- Placing prostitution: the spatial-sexual order of Amsterdam and its growth coalition
- Volume | Issue number
- 16 | 1-2
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
- Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR)
Amsterdam's red-light district is the paradigmatic case of window prostitution, but it is not a stable case: both the regulatory context of prostitution in the Netherlands and the socio-spatial dynamics of the district have changed throughout the years. This paper advances our understanding of ‘prostitution and the city’ in at least two ways. The first refers to the evolution of prostitution in the last two centuries and the often-paradoxical effects of changing regulation, in particular the 1911 morality laws and the 2000 legalization of window prostitution. In both cases, prostitution, in parallel to the civilizing of other manners, is relegated to increasingly confined spaces and as such banned from ‘normal’ social life. While reducing the visibility of prostitution in ‘normal’ life, it increases the visibility in these spatially confined zones known as red-light districts. The second involves contemporary policies that aim to remake the red-light district. The recent ‘Plan 1012’ of the City of Amsterdam concentrates brothels in an ever-smaller red-light district. Paradoxically, formal regulation also pushes part of the commodified sexual activities out of the red-light district and into informal circuits that are far less spatially bound. The plan is promoted as one that favours women's rights, but it is first and foremost the City's way of maintaining and furthering the public-private growth coalition that aims to improve the conditions for safe investment by turning a notorious red-light district into an extension of the highly expensive city centre—in other words, state-assisted or ‘third wave’ gentrification.
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