It is safe to say that most of these women became prostitutes because they needed the money, either to survive or to maintain or pursue a certain lifestyle. When I was living and working in the Red Light District, I talked with many prostitutes, and because they trusted me I was able to learn something about their backgrounds and their lives. Most prostitutes (and their partners, for that matter) came from broken homes with a poor social background, and most of them grew up in institutional/correctional facilities. This was after WWII, when child protection services and juvenile courts in The Netherlands were eager to take children out of their social environments, especially when the parents (or just one of them) had a history of alcohol abuse or domestic violence.
Nowadays the authorities are more careful when it comes to take children away from their parents, because they realise that this is not necessarily good for a child’s development as a stable human being, especially if neither the child nor its parents want to be separated from each other.
All of these institutions were Christian, and most children who stayed there experienced these institutions as a prison. A Christian prison, with Christian wardens and Christian values, so utterly different from the world they were coming from. Some children became “decent” Christians, with a respectable job and a respectable family, usually because they suffered from some form of Stockholm Syndrome.
As soon as they were 16 years old, the children were allowed to leave the institutions. Usually they were estranged from their families, a lot of them were forced by their parents to find a job and bring the money home, only allowed to keep some pocket money for themselves.
The freedom they experienced was immense: no longer were they forced to pray and wash their hands before meals, no longer were they forced to wash the dishes, no longer were they restricted to stay in the village for just one hour, no longer were they forced to go to sleep at 7, 8, or 9pm. Many of these children couldn’t deal with this sudden freedom, and many started to do (almost) anything that God forbade. The Christian values were the values of their enemies, their capturers. And surely, even children with a “normal” childhood tend to rebel against their parents when they grow up, so one can imagine the intensity of dislike of the institutionalised children against their Christian prison guards, with whom they had nothing in common.
Being footloose and fancy-free after so many years of prison, being dragged from one institution to another, many children decided to live life to the max. And to be able to do that, they needed money. So boys resorted to petty crime and girls went into prostitution.
No, not every prostitute I know spent her childhood in an institution, but I have never met a prostitute who had a happy childhood, and if they spent their childhood with their parents, it was either too many rules or a complete lack of rules that made them feel unloved.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that many people in the Red Light District are not exactly models of law abiding citizens. The only reason to stay on the right side of the law is to stay out of prison. But they don’t share the values of typical law abiding citizens, because these are the values of their Christian capturers, the loveless, self-righteous and ever so “decent” people who took them away from their parents. And every prostitute in the world can tell you her stories about so-called decent people, clients of her who are highly respected in society, but with very peculiar and often twisted sexual needs. That is the other side of “decency”, the side that is only known to prostitutes.
Touching the subject of “decent” people: I shouldn’t forget to mention that at least 30% of the prostitutes I talked with, were sexually abused in their childhood, usually by a relative or men they thought they could trust, like a neighbour, or a friend of the family.
Nowadays the sexual industry in the Red Light District has its own professional security guards, and prostitutes are protected by the police. However, this is a rather new development. Prostitution has always been a dangerous profession, and many prostitutes are still relying on a protector for their safety. Some of these protectors are typical pimps, but in the days before police and security protection a prostitute was usually protected by her partner.
Professional prostitutes don’t kiss on the lips. That is a golden rule. Why? Because you kiss with your partner, not with clients. Mainly for the same reason they don’t have sex without a condom, unless it’s your partner you’re having sex with.
A healthy relationship of a prostitute and her partner consists of three elements, a conditio sine qua non: love, respect, and most of all trust. It is impossible for a prostitute to have a relationship with a jealous partner. It’s comparable with a nurse, who will touch a client’s penis to clean it, but there’s no passion involved, and the nurse’s partner knows this. Besides, professional prostitutes are great actresses.
I have seen many healthy relationships of prostitutes and their partners, and in general, in the privacy of their homes, they are quite bourgeois. Their appearance in the Red Light District, as part of the Red Light community, is something different altogether.
In the Red Light District the partner of a prostitute is a macho man, or acts like one, and his woman wants him to play that part. There’s some sort of competition between prostitutes, which expresses itself in the car your man drives, the clothes he wears and the money he spends in the pub. The more expensive the car and the clothes, the more money he spends in the pub, the higher the position of the prostitute in the social hierarchy of the Red Light District. It has always been that way and it will maybe always be that way, but there’s a new form of prostitute’s partner emerging: the casual type.
Ryan Malloy from Eastenders, played by Neil McDermott, is the prototype of the modern “pimp”. One day beard, casual clothes, no fancy car, no fancy clothes, no big spender behaviour. He’s a free spirit, not necessarily monogamous, not necessarily law abiding, and intriguing. And at home he cooks and washes the dishes. But that’s not something he wants the Red Light District to know.