Red Light Secrets: Museum of Prostitution
Last week we went to the new Red Light Secrets museum in Amsterdam. The museum is intended to inform people about prostitution, and show the world from a prostitute's perspective, to give them more of an inside peek in the world behind the Red Light District. Sadly the museum fails in every aspect of this, and I'll explain why.

To start of with, the museum should give the visitor a good insight in the hidden world behind the Red Light District in Amsterdam. So it should feel familiar and be very recognizable for me as a prostitute from the Red Light District in Amsterdam to be there. But actually it was very far from that.
At the entrance there's a woman on a big video screen, she's luring the people to come inside like a prostitute is supposed to do. But to begin with, the woman looks very far from a real prostitute. The clothes she's wearing looks more like a romantic lingerie outfit a woman might wear for her partner, but prostitutes wear outfits that don't cover nearly as much as this, in fact, they wear outfits that barely cover anything so the client can have a good look at what he's getting before her comes in. Secondly the woman barely seems to be wearing any make-up at all. As people who might have visited the Red Light District in Amsterdam before, they might have noticed that the girls behind the window use a lot of glossy lipstick and heavy eyeshadow. The make-up works for prostitutes in two ways, first of all it's to improve the look, giving yourself an almost 'pornstar' like look, and secondly it also works a little bit like a superhero-mask, since people in daily life hardly recognize prostitutes because they're not wearing that much make-up anymore. This woman however hardly uses any make-up at all, perhaps a little bit of lipstick, but that's it. And last but not least, the hair, this woman seems to do nothing special with her hair, but if you look at real prostitutes you'll notice they spend a lot of time and money on their hair (using hair extensions etc.) to give that full, big hair look.

After this you come into a cinema. The cinema is playing a kind of documentary about some people from the Red Light District. A few people I recognized, like the people who bring us the food when we're hungry, or the girls from the nail studio. But for instance they also show the guy who apparently sells the lights, I've never seen that guy in my entire life. To me the video came over as if the girls had to buy their own lights, but that's definitely not the case, this is something the office does for the girls. And than there where tons of other people I've never seen before, like people who do laundry, people who sell lipstick (although prostitutes just buy those kind of things just in regular shops) and stuff like that.
In the documentary they also show an older prostitute. I don't know if she's real (I've never seen her before), but in the video she lets in her own(?) child, which I think is a very weird thing to do. I know many other girls that have children and work there, but they never bring their own children to work, or would even let them close to the Red Light District. In fact, most of the offices have an unspoken rule that you can't bring in people from your personal life into your workplace. This is to prevent boyfriends from coming in and out, and giving people (and the police), the idea that they might be pimps. So it's more of a protective rule, to protect both the girls and their partner against any suspicions people may get from it.
In my opinion the video didn't really show the Red Light District as it is now, but rather a nostalgic version of how some people from Amsterdam might remember it from decades ago. It's almost as if the person making the documentary had a longing back to the times of the '70 and the '80, when prostitution was perhaps a little less professional, and more of a lifestyle. The girls working there these days are there to work, not to chat, not have a good conversation with the baker from next door, but simply work hard to make the money they want to make to go home.

After this you come into something they call the Red Light Fashion, it just shows three figures in costumes that would've only turned me on in the 17th century. After that you go up the stairs, where there are some posters on the sides, a lot of them aimed at fighting human trafficking (again!), and what apparently used to be once a work schedule board. After that you walk into a room with a window looking out the front of the building, where you can sit and experience how it is to be a prostitute, which wasn't very interesting since the window is too high to really experience it.

After that you get into a 'real' workroom. Well, real, as in maybe 50 years ago, because that's how long ago I think they cleaned that place. The bed was full of stains, which was disgusting, and the sink was full of junk and bottles of hairspray and God knows what else. I don't know whoever would work in such a place, but certainly not any prostitute working today in the Red Light District.


On top of that they put a big Teddy Bear on the bed, as if we where in a children's room. I don't know if this is just lack of knowledge, or a smart way to play on the 'innocence' of the women who are prostitutes, to make it easier to victimize them. I think it was just a way for the owners of the museum to hint at the 'this might be your daughter' stigma, but honestly I hope it was just a big mistake.
I don't know about the experiences of customers, but I would like to hear their thoughts on this. Did you ever come to a prostitute where the bed was so filthy it was full of stains and all grainy looking? And did you ever visit a prostitute who had a Teddy Bear on the bed?!

After this we came into a room that was apparently called the 'luxury' workplace. I don't know if these rooms have ever existed, but they certainly don't exist these days, especially not one with your own bathtub in their. If they would exist, I'd be the first in line to get a room like this.
And after that we came into a SM room, not really my thing, but if you're in to those kind of things it might be fun for you.
Than we came to the only part of the museum that did show something true about prostitution, which is the 'confrontation room'. In this room you get to sit in front of what are basically two video screens. And the video screens play footage of people walking by, looking at you, as if you where a prostitute yourselves. This is the only part that I could really say I recognized. If you really want to know how it is to be a prostitute, you'd skip the entire museum, and go straight to this room, and sit there for a couple of minutes.

Next up was the video room, showing the video made for Stop The Traffik, about 'human slavery'. I won't go too much into the video, since I have another blogpost coming up about this video. But the basic thing is, that this video pretends that every year there are thousands, or perhaps hundreds of women being trafficked into the Red Light District in Amsterdam, which is simply not true. I'm 100% sure that 90% of the women working in the Red Light District in Amsterdam knew exactly what they came here to do, and weren't tricked into it with excuses like becoming a dancer or a waitress or anything like that. To me it almost feels as if this video is showing people how dumb and naive prostitutes are, thinking they would come here for a dance career, and ending up a prostitute. This is complete bullshit, and certainly not 'many of them' end up here.

Than there was a wall with a couple of things people had lost apparently when they where visiting a prostitute. Most of these things where simple little things people often forget, like a watch, or a phone, or their wallets. There was however one thing I saw there, which I seriously doubt anyone could ever forget, which was their dentures. I don't about you people, but how the fuck do you forget to put back in your own dentures?! Or why would you even take them out?! I think most girls would throw up the moment any guy would take their dentures out, it's just ridiculous! Or was he licking her pussy and than by accident his teeth flipped out?! WTF!

Than there was the confession room, with a wall full of confessions people left there. Strangely a lot of people apparently feel the need to talk about their own sex life on those pieces of papers on the wall. I don't know why, since the museum is not about sex, but about prostitution. Yes, prostitution does have to do with sex, but it's not a sex museum, it's a prostitution museum. I don't know why these people keep writing on that wall about their own sexual experiences, I'd rather see them writing something about prostitution, and what their opinion about that is after visiting this museum.
My boyfriend, Mark van der Beer, joked for a moment that perhaps we should post a confession as well, stating 'Mark and Felicia Anna where here, if you want the true story on prostitution in Amsterdam follow behindtheredlightdistrict.blogspot.com' But I thought that was pushing it.
Than there was a test you could make about prostitution. My boyfriend took the test, in where Ilonka Stakelborough from Stichting Geisha was giving the answers. My boyfriend got all questions right, except for how many clients visit prostitutes in Holland every year. Though I think my boyfriend was closer to the truth than they claimed.

Overall I think it's better to skip this museum. The museum really isn't that interesting, it's too small, doesn't really show you anything new or special, and above all isn't really realistic. I found there to be a lack of information about the job. If you really are interested in information about prostitution in Amsterdam, I can better suggest the Prostitution Information Center (PIC) near the old church, run by Mariska Majoor, she has more valuable and better information about the reality, because she used to be a prostitute herself for 25 years, and I talk with her on a regular base.
And to be honest, if I would be really interested to see how a prostitute her workplace looks like, I'd rather go to a real prostitute, pay her the 50 Euro, and get to see it for real, rather than spending 7,50 Euro for a preaching lecture on prostitution, filled with false information and stigmatization towards prostitutes as innocent, naive victims. Plus, if you would go to a prostitute, not only do you get to see a real workplace, but you can ask her yourself about her job and experiences.

Dutch version
1 Response
  1. Anonymous Says:

    You rule!

    But I do miss your frequent twitter posts!

    Rootman


Post a Comment

  • My photo

    Romanian prostitute working in the Red Light District in Amsterdam (De Wallen), speaking out for the truth behind prostitution. Blogging about prostitution, human trafficking, forced prostitution, politics and all the myths surrounding it. Member of PROUD, the Dutch union of sex workers.