I want to write one final post, to really close it all off for good. There should be one final conclusion. What after all those years of studying prostitution and visiting prostitutes, what have I learned?
I first have to say that not writing and reading about prostitution didn’t help me to stop visiting prostitutes. I have visited Eleni 3 times since my last post. It was as cozy as ever before. Eleni is a very nice person. But I still feel bad about it. I have explained it to Eleni, and that I actually wanted to stop going to prostitutes. I have said to her that some prostitutes I visit clearly feel embarrassed about doing this job, and that I preferred to go to her because she seems neutral about the work. She looked with a stern face when I said this to her. And then she said to me that she is always friendly towards her clients, because then they come back. [She has told me once during another occasion that a colleague of hers (Alex) doesn’t do this, and she has no repeat customers. They never return.]
The window brothel where she works (on the Goldbergersteeg 8) is going to be closed. She has said before that she will be going home to Greece when this happens. She thinks she won’t find a new room near the canals. The subject of the prostitution boats on the Zandpad came up. I have said to her that I cheered when all these boats were closed by the municipality. She looked at me with her eyes wide open. I said to her that I would cheer if ALL the brothels were closed. And I said that I am against prostitution. I just blurted it out. This is actually what I think. I tapped with my finger on the side of my forehead, and I said to her that I was crazy. She still looked at me with open eyes, and the her mouth curled up at the edges. I have visited her again two times after this. And it is crazy indeed. How can you be against prostitution and still visit prostitutes? It isn’t right.
I am going to be honest with you people. I really AM against prostitution. I believe in almost all cases it is a human rights violation. I think theoretically, only in some very special controlled circumstances, it can be benign. But this is rare, and I wonder if you can call these cases prostitution.
I think that are two main types of voluntary prostitutes:
1. Women from the SM-scene who get a kick out of being humiliated by misogynist men. These people appear shortly in the sex industry, and can leave immediately whenever their thrill is over. These people have a privileged background, and don’t financially depend on the sex industry. In my opinion these people aren’t true prostitutes. They temporarily work in the industry, not because of the money, but because of the sexual thrill.
2. There are some prostitutes who strictly work with a fixed group of customers whom they have selected because these customers behave with respect towards the prostitutes. I think that these women also aren’t really prostitutes, because the men who visit them are more like friends.
I am aware of prostitutes who say that nearly all clients treat them with respect, and one of them is my favorite Eleni! But I say these prostitutes don’t tell the truth. I will tell why. There are some prostitutes who defend the sex industry who have made some surprising admissions about their clients, about their situation in prostitution, or about the situation of other prostitutes. I have mentioned what these women said earlier on my blog, so it is basically old-hat. I knew it all along. These women are:
-Metje Blaak, a former spokesperson for the Red Thread (Rode Draad), a Dutch labour union for prostitutes, which has been dissolved a few years ago. She has written many books about prostitution and she often appears in the media.
-Jo Doezema, co-founder of the Red Thread. She has written some articles defending the sex industry, and she has written a book.
-Margo Alvarez, also a co-founder of the Red Thread. A film was made about her and she has appeared in the media several times defending the sex industry.
-Mariska Majoor, who runs the Prostitution Information Centre in the main red light district of Amsterdam. She is a major defender of prostitution, often appearing in the media.
I have provided the sources in these blog posts:
and this one:
and this one:
These women are outspoken defenders of prostitution. And in the meantime they have said some very negative things about it. I think these things must me true because they are clearly embarrassed about it. I call this the criterion of embarrassment. This criterion is sometimes used by biblical scholars who want to argue that some events in the life of Jesus had to be real, because these events were so embarrassing for his followers that it is difficult to imagine that they could have lied about it. (I must say that in this case I don’t quite follow these biblical scholars because I am convinced that Jesus Christ isn’t an historical person!)
Metje Blaak has said in an interview(translated by me from Dutch): “Clients are just like children. They want to grab everything. You sometimes have to deal with them harshly. Especially when they start biting in your nipples and touch your genitals with their fingernails. You’ll have to wean them off this habit. I trained my regular customers in such a way that they were kind.” (Iemand moet het doen – over vuil werk en andere schone zaken, Joeri Boom, 1999)
Metje Blaak has also lamented the situation of prostitutes in an interview in 2002 (translated from Dutch): “(…) and nowadays eight out of 10 girls are forced. That’s a misery, you have no idea. Those men around it are called pimps, but these are big fat criminals. Those pimps of the past were a joke compared with what happens today. You slipped them something if they did something for you, and then they thought they were a pimp. In fact you controlled them. But now the girls are being threatened with their lives, that has become a different story. (…)” (Niet echt spijt, Tanya Wijngaarde, MUG-magazine, March 2002). Okay, we have to take the percentages that she uses with a pinch of salt, but I surmise that she probable cannot get around the fact that a lot of prostitutes that she was acquainted with were coerced. She now denies in her book Moskou aan de Amstel (2013) that lots of coercion happens in the sex industry by the way, but I think this represents a strategic shift of hers which confirms to me even more that she is clearly embarrassed about admitting the large scale of coercion.
Jo Doezema has said in an interview that ‘all brothels are actually shit’, and
In a club the clients drink and most times so do you because you make money getting drinks. It's also very difficult to refuse a client. Most clubs won't come right out and say "you have to go with everybody that wants you," but they put a lot of pressure on you. Some of those guys running the clubs are real bastards. Mostly they're men, though there are some women. But having a woman boss is no guarantee that anything will be any better. The really good bosses are women, that's true, but it's not the case that every woman is a good boss. There are a lot of Madames out there, the woman who started out herself as a prostitute, worked her way up and is determined to exploit the hell out of everybody who's working for her. (Live sex acts, Wendy Chapkis, 1993)and
A lot of clients have the idea that their hours will be filled with sex of whatever sort they want. And because you can’t say in the beginning. “If you want this, this, and this, it's going to cost this much, and this I don’t do,” you are kind of struggling the whole time to keep the clients from doing things you don’t want and try to keep him satisfied at the same time. (Live sex acts, Wendy Chapkis, 1993)Jo Doezema has also offered an explanation as to why she paints such a positive picture of her work to outsiders:
I think for almost everybody I make it more positive than it is, because everybody has such a negative idea about it already. So you tend to only talk about the good things or the funny things. With most jobs, if you have a shitty day or a bad client or something, people don’t immediately say that it’s because of the kind of work you do and that you must stop right away. But with prostitution, I’ve always felt that if I didn’t convince everybody that this work was fantastic for me and that I really loved it that they would all be on my back to quit.’ (Live sex acts, Wendy Chapkis, 1993).Radical feminist Sheila Jeffreys has also pointed to this particular interview with Jo Doezema, in her book The Industrial Vagina: The Political Economy of the Global Sex Trade (2009). You can download the book here:
Sheila Jeffreys says while also quoting Jo Doezema:
Her attitude towards having to suffer unwanted sex acts, which would be called sexual harassment or sexual assault outside the prostitution context, is to blame herself: ‘Sure, there are still times when I put up with something from a client that I don’t want to have happen, either because I’m too tired, or I don’t know how to say that I don’t want it. But I have learned now to deal with that; instead of thinking, “Oh, I’m the worst whore in the world”, I just think, “Okay, next time better”’ (...) Currently Doezema, along with other sex worker activist colleagues, minimizes the harms of prostitution in order to achieve the decriminalization of the industry. The minimization of harm is a common practice amongst prostituted women, who routinely block out or downplay the violence they experience both inside and outside prostitution (...)Also the feminist Anke Manschot has pointed out some of the striking admissions of prostitutes who defend prostitution. In November 2002 she wrote a critical article about prostitution in the Dutch female magazine OPZIJ (the title of the article was Moet een hoerenloper gestraft?). In February 2003 Marjan Wijers, Marieke van Doorninck, Jacqueline Waterman and Marisja Majoor reacted critically to this article in the same magazine (the title of the article was Laat prostituees zelf aan het woord). They said that people should let prostitutes speak for themselves, and they criticize feminists who are against prostitution for being paternalistic. Anke Manschot wrote a response which was published in the same article (with the title Een prostituee is aan de wolven overgeleverd...).
Anke Manschot refers in the last mentioned article to a book Metje Blaak wrote called De Trukendoos. Handboek voor hoeren (1998). In the book Metje Blaak asks women who want to be prostitutes: Am I resistent to total humiliation? Can I stand the loneliness? If the answer is yes, then you are fit for the oldest profession. In her opinion all her clients smelled badly, and this costs lots of energy. Metje wonders if prostitutes have any friends. She admits she never had one. At the end of the book Metje says that 60 percent of the prostitutes have been abused, 30 percent are encouraged to work in prostitution by their boyfriends, and 10 percent really chose for the work in prostitution. In the book Who the fuck is Daatje Smit (1997) Metje calls prostitution the dirtiest profession in the world. She also says that when you work in the world of prostitution, you have no time to think, you are only busy with surviving.
Anke Manschot also referred to Margot Alvarez who has said in an interview in the Dutch newspaper Het Parool (translated from Dutch): “Sometimes there is a healthy man among them, but they are rare, hear [me out], it is something that makes you desperate”. Anke Manschot unfortunately didn’t mention the date and title of the article. Anke Manschot also mentions some things Mariska Majoor has said in Het Parool (, and unfortunately Anke Manschot doesn't mention the exact date and title of the article). Mariska Majoor says that she cannot work in prostitution again. She could do the work because she didn't think about what she was doing. Now that she doesn't work in prostitution anymore, she realizes that she cannot work in prostitution.
To be short and sweet, I think these women are right. To sum up:
1. Clients don’t take the boundaries of prostitutes into consideration. They don’t respect the prostitutes. (Metje Blaak, Jo Doezema)
2. Decent/healthy/nice men are rare. (Margot Alvarez, Metje Blaak)
3. Good brothels don’t exist. All brothels are abusive/shit. (Jo Doezema)
4. Many prostitutes are severely exploited.(Metje Blaak, Jo Doezema)
5. If you know what you are doing, you don’t work in prostitution. (Mariska Majoor)
Even Ilse de Rooij a former prostitute, who stars in porn films has said (actually in an introduction to a porn-film which is offline), that it happens often, too often, that clients don’t treat her with respect.
I don’t believe in the explanation that these particular women just had bad luck and that mainly the evil clients found their way to them. I don’t believe that these women receive radically different clients than other prostitutes. They are not ugly or something.
As I said before, this information is basically old-hat. I knew it all along. And I have wondered if I should write this blog post, because I have talked about it so much already. But it is difficult when some prostitutes say that they like their work, and that the clients are considerate and treat them with respect. This is also what many prostitutes said to the researcher Nick Mai. I wrote about him on my blog:
But I think these women who say that are just like Jo Doezema when she says she paints a more positive picture of prostitution than it really is. I think it is some kind of shield or something, a way of self-protection. You tell to the world and yourself that prostitution is okay and the clients are respectful, while in reality this is not true. Radical feminists call this internalized oppression (which is also what Anke Manschot explained in her article in the OPZIJ). It is the same thing that happens when women defend the religious rules in which they themselves are oppressed. Think about female circumcision which is a ritual largely perpetuated by women. Or think about the oppressive Mosaic laws in Judaism and Christianity, and the sharia law in Islam. If you look closely at these laws, these laws are really oppressive towards women. But women still support these systems. Perhaps you could call it Stockholm syndrome, ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’. Like some kind of hostage situation. Because one totally depends on the hostage takers, in order to survive one decides to cooperate with them, up to the point that one really starts to believe in his/her own oppression. And that’s why you see prostitutes defending the sex industry.
Because of their dire economic situation, prostitutes are forced to accept unwanted intimate contacts with their clients. It is like taking part in an SM-session, but without a codeword to stop. Some prostitutes have more financial clout to prevent the most transgressive requests from clients, but others don’t. I have heard from prostitutes that they were more or less forced to offer and perform blowjobs without condom because they could hardly get any clients otherwise. I know of prostitutes who have said that they reject a large percentage of clients because they were impolite to begin with, even up to half of them. What if a prostitute is less economically powerful and is more or less forced to also accept these men? Contrary to what many people believe, many prostitutes don’t make a lot of money. Many are not so beautiful. I notice the older a prostitute becomes the more likely it is she will offer anal sex and sex without condom. I think they try to attract more clients this way, because their income is dropping while they become older and less attractive to clients.
As a client you by definition don’t care about her feelings. What you pay for is for attention and sex, irrespective of when she desires this or not. There is no respect to begin with. When a man respects other people’s feelings, he cannot visit a prostitute. He would just be too scared to offend somebody. Even if that somebody says she has no problems with her work. He would be distrustful because he is aware of her dire situation which makes her say things she doesn’t mean.
People should be protected against sexual harassment in the workplace. And because prostitutes, as an intrinsic part of their work, are systematically sexually molested at their workplace, sexual services should be prohibited to protect workers in general. And I think this could even be done in a system where prostitution is decriminalized. Even then sexual assault is illegal, and all workers should be protected against it. That some workers don’t rise up against it is because they don’t have the economic or social power to do it. And that is why society as a whole should do it. Society should stand up to protect the powerless!
That’s my honest opinion, it’s out. I am not going to lie anymore to myself. Eleni and all the others are abused. She has said to me that all the clients treat her with respect, but I know that she lies. I just cannot believe those prostitutes who say that they don’t feel abused and that they like their work. They could tell it to me. But I just cannot believe them. Even if a 1000 prostitutes would try to convince me that everything is a-ok, I won’t believe them. I just won’t.
A doctor doesn’t have sex with his patients because he would abuse his position of power would he do that. An employer doesn’t demand his workers to have sex with him or the clients of the premise. This is abuse of power.
(Okay, now follows a big rant part, I hope I don't offend too many people.)
Many people who support prostitution are libertarians. And I think that libertarianism is the only ideology callous enough to support it. In the context of prostitution libertarians say that people have the right not to like their work. That’s how they defend sexual assault in the workplace. Libertarians place consent above human dignity. A worker who out of poverty decides to work in a dangerous workplace where this person is badly treated, deserves every abuse, according to libertarians. The worker after all consented. And a woman who is maltreated by her husband also chooses this according to libertarians, because she doesn’t leave, which means she chooses the violence. There are even libertarians who defend domestic violence as a legitimate lifestyle!
Libertarians believe people should have the right to make mistakes. Therefore, when a person is tricked into doing something, this is acceptable according to libertarians, also because it is consensual. In their opinion, these people are just idiots who are responsible for their own misery.
Libertarians want to abolish social security and solidarity. They also want to remove the age of consent, and all the laws protecting workers. They also want to abolish the prohibition of child labour. You hear more and more prostitution defenders also defending to right of children to work in the sex industry, and for adults to use them.
Libertarians won’t directly say that they support torture and sexual assault or the right to be subjected to it, because in their opinion, what other people would call torture and sexual assault shouldn’t be called this way because it is consensual after all.
People who defend prostitution are the scum of the Earth (, although I must say I can understand the difficult situation of some prostitutes who feel forced to openly defend the system in which they are oppressed). The pro-prostitution movement is a hate movement. They say that we should listen to the sex workers, but they themselves only listen to those sex workers who support their own callous libertarian views. Prostitutes who point out abuse by clients and pimps in the sex industry are vilified and slandered.
There is one thing I like to address when I say that prostitution should be abolished. Often in many countries brothels are closed without an escape plan for prostitutes. They are not compensated. I cannot deny that some prostitutes make good money in prostitution, which they can use to maintain whole families, and even buy luxuries! This is a hellish dilemma, I know, because although prostitution is abusive, good things come out of it and that is money! Money to send children to school, pay for hospital bills etc… If you take away their profession without compensating them, they will lose precious income, and this is also not good.
I think it is the duty of the government when a brothel is closed, to cover the expenses of the prostitute and the people she maintains. This will be very expensive I know. If my plan would be carried out in the Netherlands, it could cost over a billion euro a year. Think about 10.000 prostitutes in the Netherlands who maintain 10 family members per prostitute at least, and if you assume a minimum income of 10.000 euro per person per year, and also thinking about the yearly influx of new people in the sex industry each year, you will easily reach such a large amount of money. I think the problem is that governments could end up spending more on prostitutes than on defense. My gut feeling is that people are not willing to make this offer.
But I think it is worth it. Abuse can never be tolerated.
We should help each other!
Although I believe the selling of sexual services should be prohibited, and giving fines to pimps or clients can could good sometimes, the emphasis should lie on helping people. I think if you give prostitutes a decent amount of money and free them from potential oppressors, then the fast majority will stop immediately with their work, follow a study and move on to more respectful work. I think a small minority will continue.
And I want to say something more. Police shouldn’t harass prostitutes, or use violence against them, or raid them. There have been some occasions in the Netherlands during which the police rounded up whole streets of window prostitutes to ask them if they were forced (they all said they worked voluntarily in prostitution by the way). There were also reports that the police broke into the homes of prostitutes to find evidence against pimps. I think this is not the way to treat people. I think prostitutes should be approached with respect and offered help to leave their dire situation. The pro-prostitution movement is right in criticizing the police for harassing prostitutes. But this is because libertarians want to destroy the state, and they see the police as hostile government agents. The pro-prostitution movement is blind to the continuous sexual assaults perpetrated by clients. It might be true that some prostitutes experience more harassment from the police than from clients, but this isn’t a reason to support the harassment by clients.
And I am also aware that there are other professions where workers are severely abused, but this is not intrinsic to their work. There are ways around it. Salaries and working conditions could be improved. This is not true for prostitution where unwanted sexual contacts are exactly what prostitutes are paid for. A world without abuse in the workplace is a world without prostitution to begin with! Prostitution largely exist because there is inequality; inequality between men and women, the rich and the poor, etc… It exists because society has failed! And the same is true for abuse in the workplace in general. It exists because inequality exists.
But it is true that other workers other than prostitutes are also abused. I have my doubts about work in general too, because market capitalism forces people to work as hard as they can, up to the point it becomes bad for their health. Perhaps the work itself is not degrading, but everything surrounding it is. I think a solution could be to minimize comsumption in general. This would have two positive effects at once. It would alleviate the strain on both workers and the environment. And we need a powerful state to spread wealth as much as possible. Only a state can do this, smaller voluntary social organizations don't have the power to do this.
I also often hear the argument (which I have used myself in the past) that we all are forced to work because of economic circumstances, so it doesn’t matter that some people work in prostitution. I think in an ideal world where robots could do everything many people will still work, because people feel fulfilled when they add their share to society. They want to be a part of the social fabric of society. In only very rare cases people feel fulfilled when working as a prostitute. (I have to admit that I prefer to lock myself into a room and play videogames). I think in such a society prostitution would be truly voluntary, but rare, and only carried out by what I would call the sadomasochists who could leave the trade whenever they want. But perhaps the men are nicer in such a world so prostitutes would have it better, I don't know.
I also have to point something out about the abolitionist movement. Although I support their position now, I cannot deny that they spread disinformation about the sex industry. You hear time and time again that the average age of entry into prostitution is 14 years. This is repeated again and again, without tracing the original source. I say that the real age of entry is more like 25. And you’ll also often hear that foreign prostitutes who are severely exploited, mostly don’t know what their jobs will be when they departed from their home country. In reality the large majority knows, but they have to hand over large percentages of their income, or certain agreements are not followed, or they are threatened by the intermediaries, etc...
I should never visit prostitutes again. As a side note I want to mention a phone call I had with a telephone sex worker. At first we had a silly sexual conversation, but it evolved into a serious conversation, and she gave her real phone number. She told me why she did this work. She was a freelance teacher, and couldn’t make ends meet, so she decided to have sexual conversations with men for money. She told me that those men who phone her are really dirty men. I asked her if I was also a dirty man. She said that she 'deducted a stripe' from me. She said that this was a waste of money, and that I should search for a real woman. I now think, that’s what many prostitutes could say to me if I would meet them in real life. Perhaps that’s what Eleni could say to me after she has stopped working in prostitution. At least I could hear her moan with disapproval when I said to her that I once had visited 5 prostitutes in two weeks.
I really like Eleni. I am so afraid that she thinks badly of me, although she is nice to me because I am one of her clients after all. And she is always nice to her clients. Lately I heard the bad news that Eleni is known among other prostitutes to be coerced. But I must say I don't believe it, because she said to me she could walk to the nearby police any time she wants, in lingerie if necessary.
And now again, finally…
I'm looking forward to see you in part 3 where I will criticize Dina Siegel with her preposterous conclusion that there was no forced prostitution on Het Zandpad in Utrecht.
(I'm joking a bit here. I'm awaiting her report which will be released in May. It will be called 'Closing brothels, is closing eyes'. Perhaps I will write about it, perhaps not. She says that many prostitutes are not in good shape after the Zandpad was closed. And she found no evidence of forced prostitution. I think this conclusion is way too daring. Among the hundreds of prostitutes there sure are some women who are forced by their boyfriends or who are extorted some kind of way. I have visited prostitutes on de Zandpad in 2011 and I got the strong impression that a group of young Moroccans had some girls working there. They were visibly present there, they seemed to feel absolutely free when they harassed prostitutes, and I saw no security who interfered. They drove rounds in cars, and sometimes they step out in groups to walk towards the windows to the women, have a short babble, and walk back towards their cars. They cheered from their cars when (I presume) one of the prostitutes danced with her ass for them. A group of around 10 Moroccan boys almost walked over me, and I saw one of those Moroccan guy trying to pull open a window of a prostitute, but she had locked it. He screamed: "You are mad! What must you do?! What must you do?! Fucking is what you must do!". Softly and shyly she repeatedly said: yes, yes. She unlocked the door and she let him in. There is no direct evidence that these boys actually were pimps, they could just as well have been a bunch of hooligans. My strong impression is that they actually were pimps. But if they were hooligans, I didn't see any security team trying to stop these boys, and unfortunately I didn't dare to interfere myself. I agree with Dina Siegel that how things went with the closure of het Zandpad weren't okay. I believe the women should have been compensated.)