"HOLLAND" Page 1, 2, 3,
Window-shopping for sex in Amsterdam
as a Brussels Scout, a highly readable book about the author's Grand Tour through today's European
Community, Nick Middleton describes an evening in Amsterdam's Red Light
There were groups of young men, but also small
bands of middle-aged couples taking the evening air and mixed groups of
teenagers who giggled at the shop window displays.
The canal Oude Zijds Voorburgwal seemed to be
where Amsterdam's red light district began. The crowds lingered and cars cruised
slowly by, inching their way along the narrow towpaths on both sides of the
water that were lined with terraces of towering housefronts. Some of these
buildings contained bars and coffe shops and clip joints with names like
'Banana,' but many were faced with door-shaped windows on to long thin rooms
about the size of my hotel room. Above each window was a red striplight. Behind
the windows sat women, usually on tall stools. There were thin ones and fat
ones, blonde ones and black ones. Some were silicon-aided, Pamela Anderson
look-alikes, others had all the lumps, bumps, and curves they were born with,
while a few sported paunches. Most of them wore white bras and knickers which
glowed a luminous purple colour thanks to well-positioned ultraviolet tubes. It
was looking at kinky psychedelic goldfish.
Some of the women looked very bored, some were
combing their hair to pass the time, others were talking to older women who
might have been their mothers. Most, however, were making an effort to attract
customers. If you caught their eye, they would smile alluringly, or worse still
tap on the glass and beckon you to come in, just as if she was your long-lost
frined inviting you for a coffee and a chat. These were real, live, laughing,
smiling, hair-combing sex professionals. They were adept at looking as if they
wanted it badly and wanted it with you. Now.
As an Englishman, I found it all a bit
embarrassing. It was bad enough looking at these female-shaped pieces of meat,
but when they saw you were watching and reacted accordingly and reacted
accordingly it was all a bit too much. I didn't know what to do with myself,
except to smile timidly and move on.
Middleton goes on to explain the Dutch government's rationale
for sanctioning prostitutes:
No one has ever managed to get rid of the world's
oldest profession, so why bother trying? Better to regulate it instead. There
were health considerations to think about, labour conditions, public order, and
of course another source of government revenue. Some said the love-ladies were
just getting another pimp.
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