With hundreds of prostitutes working in Amsterdam today, it’s no surprise tourists have more than a passing interest in the world’s oldest profession. But for those who don’t want to shell out for a little one-on-one time with a professional, a museum called Red Light Secrets is it for you. Omolola ItayemiI writes
I arrived Amsterdam, Netherland intending to see the museums and clubs after the IBC exhibition with Canon, Middle East and Africa. Every day was a new experience getting lost in a culture that I considered both old Europe and avant garde. Of course, it was the traditional art and the clubs Melkveg, Paradiso, and the Bulldog. What grabbed me were the coffee houses with no names; the shops that seemed to specialize in nothing in particular and everything in general, the poetry readings, the card shops, the places that defied description by either form or function. An afternoon and evening spent at the Heineken brewery; a day at the Van Gogh museum and an afternoon at a local pub watching some EPL. I visited sex museums, went to the Grasshopper, took a canal tour, visited Anne Frank museum and ate at a feebo.
But nothing stood out more than the ‘Museum of Prostitution,’ more educational than entertainment. Intended to inform people about prostitution, and show the world from a prostitute’s perspective, to give them more of an inside peek into the world behind the Red Light District.
At the entrance, there’s a woman checking your tickets. You’ll be surprised that people are ready to play a fast one even in the red light district. She reminds us it’s more educational than entertainment. Education in a red light district? I laughed. What an irony; but then, you are in Amsterdam that has the reputation of being an “anything goes” city. Its relaxed, permissive, tolerant, liberal approach to things like sex and drugs are legendary. So, one might think there are no rules or guidelines to abide by here. But, like the Museum of Prostitution, it thrives on guidelines.
It’s a small place and quite narrow. As you step in, you go up some few steps into a cinema. The cinema is playing a kind of documentary about some people from the Red Light District. However, emphasis is on the 70’s and 80’s when prostitution was perhaps a little less professional, and more of a lifestyle. The girls working there these days are there to work, not to chat, not have a good conversation with the baker from next door, but simply work hard to make the money they want to make to go home.
After this, you come into something they call the Red Light Fashion. It just shows three figures in costumes that would’ve only turned me on in the 17th century. After that, you go up the stairs, where there are some posters on the sides.
A lot of them aimed at fighting human trafficking (again!), and what apparently used to be once a work schedule board. After that, you walk into a room with a window looking out the front of the building, where you can sit and experience how it is to be a prostitute. It wasn’t very interesting, since the window is too high to really experience it.
After that, you get into a ‘real’ workroom. Well, real, as in maybe 50 years ago, because that’s how long ago I think they cleaned that place. The bed was full of stains, which was disgusting, and the sink was full of junk and bottles of hairspray and God knows what else. I don’t know whoever would work in such a place, but certainly not any prostitute working today in the Red Light District.
After this, we came into a room that was apparently called the ‘luxury’ workplace. I don’t know if these rooms ever existed, but they certainly don’t exist these days, especially not one with your own bathtub.
And after that, we came into a simulation (SM) room, with dungeons, whips and all kinds of S and M paraphernalia.
Then, we came to the only part of the museum that did show something true about prostitution – the ‘confrontation room.’ In this room, you get to sit in front of what are basically two video screens. And the video screens play footage of people walking by, looking at you, as if you were a prostitute yourselves. If you really want to know how it is to be a prostitute, you’d skip the entire museum, and go straight to this room, and sit there for a couple of minutes.
Then, there was a wall with a couple of things people had lost apparently when they were visiting a prostitute. Most of these things were simple little things people often forget, like a watch, or a phone, or their wallets and even dentures.
And then, the confessions on the wall. I’ve never seen confessions more sincere and true. What a shame it had to be found in the least pious place where I had only spent 30 minutes. That how small but interesting it was.