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Wednesday, Oct. 4
The Indiana Daily Student


Fears of a sexless Amsterdam

Amsterdam is known for its liberal views on otherwise taboo topics such as marijuana and prostitution.

It is important to note that marijuana is, contrary to common belief, technically not legal in Amsterdam, but is merely tolerated. Prostitution, on the other hand, is legal within Amsterdam city limits.

The “red-light district” of Amsterdam is the area where the most sex trafficking occurs, grossing more than $100 million each year, and although it is considered the most affluent tourist attraction of the Netherlands, city officials are trying to squelch the sex trafficking along with the drug tolerance.

Amsterdam residents who are against the movement to shut down the district believe that it is a tolerant community where freedom is highly valued, and that it should remain as such. 

The sex-saturated red-light district dates back to the 14th century when sailors arrived in need of some “special” female companionship. It contains fantasy stores, sex shops, peep shows and sex shows, but it is most well known for its “windows” in an area called the “allies.”

There are now about 250 (down about 50 percent since previous years) windows – actually glass doors – each displaying a scantily clad girl (or sometimes two) dressed in lingerie or a fantasy costume.

It is a goal of the district to provide options for all sorts of fantasies: You need only a hand to knock and a wallet to pay. It’s like window shopping during the holidays, but in Amsterdam, it’s Christmas every day – and the dolls on display play back.

A visitor to Amsterdam can walk into a coffee shop, buy a brownie with hashish in it, and then walk across the street and buy half an hour with a prostitute behind closed curtains and come out only about 50 euros in the hole.

Why would anyone try to crush the dreams of every man alive?

Mayor Job Cohen, sided by Deputy Mayor and advocate for the Dutch Labour Party Lodewijk Asscher, drove the movement to shut down the district as of Feb. 8, 2008.

Since the beginning of the movement, more than 109 windows have been shut down in the district, and more are on their way.

If the plan goes through, the neon lights and sexy girls will give way to high-end real estate, galleries and expensive furniture stores. Coffee shops and restaurants will no longer offer hash tea and “space cakes” (chocolate cakes with marijuana baked into them), but instead meals of 15 to 20 euros a plate and swanky drinks.

No more neon signs advertising every possible form of sexual indulgence or mind-altering state. 

Many of the residents of Amsterdam are bitter about the transformation and believe that an Amsterdam with no red-light district and no marijuana-selling coffee shops is like a “Paris with no Eiffel Tower” and are convinced that shutting down the district will only serve to hurt the economy.

Many more residents, however, are excited for the change and look forward to delivering their hometown from “sleaze” and “dirty money.”

Fears of a sexless Amsterdam not bringing in as much tourist money run deep through both sides of the argument, and many people argue that it is wrong for the government to shut down a legal and legitimate business like those in the red-light district. 

Because of these fears, the process to shut down the district has been slow, and in the meantime, girls are cutting prices to help deal with the economic times and working extra hard to keep shoppers happy and coming back.  

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