and beckon.
The seated ladies are often overweight and well past their sell by date
Other ladies prefer to exhibit their attractions without a chair. They find standing a pleasant alternative to being horizontal. They are usually younger and more attractive with a body that shows off well. They might peek suggestively round the curtain, or dance to the music on their Iphones. Some of them even manage a little costume to suggest role playing, which is not always easy to do with the minimum amount of clothing they wear. A popular look is to wear a pair of serious glasses over rather restrained makeup, to suggest a strict librarian or secretary, albeit one that is wearing nothing but a tiny bra and matching panties.
Others show no restraint whatsoever and even hang signs outside making it quite clear what they have to offer
There is block after block of these establishments, all seemingly thriving. If they have a client they draw a curtain across their cubicle and in the evening many of the shop fronts look like this:
Much like regular retail, the streets have found a natural order. The less attractive and I assume cheaper models are in one area, more attractive ones in another. There is even the Rodeo Drive of prostitutes where truly glamorous young women stand or sit in more glamorous settings and charge outrageous amounts of money for their services
Strangely enough, for a town that is renowned as a gay mecca, there are no male prostitutes – at least none that advertise in shop windows. There is however a street devoted to transvestites. These are often far more energetic and outrageous, trying to attract their customers by out performing the regular ladies. Some of them are quite glamorous. But sadly some look like what they are – large middle aged men wearing women’s underwear. It is not a good look, although presumably there is a customer for everyone.
Unfortunately for this blog, photographs of the ladies in question are not allowed. Each window has a no photograph sign prominently displayed. If you chose to ignore the sign then you risk the wrath of the ladies. They scream loudly at anyone with a camera and come to the door and yell obscenities at you. They are not allowed on the street in their work clothes, but they are expert at keeping their feet inside the door while leaning their entire body outside and hurling abuse at the unfortunate person . They make enough noise to create a scene and deter anyone from trying a second time.
But, not wanting to disappoint my cultured readers, I have managed to supply you with a couple, and I hope you appreciate the lengths to which I had to go to acquire them.
Any shop front in the red light district that does not house a bevy of girls is home to a sex shop. The sex shops are huge emporiums offering everything your sex crazed mind can possibly imagine and a whole lot more that it can’t (I am speaking for myself)
The window dressers show no restraint, and why should they. They feature products that should never be seen outside a darkened bedroom, but suddenly find themselves brightly spotlighted in a shop window. One of my favourites is a truly lifelike silicone representation of a woman’s vagina (well, OK it wasn’t really my favourite!) with a large suction cup on the back making it easy to stick on a shower wall. It seemed like such a simple but clever idea. Surely every heterosexual man should have one.
Competition for customers was clearly fierce and those shops that couldn’t find a truly original and scintillating product to feature in their window, resorted to the tried and true retail trick:
The city has tried carefully to limit the sex trade to the one red light area. While they recognise that many tourists will head directly for that area, they also realise that many more would rather not see or be seen there. However once they opened Pandora’s box it was very difficult to close it.
We are having a very nice meal in a charming restaurant in an upper class neighborhood. Our waitress is an attractive woman in her forties, with a bubbly personality. We have a great evening chatting and laughing with her. When we get up to leave, she follows us outside and down the street
She calls after us
“What are your plans for the rest of the evening”
Not immediately clear as to what she is asking, we just shrug.
“Well whatever you would like to do, I can help you with it” she beams enthusiastically.
I very much doubt it.
But then again, this is Amsterdam
That was an education as far as the transexual ladies were concerned – for the rest been there but not done that!!
Gerardo, Tom, Carl and myself laughing over your blog in Tapalpa Mexico, the 2nd day of our Mexicrion.
Ah, but they do have some places with boys in the windows! On the other side of town. Go back, go back! I’ve been mad at Arthur for years because he wouldn’t let me go inside. I didn’t want to buy anything. Just look around and chat. Arthur said it would be bad manners. He’s always such a stickler for proper conduct.
We will be back there for one day – where oh where are the boys!
I won’t have Arthur with me so polite behaviour will not be an issue
Don’t go out of your way. The few guys we saw in
windows looked like they had been dredged out of the canals along with the bicycles and thoughtlessly resuscitated.
Glad you are having fun AND enjoying the blog!
Hahahaha. Love it! It has been a long time. When we were there, the streets were torn up for repair with lots of temporary wooden planks to avoid the mud. I remember not deciding if that enhanced the surreal feel of the place or affirmed its sleaze factor.
Enjoyed this trip. I laughed, and got a little misty with the kids. Keep me on your list.
Only way I get to travel. I have been going places alone but not much fun.
MJ – Loved having you along with us – if only in spirit. Miss you