This book comes after a series of articles in Het Parool written by Patricia, someone who claimed to work several years as a prostitute in the Red Light District. For those who read Dutch and want to learn more about prostitution from more of an insider's perspective, I would definitely recommend this book. Based on my conversations with the women working and what I've read about prostitution, it seems to provide a fairly balanced picture. Not all prostitutes are victims of human trafficking, nor under the influence of loverboys or pimps. Neither is the work glamorous, as one might conclude from the recent book, Ouwehoeren. Instead, for many women, prostitution is something in between or, perhaps, another category completely.
The book does a good job in raising good questions and it especially gives a good picture of how emotionally difficult the work can be - from a lack of respect given to those working behind the windows to the complicated relationships with the other women to the demands on her person. It details a bit of the actual work that she does but she doesn't let that overwhelm the book - partly because she doesn't sensationalize it. And she raises questions about what might not be good about how we respond to the work she does: how helpful are the umpteen organisations offering help? how easy is it to leave the work? should the work not be more regulated (i.e., should someone who can speak neither English nor Dutch be allowed to work in the Red Light District? What receipts can actually be claimed for taxes? Should there be a maximum hours per week that someone can work?). I know a number of others who have now read the book, and I look forward to talking more about it and the questions it raises.
Because Patricia remains anonymous and because her words correspond well with the 1012 project to clean up the Wallen, this leads to suspicious about how true her story really is. One fascinating reaction along that lines is found on the blog, "the experiences of a prostitute." (before you click on the link, you should be warned that crass language is involved and it's in dutch)." The writer of the blog is rather sceptical of Patricia and negative about what she has written. Yet, she also has some things to say about prostitution that I think ought to be heard. The following is a translation of a few sentences middle in the blog entry linked to above:
"Prostitutes are often depicted as murder victims in crime shows and books. Not surprising, as many people consider prostitutes not to be real people. We are seen as inferior, and people who want to harm others find it easier to do that to prostitutes. That is a problem and a danger.... We are not actually outlaws, but we are more vulnerable because many people believe that we are. And thus we must learn to stand up for ourselves..."