Friday, July 31, 2009

review: Jody Peters


Now a new review of mine of the book:
“Een haar per dag, dertig maanden in de prostitutie” [A hair a day, thirty months in prostitution] by Jody Peters and Michiel Hegener (1988)

Jody Peters [fictitious name] is a Dutch woman (Michiel Hegener is the ghostwriter) who has been coerced to work in prostitution (in the the Netherlands) by a pimp starting from approximately 19 years of age, using the same old romantic techniques: first manipulating her to work in prostitution voluntarily, then steadily using more violence. As a child she was abused by a paedophile. She escaped with the help of an American client whom she falled in love with (he also with her).

At first she worked in clubs, then behind windows. It is unclear when this took place, but I guess during the end of the seventies or the beginning of the early nineties. This is a book I didn’t know existed but I coincidentally stumbled upon it in a library.

My eyes opened, closed and are now opening again. But still a voice within me still says that her story is just an exception. But hey, perhaps I can convert Laura. Have you all heard about Laura?

Laura is dreaming (and I'm just gossiping, I still have a concrete head).

Okay some translated quotes from the Dutch book (my eyes are closing, almost sleeping). I also selected some of these quotes because in my opinion it proves that
1. There are ways to beat up a woman without seeing bruises.
2. Prostitutes lie towards the police and the police about working voluntary or not (they probably also lie to researchers).

Below are only quotes:
(page 60) He hit me everywhere where he could hit me without lowering my market value – in my face only when I had a day off in front of me to let the welts fade away.

(page 72-73) A couple of weeks after I came to work in the Applegarden [not the real name of the club], two police officers of the vice police came by for a talk with each of the newly hired girls – except for the illegal girls: they quickly disappeared into the dressing-room. In a separate little room I was allowed to give answers to: ‘Do you do this work voluntarily?’ and: ‘Do you feel well here?’
Of course I did it voluntarily, and obviously I liked it. The idea to tell my life story to two perfect strangers was not appealing. Because of their questions the police officers painfully confirmed that I was a prostitute – much more than the clients, they [the clients] simply close their eyes to that. This was the vice police, the police for whores. It was humiliating like this already. If I said: ‘No, I don’t work voluntarily at all and I’m beaten up weekly’, it would be even more humiliating. And it wouldn’t be without effect: everything, my whole life would come into motion and I would be at the mercy of the unlimited rage of Carlos. If I would or wouldn’t tell it to the police, it wouldn’t make a difference, because no protection around the world was big enough to protect me against my pimp.
Within five minutes the conversation was over. If there unexpectedly would be any problems, they said kindly, I could always knock on their door, they would help me in any case. And I thought: Nobody could help me in the situation where I’m in now.

(page 123) To her [another prostitute] and several other girls I confided how Carlos treated me and they told me about their pimps. Behind the window next to me a divorced woman worked for a while who had a son as pimp. When it was necessary, he also battered her - once even while I was there.
There were also pimps who had their girls so well under their thumb with psychological threats and manipulations, that they didn't need to batter. With the pimps who did, they had in common that they meant much or even everything to their girl. When you have nothing else at all, you even care about someone who leeches on you, intimidates you and maltreats you. I found out that nearly each girl in the [window prostitution] street did have a pimp to whom they had to hand over her money.

(page 125) Inevitably my own life came up for discussion every now and then, and to all clients, everybody, I lied. Everybody got to hear a version of the becoming-rich-quickly-in-prostitution-story that nearly all girls tell: I did this a couple of years, everything went on the bank account, and after this, I would never had money troubles again. I would rather tell that than that I had already let me bullyrag me for two years by a psychopath who gambled away all my money or handed it out to his friends, and who beat me black and blue weekly because I never made enough money. Clients who saw me as a keen business lady who had it all arranged well, respected me more. To achieve that I gladly lied. It was the only respect that I could get.

(page 150) [Jody falls in love with a John and can't stand the clients anymore] Now only after two and a half years in prostitution, it got through me how inhumane my work was. I had allowed a couple of thousand perfect strangers to do the most intimate things to me, without impressing me.

(page 165) I wanted to write this book for a very long time because in my opinion there are in general large misunderstandings about prostitution. The image of the Happy Hooker that many have of prostitutes, for example. If feel this image is damaging: it hushes up the role of pimps, the exploitation and the gross physical abuse which is used to keep a large majority of the prostitutes in their grip. In the years that I was in prostitution myself, I never encountered a Happy Hooker.
The world of prostitution is still opaque and dark. Information to the outside world is still impeded – in the first place by pimp-intimidation, but also because many prostitutes themselves have difficulties recognizing the dreadful situation where they are in. The result is that often there are criminal and inhumane thing happening of which the rest of society has no knowledge.
With the help of Michiel Hegener I hope to have compiled a book that will open the eyes of many people to the pure slavery which prostitution is in most cases.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

review: Sarah Forsyth


I was about the write a short review about Sarah Forsyth’s book ‘Slave Girl – I was an ordinary British girl. I was kidnapped and sold into sex slavery. This is my horrific true story’. Sarah Forsyth was sort of kidnapped to the Netherlands. The stereotypical story of having been promised to work as a nanny but then forced to work in a window brothel on de Wallen in Amsterdam (Goldbergersteeg). This happened around 1995.

Sarah was kidnapped by a British pimp called John Reece and his girlfriend Sally who was also forced in prostitution. Eventually she was resold to a Yugoslav pimp who at the end suddenly fled because he feared he was going to get arrested. Sarah could escape.

Her story actually doesn’t surprise me. There have been so many bad stories already about the RLD in Amsterdam. It sounds completely plausible.

She also describes the organization of de Wallen. Everything is there: the Turks, the Moroccans, the Yugoslavs. And aside of that smaller pimps like John Reece. He had some English women working for him. And some Eastern European and Thai girls (page 120-121). Sally describes that John Reece brings in women from all over Britain (page 71). Some he sells to other pimps, others he keeps for himself. Sally describes that most of them are rough and have worked in prostitution before. But he also wanted an innocent girl, a girl who has never worked as a prostitute. This is interesting because it turns out there’s also a trade of prostitutes from Britain to the mainland of Europe. And it also confirms another observation that most prostitutes who are trafficked know that they will be working in prostitution, or already work in prostitution.

At one point Sarah was approached by two Dutch vice cops (page 171-174). A man and a woman. She didn’t trust them. Why? She feared that they were some of her Yugoslav pimp’s stooges. He regularly sent in new members of his gang to talk to the girls and pretend to be members of a special police force. According to Sarah many policeman were on the payroll of this pimp. At one point she was even raped by seven policemen who entered her window (see also pages 153-154).

Corruption on de Wallen is also confirmed in the book by Jos Verlaan ‘Chaos aan de amstel’ (1999).
His book also got information from the internal police report ‘Rood licht, valse hoop’ [Red Light, False Hope] (Regiopolitie Amsterdam-Amstelland wijkteam Warmoestraat, 'Rood licht, valse hoop', October 1995). It reveals that at least 27 networks of women traffickers operated on de Wallen plus an extensive network of street pimps. read:
Na legalisering ging seksbranche verder ondergronds (Jos verlaan, August 22th 2008)

What Sarah says about not trusting the police is important and it gives a possible explanation why prostitutes rarely say to researchers (or police inspectors) that they are forced. From the point of view the researchers could be the helpers of the pimps. It also means if a client asks to a prostitute if she’s forced to do this (as I recently did) that this could be downright intimidating to her. The clients could be one of the stooges from her point of view, a way to test her allegiance.

The most striking feature of the book is the murder on the Thai prostitute Par (page 168). At one point Sarah and Par were being raped while they were also being filmed. She worked for the Yugoslav pimp at that time. At one point somebody shot Par through the head. This is actually the first case in the Netherlands where I read of where a prostitute is so clearly killed by a pimp. There are cases where prostitutes simply disappear, dead bodies are found or where prostitutes die under mysterious circumstances. But it was never definitely proven that this was done by a pimp. Usually it was a client. Obviously Par is just an anonymous prostitute who isn’t missed by anybody. To make her disappear doesn’t ring any alarms. That means that the real list of dead prostitutes is longer.

Sarah also speaks very negatively of punters (pages 100, 115-117). That will scare me off for a while. At this moment I’m in an all-the-prostitutes-are-forced phase again. I wonder how long that will take. I have switched position so very often during the years.

There are no excuses anymore.

"And when it was over , and after I had done as Sally had told me with the condom, he stood up, carefully put on his clothes and simply said ‘thanks’. Then he was gone.
I sat on the bed, curtains still closed, in a state of complete shock: relieved beyond belief that it was over but still incapable of understanding what had really just happened. And why did he say ‘thanks’ – as if I had done him some small favour that could be repaid by a simple word of empty gratitude? Thanks. For what? For letting you rape me? – for that was surely what it was. Thank you?" (from page 100)

Monday, July 20, 2009

review: David Farer


By accident I stumbled upon a book I have totally overlooked for years. It comes in multiple versions of which the earliest is from 1995. The writer is David Farer who has lived in the brothels of Jan Bik to interview prostitutes. He also worked as a manager in the brothels.

I have a Dutch version named “Bordeellevens” [brothel lives] (1995) and a more recent English version called “Games prostitutes play – prostitution and child abuse“ (2008). The two versions differ slightly. Names are different, Marijke in the Dutch version is Maria in the English. And there are prostitutes described in one book which are not described in the other, and vice versa. The English book contains some extra chapters with comments.

In the books he explains that he is a free-lancer who writes about elderly pilots. One of the pilots who was interviewed said that if David could interview pilots he could also interview prostitutes in a particular brothel that the pilot visited when he is in Amsterdam. Jan Bik, the brothel owner, thought that was a good idea. At the end David Farer spent a long time in these brothels. In the books he says for several months in intervals. He is vague about when this actually happened but probably it is during the early nineties.

Anyway. This book is important. It is funny that after reading so much about prostitution in the Netherlands that this information in this book strikes me as a complete surprise. During last years I actually slowly began to accept the idea that forced prostitution among Dutch prostitutes largely takes place in window prostitution, and that this is especially related to young Dutch prostitutes. Several sources point this out. Often when you read about these cases (of Dutch forced prostitutes) this mostly takes place in window prostitution, and you have to take in mind that only a relatively small segment of Dutch prostitutes work behind windows. Secondly, also Ine Vanwesenbeeck noted that among the predominantly Dutch prostitutes she interviewed at the end of the eighties, that Dutch window prostitutes are much more often subjected to violence by ‘acquaintances’ than those in clubs and privéhuizen. I explain this further in my post about Dutch prostitutes:
this link here

You know the trick? Visit an older Dutch prostitutes and avoid window and street prostitution. Or visit perhaps a Latin American prostitute.

Now that I read the book by David Farer, I don’t know it anymore. I quote some of his stuff from page 392 and 393 of his English book:
Most prostitutes in permanent relationships have men who dominate, beat, belittle, insult, and attack them. Even women who dominate clients, other prostitutes, and managers at the brothel go home to men like Valerie’s boyfriend or worse. Valerie's man eventually hospitalized her, but she defended the creature even after the hospital released her.

These boyfriends are men whom the women choose for emotional reasons of their own.
Although perfectly dependent on the women, these men were cruel to them. They played no role in the women's professional lives. Many people call such men pimps, although they were not pimps in the sense of men who found their women customers and "managed" their careers as prostitutes. They had not pushed the women into prostitution. The men had no control over the women whatever, apart from that which the women gave them. Examples abound, but that which comes to mind first was when I spent hours and days explaining to a prostitute that she could and should get rid of her abusive boyfriend and find a nicer one who did not beat her up every night. She then very simply went home, packed his suitcase, drove him to a hotel, and gave him some money.
The next day she told me to pack my books and throwaway my clothes, Because she would drive by my home to pick me up. As my jaw bounced off the floor, the others took her aside and explained to her that David had not intended to apply for a position as her new pimp. She then drove to the hotel where she had deposited her old pimp and took him home. He celebrated their reunion by beating her unconscious that night.

Here is yet another example of my naiveté in intervening in situations that were over my head, and in which I went into battle armed with good intentions, but little sense.
The Latin American prostitute Catalina explains in the Dutch version (page 98):
In my opinion the Dutch prostitutes are very peculiar. They are not healthy. Many of them are addicted to drugs. I think they come from bad families. They make so much money, but they squander it to drugs and bad [boy]friends who beat them. I see them come in, fully covered with bruises.
Obviously I’m aware of some prostitutes who have said that prostitutes in general are forced in the brothels, but perhaps these were isolated cases. Such a recent case is of Kelly de Heer who said in the Dutch program ‘Pauw en Witteman’ (December 19th 2008), who worked in the clubs ‘Boobs and Booties’ in Nijmegen and in the ‘Club Reeperbahn’ in Breda. In the interview she says that ‘I will tell you and it sounds really stupid, but behind 9 out of 10 women there is a man behind it.’

However the world-famous blogger Jeanette who was a prostitute in the mid nineties and who said many prostitutes were forced to do this then, has recently re-entered her old job again, and now says that forced prostitution has substantially decreased (she has also worked as a madam in the meantime so maybe that’s an explanation).

So, the great puzzle continues.

I’m aware that David’s story is relatively old and things could have changed. But, you never know. What also surprised me is that some of the 30-plus prostitutes (like Valerie) have abusive husbands.

David also found that nearly all prostitutes have been sexually abused, mostly by their fathers. Actually, all the horrendous stereotypes of prostitutes are reinforced. He describes prostitutes as genuinely heavily traumatized women who perpetuate the trauma by working in prostitution and becoming romantically involved with violent men, often criminals. While actually more recent reports suggest that prostitutes are not more traumatized than women and men in general (I mean the sociale positie van prostituees-reports which you can all find via google). David describes that almost all prostitutes smoke. Many are on coke.

Well, perhaps I should return to my old conclusion which I drew that nearly all prostitutes are forced. The foreign as well as the Dutch, the indoor as well as the outdoor, the window prostitutes as well as those in clubs, the young as well as the old…..




So that was my book review about David.

More book reviews to come. Have you all read ‘Fucking Berlin’ by Sonia Rossi from Italy (actually Romania I guess). And obviously ‘Slave Girl’ by Sarah Forsyth, the English girl who was forced on de Wallen in Amsterdam around 1995.