In 1995 Mariska Majoor of the Prostitution Information Centre organized an event in Amsterdam during which males were positioned behind the windows to attract female clients. Though meant as a playful experiment, it was met with fierce aggression, especially from one female manager of window brothels. (Shahar, 1997) She and her colleagues were afraid this initiative would scare away the regular (male) clients. This woman had even engaged a television station to broadcast her objections. She shouted at passersby: ‘I have lived here for all my life and I have never ever seen such a horrific thing in our neighbourhood.’ She thought it unnatural, a disgrace, not worthy of a true man. This gender bias of brothel operators is still a problem. In most window areas males are not allowed to rent a window. Only in Amsterdam there is a small street where transgenders and transvestites can rent a window. But they don’t have female clients.

Until recently the existence of female clients was downplayed as almost non- existent. In 1984 a brothel for female clients had to close down due to lack of clients. In 2007 the Dutch researcher Eysink Smeets deemed the demand for gigolo’s negligible. Was he right? Anyway, nowadays we see a different picture.

Shahar, the singing gigolo

Shahar, the singing gigolo

According to researchers as Van Gelder and Van Lier (2010) it is a growing market. They counted 104 men who work as a gigolo in the area of The Hague and Leiden. Quite a few of them do it part time as a job on the side. The majority is Dutch or Western European, others come from Suriname or the Caribbean. 47 per cent is between 23-29 years old. As a rule, they work independently, not for an agency. From the scarce publications about them, we know that career women form a large part of their clientele. (Oste, 1989) According to Shahar, a Dutch gigolo who published a book on the subject (1997) the clients are usually well to do professionals who just want to have sex but not a relationship. They have to have some money, since prices are generally high. Marielle Oste (1989) who interviewed gigolo’s in the Netherlands, confirms this. Her interviewees all agreed that their clients were relaxed, insisted on safe sex and always took their time to select a man.

Women clients value discretion. The internet çan rather anonymously be searched, a fact which may have contributed to the increase in demand for gigolo’s. (Van Gelder en Van Lier, 2010) The few women I spoke with who had solicited the services of a gigolo did however complain about the lack of diversity of the ‘supply’. ‘Too many caps and sweat suits’. A sex worker who visited the Red Thread admitted to having ordered a gigolo out of curiosity for herself, but this resulted in a disappointment.

Piet from the Park Department showed up. He asked where he could put his muddy boots. It was okay, he could leave his job for a while, his colleagues would cover for him. My appetite had gone.

Female sex workers for women

The afore mentioned Eysink Smeets (2007) claims that the market for female escorts for women is non- existent. But already in 1997 one could find personals in women’s magazines for this kind of service. Maybe the internet caters this niche as well.

Female sex tourists

On holidays women can also more or less anonymously arrange for a so called toy boy.  Gambia and Jamaica are well known destinations for female ‘sex and romance’ tourists. Also the Dominican Republic has come into the picture in this respect. In the Dominican Republic the toy boys are called sanky pankies. Their African colleagues are dubbed bumsters and the Jamaican counterparts rastitutes.

Some authors like Sanchez Taylor (2001) are critical on the framing of this phenomenon as sex tourism since it is completely different from what she thinks men do in for instance in Thailand or in the Philippines. According to her they just purchase cheap services in bars there. But she forgets that male sex tourists also often try to engage in a short term relationship with women and pay for their meals and give them presents. That is exactly what female tourists do as well with their boyfriends. The females are also looking for romance. Only three percent of the women interviewed by Taylor just want pure and simple sex.

These tourists are sometimes pitifully described as lonely women who fall victim to greedy local young men. (Taylor, 2001) They presumably fail to see that it just a form of prostitution. Besides, they are supposed to be ignorant, otherwise they would for instance realize that in a country like Gambia it is not done that a man flirts with a woman in a public space. The romantic illusion can be shattered when a romance tourist eavesdrops and hears he sees her as just a source of money or when he demands money before engaging in sexual activity with her. [i]
Especially the women who think they have found their true love and who make the step to live with them run the risk of being stripped financially and may even become a victim of domestic violence. There are some documented cases of this problem. Theo Noten of Ecpat (an organization against prostitution of children) assumes that these women are unknowing since they can’t very well gauge the age of their sexual partners and may be accused of having sex with a minor. [ii]

A further objection is that this kind of sex tourism is harmful for the local culture and the self-consciousness of men.  (Wajohi 2009). Julie Bindel frames it as colonialism.[iii]  But the very same Bindel notes that this kind of sex work is pimp free and does not involve child abuse. Sanchez Taylor (2001) states that a large part of these adventure-loving women describe their affairs with local men as a holiday romance. Some authors (Pruitt and Lafont, 1995), Sanchez Taylor, 2001) and Wajohi 2009) consider this behaviour of the travelling women as emancipatory. These women travelers don’t go on a package tour but travel independently or with friends. Contrary to in the old days these women travelers don’t try to be as tough as a man but on the contrary assert their femininity. Present day female tourists invade the traditional masculine domain to get recognition as a woman. According to Wanjohi, (2009) Pruitt and Lafont (1995) this phenomenon serves as a new arena to negotiate gender relations.

Whenever prostitution for women demand is discussed, stale arguments derived from cliché approaches to female sexuality prevail. For instance, ‘Women don’t have to pay for sex, they can have it for free‘. Or: ‘Women only want sex as part of a (good) relationship’. But in fact some women prefer- just like some men- commercial affairs, because they don’t want to jeopardize their own relationships, or because they don’t want to get involved with someone. Or simply, they don’t want to bother with his breakfast. It is a prejudice that only males pay for erotic entertainment. The idea that only males do, goes back on the days when it was assumed that only men had a biological need for sex and women preferred no sex at all.

On some of the sex- dating sites heterosexual couples offer themselves in a special section. In the past couples going to a sex worker happened incidentally, usually on instigation of the male partner. It was a threesome. Nowadays the threesomes and foursomes are more diversified.

Sietske Altink

Sources