An Expert's Guide to Brothel Etiquette
An Amsterdam sex blogger's advice for first-time johns.
Illustrations by Cei Willis
Since last September, notices have started to appear in the windows of Amsterdam’s brothels. They’re there to advise potential customers of what does and doesn't constitute appropriate behaviour once they're inside. In practice, this is a well-intentioned piece of bureaucracy. In reality, it's something nobody is ever going to read. In fact, given their size, the effects of your Dutch courage and the other distractions in and around the window area, it’s unlikely you’d even notice them. Which might be an issue for those of you who’ve never paid for sex before, but maybe want to do so on your next trip to Amsterdam, or Nevada, or Cologne, without coming across as both an amateur and a dick.
I’ve been having sex with the “window girls” of Amsterdam for a while now, keeping a blog of all my experiences that led to me being interviewed by VICE last month. So, instead of making you rely on the small-print tacked up around the Red Light District, I thought I’d use the knowledge I’ve picked up over the past couple of years to gift you my own informed guide to the etiquette of sleeping with a sex worker.
THE NEW GIRLS ARE AS MUCH IN THE DARK AS YOU ARE
If there's one major thing I've learned from interviewing the girls I’ve met, it's that they were as clueless at the start of their careers as johns are ahead of their first time. “You don’t know what to do – you don’t know what to charge,” they say. “The guys say it’s OK to do this and to do that, and you believe them.”
That said, the preconceptions of those guys who are new to the window experience can be more damaging, invasive and just plain rude. “They come in and they just grab,” I’ve been told on a number of occasions, usually accompanied by an eye roll.
As far as I can tell, that grabbiness is mostly fuelled by the expectations young guys get from internet pornography, like that weird thing male porn stars do where they try to fit their entire hand in a girl’s mouth during anal sex. Unsurprisingly, this kind of behaviour isn’t thought of too highly by the window girls. They’re selling their time and, with it, access to specific sexual acts; they’re not saying, “Give me €50 and do anything that comes into your stupid fucking head.”
TREAT THE GIRLS AS YOU WOULD YOUR GIRLFRIEND (KIND OF)
Personally, I treat prostitutes as though they’re my girlfriends. But my relationship code is based on respect and concern for a partner's wellbeing. I guess this piece of advice is dependent upon how you behave when you have a special person in your life. I'm going to assume that you're a decent sort, and that your relationships to date haven't been a shitstorm of domestic abuse, neglect and psychological cruelty. If you wouldn't treat a girlfriend that way, don't treat a prostitute that way. These are basic people skills.
DON’T LOITER – BE DECISIVE
Window etiquette starts at the window, while the guy is still standing in the street. If you approach a window, there’s a good chance the girl behind it will peer round the door and check you out. Then again, she might not – there are a lot of time wasters out there who’ll just stand in front of a window and gawp. The girls don’t like that, either. Would you like it if a stranger stared at your half-naked body for an extended period of time while deliberating whether they wanted to put their penis inside of it?
So don’t be a gawper. Instead, make your mind up and make the first move by tapping gently on the window. As creepy as that sounds, it’s the best way to show you’re actually interested. That said, if you walk around De Wallen – one of the busier streets in Amsterdam’s RLD – and a lot of women are tapping on their windows as you pass, it’s a sign that it’s been a slow day and thus is also now a buyer’s market. This is the one scenario where it’s OK to spend a little more time dwelling on your choices.
ESTABLISH WHAT YOU’RE GETTING FOR YOUR MONEY BEFORE YOU GET IT
If you don’t want everything to go horribly wrong within the space of ten minutes, the next move is to ask how much she will charge. This will usually be €50, but she might say €40 (and a girl who asks for €50 or €40 might actually be persuaded to take €40 or €30). Personally, I can’t be bothered to try negotiating the price down, but if you’re the type of person who can bear to haggle over blowjobs, now's your time to shine.
Once that’s out of the way, there is a second crucial question: “What will you do for €50?” If you don’t ask this, you’re building yourself up for trouble. In your head, that price probably accounts for a minute or two of fellatio, followed by penetrative sex. In her head, it probably means a minute or two of fellatio, then an opportunity to charge another €50 for penetrative sex.
She will likely try to soften the blow by telling you that “All the girls do it, darling.” This, of course, is cheating (and poor etiquette), but it’s the fairest kind of cheating because the situation you’ve found yourself in is entirely your own fault.
DON’T BE A RISK (WHICH IS ACTUALLY JUST A GOOD PIECE OF ADVICE IN GENERAL)
By this point, the price is right, you’re pretty confident about what that price will buy you and you’re on the inside. You might already be in the room where the business is going down, or you might have to walk to a room at the back of the shop. You might also have to go up some stairs, or you might have to go down some stairs. Regardless, etiquette requires you go first.
You’ll notice that estate agents operate under exactly the same procedure, because in both situations you are an unknown quantity, meaning you are also a risk. I guess this is as applicable in everyday life as it is in a brothel, but try not to come across as a risk.
DON’T DIVE STRAIGHT IN
Apparently, some guys take their dick out as soon as they get into the room. That sentence alone should tell you this is not good etiquette. But in case you need a more direct pointer, what you should really do is take out your wallet and part with the €50 you agreed on at the door. This is as much a pay-up-front environment as it is a pay-as-you-go environment.
If I do decide to renegotiate, this is often the point where I’ll do it. Malcolm Gladwell wrote a book called Blink. In it, he posits the idea that experts can make accurate assessments – which should otherwise take hours or days of detailed analysis – in the blink of an eye. When it comes to it, I will decide (in that blink of an eye, once we’ve made personal contact) whether it seems worth offering the girl more money for more time.
I have no idea what other guys want – footjobs, wetplay, something involving all those knobbly dildos they keep by the side of the bed? – but now is really the last chance you have to ask for it. It’s also the moment where she might try up-selling. This is poor etiquette. You’ve barely parted with €50 and she will say something like, “For €100, you can have a really nice time.” And maybe you can. But I’ve been persuaded into this fantasy just the once, and more than learned my lesson.
NOW TAKE YOUR CLOTHES OFF
Whatever the outcome of the trading floor, you strip. And so should she. It’s her house so it’s her rules, but it’s not a good sign if she keeps her bikini on. There’s another tell that all is not well: if she insists on shaking your hand and formally introducing herself as soon as the curtain is closed. The whole handshake thing is usually an indicator that the next half hour is going to be, at best, slightly more exciting than a heated exchange among an insurance company’s middle management. And, at worst, she might have plans to fuck with you. I have, though, been known to get this quirk hugely (and very pleasantly) wrong.
Aside from all those details, make sure you’re don’t dawdle too much. Because while you might have thought that you’d bought 15 minutes of sex, what you’re really paying for is a set 15 minutes, including however long it takes to get dressed and undressed. Plus, some of the girls’ definitions of 15 minutes can be pretty elastic.
After you’ve got the disrobing out of the way, some of the girls will ask you to wash your hands and dick, some will wet wipe your junk themselves and some will just get straight down to business.
DO THE THING YOU’RE THERE TO DO
The action itself usually starts out with the girl inviting you to lie down on the bed, before she applies a condom and starts giving you a blowjob. The immediate question that will spring to your mind is: ‘Is it OK to touch her while she does this?’ The answer is: maybe. She might have already answered the question for you by positioning herself at the foot of the bed, as far away from your wandering hands as she can get. Then again, she might kneel or stand beside you.
So, if touching is what you want to do, you can find out by trying. She’ll let you know if it’s OK. Equally, she’ll definitely let you know if it’s not OK. You might be advised, for example, that “touching costs more”, or your advances might be tolerated, but gently guided with advice like, “Not inside, honey.”
She may have views about how the penetrative stuff should go, but two positions – in line with the client’s preferences – is fair. Having got that far, there are a couple more points of etiquette to abide by. If you can’t come, that’s your problem. Similarly, when you do come, that’s it. You are finished. You’re done – even if you have more time on the clock. The exception to this rule would be if a guy had paid for an hour and indicated at the outset that he wanted to get the sex over with quickly and then sit and talk. Which happens more than you’d expect. The point is, it’s all subject to prior agreement.
CLEAN UP AND DON’T HANG AROUND
There’s one final piece of etiquette: the clean-up.
The most civilised method is less fashionable now than it was, but you still see it from time to time. Essentially, once you’ve finished, you lie on the bed, she tears off a few sheets of kitchen roll, gently squeezes your dick (to get all the last bits out), removes the condom and, using clean kitchen roll, dabs you dry. Others will leave you to sort yourself out, which seems perfectly fair enough to me – you’re paying for sex, not to be bathed.
My favourite girls will continue to treat their guy like a valued client right up to the time he exits, sending him off with a couple of air kisses on either cheek. Some of the Thai girls even hand out sweets.
Read more from Lange at his blog
Illustrations by @Cei_Willis