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The writings of author, therapist, and priest Robert Warren Cromey.

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Location: San Francisco, California, United States

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Red Light District in Amsterdam

A Visit to the Red Light District in Amsterdam

September 2007

My wife and I visited the Red Light District twice. In the afternoon it was quiet, we returned in the evening when it was noisier and busier. The prostitutes legally peddled their wares from little booths with glass doors. They stood brazenly looking out at us as we walked by. We came upon a group of booths unexpectedly just by turning a corner and going over to another street.

The first thing I noticed was that the women were quite attractive, large breasted, slender, a few more zaftig than others and one or two rather fat and voluptuous. They wore bikinis or bras and panties. A few wore just a slim skin -colored cloth running down from the neck, covering nipples and merging into hairless crotches and out the back. None were completely naked, but there was the occasional edge of a coral nipple showing. Costumes varied in red, coral, black and pink and textures of silk, net and rayon. There were fringes with see through materials. One or two wore cowboy hats. Some costumes were highlighted in black light so the cloth and the women glowed and made the bright greens and reds brighter and luminous.

Most smiled, winked, licked their lips and gestured for me to come in and join them. A few waved or smiled at Ann. I felt excited and deeply curious but was not sexually aroused. Mostly I felt sad.

The cubicles were fifteen feet in depth and four feet wide. They appeared clean, with a bed in the back nicely made up. There was a stainless steel washbasin. A heavy curtain could be pulled across the door window, assuring privacy. The rooms and curtains were colorful and warm making the stainless steel basins look sharp and sterile. The cubicles actually looked comfortable and appealing.

We saw mostly white women, two Asians, three blacks and one heavy woman who spoke loud Spanish to a girl and child in front of her glass door. My fantasy was that they were the children of the prostitute coming to visit their mama. The women were attractive, healthy looking and whimsical in their looking out at us. Some smoked and held cigarettes in that sexy appealing way one sees in early movies.

As we passed one door, we heard a man ask the woman the price and we heard her say fifty Euros. I wondered what that did and did not include. From other reading, I learned that the price went up the more you wanted. Blow jobs, nudity, touching breasts, anal or S and M all had a higher price. I saw a number of huge dildoes in one cubicle that were available for other exotic and expensive activity.

I saw a rather short man go into a cubicle with a lovely and tall white woman. As she closed the curtain, I imagined him being intimidated by the bigger and quite assertive woman.

The streets and alleys were overrun with young men being silly and noisy, about the way they would be after a football match. There was much hooting and laughter and camaraderie chatter, mostly nervous if you asked me.

Yes, I felt sad. Why do women sell their bodies to men? Do they need the money? Do they do it of their own volition? Were they sold into the business? Did they take it up freely? Is it because of the unequal scales of justice and money between men and women? Or is it just the way it is and has been and will be world without end? Which is my view. We should try to stop illegal slave trade of women and children. We can make sure the women and their clients are clean and healthy and the women protected from harm.

When I went to a sex workers’ conference a few years ago in San Francisco, those women wanted to be free to be and do what they wanted and to be protected under the law like all citizens are. They did not want to be regulated.

At that conference and in my work I heard women say they had clients whom they saw regularly who paid them well. They were not on the streets or in cubicles.

I feel sad because basically I do not approve of sex for sale, somewhere deep down in my heart. Yet the liberal in me says that women should be free to do what they want with their bodies. I also think sex working should be de-regulated and free enterprise should prevail.

I admire the Dutch for taking a straight forward, clear- thinking, non-puritanical attitude toward this human behavior.

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