Hey, Lord, about those 21 questions!

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The links to Youtube throughout these blog posts have different connotations. Sometimes it’s the title of the song which is significant, sometimes it’s the lyrics. Sometimes I’m being for real, and sometimes I’m being ironic (and a little bit opportunist), like with this choice of song. The only consistent thing is that I actually like the songs that I chose.

I was in Dam a few days ago doing another gig for American students. It was at the 420 Club. In order to get it to work I fly out on Thursday, do the gig around lunchtime the next day and then fly back the following day. I come out a day early in anticipation of flight cancellations or delays on the actual day. This way I have a fallback position. I fly back the next day because that’s the best financial deal and WTF, all work and no play, and all that. If I wasn’t doing a talk I wouldn’t be in Amsterdam on those dates so I have to make it work financially.

The venue changes but the 420 Club is my kinda venue. Right size, right shape, right lighting, right acoustics. As my Arab friends would say, Mia Mia. Oh, yeah, it’s also an easy trek from the hotel that I use on these occasions.

This time I was talking to a ‘half group’. Normally there are fifty students, of whom 90% are women. Today, it was just over thirty in the audience and, from what I could make out, two guys. The other half will be in Dam in a couple of weeks and I’ll meet up with them at some point during the week.

What do I talk about? Well, the core is always the same. I explain why I visited a prostitute in the first instance and then why I continue to visit. It’s a longer and more complicated story than you might think. I take the opportunity to thread that story with anecdotes and insights, and (increasingly) I’m giving my take on issues relating to prostitution. I don’t know for sure but it’s my guess that they come up against more establishment figures who develop the prostitute as victim narrative than any views which challenge stereotypes and misinformation. Because I can’t squeeze all the things that I want to say into the presentation I change it regularly; no two presentations are exactly the same. I also seed the talk with questions that I want the audience to ask in the Q & A (a bit like a Victorian Magician). Does it work? Of course it does.

I usually start by telling them that I have no idea what they want or expect from me or why they are studying prostitution in depth (one semester). And this is true: “So I’ll just do my thing and hope that it makes some sense.” This is, of course, an open invitation for someone to spell it out to me one day.

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One of the things I always regret is that I don’t have a good recollection of the questions that get asked. This time I made the point during my opening remarks and one young lady immediately volunteered to act as scribe. Thanks! Greatly appreciated!

 

  1. What made you go straight to the Netherlands for sex instead of looking for sex in GB?
  2. How can you be so sure that the women do not fit the victim narrative (because you are the buyer and they have to fake things)?
  3. Do you think buyers should have an organisation to flag possible trafficking victims?
  4. What preliminary research do you do before you go into a red light district?
  5. How did your friends and family react to your actions?
  6. What do the workers honestly believe about the police?
  7. Talk about the time you reported something to the police.
  8. What would have to change in your life or in the world for you to stop buying sex?
  9. Have you ever considered taking your participant research and teaming up with academics in order to complicate the victim narrative?
  10. Why did you decide to take down your site?
  11. Payjacked?
  12. What do you make of the argument that women are economically forced into prostitution?
  13. Do you find that prostitution has moved online? In your life, specifically?
  14. What is it like to see the tourists at the windows? Does it make you feel uncomfortable?
  15. Have you met other clients and become friends with them?
  16. How often do you purchase sex? Do you try to visit the same women?
  17. What is the most positive aspect of the sex industry for the sex workers?
  18. Can they be empowered or emotionally destroyed?
  19. In your words, what are you buying? Body. service, experience?
  20. When you approach a new woman who you are attracted to, how long does it take to develop a relationship with a woman?
  21. Tell us about Janice.

It took a good hour to respond to the questions, largely because there is usually a story involved in the process. I recognise the questions but not the order, and sometimes my recollection is of a question with a different nuance (but these were being recorded in real-time and as the questioner spoke).

The one I couldn’t answer and which made me stumble around was: Do you think buyers should have an organisation to flag possible trafficking victims? In retrospect I think that it’s because the answer is no, and that sounds rather uncaring. There is already an organisation that buyers can contact. It’s called the police. There are always ways to do that anonymously and in the Netherlands there is the government sponsored Anonymous Tip Line (on the janvanderdamm Links page).

The question I don’t recall at all is Payjacked? And I’ve absolutely no idea what it means.

My scribe failed to record one question: Don’t you have any amusing stories? This is all a bit serious.

That was a fair point. I did manage to work in a few one-liners which got a laugh but there weren’t any ‘amusing stories’. Maybe that’s because the questions didn’t trigger anything, or maybe it’s because I didn’t see the opportunity in the moment. Back in November, when I did this, I deliberately worked on the humour. However, it often takes time to set the jokes up and I found myself trading content for humour. However, I’ve thought of a couple of anecdotes to work in next time. There’s the time that a condom burst. Well, it’s amusing in retrospect, and in the way that I tell it. And there was the time that I went online and made a list of women not to visit because they gave very, very poor service – and then left the hotel and went straight to one of them! There are, however, quite a few amusing anecdotes in The Amsterdam Diaries and The Amsterdam Diaries 2 (and always at my expense).

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