Onlangs ontmoette ik een vrouw die al veertig jaar in de prostitutie zit. Ze zei dat ze het maatschappelijke klimaat de laatste jaren had zien veranderen. Steeds minder mensen geloofden nog dat ze dit werk vrijwillig deed. De meesten dachten dat ze in haar jeugd moest zijn misbruikt. 

Terwijl in reclames allerhande producten met behulp van naakte vrouwenlichamen worden verkocht, van auto’s tot zonnebrillen tot wc-papier, zijn vrouwen die zichzelf verkopen vooral verdacht.

En toch doen velen het met plezier. Sinds ik bij een high-class escortbureau heb gewerkt, weet ik bovendien dat het iedereen kan zijn. Van die ijverige studente tot dat leuke barmeisje tot de hippe moeder op het schoolplein. Ze doet het voor de spanning en het avontuur. Ze doet het om af en toe iemand anders te kunnen zijn. En het geld is ook niet slecht. Het enige waar ze bang voor is, is dat haar omgeving ontdekt wat ze doet.

Voor de high-class escort is de aankomende Amsterdamse registratieplicht dan ook slecht nieuws. Vanaf 1 januari 2013 zal ze zich moeten melden bij een speciaal loket, haar gegevens blijven drie jaar lang bewaard in een computerbestand. Hoe veilig dat soort bestanden zijn, is inmiddels wel bekend.

Ik ken escorts die bij de politie werken, bij de gemeente, op ministeries. Ze doen niets strafbaars, maar wanneer uitkomt dat ze zich laten betalen voor seks kunnen ze hun verdere carrière wel vergeten. De registratieplicht dwingt ze zodoende te stoppen met hun escortwerk.

Is dat erg? Veel mensen zullen vinden van niet. De registratie is bedoeld om uitbuiting en vrouwenhandel tegen te gaan, en waar gehakt wordt vallen spaanders. Feit is alleen dat die registratie vooral symboolpolitiek is. Wat de strijd tegen uitbuiting nodig heeft, is maatwerk. Geen gedigitaliseerde statistieken en indexen waarbij nog maar moet blijken wat ermee gebeurt, maar veldwerk, vakbonden, tijd en aandacht (zo zou het al een hoop schelen als aangiftes tegen pooiers en loverboys niet jaren op de plank bleven liggen). In plaats daarvan krijgen we een bureaucratische moloch waarbij de tevreden escort als eerste sneuvelt. Alsof het niet uitmaakt, want zij was toch al verdacht.


  1. GLuc

    I apologize in advance for the length of my reply, but what you have written can’t be liquidated with two words.

    “Is that bad?” The question is relevant and it requires other questions (such as: “Could a law really enhance the working conditions of prostitutes?”, “Could it work against crimes related to prostitution?”). When you legislate on matters that affect people on such a kind of personal level (apart from the fact that you can’t generalize), the cure may often be worse than the disease. And if your starting point to legislate is simply ideological, bad consequences are certain.

    (By the way, it would be more useful to legislate against mafia: “In a recent confidential report, Dutch police claims that “between Amsterdam, Hoofddorp, Diemen and Amstelveen there are at least twenty bosses and one hundred “soldiers” of the Calabrian N’drangheta who traffic in weapons, heroin, cocaine and pills”.

    But if women who freely and consciously do escorting fear to be discovered by their friends and relatives or risk their careers, it means that, even in the most advanced and open minded societies, prostitution remains a stigma to be avoided like plague.

    Among other, interesting things (, Michela Marzano wrote “L’éthique appliquée” (, a small, thought provoking book that doesn’t provide answers, but compels the reader to reflect about many questions. Chapter VI revolves around a big question (I translate it from the edition in my mother tongue, that is not French, as you should know): “When a person accepts to have a sexual relationship, on what does she/he agree? How does her/his consent manifest itself? What kind of bond the defenders of the “consensus” [intended as the only source of legal legitimation] establish between “moral legitimacy” and “legal arrangements”?”. As for what specifically concerns prostitution, she remarks that, before speaking of freedom of choice and consensus, we should investigate the real conditions that cause a woman to take a decision in this direction.

    As I wrote above, dealing with human nature and with such kind of personal choices, it is almost impossible to give answers: an answer ends up in generalizing (as much as a law ends up in establishing a boundary between “white” and “black” in an area that is mostly characterized by “gray”). So, you are right to be suspicious when a government takes action in this field. Moreover, “moral grounds” are always very slippery-nevertheless, I feel that an agnostic position could be a bit selfish (in the sense: “I don’t care about evil until it touches me directly”) and dastard.

    You are a brilliant intellectual whose writings are interesting reads and worth the time of a written reply such as the present one. You are a woman who happens to work for an escort agency too and, when you write about these topics, this puts you in a unique position, making your opinions particularly valuable (I don’t like her/him who writes about things she/he didn’t go through: usually she/he is inclined to write as if women and men were not made of flesh and blood).

    But what are these opinions exactly? I mean opinions (and feelings, but not judgments) that come to your mind when you look one employee straight in her eyes, when you provide her with a client, when you imagine her with the client you have provided, when you connect her, as individual, and her “official” life to the society that made possible for her to choose this particular profession and that, at the same time, stigmatizes her for her choice.

    Well, maybe I’m going too far and it’s time and better to stop here.

  2. marian

    No, you definitely don’t go too far. Because, to be honest, I’m not sure what my opinions on escorting are. The women I know tell me they love this bussiness (although not everything is always sunshine) and I choose to believe them. Also because I think that one of the most arrogant things you can do is saying that you know better what someone else feels or thinks or what motivates them than they do themselves.

    On the other hand I also see a culture wherein women are too often being reduced to their bodies with the effect that women get their self-esteem out of being wanted. Combine this with a capitalist system in which everything is for sale and I start feeling doubtful.

    Still, as I said, I choose to believe people on their word (I think it was Maya Angelou who said that you should always listen carefully to what someone says, because they will tell you who they are, much sooner than you realize) and I also choose to believe that they know best what is best for them. But choosing is the verb here. And you are right that this can be selfish (as you said: I don’t care untill it touches me. See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.)

    At the same time I don’t think I close my eyes for all the sorrow that is going on in prostitution. Forced sex labor is absolutely awful and the fight against it should be a priority of every politician. But I don’t think that the measures that are taken right now are helpfull. Also because the differences between a well-educated, well-bread Dutch lady and a Polish girl who hardly has any choice are enourmous. The difference lies in the amount of freedom and although you can ask yourself how free westeners are (or West-Europeans), I think these differences should be aknowledged and the fight should be customized (I don’t know if this is a right frase, I mean, in Dutch, ‘maatwerk’: more eyes and ears on the streets).

    In the end, I try to point out what is wrong, as do most people, but what is right, I’m not sure of, as perhaps also most people are not. But I do thank you for your reply, and the chance to think it all over again. And realise that I still don’t know :-)

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