I live next door to a brothel. When I say it that way, plain and simple, I'm sure all sorts of images come to your mind. You probably think I live in some terrible neighbourhood, squatting in a rundown hellhole of a share house.
In reality, I live in one of the nicest houses in the city, and that city happens to be Amsterdam; where prostitution is legal and regulated, and entire areas wouldn't exist if it wasn't for the city's rich history of horny drunken sailors visiting its shores, reports news.com.au.
Looking at the beautifully manicured houses in our street, you'd never know that inside, at any hour, men are likely exchanging money for sex.
But sure enough, my house shares a wall with one of the only real gentlemen's clubs in the city. This is no red light district hole in the wall — it's a proper, high class establishment, where men pay vast sums of money for sex and conversation.
How do I know this? Because like the good neighbours that they are, the owners of the club invited me and my house mates to come over during one of their infamous parties (with a hand-delivered invitation, I might add).
It goes without saying that we all gladly accepted.
THE BIG NIGHT
On the night of the party, my housemates and I were a mixture of giggles and nerves as we walked next door. We really didn't know what to expect.
What would the owners be like? What about the girls, and the clients? What if we see things on the other side of the wall that simply can't be unseen? Well … to be honest, the weirdest thing was finding out literally every guest room had a hot tub. I spent an irrational amount of time thinking about whether this causes mould, and how annoying it must be to clean them all the time.
SO WHAT KIND OF PEOPLE OWN A HIGH CLASS BROTHEL?
Lovely people. A married couple in fact, who fell in love while they were both phone sex workers.
They were the most incredible hosts, and were happy to answer our endless questions.
"Men come here for an experience" the owner's say. "If the clients wanted only sex, they would just go to the red light district. They come here because they're looking for more than sex — they want to talk with the girls, have a drink, maybe do things they're too scared to ask their wife to do." What sort of things, I hear you asking? Well obviously, I asked. "Oh you know all sorts of stuff, stuff with feet" the owner said.
LET'S GET DOWN TO BUSINESS
I know you're hoping this is where I talk about all the sex, but I'm a nerd so I was much more interested in the business side of things, more specifically, how does a prostitute job interview go? Is there some sort of trial? A demonstration of your abilities, if you will?
Not here — funnily enough, at this establishment it's actually a girl's personality and brains that matter most (no really).
Any hopeful employee must first come for a chat with the "madame" of the house. (It's worth mentioning to you at this point that the "madame" of this particular house is not at all like the stereotype often portrayed in movies: she's warm and personable, wears cute sneakers, and is very easy to get along with. Anyway, I digress.)
The conversation will go on for an hour or two, to establish what kind of experience she has and whether she will be right for the club.
The owners ensure that women have the right work permit, which will be checked every 6 weeks, and that they are over the age of 21 — despite the legal age only being 18 to work as a prostitute in the Netherlands.
But most importantly, a girl must be able to hold a conversation and be the type of person men want to pay to be around. Not what you were expecting, right?
SO WHAT IS THE AVERAGE CLASSY PROSTITUTE LIKE?
Once the club was a bit quieter (apart from the guestrooms) one of the girls kindly agreed to sit down with me for a one-on-one.
I hate to admit it but I was expecting your stereotypical young, naive and desperate sex worker. I was in for a big shock.
Firstly she is by no means a "girl" — she is a 32-year-old woman who also has a career in finance, and is completely self-reliant. She was late to the business — at the ripe old age of 26 — and says the job has changed her life for the better. "Working in the industry has made me a better person. I'm not naive, and it's made me stronger," she tells me.
This is a woman who knows what she wants, what she's doing and can hold her own in this industry.
And I could absolutely see why men would pay to be with her: not only was she physically beautiful, she was actually great to hang out with as well.
Of course, there is still the sex. "If he wants me on his body, I'll do it."
We had an open chat about what it's like to be in the industry beyond how many clients she might have in a day. We talked about the fact that no one in her life knew about her second career as well as the fact that even though prostitution is legal in the Netherlands — discrimination is still there. But despite this, she still enjoyed working as it allowed her to meet all kinds of people and surprisingly interesting conversations.
She also told me about how important it was for her work to stay healthy in order to keep up with the physical demands of the job. I asked her if the work was more physically or mentally demanding, and she replied equally both.
But as hard as pretending to be interested in boring conversation is, "No one wants to f**k the fat guy that smells" she says.
SO WHY DO IT THEN?
"The money" she replied "It's what you have to do to get by. It's like you have to make a pact with the devil. Society sees you as less". Before you make any judgments on this statement, I'd encourage you to think about your own line of work. Have you ever "made a pact with the devil" in your career by doing something that might have challenged your morals? Or maybe another person might feel is unethical?
The answer might be yes or no, but without naming any particular professions or industries, it's my opinion that there are plenty of people in the world who may relate to this statement.
Do these people deal with the same level of discrimination as workers in the sex industry? Do they have to lead a secret "double life" because of what their job entails? Despite the dark turn in the conversation, I left the party feeling positive. Getting to know the neighbours was certainly interesting, and the conversations left me with a lot to think about.
Seeing a hot tub on the other side of my bedroom wall left me with a lot to think about, too.
Special thanks to the owners of Club LV.