Cat Museum, Red Light Tour and Sex Museum (Nathan)

Trip Start Sep 03, 2010
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Trip End Oct 27, 2010


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Flag of Netherlands  , Noord-Holland,
Saturday, October 16, 2010

SO VERY NOT SAFE FOR WORK

We were VERY busy on the 16th. I'm really not sure how I thought I was going to be able to blog all of it while I was doing it, but we went to Kattenkabinet, the cat museum, a walking tour of the Red Light District, and the Sex Museum. I'm doing things a little differently this time- I'll be talking about the museums only very briefly, but I put a lot of work into the captions for the photos and videos to make up for it. I'm not sure I even saved any time this way, but it's something different, anyway. I'll still be talking about the Red Light tour, since I only got one picture during that.

Kattenkabinet. It was a cat art museum as opposed to a cat natural history museum, so it's all statues and old advertisements and paintings instead of... what would the alternative be... a diagram with a trail of blinking lights leading from a cat's mouth to its litterbox. It also had three real live cats, which made it 300% as good.

The Red Light District tour started at the Prostitution Information Center, which had been founded by prostitutes to satisfy the public's curiosity about the profession. It's a place where anyone who has a question can just come in and ask it without feeling awkward or embarrassed, and get a straight answer. They also have a walking tour on Saturdays, with a former prostitute as your guide, and that's what we were there for. Our guide was actually NOT a former prostitute, but she was allowed to run tours because she had done extensive study of prostitution in Amsterdam specifically as part of earning her degree. She was very knowledgeable and answered all our questions very well, so I don't think the experience was lessened any by it. Our tour mostly consisted of walking around the streets in a big circle, stopping occasionally to listen to her talk about a particular place or a particular aspect of prostitution. I'll try to relate what I can remember- I actually learned quite a lot.

Our first stop was the Old Church... weirdly enough, the church is right in the middle of the Red Light District, with prostitutes in windows literally across the street from it. Apparently this was deliberate, since it was built in an attempt to reform prostitutes, but since it took them 600 years to finish it for some reason, its half-finished structure was mostly used as a marketplace where the prostitutes would shop, which only concentrated them in the area more. Back when it was built, prostitution was a very serious crime- men who were found with prostitutes basically had their lives ruined to the point of driving them to suicide, and women were sent to "The Spider House" for reformation, which mostly consisted of parading them through the streets and encouraging people to throw things at them so they could learn to be ashamed of what they did. Eventually the church became more corrupt and people could just pay a priest to have their sins forgiven, which I suppose made both the prostitutes and the church happy. Today the church isn't even used as a church, but as a gallery for art exhibitions.

Amsterdam is unique in the world for having not only legal prostitution, but prostitution that's safe for the prostitutes- according to our guide, all of the women there are their own bosses, working out of their own free will rather than under threats or coercion. There are no pimps, and no one to exploit them. If they want to quit, they just stop renting out their window. If they want to take a day off, no one can force them to work. They choose who they will or won't do business with based on their own preferences and limits. If a customer gets dangerous they press an alarm button, activating a light outside, and the offender is swarmed by all the other prostitutes in the area, followed by the building owner's security forces, and finally the police. All in all, it seems like a really solid system that just plain works. I still don't think I would ever buy the services of a prostitute (I certainly didn't while we were staying there!), but if I did, it would definitely be only in Amsterdam, where I could do so with a clear conscience.

We were told not to take pictures of any of the prostitutes- even though prostitution is legal, they still want to remain as anonymous as possible, and I can think of a half dozen other reasons they wouldn't want people snapping photos. Our guide (and several others on later tours) said they'll even chase down people who take photo and smash their cameras or throw them in the canals. A later guide said they keep a bucket of liquid by the door specifically to throw at people who take pictures of them, and the liquid "is not water!", and I recall someone somewhere saying that the worst they'd seen was a prostitute smashing a bottle of ammonia over a guy's head. So if you're wondering why I only have one photo of the Red Light District... well, I wouldn't deliberately catch a prostitute's window in my field of view, but better safe than sorry! I did take some other pictures on later days, though, and will post them eventually.

Our tour went down a very narrow alley with red light windows on either side, which was... interesting... and finally concluded at the statue I took a picture of, which was placed there in honor of hard-working (and often tragically exploited) prostitutes around the world. The tour also briefly discussed male prostitutes. There were some in the Red Light District, but only transgendered ones, no obvious men. They did try it out, though.. one year they held auditions for handsome, sexy men, then rented out windows to the winners for a day. The women in Amsterdam went wild, but at the end of the day, the male prostitutes hadn't gotten even one customer. Our guide explained it easily enough: women don't have to pay for sex. If they want it, they'll find no shortage of volunteers at any bar, and enjoy free drinks on top of that.

I don't really remember much of what we did after the tour... I think we wandered town a lot, and got dinner at a great Tibetan place, where I had some really good tea I'd never tried before, and then wandered some more, finally ending up at the Sex Museum. The Sex Museum is one of two... well... sex museums in Amsterdam. The other one is called the Erotic Museum, but our guidebook said it was boring and more expensive in comparison, plus Glennica had apparently already been there on a previous trip. The Sex Museum was definitely not a very serious museum, though a few narrated displays made a noble effort to educate... it was more of a "hey, look at this weird sexy stuff and giggle amongst yourselves" museum. It was still a lot of fun, though!

After that we headed back to Abraxas to blog and set up the usual hostels and trains for later in the trip, and finally back to our hostel for bed.

Speaking of bed, I've been up ridiculously late tonight working on this, and I'm so tired I can barely keep my eyes open. We're in Copenhagen now, and this is probably the last blog entry I'll finish before I return home, since we're changing to different lodgings for our last day of the trip and they don't have wireless. I'm sorry I haven't been so good at keeping up to date, but I hope you've been enjoying it- I'll do my best to wrap everything up in a timely manner once I'm back home. :)
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Comments

Jamaris on

*snickers* Bet that was an... interesting visit! I probably wouldn't be able to walk through without giggling my head off.

Also, kittehs. <3

Linda on

Always sounds as though you guys had a blast on this wonderful journey. I know that I surely did as I followed you guys along, day by day. Have a safe trip back.
You will always have this wonderflul blog and pics beside you as a lovely reminder of this very special trip for the both of you. When you get back......WELCOME HOME!!!

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