- A woman says she quit her job as a nurse to become a sex worker in Amsterdam.
- Karin, 57, told Insider her old job made her want to help patients with “needs.”
- She works for an agency that deals with clients with disabilities and health problems.
“When I work, I don’t dress like this,” Karin, a sex worker from the Netherlands, tells me over coffee in Amsterdam’s Red Light District (RLD).
When we met in October, Karin, 57, was wearing jeans, a sweater and minimal makeup for a day of meetings at the Prostitution Information Center (PIC) in Amsterdam in the RLD. The center is run by sex workers who want to educate the public about sex work in the Netherlands and end the stigma surrounding it, according to its website.
Karin is not her real name, but it is the one she uses when working or giving lectures to the public and journalists at PIC. She said using a pseudonym and different clothing – with certain items sometimes requested by customers – allowed her to separate work from her personal life.
Eight years ago, Karin tells me, she quit her job as a nurse to become a sex worker. Since then, she has been employed by an escort agency (she did not disclose the company name for confidentiality reasons), which she says caters to clients with disabilities and with health concerns.
Karin says being a nurse inspired her to become a sex worker
Karin’s former job as a district nurse was to treat patients at home and others who resided in nursing homes. She said she “noticed that there were patients who had mental or physical disabilities, but they also had their needs as the next man.”
“I felt sorry for these people because as a nurse you can’t help them unless you want to lose your job,” she said.
The agency Karin works for takes note of any disabilities or health issues clients may have so escorts know “how to handle certain medical things,” she said. For example, she said that if you have a client in a wheelchair, you need to know how to help them get out of the chair and get to bed.
Karin said the starting price for her clients is € 140, or about $ 162, for an hour. The agency takes about € 45, or about $ 52, and Karin takes the rest after deducting taxes.
She is in the process of applying for registration to work in the windows of the RLD. When the paperwork is done, Karin said she plans to balance window work with her current job at the agency.
Karin said that sex work is similar to her old job as a nurse, as both require the ability to “leave her behind” when you get home.
There is still a stigma against sex workers in the Netherlands
The Netherlands was one of the first countries to legalize sex work for consenting adults in 1999, according to an article by Joyce Outshoorn in the journal “Sexuality Research and Social Policy”.
Today there are over 6,750 sex workers in Amsterdam and around 600 of them are licensed escorts, according to figures presented to the Red Light Secrets Museum in Amsterdam when I visited in October.
Despite this, there is still a stigma surrounding sex work.
“City council says it’s humiliating for women,” Karin said. “What irritates us a lot is that they decide what is good for us. Mom knows best.”
While there is no known record of the board publicly making this statement, it is said to be planning changes within the RLD. The council agreed to implement a proposal by mayor Femke Halsema to close a significant number of windows and move sex workers to another area, The Guardian reported in February.
In a letter to city council in July 2019, Halsema wrote that sex workers had become a “tourist attraction, often mocked, verbally assaulted and photographed against their will.”
Karin said there is a misconception that all female sex workers are victims of human trafficking, which is defined by the United Nations as people forced to work by “force, fraud or deception” for profit.
It is not known how many sex workers in the Netherlands are victims of human trafficking. Depending on the definitions used, the estimates could vary drastically, between 10% and 90%, depending on the figures presented to the Red Light Secrets Museum during my visit.
While the museum describes human trafficking as “the recruitment, transport, sale and exploitation of people” which is a “common occurrence” in sex work, the different forms of human trafficking can vary. . According to the Stop the Traffik charity, the different forms include sexual exploitation, domestic servitude, labor exploitation, forced marriage, organ harvesting, forced crime, drug trafficking and children. soldiers.
According to the Walk Free Foundation’s 2018 Global Slavery Index – which ranks 167 countries based on their approach to human trafficking – the Netherlands is the only country to achieve an ‘A’, which means that it does the most to protect victims.
Amsterdam has been working to tackle illegal sex work by “carrying out more joint inspections with police and other partners” since 2016, according to the city of Amsterdam website.
The Dutch government defines sex work as legal when it is between two consenting adults and the sex worker has a permit, while illegal sex work refers to forced prostitution, child prostitution and if the sex worker does not have a license.
Karin added that people who work for agencies usually go through an “admission interview” where they are asked their motivation to start the profession and if they have “a boyfriend who is trying to take your money”.
Karin has no plans to quit sex work anytime soon
Karin says she always tells people that she is a nurse because of the stigma around sex work.
“You have to be careful who you tell it. I’m not on Facebook, I don’t want my photo or my real name displayed. I’m not on Twitter or Instagram,” she said.
There is a heavy police presence and a number of security cameras in the RLD, according to Karin, who says the sex workers there are on good terms with the police. During our interview, a friend of Karin’s who she said was a former police officer arrived to watch her, which she said they did on a regular basis.
It is the presence of the police, as well as the supportive community within the RLD, that Karin says makes her feel safe when she comes to work every day. And she said she plans to continue working in the industry for a long time.
There is a photo on the PIC wall of an anonymous woman in her 80s who was previously the oldest living sex worker in the Netherlands, according to Karin.
Despite the stigma she faces, Karin said she could imagine following in the footsteps of the woman in the photo.
“Why not?” she said. “Well, I would need some hair dye.”