Sex workers should be allowed choose prostitution if it makes their lives better, says prostitute-turned-advocate Mariska Majoor
“It feels like a war on prostitution,” she says. “Sex work is not the same as trafficking or abuse. Why can’t anyone understand that?”
The last time I saw Mariska Majoor, I was scantily dressed in a window, in Amsterdam’s red-light district, and she was sitting just out of view, asking me what kind of man I like. I was taking part in a workshop that Majoor, a former prostitute, offers at the Prostitution Information Center, in which participants spend an hour learning how to draw clients – and repel undesirables – using body language and eye contact.
“You must have a look that says, ‘You can have sex with me – for €100’,” she told me. Not a look I could muster, but the experience was fascinating, humiliating and empowering all at once. “Window work is the hardest,” she said when it was over, “but you would probably do well in a brothel.”
Over a glass of wine, Majoor explained sex work openly and matter of factly, describing everything from negotiating with clients to “professional development” with her peers. “I started as a prostitute when I was 16 and before then I had sex only with one boy, when I was 14. So I was not that experienced. My friends and I would practice things on each other.”
Now, as then, the 45-year-old regards sex work as just that: a job. But in an attempt to reduce human trafficking and the exploitation of woman, the red-light district has undergone some major gentrification recently, and last week the EU Parliament passed a proposal that would make selling sex legal in Europe, but criminalise paying for it.