History, Hookers & Hashish
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We spoke with Caja van Tolie, a Dutch sex worker. We met each other at the Koffie Schenkerij in Amsterdam’s Red Light District. Caja works as a prostitute for 16 years now. We were looking forward to meeting her, because we really wanted to know more about her profession and experiences. This is what we asked her:
Since 1999. I started at the Red Light District of Amsterdam. I also worked in Groningen for a while but decided to go back to Amsterdam. When I worked in Amsterdam’s Red Light District again, the mayor of Amsterdam decided to introduce more stringent regulations which women have to meet when working as a prostitute. That’s one of the reasons I decided to work in Utrecht instead of Amsterdam. Looking back, after a while the rules in Utrecht became more strict than those in Amsterdam, which led to a forced end of my job as a Dutch prostitute.
No, not at all. The Red Light District has changed over the last 15 years. I prefer the Red Light District the way it used to be.
A lot of people walk by, but there’s a small percentage who really visit a prostitute here. That’s why the prostitutes are experiencing difficulties in earning the rent for the windows. I personally think the earnings are too low. But everyone has their own opinion.
I had to take care of myself at a young age. I still had to learn to take some responsibilities. I went over my markers and was looking for a way to pay off my debts in a short amount of time. That would give me the opportunity to continuate my education. That’s when prostitution came in.
I payed of my debts in one day and actually liked the atmosphere in the Red Light District. In the nineties, the Red Light District was like a small village where everybody was very friendly. Everybody was just having a blast! I told myself that I would quit working as a prostitute when I felt like it. Well, I quit recently but that was because the windows in Utrecht were closed down. I still liked the job, but it had to be done.
There are a lot of pro’s! The job offers a feeling of freedom. You’re able to plan your own shifts. The high income is another pro of course. Also, I like the entertainment part of the job. Im always very happy during my shifts and have a lot of pleasant experiences. I can’t imagine that someone wouldn’t like to earn money in this way!
The con is that prostitution is being stigmatized. People think that prostitutes are aimlessy victims of human trafficking. This metaphor is totally inappropriate.
Nowadays I do. This is also because I have been on television a couple of times so a lot of people already know me.
And did you tell people when you just started as a Dutch prostitute?
In the very beginning I kept it as a secret but my mother sensed something was going on… Like only mothers can. At a certain point she asked if I was working in prostitution. That was the moment I told her. Afterwards, I told some other family members about my little secret as well. But not the whole family so not everybody knew. But like I said, in the meanwhile everybody knows.
Yes, I have always thought this is the most wonderful profession of all.
That’s hard to explain. I just experience an enjoyable feeling when I’m working. It feels like I’m onstage and that creates excitement. And I always have enjoyable conversations with both regular clients and strangers. So I always have fun during my shifts.
No, not always. Some clients prefer to go out for dinner or to a hotel and others like to go to the beach. There are so many clients with different desires.
It’s because they don’t know much about the sector. Actually, I had the same thought about prostitutes before I started working as one. People can’t imagine that you decide for yourself that you want to work as a prostitute because it’s not necessary to make a living. In fact, people who are out of work are paid benefits in The Netherlands. So why would you become a prostitute when it’s not necessary? But when I started to work as a prostitute I noticed the feeling of freedom this job offers. I can’t think of another job which offers the same amount of freedom.
To work at the Red Light District is all about entertainment and is the most fun when you’re around an age of 18. Everybody is having a blast and that causes a lot of drunk and singing people in the streets. People walk a lot before going to a prostitute because the area is very large and beautiful. Also, because the visitors are mostly tourists a lot of them don’t even go to a prostitute. When I just started as a prostitute this didn’t bother me. But when getting older I desired a workplace which offered more serious clients. In Utrecht, the area consisted of boats lying in a line which served as brothels. Men picked the prostitute of their preference when driving by in their car. The workplace in Utrecht attracted mostly Dutch businessmen which often stay a couple of hours instead of only 15 minutes. Also, contrary to the Red Light District, in Utrecht we had our own bath, toilet and kitchen. So the clients and the way of working is totally different in Utrecht. And that really meets my preferences now.
Sometimes my clients were from Germany, Belgium and sometimes the United Kingdom but most of all were from The Netherlands.
The rent is € 650 for 7 days and 12 hours a day in Utrecht. I worked part time because the earnings where very high. I was already able to pay the rent for the brothel after 1 or 2 days max. The rest of the week I had the freedom to decide whatever I wanted to do. One week I worked 3 days and the other week 4 days. I really loved the freedom this offered.
This is what a brothel in Utrecht’s Red Light District looks like.
I think that prostitution should be a legal option for women. When women are having a difficult time because of a divorce for example, in most cases they have to take care of their children by themselves. They should have the right to decide to work as a prostitute while keeping their independence. In this way women can earn their own living.
In total there were 162 windows with 2 shifts for each window. So there were around 330 women working there.
In Utrecht the women work pretty independent. In the Red Light District they work mostly with 3 women in a brothel, but they have their own room. I think there are some pimps in Amsterdam but I have hardly seen one in Utrecht. The brothel owners are also pretty strict in banning pimps. But, unfortunately, human trafficking does still exist and I think it will never be banned completely. As a brothel owner you can do your best to cooperate with the local government but you’re never totally sure if a prostitute is working for a pimp or not.
No, I never had one. But during my career I’ve seen a lot of women who had a pimp and actually really wanted to work for him themselves. And sometimes people think the boyfriend of a prostitute is aimlessy their pimp as well. So people have their own definition of a pimp. For me, a pimp is someone who takes your money, who abuses you and forces you to prostitute yourself. I think a partner of a prostitute who is totally ok with her profession and who has it’s own profession is not a pimp. But like I said, some people think he is in that case.
According to the most recent research on this subject it’s less than 2 %. I think that corresponds with what I notice around me. I do agree that human trafficking does occur but it’s definitely not the case that every prostitute is a victim. The local government publishes higher numbers of human trafficking because they have their own interest in tidying up the Red Light District because the houses are worth a lot of money. Apart the local government, religious people also publicize negative information about the Red Light District because they have religious objections.
The most ideal situation is that there’s no special rules for prostitution but that prostitutes are treated equally as other entrepreneurs. If we’re talking about rules for forced prostitution, it has to be forbidden to threaten or abuse women. A lot of serious crime is already covered in the current rules so I think there’s no need for a specific prostitute legislation.
Yes, I’m also registered at the Chamber of Commerce.
I have an accountant who does that.
Yes, somestimes they come along to check the book-keeping so we have to store it at our workingplace. They even check your wallet for cash money to make sure you’re not lying about your daily income!
This has been changed through the years. There were no rules when I started in 1999. To rent a window all you needed was a name so you didn’t need to show your passport. Shortly before the closedown of the boats in Utrecht every woman had to be registered as a prostitute at the Chamber of Commerce, the local government and the police. So through the years the rules became stricter.
Yes, unfortunately it is. As a prostitute the ING is the only bank which provides me a private bank account. It’s impossible to get a business account. Getting a mortgage is also out of the question. We are told that being a prostitute is an insecure profession because it’s hard to tell what a prostitute will earn 5 years later. But I think this situation is exactly the same for a baker for example, who ís able to get a mortgage or insurance. Some banks are not ashamed of this kind of discrimination at all and are very transparent in the fact they don’t want prostitutes as their customers.
My main goal is to become a brothel owner of some windows in the city centre of Utrecht. Together with a former colleague I applied for an authorization of those brothels and it looks like we can start in a couple of months. I’ll be responsible for a whole street of windows so I won’t work as a prostitute anymore. I’ll have to accomplish all the rules which will take a lot of time because like I said, the local government is very strict in Utrecht. If it becomes clear that only one prostitute is a victim of human trafficking, the whole street will be closed down. 50 prostitutes in total will work there so I will have a big responsibility. I would love to continue as a prostitute but I won’t have time.
I don’t have any problems with them as long as they behave normally. Some women are pointing, laughing or have comments and that can be disturbing. But after all, we are very used to people who are passing by, both women and men. As long as their behaving appropriate there’s no problem.
The minimum rate is 50 euro’s for 15 minutes. This rate is the same in Amsterdam and Utrecht.
No, I only accept cash because otherwise I need to have my own machine which is inconvenient, because I don’t have s business bank account. Also, clients don’t want to have a bank record of a visit to a prostitute.
How often do you test for sexually transmitted diseases (STD)? And is it mandatory?
I test on a regular basis. It is not mandatory for prostitutes but it’s wise to do. Prostitutes don’t have to pay for a test, but clients do.
What do you do if a client smells or looks dirty?
Before I have sex with any client, I ask if they could wash themselves. In Utrecht we used to have a bath so it was part of the game to take a bath before the action started.
Do you ever get an orgasm during sex with your clients? If yes, how many times does it happen?
Yes, it happen sometimes. But not on a regular basis. I would say monthly, so not that often.
What is the oddest request you ever got from a client?
Overall, my clients are pretty normal but sometimes I get requests I don’t expect. For example going to the beach and getting paid for it.
Do you have any advice for women who want to work as a (Dutch) prostitute?
My advice is to think about it carefully! And you should take a look at a brothel first to form an opinion before you start. You have to be well prepared!
Learn more about prostitution in the Netherlands during an interesting tour with a local guide