The Red Light District. What to say about the red light district? It’s hard to really get a grasp of it until you walk the streets and see it for yourself.
But first, some history - because am I the only person who finds this so fascinating? (below’s source).
- Amsterdam’s “red light district” began in earnest in the 14th century, according to the country’s official website (Holland.com). By the end of the 17th century, high-class brothels flourished.
- When Napoleon ruled Holland in the early 19th century, prostitutes had to have health checks twice a week to ensure they didn’t pass syphilis to soldiers.
- In 1911, the Netherlands banned brothels, but prostitution continued using businesses like massage parlours as “fronts,” according to Amsterdam Red Light (amsterdamredlight.com). Soon after this, it became apparent that laws couldn’t banish prostitution. Local authorities allowed prostitutes to ply their trade as long as they didn’t solicit in doorways. This is how the “window trade” began, as girls now beckoned customers from behind openings in curtained windows.
- By the 1960s, Amsterdam authorities tolerated red light district prostitution, and the sex trade in the area became a tourist attraction.
But despite having seen it before, I really wasn’t prepared to see the women in the glass windows trying to lure in the men walking by. The women were hardly wearing anything, and standing behind glass windows of fake, little, staged bedrooms, waiting for any man to knock on her door.
And the most shocking thing? Actually seeing men go into the little rooms with the woman. I’m not exactly sure why I was so shocked, as obviously this has happened for centuries… actually, I suppose it was how normal & young the guys were. How guys my age or younger were going in. Guys in big groups of friends who were in Amsterdam to party. I guess I was just naive to this, but it really shocked me - watching regular guys step in, and the curtain being drawn.
I was also stunned (like mouth open stunned) when I found out the women were selling their bodies for a mere $50 for 20 minutes. I don’t want to make a judgement, because there is no way to know why each of those women ended up hardly dressed behind a glass window, but I felt sadness for them, and I felt fortunate and lucky I had never been put in a position where I felt that was my only way out (although, I should note I heard lots of women choose to do it).
So yup. That was Amsterdam. I had a lot of fun with the group I travelled with (hi guys!) and drank & ate a little too much (hushhhh), and slept too little, which of course is the equation for a very good trip.