Tours & Guides
Every day hundreds of people are led past my workplace in the Red Light District. Groups ranging from 10 to even 50 people are being led by tour guides through the small streets, to take a look at the window brothels and the women that work there. Apparently it's big business, because it's not just one group, but day and night countless amount of groups are being led past our windows, day after day, with a tour guide explaining them things. They explain things about the history of the Red Light District, about the laws here in Holland, about our work and of course about us.

Unfortunately however not every tour guide is knowledgeable about the realities of the Red Light District in Amsterdam. Often I hear tour guides mentioning things which simply aren't true. For example they tell people that most, or sometimes even all, of the prostitutes are forced here. Or that organized crimes is running these brothels, using prostitution as a way to launder money. Some of these tour guides tell such complete bullshit, with all those tourists just believing it because the 'expert' it claiming it.
But fact is that most tour guides have no fucking clue what they're talking about. They're just repeating what they heard from others or from the media. Stories such as 'most women are forced here' or 'organized crime are running these brothels, or even 'money laundering is what keeps this business going', are all arguments the city government has used in the past to justify their gentrification project, to 'clean up' the Red Light District from 'organized crime', by kicking out sex workers on the street and closing down their only legal workplaces. And if you're wondering how many criminal organizations the city government has caught with this, well the answer is zero, nothing! It was just a lie they used so they could sell the buildings to companies with a lot of money.

Each day I see these groups wandering through the Red Light District, groups of 10, 20, 30 sometimes even 50 people(!), paying someone to tell absolute nonsense about us, while profiting from our existence. And while they're getting payed to tell bullshit about us, we get nothing from all of that money. But of course the worst thing is that these people are falsely informing hundreds of tourists a day, and there's little to nothing we as sex workers can do about it.
The groups are sometimes so large, that there's often not enough room for everyone, meaning they stand in front of our windows, blocking us from doing our job. They scare away the clients, who don't want to be seen by people going inside (especially not a large group of 50 people), because of the social stigma on clients of sex workers. And they make it impossible for us to make eye contact with our customers and to call them, making it impossible for us to do our job. Sometimes it's even the tour guide himself who's blocking us from doing our job. So while he's making money over our profession, he's blocking us from doing ours, plus he's telling bullshit about us. Thank's a lot!

Sometimes it also makes you feel like you're an animal in the zoo, with all those groups passing you. We don't mind people visiting the Red Light District, after all, it's part of our job. But when each day groups of 50 people are just coming to stare at you, and have no interest in you besides that, it starts to become annoying.
And it's not even the men that annoy us that much. After all, we understand that men like to see a beautiful sexy woman, it's only natural. No, the worst are the women, who are often without a complete lack of respect for us, stare at us, and make pictures of us. Some tour guides warn their groups before about taking pictures, but often they don't do anything about it when people take pictures, not showing a lot of respect for us. And from a man I can still understand why he would want to make a picture of a beautiful sexy woman, but a woman herself? What the hell does she need a picture of me for? She doesn't have a mirror at home to see how a woman looks like?

I don't mind the fact that they have tours being led around through the Red Light District, don't get me wrong. But the groups are getting too big, too much and are often being led around by people who lack any kind of respect for us or, despite the fact that we're the reason they have a job. And the worst part if that they're often talking complete bullshit about us and our job, because they simply lack the knowledge. They've never even talked with a single sex worker, they've never been inside, and they have no expertise whatsoever or any experience they're speaking from. They simply copy what they've read somewhere, or heard, without checking if it's actually true what they're talking about.
The groups are too big for the relatively small area and small alleys of the Red Light District, and too large for one tour guide to handle. And the tour guides also show a lack of respect towards us, by sometimes even blocking us from doing our jobs, by standing in front of us, and not acting when people are taking pictures of us.

There should be something like a permit. A permit for tour guides. Window brothels need permits, street artists need permits, so why not tour guides? After all, tour guides have a huge influence on how people think about the Red Light District, Amsterdam, sex work and more importantly, us! They influence the minds and opinions of hundreds of people each day by what they're telling them, and without the proper information, this could simply lead to a false image about a job which already suffers from a mostly false image which people have about it.
Without this permit it should be illegal to do any tours. And they should only allow a maximum amount of permits to tour guides, to ensure the area doesn't get overrun by tour groups like how it is right now. They should put a maximum on the amount of people a tour guide can lead around at a time. And they should do an exam about the Red Light District, the sex workers and the work itself, before being allowed to get a permit, to ensure that these people aren't going to tell complete bullshit like how some are doing right now.

Fortunately there are also some good tour guides. People who have knowledge about the area and the work, people who know what they are talking about. Probably the best place to take the tour, is from the PIC (Prostitution Information Center), run by former sex worker Mariska Majoor. Mariska is a former sex worker who used to work behind these windows, so she knows what she's talking about, and she knows the women that are currently working behind the windows. She's been running the PIC for more than 20 years in the heart of the Red Light District, and she's a personal good friend of mine. And more recently she founded the new Dutch union for sex workers, PROUD, of which I'm also a member.
And it's not because I'm friends with her that I'm saying this. It's simply because she's one of the few people who know the realities about the Red Light District, and personally knows the sex workers working here, that caused me to recommend her as a tour guide. And when you finally talk with people that truly understand your reality, with so few people around who know about it, it easily creates a bond.

Unfortunately however, there is no such thing as an exam or a permit for tour guides, and there are far too few people like Mariska Majoor who know about the realities of the Red Light District. And thus every idiot that wants to make some money, profiting from our existence and our job, is allowed to call him or herself a tour guide, and spout whatever nonsense they can about the Red Light District and the sex workers that work there. I have another word for profiting over the backs of people, while those people don't get anything in return for that, and that's called exploitation. Unfortunately there are many organisations and people who exploit us in this way, while telling bullshit about us. They lead people to believe things which are just incorrect, and they bring it home with them and talk with their friends about it, who in turn also believe it. And this is exactly how it comes there are so many bullshit stories out there about the Red Light District and sex workers in Amsterdam.

Mariska Majoor uses the income she generates from the tours she gives to run the PIC, to inform people correctly about the Red Light District and sex work in Holland. But at the PIC sex workers can also receive help if they have any problems with things, or can get information about their job, which makes it beneficial for both tourists and sex workers. Much more profitable than people who are just trying to profit from us, while talking bullshit, making our job more difficult and not giving us anything in return for it, just so they can make a lot of money for themselves.

Dutch version
7 Responses
  1. Anonymous Says:

    I personally took one of these "tours" first time I was in Amsterdam. It wasn`t until I visited PIC(and later actually visiting a window girl) I actually started to understand what it was all about.

    At first I just felt sorry for the Girls , and I still do but for other reasons. It can`t be easy beiing looked at as an attraction for tourists with old couples taking photos and pointing at you.

    It`s good that you write these articles so that more people can hear your story and not just what the media and the goverment says.

    Take care.


  2. Cliente X Says:

    Past week Marjan Wijers was giving a conference here in Madrid. I wonder if it could be possible to bring Mariska Majoor to speak about the red light district and ur fights against the city council. Ur bf has my email, if u have any interest u can write me.

    I have contacts in several universities here, between them the Complutense of Madrid, the Univerity of La Laguna in Tenerife, the Univeristy of JaƩn, The University of Lugo and the University King Juan Carlos also in Madrid.

    I agree with u in that is very important for us to tell the people what is really happening, to confront the sex workers reality with the myths that are usually spread by people that are not in contact with us.


  3. Felicia Anna Says:

    @Cliente X
    I have good contact with Marjan Wijers, trust me, she's telling the same things Mariska Majoor would say.


  4. Just an idea and it may get no where but... if you can find out who organises these tours, could you give them the true information to give to their tourists? Seriously, write it down like you have your blog, with the truth. Tell them that you have noticed many errors and in the interests of their continued success you would like to help them.

    You never know, it might work if they have a script to use.

    Thank you for sharing and I agree that the lies and stories that people keep spouting out to gain money at our expense is frustrating.


  5. Felicia Anna Says:

    @Curvaceous Kate
    Yes, that's a bit of the problem, there are so many organisations and tour operators, it's almost impossible to do that. Besides, I really have no idea who organizes even half of these tours. They just show up with a huge group of people (last week I've even seen groups of 60-70 people pass by my window), and I have no idea who they are, where they're from, or what the fuck they're talking about.


  6. MigGames Says:

    I suppose it's bad enough standing there being treated as a animal in the zoo but women treating you with such disdain is disgusting.
    I believe there should be routes worked out and the tour guides should go around before the tour and talk to the girls and get their permission before profiting of their existence.
    That way if you don't give your permission they should move on past your window and make sure they are deterring customers or breaching your privacy.
    Personally I would also, along with getting permission to stop, maybe see if some girls would open the door and have a short interview of 3 to 4 minutes (nothing personal or distasteful?) return for a fee that way you are making money and customers are getting the real picture rather than these tour guides who know nothing.

    What do you think?


  7. MigGames Says:

    I suppose it's bad enough standing there being treated as a animal in the zoo but women treating you with such disdain is disgusting.
    I believe there should be routes worked out and the tour guides should go around before the tour and talk to the girls and get their permission before profiting of their existence.
    That way if you don't give your permission they should move on past your window and make sure they are deterring customers or breaching your privacy.
    Personally I would also, along with getting permission to stop, maybe see if some girls would open the door and have a short interview of 3 to 4 minutes (nothing personal or distasteful?) return for a fee that way you are making money and customers are getting the real picture rather than these tour guides who know nothing.

    What do you think?


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    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.