Gigolos for free - Dutch glossy's surprise giveaway

RNW archive

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, the Dutch government decided to cut funding and shift RNW from the ministry of Education, Culture and Science to the ministry of Foreign Affairs. More information about RNW Media’s current activities can be found at https://www.rnw.org/about-rnw-media.

The successful Dutch women's glossy magazine Linda has devoted this month's issue to cheating on your partner. As the 'cherry on the cake' , the magazine is raffling off 25 gigolos for new subscribers. Will the campaign finally banish an old taboo or is it just a marketing ploy?

Linda is the best-selling women's glossy in the Netherlands and was created by the extremely popular Dutch television star Linda de Mol. For years, she was synonymous with 'the girl next door' but as she ages - she's now 45 - she has become more daring, naughty even.

This month's big theme is cheating on your partner and new subscribers have the chance to win the services of one of 25 male escorts, because as Linda de Mol puts it, "Women want male company - with no strings attached - from time to time as well".

Bluntly put, if men can go whoring, so can women. Linda's editor-in-chief Jildou van der Bijl: "It's really easy for a man to go to a prostitute, Why, in the 21st century, isn't it just as easy for women to visit a whore? We thought it was a really good idea and we wondered how our readers would respond".

Chippendales
In the 1980s and 90s, a group of tanned, muscled men going by the name of the Chippendales caused a bit of an uproar in the Netherlands. In packed venues across the Netherlands, the troupe of handsome blokes stripped off in front of crowds of wildly enthusiastic women, who showered them with banknotes. The ridicule heaped on the male strip shows by many men roused the wrath of woman, who snapped, "It's our turn now".

Another step in the same direction - a step that also caused an uproar - was taken a few years ago by another women's magazine: the glossy offered its readers the Tarzan, an electric vibrator with an "extra stimulator".

And now the readers' offer is free gigolos. Another taboo broken. But is it another battle in the war for women's emancipation? "Absolutely not," says Ciska Dresselhuys, former editor-in-chief of a feminist monthly. She continues: "I've always fought to stop women from raffling themselves off and just because men are doing it now doesn't mean that it's emancipation. I think it's pure exhibitionism. Emancipation means taking the good, valuable things and incorporating them, not the bad things. And I have never thought that prostitution was a normal occupation, no, not at all".

Women-friendly
The 'women-friendly' subscription offer has also come in for criticism from an unexpected source: the Dutch prostitutes union, Vakwerk, has accused the magazine of procuring prostitutes or pimping. This accusation has come as something of a surprise to the creators of the promo gimmick. Jildou van der Bijl: "After fighting so long and so hard to make prostitution a respectable occupation, if I were them, I'd be really happy with a campaign like ours".

Criticism or not, the magazine is causing another uproar. As a marketing tool this gimmick has been only partially successful. The old adage 'sex sells' hasn't proven entirely true. Ms Van der Bijl: "We haven't been overwhelmed with responses to our new subscription campaign. I'm afraid that the majority of Dutch women aren't quite ready for a gigolo".