(Visitors who read this blog to learn about working in a restaurant, Asian cuisine and recipes be warned—this post is totally different… I also write about travel and this is what today’s post is about. If you are uncomfortable with words such as” thrusting” and “g-strings”, skip this piece and come back when I visit the subject of tasty food once again)
I shiver as a gust of wind whips around the corner and blows through the narrow alley in which I’m standing. I pop the collar on my coat, attempting to block the icy wind from penetrating and trickling down my back. Red lights reflect off the puddles of rainwater that have pooled in the uneven cobbled streets; their glow is both eerie and romantic. Feet in front of me, behind a large glass window, stands a beautiful woman wearing a skimpy bra and a g-string slid low on her hips, suggesting that it wouldn’t take much effort to enjoy what the two inches of cloth are struggling to conceal.
She’s not alone, there are dozens of these moving window displays. They stand—legs spread—rocking their hips back and forth, twirling their hair, filing nails, talking or texting on their cell phones. Occasionally, one taps on the window trying to get the attention of possible clients as they walk by. Men of all ages and backgrounds mill about. Sometimes they’re alone, but often with one or two friends. They peer into the widows, knock on doors and whisper with the women inside.
Curiosity has brought me to Amsterdam’s famous Red Light District. I want to know who these women are and where they come from. Do they have families? Are they beautiful? Are they young? Some questions are easily answered. Most are young and beautiful. They look to be from all over, but mainly Eastern Europe. However as these questions are answered, many others surface unexpectedly. Do families live in the gorgeous apartments right above the brothels? The grandmother on the second floor sitting on the sofa reading her book… is she accustomed to the sound of women standing in the doorway negotiating their price with groups of men? How long has she lived here? Did she used to be a prostitute in her youth?
I look in one window and see a woman in a lacy red bra and thong straightening a ruffled bed. I think to myself, “How many men has she serviced there tonight?” “I wonder how long it takes her to take care of one client?” “Does she share that bed with the other woman in the booth or is there another bed behind the tiny bathroom?” I’m fairly confident these are not the thoughts racing through the minds of the men leering at the same scene.
I’m pretty liberal; my attitude is very much whatever-floats-your-boat. But I’m also curious as to why something strikes your fancy, or more crudely but aptly put—gets you off.
There are many reasons why men visit prostitutes, too many to even begin listing, and sometimes I kind of get it. But I don’t really understand what lures young, handsome, educated men, bachelor parties even, to Amsterdam’s brothels where they dole out 50-150 euros to spend five minutes nervously thrusting into a woman who would obviously rather be elsewhere. (Okay, perhaps not all men are nervous, and maybe some of the women are actually happy to be there. Maybe. I would hate to spoil the fantasy with my cynicism).
The issue is far too complex for my little mind to sort out alone. So I asked. Here are the answers I heard. Drugs, could’ve guessed that. Alcohol, yeah no kiddin’. Curiosity, WHAAAAAT?
Now I would say that I’m a curious person… let me take that a step further – I think most women are by nature curious creatures. When we hear a story we immediately ask numerous follow up questions. We love details. The why, when, how, who and any other tidbit worth extracting, we want them all.
Men, not so much. My husband can talk on the phone for ten minutes to a male friend who has just announced that he and his wife are having a baby and the only information that he will come away with is that his friend is “good.” Due date? Didn’t think to ask. The baby’s sex? Didn’t come up. Are they registered anywhere? What’s that?
Okay I can hear the men protesting… “Well I’m not a baby guy. Those details aren’t important to me”. That’s fair. However, I could plug in just about any major life event and the result would be the same. New job. Decision to go back to school. Moving abroad. Engagement. Divorce. I wager that if your lady friend asked you five follow-up questions after a conversation on any of those topics you’d struggle to answer three. And that’s being generous.
Nonetheless, I don’t think that the guys I talked to were lying when they said that it was innocent curiosity that lured young men to Amsterdam’s brothels.
Maybe men and women are just curious in different ways. Women ask for details when we hear a story. Then, we are able to construct the entire experience in our minds with that information. We can recreate a scene or conversation as if we were there.
Unfortunately this sometimes means our curiosity is self-limiting. I’ll eat chicken feet because I’m dying to know what it is about them that Chinese all over the world love. But I draw the line at chicken butt. Likewise, I will never sleep with a 300 pound man out of curiosity to know what it would be like to sleep with someone three times my size. If I think I’m not going to enjoy something based on similarities to past experiences or from details gleaned from someone who has done it then I’m not going to waste my time or money pursuing it. But maybe my chicken feet is some man’s Amsterdam hooker.
Often if men are interested in something they’ll simply go out and try it. Maybe they visit the Red Light District knowing full well that it’s not going to be an earth moving experience, but they’re curious about what it would be like. They can’t imagine it nearly as well, or as easily, as they could just go and experience it for themselves.
I could continue to ponder this for hours but I think I’ll pass this one off to that ambiguous, lazy, but all-too-true explanation. Men and women are just different creatures. I may never understand why hundreds of young men go to Amsterdam every weekend and dole out cash for something they could get for free from the loose women at their local dive. This is a rare instance where I will admit that I would be better served focusing my curiosity elsewhere. This may be one experience I will never understand—no matter how many questions I ask.