Introduction from the Red Light District
Some of you may have heard about me through Twitter or from my boyfriend Mark van der Beer, some of you may not have. I'm Felicia Anna, a 27 year old prostitute from Romania working in the heart of the Red Light District in Amsterdam. I've been working there now for more than 4 years, unforced, unexploited and completely on my own free will. I know many of the girls on the Red Light District, either because we're from the same country (which easily forms a closer bond with someone), or because we work for the same window owner (or office as we call it), or just because they're my friends.

Before I got in touch with my boyfriend, I had no idea of the stories, witch hunt and simply false facts that where out there about my work place (the Red Light District in Amsterdam), prostitution in Holland and prostitution in general. In fact, most of the girls have no idea what's going on out there, what people are saying about them, or what's going on in this country at all. That is because most girls simply don't speak the language, they don't get involved in the conversation, nobody asks us anything or even talks to us.
In other words, most of the prostitutes don't speak out, not because they're scarred of a pimp, or because what people are saying is true, but simply because they just don't know what's going on.

About 4 years ago I came to this country to work as a prostitute in Holland. I knew what I was going to do here, and wasn't told any lies, like I was going to be a dancer, or working in a restaurant, or a model or anything. I was simply told the truth, I was going to work as a prostitute, in a country in where prostitution was a legal and honest job. Nobody forced me into this, nobody told me any lies about what I was going to do here, nobody exploited me. But in order to get to Holland, get all the papers you need, get a working place, get a place to live, you simply can't do these things on your own, so I had help with that.
The people that helped me to get here where a couple, she worked as a prostitute already in Holland for several years, and he was her boyfriend. They helped me to come to Holland, paid for my plane tickets, moved to a new place so I could stay and live with them, helped me to get registered in this country, helped me to get a working place, to get the papers I needed for my job, paid for the working place etc. I knew from the start that they would pay this for me, and I would pay them back for it, which is only natural, they spend a lot of money and time to help me out, the least I could to was pay them back the money it cost them. It was never a point of being exploited, or having a contract, or anything like that!

After about 9 months I moved out from the couple that helped me to get here, and I started living in my own. By then I knew how to get around in Amsterdam, I knew how to work, how to get things done, and didn't require their help anymore.
About two years ago I met my boyfriend. He was like many of my customers, believed I might be forced by a pimp to do this job. Of course it didn't take long for him to realize that the facts where almost the complete opposite, and that I chose to do this job. As our relationship went along and got more serious, he started to show me what people where talking about prostitutes, and all the stories that where out there.
I slowly started to realize, that all the questions many of my clients had, came from these stories about prostitutes being forced, and beaten and violently abused to work as a prostitute in Amsterdam. And the more I started to realize that, the more I began to see that there was a very big difference between those stories that are out there, and the reality on the Red Light District in Amsterdam.

The more I started to realize that a lot of stories out there where in many cases false, made up, or over exaggerated, the more I began to think that someone should do something about this. The problem was, almost nobody does anything to debunk these false stories and bring out the truth, and the people who did hardly got heard. And the more things I saw about what people where writing, or saying (either on TV or radio), the more I got angry, frustrated and almost even crying about what these people where saying about us. Until I saw Renate van der Zee in a TV show (Schepper en Co.) talking about prostitutes, and how they are all victims of human trafficking (or 'mensenhandel' in Dutch), and had no free choice to do this job, but where forced into it, either by evil pimps/loverboys or their financial situation. At that moment I got so angry at this woman, who was just telling pure lies and twisting the truth for her own good (popularity on TV and sales of books), making prostitutes like me, and many of the girls I know, friends, colleagues, even girls I don't like so much, to look bad, that I decided to speak out for myself and all those girls I know.
No prostitute or their families, not even the girls I don't like so much from my work, deserve to be treated and talked about like Renate van der Zee did on that TV show.

The disrespect this woman showed for prostitutes, their families and victims of human trafficking, by criminalizing our clients, our jobs, our boyfriends, husbands, friends and even foe's, finally got me to set up my Twitter account to speak out about it. That night I tried to talk with Renate van der Zee on Twitter. But everything I got back was denies of the truth, her own propaganda, and that 'twitter wasn't a good place for a conversation'. I thought that was rather funny, since Twitter is a place of conversations, but perhaps it was not in her best interest to keep talking to me in public, since that would expose the truth about her. Even funnier was the fact that the next day she had deleted all of her Tweets to me, probably in order to retain her image of 'defender of women and victims of prostitution', since I would not know any other reason why she would've deleted these Tweets otherwise but to cover it up to protect herself.
When I tried to comment on this action of hers, I realized she had blocked me, which really surprised me. I thought this was a woman protecting prostitutes (or at least pretending to), but how can you protect someone you don't even want to talk to? A few weeks later she was on FunX, a radio show in where she claimed she had never met a happy prostitute (radio fragment here). Well, I guess we all know why she has never met one, because when one does talk to her, she ignores and blocks them. And to even make it worse, she started to talk about Romanian girls, and how extremely poor we are up to the point where our families have nothing to eat, until we meet a guy who promises us a nice job in a bar or restaurant, to end up behind a window. This really made me angry, since I don't think Renate van der Zee ever even met the family of a girl who she's talking about. Yes, Romania is a poor country, very poor, one of the poorest countries in Europe even. But that doesn't mean that people don't have food to eat, or are starving from food like where living in Africa or something. Yes, people are poor, yes houses are sometimes bad, and yes a lot of people don't have a job, but not to the point where people are starving to death. Like in Holland, the Romanian government also gives money to people who are unemployed, people in Romania can find a job if they really want to, they don't have to starve to death like how Renate van der Zee makes it sound like. 
But perhaps the reason she never met a happy prostitute is not because they don't exist, but simply because she doesn't want to talk to them, like she doesn't want to talk to me.

Since I started on Twitter I've come to realize that there are a lot more people out there like Renate van der Zee, telling lies, twisting the truth and pretending to be heroes for prostitutes, while all they're doing is stigmatizing, criminalizing and making our world and work a more dangerous place to live in. People like current Vice-Priminister Lodewijk Asscher, who closed down many windows already on the Red Light District under the pretense of 'saving us from human trafficking', while using false information given by lying advisers such as Patricia Perquin. And where those girls saved from human trafficking? No, because nobody knows where these girls are now, and nobody looks after them. 
Or his former legal adviser in this matter, who now all of the sudden is the mayor of Amsterdam, Eberhard van der Laan. I could go on and on with the list of people who are lying in the name of fighting human trafficking in prostitution or in general, but in fact are just making things worse for us. There are many people, and organisations, politicians and even police who are pretending to save us, but are only interested in themselves and destroying prostitution in general. And what do we get back for it? Cheese shops, fashion shops (or something pretending to be fashion), and a Red Light Museum which doesn't speak for us but is pretending to. Perhaps it's good to know that this is the oldest job in the world, and nobody has ever succeeded in destroying it, not matter how hard they try.

Yes, human trafficking exists, also in prostitution. Yes, there are girls that are forced to prostitute themselves. Although I've never met a single girl that was forced in all the years that I've been working in the Red Light District in Amsterdam, and even though I know most of the girls working here, I do believe it is possible but that these are rather exceptions than the majority. See it as a bank getting robbed, yes it happens sometimes, but that doesn't mean all the banks get robbed all the time. And yes, human trafficking is a problem that we need to deal with, but not by criminalizing my clients or prostitution itself. You're not gonna make banking illegal, simply because some people are robbing banks, it doesn't help the banks nor does it catch the bankrobbers.
All that criminalizing does is forcing it to go underground,  there where there's no protection, nobody can see or help you, and your screams are not heard. Closing down the windows will not help, all it does is that it takes away a girl's save work place, and leaving her standing in the cold, forcing her to move elsewhere or underground, where there's no protection from human trafficking or aggressive clients.
Like with liquor in the 1930's in the USA, or with softdrugs, making prostitution illegal (or it's clients) doesn't make the problem go away, the problem is still there, there's just less control and vision over it, causing criminals to get their hands on it, like Al Capone did in the 1930's. 
The only way we can save both prostitution and the victims of human trafficking, is to keep it legal, give the prostitutes more rights (in stead of just laws), and working together with the prostitutes to make the business safer and better, both for prostitutes and the victims that are out there. Prostitutes are willing to talk, if people would just listen to them, and not constantly treat them as victims or criminals.

Dutch version
9 Responses
  1. Anonymous Says:

    fascinating...


  2. very well spoken and I completely agree with you. hope to see you some day to talk and meet in the PIC at 'oudekerksplein'?


  3. Felicia Anna Says:

    @Mariska Majoor
    Thank you for your compliment, I very much appreciate it, since you're one of the few people who knows what you're talking about.
    My boyfriend has told me before to go to the PIC some time, but we just haven't had the time for it since I started on Twitter. Maybe we'll come by this week to talk.


  4. Richard Says:

    Good to read the experience of an Eastern European prostitute! Especially because you ladies seem to be the most victimized. Looking forward to read more. Also easier to communicate since I don't have twitter.

    Richard


  5. Anonymous Says:

    Reading your intelligent twitter posts for a while (and before that Marcs blog).

    Looking forward to your articles! Good luck, and may you have great impact!

    Rootman


  6. Thank you for starting this blog!


  7. Anonymous Says:

    Please keep writing! This is very en(red)lightening! Thank you.


  8. Anonymous Says:

    "The only way we can save both prostitution and the victims of human trafficking, is to keep it legal, give the prostitutes more rights (in stead of just laws". I'm sure that you mean unjust laws.

    I am particularly interested in your last statement: "Prostitutes are willing to talk, if people would just listen to them." What is that they would say? I suspect that in the first instance it would be appropriate to share this privately. Ah, well .... us guys can only hope. Marcus


  9. Felicia Anna Says:

    @Marcus
    Yes, but unjust laws are also laws. But you're right.

    It depends on what the people ask. Lots of people talk about us, but never with us, like politicians and people from the rescue industry. If they would just ask, we would tell them our own experiences. But like I said, it depends what the questions are.


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    Romanian prostitute working in the Red Light District in Amsterdam (De Wallen), speaking out for the truth behind prostitution. Blogging about prostitution, human trafficking, forced prostitution, politics and all the myths surrounding it. Member of PROUD, the Dutch union of sex workers.