red light
De Wallen at night.

Sex, drugs and rock and roll?

Amsterdam is a city I have visited most recently and it is the one I speak of with the most enthusiasm and praise – I would certainly encourage anyone to visit there as there is something for everyone, and if you can’t find something that is for you, maybe you just aren’t looking hard enough! In the last four months I have been on a holiday to Spain, and weekend breaks in Stockholm, Milan and Amsterdam. Amsterdam is definitely the one where myself and my partner felt safest and that there was a lot to do in a short space of time. One of the things Amsterdam is renowned the world over for is the red light district and the legalization of prostitution, and also marijuana. For many, it has the making for a perfect weekend as all of their guilty pleasures are in one place and they are all legal. Perhaps this is the major factor in Amsterdam being one of the most popular cities in Europe and also the safest.

red light 1
The canals of Amsterdam are stunning. Even on a cloudy day!

The level of crime in Amsterdam is considered to be ‘low risk’ and there are not many people who would disagree with this statement.[1] It is also the fifth safest city in the world; therefore there is a distinct correlation between low crime rates and the legalization of marijuana and prostitution. Which begs the question, why have other countries not followed suit? Every person in Amsterdam is relaxed and content with life; whether they live there or they are just visiting for the weekend. Amsterdam is an amazing city, not only are there countless museums, there are 165 canals, various coffee shops, the third oldest zoo in the world and the infamous Red Light District.

red light 2
The calm of day before the storm of night.

Nothing can quite prepare you for seeing this for the first time. I myself was an Amsterdam virgin and it totally and utterly captivated me. You just can’t help but look at the women (we didn’t see any other sex workers) and the men who approach them. You can clearly tell the customers who are regulars and the ones who are first timers. It is just utterly fascinating. I must say, before going there, I was like many others whereby I looked down on sex workers and thought of them as just being more of ‘life’s losers’ who were destined to be in that position until they died. In the case of Amsterdam, it is the total opposite.

Prostitution is the oldest profession in the world, and historically Amsterdam is a trading city with a large port and the presence of sailors created a huge demand and need for prostitutes to satisfy them. De Wallen is the area of Amsterdam that we know as the Red Light District and it consists of a network of alleys with approximately 300 one room cabins rented by sex workers and usually illuminated by red lights – hence the name. Over time, prostitution laws have changed from being legal to illegal, yet it has always been practised the world over.

Most of the sex workers in Amsterdam are either students paying their way through uni without a loan or married people or people in serious and committed relationships. They pay their taxes like any other working citizen in Holland and have the same rights as every other working person. Sex workers are respected in Holland and I have to admire those in relationships who do it and their partner allows it, I certainly couldn’t stand by and watch my boyfriend do it!!

It costs €150 to rent a room for half a day in Amsterdam and it typically costs €50 per customer. So before a sex worker even begins to make profit, he or she must entertain at least three people, depending on the price. However, on the flip side to this an average visit to a prostitute lasts around 10 minutes so, in theory, on a busy night a sex worker can earn up to €1400-1500. Could you earn that in your job? We may look down on prostitutes and berate them for doing the job they do, but they earn decent money and I think we need to ask ourselves who the real loser is?

museum of prostitution 1
The Museum of Prostitution. 

The Museum of Prostitution[2] is in the centre of the Red Light District and exposes the history and secrets of the profession and what a day is like for a sex worker. It was only €8 to get in and was easily one of the most interesting places we visited. Having more of an insight to what sex workers have to do makes you admire them in a way. I saw in a way because it must take a lot of guts to stand in a window and sell yourself, having hundreds of people stare at you and judging what you’re doing. But we don’t know the reasons behind it. I personally would never be able to do it, but if you have the ability to switch off and want to earn easy money, this is the way to do it.



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