An Expert’s Guide to Brothel Etiquette
Since last September, notices have started to appear in the windows of Amsterdam’s brothels. The flyers are there to advise potential customers of what does and doesn’t constitute appropriate behavior once they’re inside. In practice, this is a well-intentioned piece of bureaucracy. In reality, it’s something nobody is ever going to read. In fact, given the flyers’ size, the effects of a customer’s Dutch courage, and the other distractions in and around the window area, it’s unlikely anyone would even notice them. Which might be an issue for those of you who’ve never paid for sex before but maybe want to do so on your next trip to Amsterdam, or Nevada, or Cologne, without coming across as both an amateur and a dick.
I’ve been having sex with the “window girls” of Amsterdam for a while now, keeping a blogof all my experiences that led to my being interviewed by VICE last month. So instead of making you rely on the small print tacked up around the red-light district, I thought I’d use the knowledge I’ve picked up over the past couple of years to gift you my own informed guide to the etiquette of sleeping with a sex worker.
THE NEW GIRLS ARE AS MUCH IN THE DARK AS YOU ARE
If there’s one major thing I’ve learned from interviewing the girls I’ve met, it’s that they were as clueless at the start of their careers as johns are ahead of their first time. “You don’t know what to do; you don’t know what to charge,” they say. “The guys say it’s OK to do this and to do that, and you believe them.”
That said, the preconceptions of those guys who are new to the window experience can be more damaging, invasive, and just plain rude. “They come in and just grab,” I’ve been told on a number of occasions, usually accompanied by an eye roll.
As far as I can tell, that grabbiness is mostly fueled by the expectations young guys get from internet pornography, like that weird thing male porn stars do where they try to fit their entire hand in a girl’s mouth during anal sex. Unsurprisingly, this kind of behavior isn’t thought of too highly by the window girls. They’re selling their time and, with it, access to specific sexual acts; they’re not saying, “Give me €50 (about $75) and do anything that comes into your stupid fucking head.”
TREAT THE GIRLS AS YOU WOULD YOUR GIRLFRIEND (KIND OF)
Personally, I treat prostitutes as though they’re my girlfriends. But my relationship code is based on respect and concern for a partner’s well-being. I guess this piece of advice is dependent upon how you behave when you have a special person in your life. I’m going to assume that you’re a decent sort, and that your relationships to date haven’t been a shitstorm of domestic abuse, neglect, and psychological cruelty. If you wouldn’t treat a girlfriend that way, don’t treat a prostitute that way. These are basic people skills.
Hawaii’s Cops Say They Need to Be Allowed to Sleep with Prostitutes, Just in Case
Cops usually can’t break the law, even when they’re undercover, but police departments in Hawaii recently lobbied state lawmakers to carve out an exception to what is a pretty good rule. Last week, when the state legislature was considering amending an anti-prostitution law to prohibit undercover officers from having penetrative sex with prostitutes, the police were like, “Actually, we need the flexibility to have full-on intercourse or we can’t do our jobs properly. Third base doesn’t cut it.”
Hawaii’s House passed the bill, thereby saying “you can have sex with prostitutes if youreally need to,” but, understandably, a week’s worth of headlines like, “Hawaiian Police Want to Have Sex with Prostitutes Real Bad” and “Haha Dude Wasn’t This Exact Thing inThe Wire?” caused legislators to have second thoughts about the rule now that it’s hit the state Senate.
Can Anyone Fix the German Prostitution Industry?
Trading sex for money has been at least partially legal in Germany since 1927, but in 2002, Parliament passed a set of laws designed to improve the lives of the country’s prostitutes. The idea was to grant sex workers some of the rights and responsibilities other members of the workforce have, like receiving social security and having to pay taxes in return. As a result, the country became a magnet for hookers and johns, and it’s been reported that there are approximately 400,000 prostitutes servicing an estimated 1 million men a day inside its borders.
A lot of people don’t think this is a good thing. A study commissioned by the European Union released this year claimed that, globally, attempts to normalize the world’s oldest profession haven’t reduced human trafficking. Activsits have called for the criminalization of buying (but not selling) sex in an effort to stamp out prostitution, and the government planned to ban “flat-rate” sex, which is when men pay a set amount of cash for a night’s worth of hanky-panky.
I wondered what the sex workers themselves thought of this debate, so I called up Undine de Revière, the spokesperson for the Professional Association of Erotic and Sexual Services, who’s been in the flesh business for 20 years.
VICE: What do you think about the studies that have found many instances of human trafficking in the sex industry? Is that something you worry about?
Undine de Revière: One of the two most commonly cited studies is based on a number of governmental reports that vary significantly in quality. I have witnessed some human-trafficking processes in court for research purposes, and it’s very complex. Most trafficking cases are a mix of voluntary sex work and a third party trying to influence the number of clients, sex acts, or the general workflow.
Watch the trailer for VICE’s upcoming documentary Every Woman: Life as a Truck-Stop Stripper
VICE: What kinds of services did your employer offer on the menu?
Alice Sala: My employer offered both sexual and non-sexual services, with different degrees of pain and fantasy. Clients often desire practices that put them in a passive rather than active role, however both parties had to discuss the nature of the scenario prior to the session. For sessions requiring more elaborate staging or a higher degree of violence, they usually met before hand to define the terms of service in more detail.
People think sex is the only real job as a prostitute, but it can be a small component. What does the “GFE” (girlfriend experience) entail exactly?
Often prostitution is not simply the consumption of sexual services, but also buying the image of a “perfect woman”—thin, beautiful, shaved, made up, sexually available, and completely separate from their real lives. Beyond being a dream mistress, she is also a nurse, a psychologist, a friend, a counselor and a confidant—someone with whom they can talk openly about their problems and get advice.
We talked to a prostitute’s receptionist in Geneva to find out more about Switzerland’s legal sex industry
I Spent a Month Living in a Romanian Sexcam Studio
Until July I shared an apartment in England with two cousins, Lorenz and Alessandro. When I moved out at short notice, I was worried that I’d left the pair in the lurch, but as it turned out my timing couldn’t have been better. “We’re moving to Romania to open a catering business,” they told me. That plan seemed a little unusual, not to mention completely economically unviable, but they assured me that they had it all worked out. They knew a guy who was already running a similar operation in Bucharest, they said.
Come September, I got a message from the cousins asking if I could help out writing up some sales copy for their business. “Sure, tell me more about it,” I wrote. “Well, it’s a secret,” replied Alessandro. It’s tricky to write about secrets, I told him, and after some coaxing he revealed, unsurprisingly, that it wasn’t really a catering business they had opened at all, but a studio full of stripping, pouting, masturbating camgirls and camboys. I told the pair that I didn’t feel comfortable writing sales copy for that kind of thing. Not to worry, they said, before inviting me out to stay with them. Which is exactly what I did at the beginning of last month.
Roy, ‘in his 20s’, Los Angeles, California, $50
Philip-Lorca diCorcia’s ‘Hustlers’
Ralph Smith, 21 years old, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, $25
Philip-Lorca diCorcia’s ‘Hustlers’
Richard Kern on Philip-Lorca diCorcia’s ‘Hustlers’
To find subjects for his series Hustlers, Philip-Lorca diCorcia drove around Hollywood between 1990 and 1992 looking for male prostitutes. Although many of the photos look perfectly timed, off-the-hip candid photos of street hustlers, diCorcia pre-selected the locations and did lighting tests with an assistant before searching for a subject to put in each setting.
DiCorcia approached his subjects in LA’s “Boystown,” an area of West Hollywood where, in the 80s and 90s, a small fee would buy time with available young rent boys found hanging out on Santa Monica Boulevard. Instead of paying them for sex, he paid them to pose for a photo. The men he found came to LA from all OVER the country for a glamorous new life that they believed could be found in Hollywood. The titles of the photos included the subject’s name, age, hometown and the fee exchanged.
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