Life behind red lights in Groningen

Bianca is 23 years old and comes from Cluj-Napoca, Romania. She works as a prostitute in the red light district of Groningen. ‘When I do it, I don’t feel anything at all.’

It’s two o’clock on a sunny Sunday afternoon in Groningen. For women who work in De Nieuwstad in the Groningen red light district, it’s just another day at work. They may be reading a book, talking on their phone, or just posing while random strangers pass by and stare.
After being turned away from the rooms of two women, I knock on a young one’s door and she lets me in rapidly. Inside the red box, we greet each other. We shake hands and I feel her jelly-like fingers. Blonde and skinny, she is dressed in sensual black underwear and plastic Playboy high heels. Without closing the curtains, we start talking about her life and her much-maligned job: prostitute.

Only her sister knows
‘I studied Fashion Design in my country. When I got my bachelor’s degree I found a job related to my studies but I quit after half a year. My boss was very strict: I had to work long hours and my salary was only 300 euros per month. It wasn’t worth it. I was stressed and I couldn’t survive with this money. Then I started to work as a waitress in a night bar but I only lasted three weeks because the environment of drunk people was awful. It was then, when a friend who I had known since high school, suggested to me to come to the Netherlands and work as a prostitute. In those days, she was already working in Haarlem and earning enough money to live comfortably. Last December I decided to move and try it out. I felt I didn’t have anything to lose. My parents didn’t know anything about what I was going to do in the Netherlands. Although I have always wanted to tell them the truth, I haven’t done so yet. I think that my mother could understand me, we are really close and we talk every day. Actually, only my sister knows that I left home to work as a prostitute.’

Eindhoven, Amsterdam, Groningen
‘The first day in Haarlem I was scared. The prostitute agency took me to a club where everybody was naked. Men and women were touching each other, even having sex in public. I wanted to go home. I didn’t want to take my clothes off or have sex without a condom. The agency warned me that I wouldn’t earn money if I left. I didn’t care. I have my limits. This wasn’t for me. When I arrived at my room I cried for hours. I told my friend I wanted to go back home. I decided to stay in The Netherlands for a few days just to visit the country. Three days later my friend received a call from another agency. There was a man who wanted two girls in his hotel room. She persuaded me and to do it together. She helped me and showed me how the prostitution world worked. After this sexual experience, I realized that this job isn’t dangerous if you’re careful.’

I can have sex with between four and seven men on a normal day

‘Three weeks later, I started working in Haarlem’s red light district and since then I have been moving all around Holland. I have been working in Eindhoven, Amsterdam and now I’m in Groningen. I hate staying for a long time in the same place, because I don’t want people to recognize me. I’m not saying that Holland is an unsafe country, quite the opposite. Legalizing prostitution is a really great decision. Here, I feel safe, there are police officers in the streets, I have an alarm in my room, I can go to the doctor for free… and people in the streets aren’t crazy. And what’s best, I earn two thousand euros every month.’

Sex is superficial act
‘But well, I don’t like this work. Being a prostitute is not a normal job even it is legalized and we have to pay taxes like the rest of the citizens. The early stages were hard. Now I am used to doing it. It’s always the same profile of men who come to me: mostly men between forty and fifty years. Some of them are married. I think that they feel the necessity to try different things, they got bored with their wives. I can understand them. I don’t consider paying for pure sex as infidelity. Infidelity is having a love relationship when married. That’s why my girlfriend and I don’t have any problem with this kind of work. We just consider sex as a superficial act. In my case, I can have sex with between four and seven men on a normal day. When I do it, I don’t feel anything at all. I calm down, I use gel and that’s it. At moments that I have no clients, I listen to music or talk on the phone with friends… And well, now I am studying to get my driving license.’

‘I have been doing this routine every day for the last ten months. I work every day of the week. That’s why I’m here in the Netherlands. Only occasionally I take a day off. Women who work as prostitutes are able to work whenever they want. The rooms are open 24 hours a day throughout the year. We just have to pay 120 euros each day for the room. My intention is to continue working as a prostitute for two more years and then stop. My life is not all about money. I would like to live in the Netherlands working in another job. I can’t understand women who enjoy being prostitutes. Of course, I do it because I need money to live.’

Blanca Gispert
Minor Journalism student at Hanze UAS