The Red Light District was one of the few places in Amsterdam that actually lived up to my expectations. It was like stepping into this bizarre world where rules had flown out the red-lit window and in it’s place were prostitutes and drugs. Had I dared to try any of the drugs, I’m sure the experience would have been amplified, but trust me, seeing it sober was exhilarating enough (that makes me sound like such a square, I know). Although I’m a bit of a prude when it comes to drugs, I’m surprisingly liberal when it comes to ideas surrounding prostitution and sex. Amsterdam just seems to get it. The Dutch understand that people are going to buy drugs and prostitutes, legal or not, so they might as well make them legal and police the real dangers surrounding these issues.
Visiting the Secrets of the Red Light District museum was an experience I’d recommend to anyone, liberal-minded and otherwise, though maybe not to anyone under the age of 18 (I believe there’s an age restriction upon entry).Though there were plenty of fun things at the museum, like the opportunity to sit in a red light window to experience what it’s like and watch videos depicting such reactions (disgust, lust, eye contact avoidance and a knowing nod from a fellow prostitute), there are darker sides of prostitution to learn about too.
Here you can learn about Chinese Annie, a prostitute who was killed and whose murder was never solved, and the foundation set up to protect others like her. Though in Amsterdam, prostitution is similar to any other job and is treated that way in the eyes of the law, there is still the stigma that surrounds it, especially as the Red Light District is a big attraction for tourists. The guards aren’t just there to make sure you aren’t snapping non-consensual pictures of the girls, they’re there to protect their lives, too.Although the Red Light District begs serious questions from the tourists, it doesn’t take away from the beauty, the mystery and the fun. The museum has a wall dedicated to amusing sex stories with the chance to add your own to the list and the street itself has plenty of wacky tourist shops, “coffee shops” and more Amsterdam classics. It’s a rare mixture of modern day Amsterdam intertwined with it’s a deep rooted history.