Utrecht wants to end a designated street prostitution zone, called ‘tippel zone’ in Dutch, where street prostitution in Holland is legally allowed. Closing of the designated street prostitution zone at the Europalaan is a hotly debated topic within the municipality. Project developers and entrepreneurs are urging the government to make a decision as fast as possible. Currently the hustling zone is a major impediment for new large-scale home construction in the area. The mayor and aldermen are now looking for alternative locations. People are expecting a definitive decision at the end of the year. Rightwing and Christian parties want to get rid of the hustling zone while leftwing parties argue for maintaining a hustle zone for legal prostitution in Utrecht.
Bubbles (not her real name) has worked for six months at the designated street prostitution zone. During the interview at a sandwich shop close to the Europalaan, she only picks vegetarian sandwich fillings. Later in the conversation she states; “I could for instance never become a butcher. Killing animals is horrible”. However Bubbles has chosen a profession that a lot of people couldn’t imagine doing themselves: working as a street prostitute. She also does work for PROUD, a Dutch union for sex workers.
“During the day I did things for PROUD or for myself. At the end of the afternoon I would get my clothes and make-up and take the Bus to Utrecht. I live in a rural town. In the living room at the designated street prostitution zone I would talk for a couple of minutes with my colleagues, then I got changed and went onto the street. No high heels, because I’m tall. When a car drove by I would try to make contact to see if the man inside was interested. Some asked how I was doing. Most of the time however they started out with: how much does it cost?”
“No, but I liked standing underneath a big tree. That is of course less street like. Sometimes I found it pleasant to lean against a lamppost. Lampposts are the symbol of prostitution. In former times in France prostitutes were allowed to solicit for costumers when the lampposts started to glow. “
“I make a quick judgment. I pay attention to the tone and look and feel of a person. If there are multiple persons in the car I never get in. You can get fined for that. That rule has been implemented for our own safety. I refuse at least half of all requests. A lot of scum passes by as well. They’ll insult you and after that ask you to come with them. I hate that kind of behaviour. Or they want to pay too little, or without a condom. I always have safe sex. Most men only want a blowjob. The standard rate is about 40 Euros. If everything feels right I get in the car and then we drive to the sex drive-in. On our way to the drive-in I usually make small talk. I consider it a part of my safety check. My costumers are very diverse, from students to the elderly and everyday blokes to traveling businessmen who do a stopover in Utrecht. Some men you see just once and some loners you see everyday. In the sex drive-in area I do my job. For penetration this can be quite tricky in the smaller cars. When we’re done the costumer drops me off at the designated street prostitution zone.
“It’s a subjective and personal view. Before there was a designated street prostitution zone there was less safety for the women. If you find the work to be demeaning at least provide better working conditions for street prostitution in Holland. There’s still a big stigma surrounding street prostitution. People view the work as dirty and sad. But I made the conscious decision to do this job. The work itself means very little to me. I just go trough the motions and get paid. I believe that sitting behind a cash register is a far tougher job. Working hard for little money.”
“When I was a kid I really hated my looks. I’ve become more confident because of the positive attention that I get. It can get annoying when the umpteenth man wants to start a relationship with you, but it is also a very nice feeling. I also really enjoy the contacts that I have with my colleagues and costumers.”
“Closing the zone without an alternative is too drastic. Women would start making money illegally on the streets or the Internet. In Amsterdam, where there are no designated street prostitution zone, girls hustle around the Central Station.”
“That is correct, but you never hear the authorities talking about the waiting list that exists for getting a permit! The list applies to women from outside the region. If Utrecht has problems with the costs associated with sex workers from outside the region other municipalities should help. Sex workers won’t have a problem if they get a viable alternative for the Europalaan.”
“Everything was alright, but I had some unpleasant interactions with the police. Officers have questioned me multiple times while I was in the designated street prostitution zone. That creates distrust among colleagues and costumers. I got the impression that they believed I was standing there against my will. They probably meant well but I just want to make money. I also had some nasty costumers one of them was aggressive. He was taking pictures without permission and was doing things we hadn’t agreed upon. The police took real good care of me. Sadly there aren’t any security camera images. I’ve accused him of sexual assault. The case is being investigated. Colleagues advised me to go look in Antwerp. I’m now renting a window brothel for not that much money. The landlord didn’t ask any questions. I only had to show my passport and pay on time. For now this is the best place for me to work.”
“Sometimes I think about getting an education, but it costs so much money. I only have my high school diploma.”
“The interests of sex workers must be heard. On the designated street prostitution zone there is police surveillance and you have great coworkers. prostituting illegally outside of the zone is far more dangerous. Nobody knows where you end up. Working in the designated street prostitution zone didn’t pan out great for me. There are no guaranties. But if I was at home with that aggressive costumer he probably would have gone much further! That is why designated street prostitution zones should be a regulated part of street prostitution in Holland.