Don't take pictures
Last week someone posted on YouTube a video with a guy who was doing pranks on prostitutes in the Red Light District. At my request the video fortunately has been taken down, but there are still some other websites that host a copy of it. Although the prank itself was harmless, the guy thought it was funny to ask us to pay him for sex in stead of the other way around, many girls could not appreciate the joke, I was one of the girls in the video. The guy got spit on, thrown water at, and got slammed the door in his face more often then a nerd visiting a cheerleader dorm.

The video even pointed one black man in the video out to be a pimp. It just turns out that I happen to know that man, in fact, he's a friend of mine and a lot of girls who work in Amsterdam's Red Light District know him as well. The man in the video who is supposedly a 'pimp' according to the video, just happens to be a sex worker himself. In fact, many people who visited Amsterdam's Red Light District, and who've been to the Casa Rosso may recognize him as the main attraction, as he and his girlfriend are the main performers at the Casa Rosso. They give multiple sex shows a day at the Casa Rosso and they're the stars of this world famous attraction. You can also see many pictures of him and his girlfriend on the street next to the Casa Rosso, where he poses together with her.
Apparently he was standing outside to smoke a cigarette at the moment the video was being made, and overheard him talking to one of the girls (also a good friend of mine). The video states, after pointing him out as a pimp, that "luckily all he did was tell us to leave"
It's so typical for Americans to automatically assume a black guy standing around is a pimp. In fact, even Dutch people often assume black guys standing around the Red Light District are pimps. Fact is, he is not a pimp, he's a sex worker himself. Many other people standing around are just hanging around, some are selling drugs on the street (which we would rather not see happening), or have nothing to do with the Red Light District at all.
It hurts me to see one of my friends being called a pimp, simply because people assuming a black guy standing around is automatically a pimp. I guess this also says something about the stereotypes people think about, and actually how racist they're thinking when they think stuff like this. He's a black guy, so he must be a pimp.

Many people also wrote comments on the video on YouTube (about 3000 comments), about why we were so rude, that we couldn't take a joke, but also what kind of disgusting bitches we were for disrespecting the guy. I could post here countless comments to show you people the kind of comments they made, but most of them are in my opinion too insulting to read through again. Besides the fact that many people apparently think prostitutes shouldn't earn any respect, what a lot of people don't understand is that these kind of jokes aren't funny.

Why it isn't funny
Besides the fact that a lot of people still see prostitutes as the lowest thing on earth, and many people think we have no self-respect and all this kind of bullshit, it's just a matter of respect. We get on a daily base dozens of people making jokes about us. People laugh at us when they see us in the windows, people look disgusted at us when they see us in the windows, people think it's funny to make jokes about how we look.
Day in, day out we get people making jokes about us, making jokes at our expense. We already have enough trouble being accepted by society as regular human beings with rights, many people call to us the worst things imaginable, see us nothing more then a bunch of holes to fuck for money. Adding on top of that the daily ridiculing and 'jokes' that people make about us, can make us feel very bad, and like people may have noticed, makes us also very angry.
Making jokes at our expense is not funny, and is lacking any respect for us as human beings. We are just people doing their job. I don't come to your job to make fun of you every day, so don't come to my job to make fun of me.
We have a good sense of humor, as many clients can confirm, but making a joke at the expense of people who already have a tough time being accepted isn't very funny. I get people come to my window who make jokes and I can laugh at them, because they're funny. But as soon as you make a joke at the expense of someone else, that's not funny anymore. After all, you're not going to make joke out of handicapped people for being handicapped, so why make fun of a prostitute for being a prostitute?

Why it's disrespectful
Apparently a lot of people have a lot of trouble to understand why making a joke about us, or with us, is disrespectful. But like I explained above, we already get treated like shit on a daily base by people who don't accept our job, making fun at our expense isn't funny, but just ads to the humiliation a lot of people apparently think we deserve.
But above all, it's disrespectful to photograph or film us, and I'll also explain why. Many people take pictures or sometimes even film us, like this man did. Besides the fact that he's ignoring the signs that is in almost every window, that tells people not to photograph or film us, and he's disrespecting our request, he's also not considering the consequences of his actions.
We also have families and friends. Most of our families and friends don't know we do this job. Sharing videos and photo's online of us is exposing not only to everyone else in the world, but more importantly, also could expose us to our family and friends. Besides the fact that this could lead to problems with families and friends not accepting our jobs, and therefore being outcast by our families and friends, this could also lead to family and friends being daily confronted by other people who recognize us on the video, and having to deal with discrimination and being outcast themselves from their communities for something they didn't have any choice in.
We have no problems with our job, but we don't want to burden the people that are close to us with our choices. Families and friends cannot become the victim of our choice of profession, even though it's a legal job over here. We wish not to get our families and friends hurt simply because of our choice of job, and because some people have problems with it. Therefor we don't want to be photographed or filmed. Not because we are shy or because we have a problem exposing ourselves, after all, we're standing there for everyone to see, but we don't want our families and friends to get hurt because of this.

Why it's dangerous
Even though prostitution is a completely legal job in Holland, and we pay taxes and everything, unfortunately this job is not legal in every country. In a lot of countries prostitution is illegal, and even prosecutable. Posting videos and photos online that could expose us, could lead to big problems in our home countries.
This could result in some cases being arrested when we go home (in Russia prostitutes even get tortured in the most inhuman ways possible), but this could also lead to other physical harm. Not everyone accepts prostitution as a job, and there have been examples of girls who have been in physical harm (been beaten up or worse), because people found out she was a prostitute because of videos like these.
Posting a video or a picture online in which prostitutes are recognizable (either by showing their face, but also through their voice and/or marks like tattoos or anything else that could make us identifiable), endangers these prostitutes. Women have been beaten, even have been killed because other people found out they where working as prostitutes elsewhere.
If you don't do it to respect us, or our families, at least don't film or photograph us because we don't like to be in physical harm. We are still only humans, we're not objects, we're people doing our job. If you want to make a joke at our expense, that's disrespectful, but posting it online is not only disrespectful, but also endangering our lives.

It's not everyone's choice
Besides the fact that it could endanger girls if you post these kind of things online, they could cause family problems and just makes us feel bad, there's another reason you shouldn't film or photograph us. Many of us choose to do this job, but unfortunately not everyone. There are some girls (even thought there are few of them, but nonetheless) who don't do this job by choice, but who are forced to do this job.
It was not their choice to stand behind a window, but they are being enforced to do so by other people who exploit these girls for money. If you don't care about putting the lives of prostitutes in danger who choose to do this job, fine, even though I think you're a complete asshole for doing so, this was my own choice as well as many others. But some women (aprox. 8% or less) didn't choose to do this job, they're forced and often physically threatened to do this job, and by exposing these girls who didn't have a choice, you're not just adding more humiliation to their life, but you're also endangering them more.
You're not just showing a lack of respect for those who choose to do this job, but you're actually also exploiting girls who didn't choose to do this job but are forced to. Think about that before taking a picture or video of us. And the same thing goes for making fun of us. We can take it, but the small group of girls who are forced, are already vulnerable and you're just adding more humiliation to their life which is completely unacceptable.

As you can see, there's a reason why we don't appreciate these kind of jokes, and there's a reason why we put signs on our doors that says we don't want people to take pictures of us. It's not because we're ashamed of what we do, but rather because other people have trouble accepting our job, and because some girls didn't have a choice in this job.
Some people have stated that even though we put pictures up in our windows that tell people not to take pictures, that it's not illegal to take a picture of a street in Amterdam. This is true, it's not illegal to photograph or film in the streets of Amsterdam, including the Red Light District. However, we don't stand outside on the streets, we're standing indoors in our own rooms. Taking a picture of us inside our rooms IS violating our privacy rights, since we're not part of the street but standing in our own rooms.
On top of that, there's also something called a portret right in Holland, which protects the rights of the people who are in the photograph or video. This portret right surpasses the copyright, which is the rights of the person who took the picture and is therefor the owner of the picture.
If you want to take a picture or video of someone in Holland, you have to ask them for permission, otherwise you're prosecutable, unless you make the person unrecognizable in the footage. And making someone unrecognizable doesn't just stop at blurring out someone's face, this also means removing anything from the footage that could identify the person to other people, like for example the person's voice or trademarks such as tattoos.

I've also seen other video's or films that are about human trafficking for example, that use footage of Amsterdam's Red Light District. The documentary Nefarious: Merchant of Souls is especially a good example of that. It's not just a documentary that hoaxes a lot of stories about trafficking (it's funded by Christian organisations), but above all exploits the girls they claim are all victims even more by showing their faces recognizable in the documentary. To me this already proves these people are not one bit interested in the so called victims. After all, if they really think we are all (or at least most of us are) victims, wouldn't filming and exposing them to the public be even worse? And even worse then that, they're making money with their documentary exposing these 'victims' to the public, which makes them just as bad as the people they claim to be fighting with this documentary. Talking about being nefarious!
People who really care about saving victims of human trafficking would not exploit us this way. Especially not if they think most of us are forced. So Nefarious: Merchant of Souls is just another bullshit movie with a lot of false statements and blown up stories about human trafficking to gain more support to criminalize prostitution and it's clients, because these people morally condemn it because they are Christians, and nothing else. If you care even just a little bit about prostitutes, victims of human trafficking, or women in general, you wouldn't be watching or making documentaries like these.

It's okay to take a picture or video of the Red Light District in Amsterdam, to show the people home where you've been. We understand that, and that's not a problem at all, as long as you don't photograph or film us recognizably in the footage. Any footage that does make us recognizable is not just disrespectful to us, our families and friends, but also to the victims of human trafficking which unfortunately are also present in the Red Light District even though it's only a small portion. It violates our privacy rights, our portret rights, plus it can put us in danger. So please don't take pictures or video of us.
If we wanted to have a picture or video of ourselves like this, we would've become pornstars. But we're not pornstars, so please respect our privacy.

Dutch version
8 Responses
  1. Frans Says:

    I understand and fully agree with your argument of privacy. It deserves to be protected for many reasons.

    But the only legally valid argument why photographing or filming prostitutes at work is not allowed, is the copyright law (wet op het auteursrecht).
    When you are at work, you are - legally! - a performer on stage playing a role, or you are a Live Art Installation.
    You dress distinctively in the appropriate costume, make-up, wig, things you won't wear at home or when you go to the supermarket. You use a stage name that fits your role, and is (most likely) different from your given name.
    Your role has (as required by law) an original character and the imprint of the author, so it is inalienable.
    It is protected up to 70 years after your death. This means that people can only freely and legally reveal your identity at that time. (lol)

    You could call your work also a "Live Installation" and it is protected like all art in museums.
    On your window under the "no photography sign" you can write: "Dit werk is auteursrechtelijk beschermd" ("this work is copyrighted"). You are fully entitled to do so.
    In a sense the whole RLD could be considered a giant Performance Stage or (Interactive) Live Art Installation. Personally, I see it as both.

    Art Installations and public stage performances are protected by the Dutch and international copyright law as well as the portrait right law.

    In a court of law on the ground of privacy you might have a problem defending your right not to be photographed, since you voluntarily, consciously, and repeatedly perform (standing in the window) in a space freely available to the general public. Anyone you wouldn't want to know that you play this particular role can walk by and recognize you without photographing. (If that person is shocked or worse, I would disarm him/her saying something like: "What are YOU doing here snooping around. Nice to see you! If you are so curious, let me give you a tour of my stage. And I won't tell anyone." lol

    Still, I fully agree that everyone should respect the sex workers' privacy and not make photographs or films, because the role you all play is socially (still) controversial.


  2. Anonymous Says:

    i have always respected prostitutes/courtesans/sex workers. they provide a very important and valuable service to society. i see the work as no different than a personal trainer or an athlete - someone who uses his or her body to make money.


  3. cyclist Says:

    In a tourist city like Amsterdam people will take pictures. Mostly for private use, but sometimes they want to share it. When I search on Red Light Disrict I find many pictures with the girls
    quite recognisable. Often much clearer. The cameras are good enough to make clear video images even at night with a hidden camera. Tourists always want to take pictures as a memory,
    an empty street (or window) is not very interesting. Better is to keep this in mind: no conspicuous tattoos, lots of makeup that you do not use otherwise. Look at the pictures of porn stars with and without makeup, unrecognizable.
    People from rich countries often do not know the risks the girls run when it gets known in the poor countries they mostly come from. The family, the tax authorities and sometimes
    the underworld that smells money.


  4. Ginge Says:

    It would seem there are still links to the video on youtube. There was another video a while ago very similar to this one, im not shaw why these people think it's funny to make a video like this, it's beyond me .
    I'd also just like to thank you Felicia for taking the time to wright your blog, i only recently found it but it's been an interesting read. Keep up the good work...


  5. Che.Cosmin Says:

    it's still available on youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q1joFRrVPxg


  6. Anonymous Says:

    the fact that you fuck for money and people take pictures of you is not making you a princess who should not be filmed. you are in a public place, expect to be filmed.

    apropo, nu te duce capul sa faci altceva, pacat de femeiile frumoase care sunt asa de proaste incat se futa pe bani


  7. Anonymous Says:

    Bai e jobul ei pe care si l-a ales si are destule de tras pentru asta. Dar cat de idiot poti sa fii sa justifici faptul ca daca este intr-un loc public, este normal sa-i pui viata in pericol (intr-un fel sau altul) doar ca sa te ranjesti tu de cateva ori sau sa dai o laba la un videoclip facut de altu ca tu n-ai buzunare de amsterdam.


  8. Cliente X Says:

    OMG it seems unbelievable for me that this need to be explained. It's common sense, prostitutes and anyone linked with them are deeply stigmatized in almost all societies and even criminalized in several legal codes. That kind of "jokes" are like agressions, are VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN and should be prosecuted in consequence.

    Several yrs ago there was a similar "game" here in Spain. Ppl looked in Google Maps for street prostitutes and posted images on forums. Maybe some are unaware of the troubles they cause, but others know perfectly what they are doing and try to harm prostitutes in this way (take a look at this post, if u can read spanish: http://barriorojo-esl.blogspot.com.es/2009/11/prostitutas-son-sometidas-escarnio.html)

    I agree with Felicia, we need to denounce this kind of actions bcause they are attacks against us.

    And for the anonymous of 4th September: being in a public place is not enough reason to be filmed or pgotographed. In Spain, for expample, is OUTLAWED to take photos of police. This is, according to our politics, to protect and let them to do their work properly. But for the people, is a way to avoid any claim against their actuations.

    There is a reason to film police, that is to avoid any illegality. But as far as I know, no one as ever told whats the reason to film whores.


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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.