If you further criminalise prostitution, you force the women out of sight from government. Decriminalizing prostitution does the opposite. In this translated article from Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant Tom Kroon talks about the signs between voluntary and forced prostitution and how he as a customer deals with this issue. “As a customer you can do little against exploitation, but you can pay attention and use common sense.”
Who: Tom Kroon (54), graphic designer and regular customer at Amsterdam’s Red Light District. The problem: How do you prevent yourself from visiting a prostitute who does forced sex work? The solution: See sex workers as conversational partners, ask how things are going and watch their eyes. Then you know enough with common sense.
As a child I lived in the Spuistraat in Amsterdam, around the corner from a number of window brothels. Even then I was curious what would happen if I went inside. But I postponed it for a long time. Fifteen years ago, I was just divorced, I still wanted to try. “That first time was at the Red Light District in Amsterdam. She looked at me with a strict and at the same time friendly look. I found her beautiful: slim, brown hair, nice bathing suit. I swirled, just walked around. Once inside I kept on talking because I was nervous. My twenty minutes were up before I knew it. But she reassured me. “We just start again. You can undress,” she said. I did that well. Then you stand naked against someone who you don’t know at all, who then also undresses. That alone is exciting.
“After that I never stopped. Some people buy a new BMW every three years, I do this. I did try dating again, but then I had to do everything again while I wanted to stay free. Even now that I live in Bergen op Zoom, I still regularly take the train to Amsterdam.”
“Behind the windows you can see if it’s a nice girl before you step inside. At the same time she can also see me before she opens. That has always attracted me, but a lot has changed in the Red Light District in the last ten years. The windows that are still there are much less occupied and many window brothels have been closed. I find it less lively and less safe now. The women used to sit window to window and watch each other. Now there are islands.”
“Further criminalising prostitution, as the youth Christian movement Exxpose wants with a citizens’ initiative, makes no sense (Exxpose is a Christian organization that’s against decriminalizing prostitution and in favor of the Nordic Prostitution Model). Not only do you force the women out of sight of the government, but customers like myself will no longer visit sex workers either. Then, only the people who know their way in the criminal circuit are left.”
“As a customer you can do little against exploitation, but you can pay attention and use common sense. I always talk with the sex workers, show interest and ask how things are going. Then you also hear where you should and shouldn’t be, who has a pimp and who doesn’t. And I look at their eyes. I’ve sometimes experienced that I was not paying attention and met someone with dead eyes. I then left the brothel without giving a reason.”
“If you want to protect prostitutes against human trafficking and exploitation, then you need more good neighbourhood police-officers who are known in the area. But since the police cutbacks, there isn’t even a police office in the Red Light District anymore. Every day there are different supervisors. They are often not even police officers, but enforcers who are just there to make their hours. You don’t easily build a relationship of trust in that situation, you won’t tell a stranger if something is wrong.”