Through the Window

Today I read a book called Customs & Etiquette of Holland.  Chapter 3, titled Home & Family contained the following passage about windows:

The curtains in Dutch houses are open during the day so that you can look inside.  In a row of town houses, you can normally see all the way through into the back garden.  The Dutch always say that this is a carry-over from the Second World War years when all the curtains had to be closed tight because of air-raids; but if you listen to the comments that people make whenthey pass by an open window and look inside, it is clear that they are measuring the inhabitant’s compliance with the rules of polite society.

Woe betide those who do not open their curtains for inspection each day! They are immediately suspected of all sorts of breaches of decorum.  It is very much like living in a goldfish bowl!

When I entered my room for the first time the shade was open completely revealing the entire window.  Custom or coincidence, I am not sure.  I am on the 4th floor so it would be hard to see my room from the street.  Here is my view:

However, after reading this passage I began immediately wondering about the windows the ladies situate themselves in the Red Light District.

Window prostitution

In the 1930′s street prostitution wasn’t allowed by the police, neither was luring customers from the doorway. The women could, however, sit behind the window glass, with the curtains closed and peek outside to make contact. This was the birth of window prostitution which has gained Amsterdam her reputation. Prostitution in this way, behind the window, is still legal.

There are 3 places with window prostitution in Amsterdam, but the bulk of the windows are in one place, namely the Wallen area in the actual Red Light District.  Women sit behind windows dressed only in fancy underwear, smiling at the passing men to get them to step inside. If a man indicates interest, they will shortly negotiate what services are there for what price. This type of Amsterdam prostitution is typically for low-cost quickies.

The lights inside the rooms are red because women, actually everyone, looks their best in this light, and because historically red lights have always been used to indicate to potential customers where the action is.

Advantages For Window Prostitutes

Window prostitution has a few big advantages for the women: they are their own bosses, they don’t have to pay a percentage of their earnings to a brothel owner (except a fairly high daily rent for their room) and they decide their own working hours. Even more important for them, there’s an endless stream of clients passing by so they can make a lot of money in a working day.

The disadvantage is that they sit there for everybody to see, which is the reason why some women don’t work in the city where they live. In any case, the majority of prostitutes aren’t Dutch. These days, many of them are from Eastern Europe or South America. Working here may also be more dangerous than a club or brothel, since the women are basically on their own. But often, a woman can call up the room owner or the police with one push on a button if needed.

My project deals only with this kind of prostitution, or should I say it deals only with this type of advertising or this type of capital, sexual, erotic capital.

Erotic capital is defined as a form of social worthiness granted to an individual as a result of his or her sexual attractiveness to the majority of his or her social group. As with other forms of capital, sexual capital is convertible, and may be useful in acquiring other forms of capital, including social capital and economic capital. Perhaps the “Looking like you do” comment from my housemate (see yesterday’s post) may prove to be useful after all.

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