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.

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