This past week, I traveled to Amsterdam with my core course, Prostitution and the Sex Trade. As you might have guessed, Amsterdam was a fantastic place to go to really get some interesting insights into sex work, as in Amsterdam prostitution is legal. Here’s a rundown of the week!
Flight from Copenhagen to Amsterdam at 9am. When we arrived in Amsterdam and had settled into our hotel, a few of my friends and I got lunch at an Indonesian place close to our hotel. We went to the Anne Frank museum in the afternoon, which was a bit surreal to see in person and get to walk through the exact rooms the Frank family hid in for 2 years during the war. After the museum, my friends and I walked a little around the city, then we met for a group dinner at Lotti’s Café and Bar. The restaurant was very fancy, and DIS bought us a 3-course meal! After dinner, I was exhausted from traveling all day, so headed back to the hotel to sleep.
After breakfast at the hotel, my class went and met with a woman who worked at the Prostitution Information Center (PIC) in the Red Light District. This was the first time I had been to the Red Light District, and upon walking into it did not even realize I was there at first. The district itself is made up of, of course, the windows where sex workers work, but also a lot of cafes, clubs/bars, and restaurants. There are also a ton of tourists walking around. After our meeting at the PIC, we took a tour of the Museum of Prostitution, Red Light Secrets.
My entire class went into the museum with a very critical eye, and quite honestly we all came out not liking what we saw. Given what we have learned about the sex trade and the profession of sex work, we all felt the museum presented sex work and sex workers in a poor light, unfairly illuminating some of the downsides of sex work and not properly explaining how working in the windows operated. We had the rest of the afternoon and evening off, so I walked around the Nine Streets (famous shopping streets along the canals) and then got dinner at a Thai place with some other students in my class.
Today we went on a walking tour of the Red Light District. Our tour guide was a former male (gay) sex worker who answered many questions we posed for him, as well as told us his background in sex work and how the Red Light District operates. After the tour, we visited a brothel and spoke to another sex worker, this one a female, who worked for that specific brothel. The windows in the Red Light District are owned by brothels, who rent the windows out to sex workers (almost always women). The sex workers are self-employed, and they can choose any brothel to rent a window from. Many choose them based on location (the side-streets are better than along the main canal) or just personal preference for a certain brothel that may offer better rates than others. After we spoke to the sex worker, we got the rest of the afternoon and evening free.
I met with some students in my class to start to get to work on a podcast project we have to do while in Amsterdam. Essentially we need to create a 15-minute podcast on any topic of our choice that has to do with what we have been studying. My group chose to research if there is a difference between how people view dating apps (i.e. Tinder, Hinge) and potentially meeting up with people through a dating app, versus hiring a prostitute/going to a brothel/going to the windows. After my group met, we split up, and I ended up walking around a bit more and exploring Chinatown a bit, where I ended up getting dinner with some classmates.
Today my class had two lectures, one from a social worker who works for Not for Sale, a nonprofit that fights human trafficking, and the other from a woman who works with the Prostitution and Health Center 292, which provides sex workers with specialized help, advice, (sexual) health information, and social wellbeing. After these two speakers, we checked in with my professor about how our podcast was going, then had the afternoon free to explore. I got lunch with some classmates, then wandered around the city by myself. I came across a great vegan restaurant/shop and bought a dairy-free hot chocolate mix (yum!!!). We had dinner as a class at Cafe de Paris, which was wonderful, then our whole class went and sang karaoke to round out the night!
This morning my class took a guided canal boat tour — it was very cool to see the city from this perspective as well gain insight into how and why Amsterdam was built as it was. We then had time to explore museums on our own, so I visited the Modern Art Museum, as well as the Van Gogh Museum. Both museums were packed with people, but very well-done.
After the museums, I bought a much-needed crepe (for energy, of course!), then rested until dinner, at Happyhappyjoyjoy! This restaurant was probably the best Asian food I’ve ever eaten. Good food, along with good company always make for a great evening! I finished out the night by interviewing a couple people on the street for my podcast.
Our last day in Amsterdam! We had one more lecture from a researcher in the Netherlands who mostly discussed with our class the stigma sex workers face in Amsterdam. We then had a quick wrap-up session, then headed to the airport! We were all pretty exhausted from our jam-packed week in Amsterdam, and I was so happy to come home to my bed in Copenhagen.