Interview: Felicia Anna, Romanian Prostitute From Amsterdam, Humanizes The Life Of Sex Workers
Author’s Note: Below is an exclusive interview with “Felicia Anna” (pseudonym), a Romanian prostitute working in Amsterdam. I came across her comments on YouTube in regard to a prank video that CollegeTimes had written about in August 2014. Intrigued, I checked out her recently launched blog where she offers unique insight into the world of prostitution in Europe, and particularly in the Netherlands.
- See also: Reverse Prostitute: What Happens When A Young Man Asks Hookers In Amsterdam To Pay Him For Sex?
I noticed on your blog that you are 27 years old, and that you’ve been working as a prostitute in Amsterdam for 4 years now. You were born in Romania, correct? Did you move directly to Amsterdam for this job?
FA: Yes, I was born and raised in Romania and Amsterdam is my first and only place where I have worked in prostitution. I’ve never worked in any other country before, besides my own country of Romania.
You mention on your blog that money was the plain and simple motivation for becoming a prostitute. Did your family or friends pressure you to do this, or even know about your decision? Did anyone force you into it?
FA: Nobody forced me into doing this job, in fact, my friends and family don’t even know I’m doing this job. This goes by the way for the majority of the prostitutes over here, only a very small percentage of 8% at most are forced into this kind of work, despite what some other people will try to make you believe.
I think those people who keep telling everyone so many girls are forced into this work, aren’t really interested in saving forced girls, but rather in making prostitution look bad to the public’s opinion in order to make or keep it illegal.
In Romania (or elsewhere) do you think prostitution is a common consideration for many girls? In other words, why do you think so many Eastern European women become sex workers?
FA: I don’t think it’s as common as deciding like ‘gosh, working at a restaurant as a waitress or as a prostitute’, but still for a lot of girls it’s a consideration. But don’t ask me any percentages, since that would be a pure guess.
The reason why so many Eastern European women become sex workers elsewhere is simply because the huge difference in salary. Yes, countries like Romania are very poor, but we don’t do this job so much because we’re poor, in fact, many girls that work here had plenty of opportunities at home to make a normal living, just like me. The point is, this job just pay too well to refuse it, as long as you’re okay with the sexual part of the job.
Kinda imagine you could do a normal job in your own country for an average salary. I don’t know what the average salary is over there, but let’s just say it comes down to something like 2500 euro a month. But now someone offers you a job as a garbage man in another country. It’s not a job that many people aspire, some may even consider it to be a ‘dirty’ job, but with this job as a garbage man you can make at least 80.000 euro a month as a minimum salary! That’s like 30 times more the salary you could make at home! I think a lot of people would consider this job compared to any other job, simply because of the difference in salary.
It’s the same with prostitution. It’s not because we’re so poor, but rather the huge difference in salary that makes the difference. I can make here at least 30 times more money then in my home country with a normal job. And that’s just a bare minimum. I’ve had times I made more then 100 times a normal salary I could make at home. I think if people over there could make 100 times more money doing prostitution then they make now with a normal, they’d also seriously consider it.
On top of that prostitution over here in Amsterdam offers a lot of freedom. This may sound weird to many people, since when they think about prostitution they usually think about oppression and being forced, but that’s not the case at all. In fact, all of us here in Amsterdam are self employed business owners. We have our own businesses. We decide when we work, how long we work, which days we work and when we go on vacation. There’s nobody here telling me how to do my job, when I can take a break or not, or telling me I’m doing something wrong. I’m the boss, I’m in control and nobody else. That’s one of the perks of doing this job, your own freedom.
Plus, a lot of people think our job is purely about sex. That’s not true either. In fact, I have sex with less then half of my clients. 90% of my clients come in to have sex (the other 10% are just curious, or only want to talk), but from that 90% a lot of people get nervous or they drink or smoked too much weed to get to the point where they’re even able to have sex. So it’s not so much about sex as people always assume.
How much money can the average prostitute make per month in Amsterdam? As there are no pimps involved with Red Light District operations, do you have to pay taxes to the government? I.e. Why is the price (€50 for 15 minutes) so consistent among all the different ladies?
FA: It’s very difficult to say an average for how much a prostitute makes per month in Amsterdam. Some girls work very good, because they look very good, some girls have very much trouble to get any clients. One day you can hardly make anything, the other day you can make 2000 euro. It’s really very difficult to say. It could be anywhere between 5.000 euro and 35.000 euro at the moment, mainly due to the bad economy. In better times a couple of years ago you could easily make 30.000.
Since prostitution is a legal job, and we are self employed business owners, we have to pay taxes just like everyone else. At the moment that comes down to 21% taxes over our income, so as you can imagine that’s quite a bit for the amount of money we make. Many girls therefore also call the government our biggest pimp, since they’re the once profiting most from us.
The price of 50 euro for 15 minutes has been the same for years already. I don’t know exactly who came up with this number or why, but it’s an unwritten rule in the Red Light District that your minimum price has to be 50 euro. Also the people who we rent the windows from, the window operators, tell you when you start there for the first time that this is the minimum price. I guess it’s a way to avoid price competition among the girls themselves. It’s not illegal to work for less, but when girls do this (which happens sometimes), they’re usually outcast by the rest of us, and if the window operator finds out about it, they usually kick these girls out. It’s one of the house rules of the window operators to protect us, the girls, from competing each other out of the market.
In a nutshell, what’s the job like? Scary? Boring? Fun? Have you ever been attacked or frightened? What is your typical customer like, and what’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever experienced as a prostitute?
FA: It’s a little bit of everything really. It really depends on the people that come to you and walk in the streets. Often it can be boring, waiting for long times for a client, sometimes it can be very fun when you have people that make you laugh. Every day is different here, because every day there are new people, new tourists coming over here, giving you a new experience.
I’ve been attacked once by a client in my 4 years time. It wasn’t really the guy’s fault, he just took too much drugs and freaked out for some kind of reason and tried to strangle me. After a couple of seconds he snapped out of it, and realized what he was doing and let me go. He apologized like a thousand times before he finally ran outside with just his boxer on and the rest of his clothes in his arms.
Sometimes I get kind of scared when I see some people and the way they look, so scary sometimes, but they often turn out to be very nice and friendly people. I’ve learned in this job very much which kind of people to trust and which ones not to trust and I pick my clients based on that.
There’s no such thing as a typical customer. The customers we get are regular men. There’s nothing weird about them, they’re just normal people with normal jobs. A lot of our customers are tourists who come from all over the world. The only thing most of them have in common, is that they respect us, which unfortunately is not something I can say about most other people.
The weirdest thing I’ve ever experienced was a client who wanted me to walk him around like he was a dog. He didn’t want anything else, no sex, just for me to lead him around on a leash in my room. A lot of customers with weird requests often come to us because they want something their own wives or girlfriends don’t want to do, but also because many of them are scared because they are weird requests, they’re ashamed of their sexual fetishes.
What’s the most amount of times you’ve had sex in one night (day)? When do you call it quits? Has being a prostitute increased your sex drive and appreciation for sex, or has it made you more numb to human relationships and more bored (or jaded) regarding making love?
FA: I don’t know to be very honest. Not every client that comes in has sex with me, so it’s difficult to say. I don’t count how many clients I have sex with.
Usually I quit when the streets start to become empty and everyone’s going home so there’s no clients coming anymore, or if I’m not making any money. Basically it all depends on how the work is. As long as I can still make money I’ll stay until everyone’s gone, because the next day you can go home empty handed.
Let’s first of all get one thing clear. Having sex and making love are two very different things. Sex is just a sexual activity you can do with anyone. Making love you can only do with someone you actually love. People seem to think prostitution is a lot about sex and sexuality for the prostitutes themselves, but that’s actually not so much true. It’s just a job. I don’t do my job because I love having sex with my clients, I do my job because that’s how I can make a lot of money. Obviously I’ll try to get the best experience for my client as long as he respects me, but it’s not so much about sex for us as many people often think.
So our work doesn’t affect our sex lives much at all, I don’t think I have more or less sex then before I was doing this job. It’s still the same.
Also having sex with a client is very different from having sex with someone you love. Sex with a client is all about the client, and making sure he has a good time. You’re more acting then, while with someone you love you do it because of the way you feel for that person.
What the deal with Dutch politics and prostitution? It seems like a constant political war between people who want to shut down prostitution for good and others who see no problem with it? What’s the biggest misunderstanding the public has about prostitution there?
FA: The time of tolerance seems to have passed here in Holland. Where before Holland was very tolerant towards minorities like gay people, people from other countries, cultures and religions, but also it’s tolerance towards prostitution and drugs seemed to have changed over the past few years. Gay people experience more physical harm then a couple of years ago, people from other countries are being seen as a threat to society rather then an addition (also a direct result of the attacks of 9/11), and more people are questioning the decisions of the former Dutch government to legalize prostitution and tolerate the sales of drugs.
I see this more as a chance for those who have always opposed these things to turn back the things to the way they wanted it to be, and not like how the politicians more then 10 years ago wanted it to be. Debates are being held on moral grounds, but are being disguised as ‘protection’, whether that is protecting women from forced prostitution, or protecting youth from using drugs or protecting the Dutch people from invasions of large groups of immigrants to Holland.
Politicians have always had trouble to understand prostitution. The legalization of prostitution was a good idea, but the government tries to much to control it in order to prevent people from becoming victims, with as a result that we get more victims. It’s really kind of ironic if you think about it.
But also a lot of Dutch political parties have their own agenda’s. The most obvious ones are those of Christian political parties, who pretend they want to save victims but only try to criminalize prostitution in as many ways as possible. Other political parties are more interested in money, like for instance the dutch labor party PVDA, who have claimed they are fighting human trafficking by closing down windows in Amsterdam’s Red Light District, while in fact the only thing they’re achieving is that there are less legal workplaces for prostitutes to work in, causing more sex workers to work illegal in unsafe places. Their objective however lies not within ‘saving victims’, but rather within real estate and money.
Sometimes it’s difficult to tell which politicians you can trust, since many of them have a hidden agenda, and sometimes those who seem to be prostitution friendly are only interested in repressing prostitution in a legal way, which requires prostitution to remain legal.
Basically the biggest problem lies within their way of thinking about this profession. They legalized this profession back in 2000 not because they thought it was a good job to do, but rather because they figured that if you want to save women, it’s better to keep them in sight in a place where things are safe rather then it happening in some dark alley.
They still think generally that prostitution is not our choice, but something we had no choice in. This idea of course gets exploited by many christian organisations who never liked the idea of legalized prostitution in the first place, radical feminist who see prostitution itself as a violation of women’s rights (even though I would like to have my own right to choose the job I want to do), and rescue organisations which depend on funding from the government.
The biggest misunderstanding they, and also the public has about prostitution, is that this job is something nobody would ever want to do. This is not true. Given a good salary, many people may be tempted to do this job, as long as they can get past the sexual part of the job. But people don’t want to see sex as something they can buy, it takes the romance of sex away. If sex becomes another product you can buy, it’s not a taboo anymore, it’s not sexy anymore, and that I think scares a lot of people.
Just because some girls have been the victim of a crime, doesn’t mean everyone is. Yet, people have a hard time to accept prostitution as a job, so the idea that most of us are forced are a way for themselves to make sense out of all of this.
You seem very passionate about the politics and issues involved with prostitution, also claiming on your blog that you wouldn’t choose any other job. What could change your mind and make you quit being a prostitute? If you eventually “retire” what job do you think you would pursue?
FA: I guess I would quit if I would win the lottery, but I think I would first have to play in the lottery to win it. But honestly, I don’t want to change my job. I like to do this job because I can do whatever I want. I don’t have a boss telling me what to do, what I can or cannot do. I can take free whenever I want to, I can quit my job at any time, I can decide to go on holiday at any moment for any length of time. Why would I give away all that freedom?
I can’t think of one single job that offers me more freedom then this one. If you have any other business of your own, you always have responsibilities, you have things that have to happen, clients that need to be served. In this job if I loose clients today, tomorrow there will be new customers.
And the same goes for all the other girls in the Red Light District. When people ask me how long I’ve been working here, they look so weird at you, and always ask me why I’m doing this job for such a long time. But why would I give away all my freedom, plus a very good salary for something less?
I can’t imagine myself working somewhere where someone is telling me what to do, and what time to start and when I can take a free day. I got so used to this freedom, I don’t want anything else.
If I will retire I will start a business of my own, but I’m not sure yet what kind of business. I have a lot of ideas, but I don’t know which one to pick yet.
What’s your social circle like? Do you have friends, hobbies, life, etc. outside of your Red Light District colleagues, or are the prostitutes in Amsterdam a pretty close group of people that often spends time together?
FA: Most of the girls who work at the Red Light District don’t come from here, so we don’t have much of a social circle outside the girls we know from work. Many girls come in groups here to do this job, and know each other for longer already. I myself came here with the help of some other people, but went my own way after I got everything set up for my life over here. For a long period of time I was very lonely, all alone in a country where I had no friends, no family, and couldn’t speak the language.
Sometimes girls get so bored because they have nothing to do here, and they have no friends and family here, that they try to work as much as possible, to make as much money as they can, and return home quickly. Some girls therefor will work both day and night to make the money the wanted and go back home.
But generally most girls know each other over here. Not everyone’s friends with each other, but I think that happens with every group of girls you’ll put together. Some girls hate each other, other girls become best friends. But if tomorrow something happens on the other side of the Red Light District, the next day everyone will know about it.
So most of the girls don’t have much of a social life beyond the people they know from work. I myself have a Dutch boyfriend, so it’s a little bit different for me personally. I have him, and his family over here, therefor I also have now much more of a social life then I had before over here.
But let’s not forget also many girls who work here already have a boyfriend, or are married, some even have kids already. So a lot of girls also have their own life, besides the Red Light District.
Your English is fantastic, by the way. How many languages do you speak? Did you attend college or university (etc) at any point, or does most of your knowledge come from the streets? What advice would you give other girls that are considering becoming a prostitute?
FA: I speak Romanian, Hungarian, English quite a bit of Italian and a little bit of Dutch. But I didn’t learn this at school, I learned most of these languages from doing my job over here. Before I came over here I only spoke Romanian and Hungarian, I almost didn’t speak a word of English. The first few weeks where really hard for me to learn to speak English, especially because you have to talk with clients a little bit. So in the beginning I had a piece of paper on the floor with all the English words written down for my job so I knew what I had to say. Everything I know now I’ve learned from talking with clients, which proves I guess that prostitution is not just about sex.
I’d say to think about it carefully. It’s not an easy job, you’re subject to a lot of harassment and injustice, which depending on where you work could come from clients to governments and police. You really have to be a strong person to do this kind of job. But another advice I’d like to give to people is not to trust anyone. There are so many people out there who will try to take advantage of you. Never give them your money, because you wouldn’t be the first to loose all the money to someone you trusted. First rule of prostitution is: only trust yourself.