Archive

What's it like to be a hooker?

Joey - it's not her real name - is in her thirties. She has short blonde hair, blue eyes and a great body, of course. She’s been a prostitute for six years. It's a legal profession now in the Netherlands.

'Joey' rents a room in the central Dutch city of Utrecht - in the local Red Light district, which is not a district really - it's actually a row of houseboats, lined up along a canal.

When Joey's 'on the job' she has her curtains closed. But as RNW’s Ashleigh Elson rode her little pink bike up to the boats, she found Joey standing in her open door, with her hand on her hip, soliciting customers.

Listen to the interview
[media:audio] 

Ashleigh's first question to Joey: what’s the correct terminology for what you do?

“For me it’s all the same, it doesn’t matter what kind of word you use. It’s a hooker and it’ll stay a hooker [hahaha]. But you have hookers and hookers. A real hooker, of course, is a girl who f**ks everybody aroud for no money…”

How does it work?

“You rent this room for seven days a week; you work two shifts: day time and night time. I rent it during the day and have to pay 500 euros.”

Do you set your own prices for the customers or is that determined by whoever owns the place?

“Everyone decides their own prices. It’s mostly 50 euros, but a lot of girls charge extra for touching or taking off their bra.”

And does 'it' have a certain time duration?

“Between ten and 15 minutes.”

Is that the average time it takes for a guy to get in and out?

“Sometimes, it takes a little bit longer, sometimes a little bit less. But if you go for the ten minutes, then most of the time, people don’t come back, so I’ll [work it] for the full 15 minutes.”

Do you pretty much get to choose what you do and what you don’t do?

“Everybody decides for themselves what they do. What I think is very important is doing everything safe.”

Can you describe your room for me?

“I must say the room looks quite terrible. I got it just a week ago and I want to make it look a little bit nicer, but there’s a bed in it, which I guess is the most important thing [hahaha]. And there's a toilet, a bath and I want to buy a television so you can put the porn channel on it. And if it’s not so busy on the streets, then I can watch TV.”

Is this pretty standard? You haven’t got a double bed really, it’s like a single bed…

“Yes, the office put it in, but the only thing you have to bring yourself are some sheets and towels, condoms and that kind of thing, which you have to buy yourself.”

Do you have incredibly high laundry bills? You must have to wash a lot of sheets…

“Every two days, I take it home with me and when I come back the next time, I put it in my locker. I just wash it with my own laundry [hahaha].”

So, for you this is totally normal. It doesn’t make you uncomfortable at all…

“Not anymore, no. At first, it did. I sometimes used to cry too. Now, it depends. If I come into my room first I have to transform into 'Joey', forget everything and then it’s OK. But when I’m free, then everything goes like pfffffff [makes a breeze-like sound].”

In Amsterdam, they’re closing down a third of the prostitution 'windows'. Are you worried that the same thing will happen in Utrecht?

“No, I’m not worried, because the problem in Amsterdam is the licences: there’s criminal money involved, whereas here, everything is legal and everyone pays taxes.”

Do you pay taxes?

“Yep, I’m not happy about it, but I have to.”

Even though it’s all cash?

“I have my bookkeeping over here, which I keep in my locker. If tax people come to inspect, I have to show them. So that’s why I’m not afraid that this is going to get closed down, because it’s all well organised here.”

Is there a friendship between the girls who work here, or is it all competitive?

“To be honest, I’m not here to make friends. I’m just doing my job.”

Do you like the job?

“I do it for the money.”

So is the money pretty good then?

“If you do your job well, yes, then you can make nice money, but when it comes to fun, no.”

So why did you get into it?

“Problems. It’s a difficult question to answer, but it was necessary. The alternative would have been even more problems. I’m now in the business and want to save a bit of money and then stop.”

What do you want to do when you stop?

“I used to have my nail salon, before that I was a hairdresser. I want to make money and start a shop of my own, everything in one. I have my diplomas, so I can start when I’m ready [finished, ed.] with this.”

Do you have a family outside of this?

“I have a son and a boyfriend, and that’s very difficult, the combination with this job. Particularly for my son, who’s 16. He knows. I told him, because it’s better that he hears it from me than from someone else.”

What does he think about it?

“He’s not happy about it, but he knows why I’m doing it. But I can’t wait for the day that I say goodbye."

How long do you think it’s going to be?

“I think one year and then it’s the end, a happy end…”

 

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Listen to the full report on prostitution in the Netherlands, broadcast as part of Curious Orange in January 2008.

 

 

 

 

 

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This article is part of the RNW archive. RNW is the former Radio Netherlands Worldwide or Wereldomroep, which was founded as the Dutch international public broadcaster in 1947. In 2011 Dutch government’s decided to cut funding and shift RNW in 2013 from the ministry of Education, Culture and Science to the ministry of Foreign Affairs. More information about RNW’s current activities can be found at http://www.rnw.org/about-rnw