Posted on: September 13, 2016
(Last updated: 1 November 2020)
For some years now we’ve been following Felicia Anna and Mark on social media. She is a sex worker from Romania who works in Amsterdam. Not as an escort but as a window prostitute. Mark is her Dutch fiancee. They both like to stay anonymous and use pseudonyms. Felicia’s says the following about herself on Twitter: ‘Real Romanian prostitute in the Amsterdam Red Light District (De Wallen), speaking out for the truth about prostitution‘
A window brothel in Amsterdam.
We became really curious and wanted to know more about them so we decided to send them a request for an interview. They said yes. Read the exclusive interview below.
ARLDT: How did you guys meet each other?
Felicia: He was my customer!
Amsterdam’s most narrow alley.
Mark: Yeah I went in as a customer, it was four years ago in the summer – in 2012. It was the first time that I ever went to a window prostitute. So I was looking around and saw this beautiful woman.
A man talks to a window prostitute.
Second day I went back and walked around and I thought; ‘Ok, maybe I’m going to do this.’ The third day I was kind of like; ‘I want to do this but I want to go to that woman that I saw on the the first day.’
So I walked around and around, and then I saw her and thought; Yeah I think that’s her! So I went inside and the first time was kind of normal. Kind of the typical thing, I guess.
Felicia: And then he said maybe I’ll come back. Perhaps next week.
Mark: And the next day I was back again, haha! And, let’s see, the second time when I visited we started to talk after I paid the 50 euros. I came in at around 12 PM and I think we then talked till 5 AM! So that was money well spent! Haha…
Then I went back two more times and after that we went to her place and since then I’ve never left! So that’s how we met. Funny story!
So then you dated for a while?
Mark: Actually it went very quickly, within a few weeks we were actually living together.
Felicia: Yeah, we were at my place a couple of times and he came back.
How long were you living in the Netherlands at that point?
Felicia: Two years, two and a half.
So in 2010 you came to the Netherlands?
So why did you decide to leave Romania?
Felicia: I wanted something more, like my friends. It’s not like if you live in Romania that you are starving because you don’t have work to pay for food. I had a normal job, I made around 300 euros a month. For me that was pretty good, an average salary.
Compared to prices here in the Netherlands this is of course nothing but over there you could rent a pretty nice apartment for 50 – 100 euros. I had money for going out and buying stuff, everything. But at one point I just wanted more.
I always had the dream of buying my own house but without taking out a mortgage for it because I was always scared of what would happen if I’d lose my job and couldn’t make payment on the mortgage and lose the house. So then I thought about this, something where I can basically make more money.
How did you make the decision to come to the Netherlands specifically? Did you hear it from friends?
Felicia: Yes, from a friend of mine who was working here. So that’s how I came here.
Did you first come here to explore Amsterdam to see how it was or did you directly start to work?
Felicia: The first week I stayed with some friends and after the first week I started working in Alkmaar for three weeks. Back then you needed much more papers than you need right now. After I worked in Alkmaar for three weeks I moved to Amsterdam and since then I’m still here.
Mark: That’s because at that moment people from Romania and Bulgaria were not allowed to work in the European Union without papers. That only started in 2014. In 2010 you needed a working permit to stay here.
How was it to start the first day or week in this business in the Netherlands?
Felicia: It was weird because I basically came here with the idea of trying it and see if I could do it. At that point I could’ve easily have gone home back to my regular job and don’t lose anything.
The first couple of days were weird but then you know it is kind of a weird feeling but at the end of the night you count your money and see how much you’ve made. That’s satisfying.
My first night for instance… I was really nervous but I made like 800 euros. So I was like; that’s really good! Haha!
So you met each-other via a window brothel. Were you still okay with her doing the job while having a relationship, Mark?
Felicia: In the beginning, no! Hahaha!
Mark: Well it’s actually kind of funny… I had a girlfriend before and I used to be really jealous with my ex-girlfriend when she was a little to close with another guy. But I think because I’ve been there as customer and I understand the platonic kind of relationship that it is with a customer it is really different than having sex with your boy or girlfriend which is really intimate.
I was a customer so I can understand that there is really nothing between her and her customers. That was a big reason why it was easier for me to accept it. At this point I really don’t have a problem with her job.
I would however have a problem if she started an affair with someone! Everybody would.
Felicia: But in the beginning you were kind of like; ‘Yeah now you should change your job, get another job’, etc’. I was up for it but it had to be good and steady job. But because we were in the beginning of a relationship I didn’t want to give up everything that I had for something that wasn’t 100% certain.
Mark: But I was also thinking of the long term you know. You don’t want to be doing this job forever till your fifty or something.
Felicia: My god, no!
Mark: So it’s not the work itself. You work in the nights and I think that that is really hard work doing it years on end. It also effects your social life when you do nightshift. So for instance we only have one off day in the weekend where we can do stuff, watch a movie or something. Friday night drinks are never an option.
How many days do you work?
Ok, and never during the daytime?
Felicia: No, too much light. Haha! To be honest, I don’t want it. There is less work because there are less customers during the daytime and I would have to start at 10 AM and work till 7 or 8 PM. During dayshifts you have to work more to make the same amount of money.
When I work in the night I start at 11 or 12 PM and am home at 5 AM. The next day I sleep till 12 or 1 o’clock in the afternoon. Then I have till 11 PM to do whatever I want. I feel like when you work during the day you are there constantly.
What do you share with your partner when you get home?
Felicia: We are pretty open about that because I always have a lot of funny stuff to tell him!
Mark: I always tell her to write more about it on her blog about the funny stuff, it’s hilarious. Of course a lot of things she does are not so interesting, yeah I had a guy and he wanted a blowjob. That’s not very interesting, I already know that. It’s more the extreme cases like a guy who wanted her to step on his balls or something like that. Weird stuff! Or just the crazy stuff that happens in Amsterdam Red Light District every day.
Felicia: A lot of stuff happens.
Mark: I work in IT (Information Technology). I’m also not going to talk about the codes or scripts I wrote. That’s not really interesting. I only talk about the out of the ordinary stuff.
Felicia: Or when I had a fight or argument with somebody who pissed me off.
Mark: In those cases she’ll blow off some steam, when she had a bad night. You also try to help and offer some support.
Felicia: Basically the same as every couple.
When prostitutes come home, do they still feel like having sex?
Mark: She comes home around 5 AM and I start working at 9 AM so usually when she comes home I’m asleep. In the weekends I try to stay awake when I can so I see her when she comes home. But when you’ve worked the whole night you’re kind of tired after that.
Felicia: I just want to go to sleep. When I had a bad night (not many customers) I’m still really tired. Even more tired than when I’ve had a good night! Just standing there and waiting is more exhaustive than being busy.
Do you always stick to the agreed time with a customer or are you flexible?
Felicia: No, I always stick to my rule: 15 minutes for 50 euros. But the pricing depends. From some people I ask 100 euros, others 50. It depends on how you see the customer. When I can earn more money from him, yeah why not?
It also depends on what they want. Not everybody want to have sex. I have customers who come to me just to talk. I have my own customers like that and with them it depends on how long they want to stay.
What are the things that you don’t offer?
Felicia: Oh there are many things. Haha!
Mark: Haha, anything without a condom.
Felicia: I do everything with a condom. Even hand jobs! I do not kiss. I do not allow oral sex. I used to do threesomes when I was working next to my best friends. But now? No!
But it really depends, a few weeks ago I had a couple of guys who just wanted to come in, sit down and talk for 5 minutes and then they left. So I take those two.
You don’t allow couples?
Felicia: Yes I do, sometimes. But that also depends on what they want. If they want me to go down on her or stuff like that, no. Because I don’t do that. I’ve had really bad experiences with couples so I prefer not to.
Quite often when we walk in the Red Light District we wonder why there aren’t signs on the windows stating what the ladies offer? Is there a specific reason for that?
Mark: I think it has to do with the fact that they always negotiate with someone, I think.
Besides reading the Amsterdam Prostitution Menü. How can people know what’s for offer?
Felicia: They should just go to the Red Light District and ask window prostitutes. Every window prostitute can decide for herself what she does for 50 – 70 euros.
Mark: There are no standard rates for anything. Sometimes there’s room to negotiate. With the standard price of 50 – 70 euros everybody has kind of an equal chance.
Lately Amsterdam is becoming more popular. Does this also mean that last year your revenue has increased?
Felicia: Actually the work for us has gotten a lot worse.
Whats the reason for that?
Felicia: I still think it’s the economic crisis because in 2010 – when I started to work here – I easily made a 1000 euros per night without really that much effort. But now? Not really.
If you make a thousand euro a night you’re really, really lucky.
Back then, I had English customers who didn’t even ask for the price. They just gave the money and afterwards they asked if they could pay more to stay five minutes longer. They were paying like 100, 150 of 200 euros extra.
Mark: I also think that different kind of tourists are visiting Amsterdam.
Felicia: I don’t see it that way, really. I still see the same kind of people everyday.
Mark: But it’s kind of interesting because brothel owners are saying that it’s becoming more quiet. I think there are different types of people, maybe older people and couples. They’ve heard about the Red Light District and for years they didn’t want to go to Amsterdam. Maybe it helped a little that the government closed down some window brothels and some coffeeshops, get a little bit more of a friendly family face.
That is what the city government wanted: to attract a different type of tourist.
Where do most of your customers come from?
Felicia: Most of them are tourists. I have a lot of British and Italians customers. They are the type of guys who pay but don’t pay more because they don’t have it. They just pay the 50 euro standard price. But they are nice people and quick. That’s why I like working with them!
And British tourists? They are quite known for drinking a lot and yelling a lot. Are they also like that in the window brothel?
Felicia: No, not at all! If I had to chose between a drunk British guy or a drunk Dutch guy, I’d go for the British one.
How often do you get tested for sexually transmitted diseases?
Felicia: I do everything safely. I always use condoms. I also check all the condoms I use. And I regularly get tested on STD’s.
A few times per month?
Felicia: Not a few times a month, no! You actually have to wait more than a week to get your results. I heard stories before from other window prostitutes who say they check themselves everyday but that’s not true. You have to wait for more than a week for the results.
What if your fiancé would also become a sex worker? Would you be okay with that?
Felicia: I don’t think he can do it!
How long do sex workers in the Red Light District usually work here?
Felicia: I really don’t know. From when I started 6 years ago there aren’t that many left. Only a few came back.
Mark: I think the average is around 5 years if I remember correctly. It also makes kind of sense to me because there are some women that really work for a long time like 10 to 15 years and there are some girls who do it for 2 years. It’s really difficult to say.
Felicia: Pretty much about how smart you are. One of my best friends from Bulgaria decided to spend as little money as possible and save everything that she made. She worked for 4,5 years and she has stopped working in the sex industry.
Why do you use pseudonyms? I get it why Felicia uses a pseudonym but why does Mark use one?
Mark: Because my parents don’t know that my girlfriend does this kind of work. We talked about this for a long time. My parents are Dutch so you would suppose that they would be very open about this. But I talked to a lot of Sexarbeiterinnen how they experience these things. We basically came to the conclusion that even though Dutch people think that we are very open-mined. In reality, when it comes to sex work, we are not as open as we think.
Felicia: Not at all actually.
Mark: Yeah, we are pretty close-minded. I’ve started to see more openness about sex workers in other countries than in Holland, really interesting.
Felicia: Sometimes people ask me how he can let me do that. Then I’m like; he doesn’t own me!
Mark: A lot of people say; how can you let your girlfriend do this?! I don’t let my girlfriend do anything! I don’t own her or tell her what to do. Even if I would say like you can’t do this it’s not like I can really stop her from doing it. I respect her enough to make her own decisions. If I would demand from her to stop, then who is forcing who?
Felicia: After school I immediately got a job so I’ve always been an independent person. I always wanted to earn my own money. People always said; why don’t you get a rich boyfriend then you don’t have to work and you have a lot of money! I had that and did that, no thank you. I like to earn my own money. I don’t want to ask anybody for it. I like to fight for myself. That’s just who I am.
How often are you checked by the authorities?
Felicia: I was checked a few months ago I believe, and before that one time four years ago. The people who came to see me were surprised that the last check was four years ago.
What kind of check was it?
Felicia: They checked my ID card and permits and asked me a few questions.
Mark: I also think the reason why she hasn’t been checked for so long is because she always starts working late. Usually the inspectors come early in the evening. Felicia starts her shift at 11 or 12 PM. So they usually miss her.
They check window prostitutes in Amsterdam about 2500 times a year. Thats really a lot because there are around 350 windows brothels in Amsterdam.
Have you ever been checked by the Dutch tax authorities?
Felicia: Yes, they wanted to check my wallet and my bag. I didn’t let them because it’s private stuff. If you come with a notice in advance then it’s okay you can check everything that you want. But if you don’t do that you can just ask my bookkeeper. Thats why I pay him.
Mark: But they also just don’t have the right to go trough all your personal belongings.
Felicia: I heard from other window prostitutes that the authorities wanted to search their trashcans on the number of condoms they used.
Mark: It’s pointless to count the amount of condoms.
Felicia: But it’s good for them because it means they can do their job!
Is it mandatory to have condoms in the window brothels? And do you have to buy them yourself?
Felicia: Yes it’s mandatory and you have to buy them yourself. Everything you need you have to buy yourself. Condoms, lube, sexy outfits, etc.
Do you wear a different outfit every night?
Felicia: No, before I bought so many costumes. I think I spent like 4000 euros on costumes. I kept trying everything. But in the end I had like four bags of costumes at home but I kept wearing one. For four years I’ve worked with the same one because I was making a lot of money in that outfit. When I put on something else I made less. These days I don’t buy anymore new outfits.
Mark: But it also depends because there are some other girls who, if they don’t have enough customers, change their outfit every two hours. The girls who constantly have work don’t change their outfit and it’s also a way to recognise them. It could actually be bad for business if you keep changing your outfit. Lets say a guy was looking around and he sees a nice girl with that costume and he comes back an hour later and doesn’t recognise her?
Felicia: I just see it as a waste of money.
You’ve been doing this job for six years now, have you ever witnessed or experienced violence? A violent customer?
Felicia: No, not really. I can take care of myself. Of course I get into trouble sometimes but I always manage, I never need the police.
Mark: But nobody ever beat you or something?
Felicia: No! I always think like, I’m not going to wait till somebody hits me, I hit first! That seems to work haha.
Mark: I think that is the same for most of the girls. I talked the other day to one of the brothel owners and we always kind of talk about how the outside world perceives these women as very fragile. It’s like they have no idea who these women are. Seriously, if you knew these women you would know not to mess with them! You are going to be the one that gets beaten up! It’s not the other way around. There is one girl, you know who I’m talking about Felicia, and I think her boyfriend actually needs help not the other way around. In reality you don’t want to mess with these girls. The way they are portrayed in the media is just not how they are in real life.
Felicia: You learn to be tuff with this job. You learn to not let anyone walk over you. Sometimes people say I’m very mean or I’m very aggressive. If you are like that with me I will respond in the same way. If you treat me nice I will be really nice with you but if you start to mess with me then I can not be nice, but that is normal I think. When somebody starts talking shit about me I will respond in the same manner.
Mark: The other night out the blue these two tipsy Norwegian guys started talking to me about their experience with a window prostitute. One started to talk about the fact that one of the girls was squeezing his balls so hard that it started to hurt. I asked which girl he went to and he pointed at her! As soon as the girl saw that she was like; oh, Norway come here! And the guy was like noooo and started to run away! I think there are more times where the customers needs protection from the girls haha! Wasn’t there ia sign saying “don’t beat the customers” in your old workplace Felicia? Haha!
Felicia: haha yeah we had that one in the house rules because it happened a couple of times!
Me: And in your brothel window do you have something like a panic button?
Felicia: I have three actually. Haha! I have one next to my door, one next to my bed and I have an alarm close to my bed.
Have you ever used the panic buttons?
Felicia: No, I don’t really need it.
If you were the mayor of Amsterdam what would you do to improve the Red Light District?
Felicia: Oh, thats a good question!
Felicia: There is far too little accessible information available on how to become a successful window prostitute in the Netherlands. If you look online you can not find any information. The City of Amsterdam has maybe just one dedicated page at the end of a twenty page sites. And, it’s only in Dutch! So good luck with that if you are from abroad like me.
So the first thing you would do is offer more information?
Felicia: Yes, more information and more help. For example, if a girl from another country comes to the Netherlands, she’d need at least 10.000 euros to be able to start. Before you start to work you need a house or an apartment. And before you can start to work you need to register.
It’s already really difficult when your working to find an apartment in Amsterdam. So when you don’t even have a job it’s even more difficult because companies require that you had a steady income for at least three months. But girls who’ve just arrived don’t have that because they want to start working. It’s really stupid.
I was earning around 300 euros a month and it took me a really long time to save up the 10.000 euros. And even I had it I’m here and then what? With other businesses you have employment agencies who can help you with moving from one country to the other and help you with housing. In this industry you have nothing, not even information.
Mark: And then the authorities are surprised that some people take advantage of people in this type of situation. Of course if you don’t offer even the basic help criminals will fill that void. Thats whats happening. The media portrays it as women being forced into prostitution against their will but that is simply not the case 9 out of 10 times. The girls want to do this job but they need help in getting here and getting set up and the government isn’t offering it.
Felicia: I while ago I actually met a girl when she walked in asking how to get started. She was already living in Amsterdam for 1,5 month, she came from another country, but she simply didn’t know where to go what to do or how to begin, anything. Until she found me and I helped her. I don’t want to say how many emails I get from Dutch girls who want to start who are in their own country and they don’t even know.
Mark: They spend three million Euros a year on an exit programs. It’s not like I’m saying they shouldn’t help these women, but there are like 341 women that they help each year of which 50 to 60% fall back into prostitution again. When you are spending that much money on an exit program maybe you should use a part of those funds to also help girls enter prostitution so you can prevent human trafficking before it happens.
Felicia: They will never do that. It is is never going to happen because most people will see that as the government promoting prostitution!
Mark: The only thing they are focusing on is prostitution itself which is already to late because then they are already among the criminals. It starts before that. They should close less windows so that less girls are forced to go into the underground. They closed down 40% of the legal businesses in the Netherlands so of course girls are going to work illegally. Thats only logical. They are closing down 300 windows in Utrecht, they are closing down 50 windows in Groningen and they are talking about closing windows in Den Haag and then they act surprised when illegal prostitution is becoming a big problem.
Felicia: You don’t need too much brains to understand that.
One of our tour guides would like to know if you guys ever worked together?
Mark: Haha, a colleague of Felicia had a guy one time and he wanted to pay a lot of money just to watch people having sex. I said to Felicia, if you ever have a customer like that, call me! I would absolutely do it. The guy wanted to pay her like 3000 Euros for 10 minutes. But she couldn’t find a guy who wanted to basically fuck her for free. She was screaming outside on the street for somebody to come in and fuck her haha.
You talked about going back to Romania, Felicia. Would you consider going with her, Mark?
Mark: Yeah! I go where she goes!
Since May 2017, Mark also hosts our Red Light District tours.
Learn more about Amsterdam, Dutch culture and the Red Light District during our walking tours. Our local guides (including Mark) show you the most fascinating area in the Netherlands.YES, I WANT A TOUR! >