Amsterdam Part II

Column by Ivy Jenn
Ivy Jenn - Matt Kartanata

…Continued from The S&B’s Sept. 18 issue…
“EXCUSE YOU. They are not whores. They are women. You do not fuck them. You have sex with them when given permission. Also, that’s a stapler, you idiot.”
That guy got schooled so hard that he left the store with a Master’s degree in FAIL. I gave Ms. Reid a well-deserved fist bump and decided that, from now on, she was my role model. She placed her hand firmly on the man’s thick shoulders to direct him out of her shop. He was a large man and Ms. Reid couldn’t have been more than five feet. What she lacked in height, however, she more than made up for in confidence and sheer strength. A single push from her plump hands caused the man to stagger. By the second push, he was out the door.
After Ms. Reid took care of Mullet Boy, she continued our conversation without hesitation. “I’m sure you can relate to some of these girls—they’re about the same age as you. Unlike other countries, the Netherlands does not pay for education. I don’t understand why people put them down when they are simply trying to get themselves to a better place.”
I nodded shamefully, quietly remembering my awkward experience with the prostitute earlier in the day. Even though I claimed to be an open-minded person, I was still extremely prudish. In retrospect, the reason why I had such a difficult time making eye contact with the prostitute before was because I didn’t see her as my equal, but as a victim or sexual deviant. It’s a demeaning and rude assumption to make and I was not much better than Mullet Boy. I thanked Ms. Reid for her wisdom and we parted ways.
By the time I left the store, the sky had faded into a dirty eggplant purple. Herds of tourists crowded the windows, with beers and cigarettes aplenty. Dodging the smoke, I stumbled by the same window and saw the woman from the day before working behind it. I recognized the curves of her body. She was scanning the crowd, no doubt looking for clients. Her face was slightly more made up than mine, but we looked about the same age. She wasn’t the tortured victim that I preconceived in my mind—just a normal girl who was slightly tired from a long day of work. When she caught herself slouching, she pinched her thighs. When I looked into her eyes, I was surprised to feel a sense of familiarity take the place of the shame that burdened our previous encounter. I waved to her, expecting to be shooed away in favor of potential customers, but her blank stare softened to a half smile.
Amsterdam has a reputation for pleasure that many equate to sin, but it’s a harsh dichotomy that limits the beholder’s capacity to see the beauty in gray spaces. Blind indulgence in pleasure is as counterproductive as blind stigmatization of pleasure. The Netherlands’ tolerant attitude towards prostitution isn’t a free pass for tourists to act disrespectfully. Rather, buying sex is a normalized, recreational activity that makes up only one fraction of greater Dutch culture. They believe that pleasure does not hinge on moral extremes and instead exists along a spectrum, and I respect that.