This post is the second part of an article that discusses prostitution in Amsterdam and about how to buy marijuana at coffee shops in the Red Light District. It originally appeared as a column written by columnist Dondi Joseph for Travelife Magazine. Click here to read the first section.
Prostitution is one of the oldest trades in history. In Amsterdam it began in the 1200s when it was just a bustling fishing port. And wherever there is a bustling port, there are plenty of ships and buckets of seamen (no pun intended) in need of wellness therapy, waiting to spill onto the docks in search of beer, song, and women of character.
Interestingly, there are three surviving former Catholic churches built within the Red Light District. The the oldest of these churches dates back to the 1200s. This is about the same time prostitution began there.
SAILORS IN AMSTERDAM
But there were many more churches and monasteries in and around the area. Locals say that the proliferation of churches in this one hectare corner of the globe is due to the fact that sailors needed churches for spiritual succor after sexual succor, guaranteeing that if the worse happens, the hopeful sailors still went to heaven. The chances of a sailor surviving his next voyage were about 50%, after all.
THE CYCLE OF SIN
The symbiotic relationship created the opportunity for the Church to introduce a new business model in the 1500s. This was called the sin tax.
In the old days, the Church granted “indulgences” for the forgiveness of sins in return for monetary donations. Seamen paid sin tax to priests who manned the churches 24/7 in return for indulgences for sins about to be committed (in the District) before sailing. Or for sins already committed (in the District) before sailing.
DAYS OF SIN
So sinning happily continued. Meanwhile, the churches flourished and the sinners marched happily, if not steadily, onto their ships for sea voyages that were sometimes eternal.
The business model apparently worked well for all stakeholders. This establishing a sacred cycle of sin, forgiveness, and wealth generation for over four centuries. But these same indulgences eventually led to the Protestant Reformation. This then led to numerous bloody religious wars and pogroms by everyone’s followers.
But when it came to the practice of vice, including prostitution, the two sects and their numerous subgroups distinguished themselves equally.
SFW (SAFE FOR WORK)
The average time a customer spends with a professional sex worker is all of six minutes, and the wet dream fulfilled will cost between 80 to 200 euros.
In the District and in the Netherlands, everyone’s preferences are accepted and even encouraged. I assume this continues on the assumption that these add to the National Happiness Index and no one is hurt.
Prostitution in the Netherlands is a strictly regulated industry. The country is very strict about women’s rights, exploitation of women, and white slavery. A few years back, the government considered a move to re-criminalize prostitution. However, they concluded that this would just force prostitution underground and back into the hands of pimps and criminal syndicates.
Prostitution was legalized in 2000 to end human trafficking and to protect women in the profession. The average sex worker assists society 16 times during every 10-hour shift.
So you are looking at gross revenues of around 1,000 to 2,000 euros a day. The current record is 120 “wellness interventions” in one day. Again, this makes me think that I may really be in the wrong business.
BUYING MARIJUANA AT COFFEE SHOPS IN AMSTERDAM
On a lighter note, marijuana is another main feature of the Red Light District. You can find these in coffee shops. Please note that the coffee shops in this area do not serve coffee or alcohol. That privilege is reserved for the lowly cafes and bars.
The coffee shops and cafes in the District serve one thing only – cannabis, also known as marijuana. And of course, they serve it in all the possible varieties from around the world. You go to coffee shops to smoke weed. And to giggle.
Ironically, the Dutch government prohibits the production or distribution of cannabis. However, it is tolerated for personal use. Everyone can grow up to four marijuana plants at home and carry five grams for personal use. Meanwhile, coffee shops can serve clients who are keen on buying marijuana for personal use. It’s a confusing set of laws but it works – at a price.
TAXES ON COFFEE SHOPS IN AMSTERDAM
The coffee shops cater to clients who wish to buy marijuana and they pay high taxes in exchange. They pay 58% versus 21% for ordinary bars. The government then uses part of the tax proceeds for the country’s anti-drug efforts. And the Netherlands, one of the few countries in the world that is tolerant of cannabis, ranks only 20th globally in the use of marijuana.
SMART SHOPS GO ONE STEP FURTHER THAN MARIJUANA
Smart Shops are even more interesting. 18 Smart Shops in the District sell and serve over 2,000 natural and organic drugs. They sell drugs made from mescaline, peyote, and magic mushrooms, among others.
Most of these drugs are hallucinogenic. The shops do not sell to drunks, and some provide comfortable lounging rooms with “psychedelic trip guides” to lead you into and through a pleasant hallucinatory experience. It’s all so civilized.