Saturday, 7 May 2011

Amsterdamned 2 - The Red Light District

Top of today's list of things to do is to visit Amsterdam's famous Red Light District. To reach it from my hotel I have to cross the main shopping area, full of the same brands you see everywhere, but repeated more often than in most places. It gets a bit dull. It won't be long before a Euro-wide trip like mine is entirely pointless, each capital city being an identical copy of the one before, a result of globalisation.

Once you reach Porntown everything feels a little incongruous. Despite the quaint streets and the little canals everything suddenly becomes a little more Channel X. Smoking cafes replace the bistros, and suddenly I'm not being sold shoes and jeans from the shop windows but female flesh, all pouty and winking. How do they manage to stay in alluring mode all day? In most service industries it's hard enough to maintain a smile. Strangely, for every shop offering gimp masks and whips, there's a Chinese restaurant. I feel like I'm in a sunlit version of Bladerunner.

The prositutes comes in all shapes and sizes. Some are gorgeous, but lots aren't, and one or two seem to be catering for blokes with a Popeye fetish. Those were the ones that seemed to come on to me most strongly. Obviously I'm that type of bloke, or maybe they just have to try harder, I don't know. But it makes you think about the decision that put those women on to the other side of that glass showcase. What makes you wake up one day, decide to put on a pink bikini and sell your holes? Is it a career choice or a last resort? I'd love to know, but I suppose I'd have to pay for that sort of information.

I wander around and get disorientated. It's easy to do. I realise I've walked down the same dodgy little alley three times in about twenty minutes. Those girls must think I'm weighing them up, making a conscious decision where to invest my euros. Now I'm feeling like a genuine punter, like the groups of British lads over for the weekend, rather than a tourist, here for the viewing experience only. I finally find an escape route.

Out of the Red Light area and into the shopping area again, I realise that things aren't that different here. It's still sex that sells everything, from the bikini-clad woman in the Jack Jones window to the sexy, young things in the Zara display. Even the Big Macs look sexily fulfilling. But over here, it's all lies. You're buying a dream rather than a reality, the dress and not the body, a squished cow offal wafer on a bun and not a succulent beefstack skyscraper. At least over the canal, they deal in truths, even if they're slightly sordid ones. Whether you're buying noodles or 'cuddles' you know exactly what you're getting and you get what you pay for. And at least those who work the meat, whether it's the chef in the Chinese kitchen or the woman behind the grubby curtain, are getting the profits directly, rather than some fat cat in a corporate office in London or New York. Give me the honesty of the Red Light District any day.

But walking around between the sex shops and porn theatres I decide that this flesh isn't for me. I decide to watch a different bunch of pussies get screwed over. My team, Blackburn Rovers are playing West Ham this afternoon and it's being shown in one of the Red Light District bars. It's a must-win game if Rovers don't want to go down. The players should come here. At least they'd be certain of scoring.

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