Saturday, July 2, 2011

Feels like home


This is the most common response I get when I tell people my intention to study sexuality and non normative sexual behaviors/lifestlyes. On the flight from San Francisco to Minnasota (which is where I swtiched planes to go to Amsterdam) the guy sitting next to me asked me why I was going to Amsterdam. I told him that I was going to study the sexual culture of the community and study under well known sex professors surrounding topics like gender, sex in art, teen sex culture, and prostitution. He paused and looked at me (Well, he turned his head. Airplanes don't give much room to look at the person next to you) and with a furrowed brow, asked "Why?"


"Why not?" would be the best response I can think of. People ask me this all the time, usually trying to figure out what happened in my life to lead me to study such a taboo topic. As if studying sex meant that I had been sexually abused, or am questioning my own sexuality. Sorry to dissapoint, but I grew up knowing that I was attracted to both sexes and never had any sexual trauma growing up. My parents ask me "Why?" every few months, why do I keep persisting this area of study. I think that they would rather have me go into psychology or school teaching, two areas that I studied in college.

In Amsterdam, no one questions me. True, it is probably because I live in a dorm full of other sex enthusiasts, but it is incredibly refreshing to talk bluntly to a receptionist or information desk about where to find the best spots to observe the sexual culture. My welcome packet to the program included a condom. I think I almost cried with happiness.

The beauty if this place is that no one cares when it comes to sex and gender. What they care about is behavior. For example, the public toilettes have one entrance for both male and females sexes, with the male section on one side, the female on the other. There is no weirdness that the bathrooms are basically used by everyone. There are signs warning that decent behavior is expected, and any misbehavior will cause action. So if someone makes a non-consentual act towards another, they will be handed over to the police and most likey fined. It's a pretty wonderful concept, especially for those who do not identify with male or female gender labels. They don't get hassled, questioned, and if that ever happens, the lavatory worker would step in. There are also public urinals for men, which are plastic columns for urination. It is very common to walk down the street and see these being used. The point of them is not to expose ones genitalia to the public (there are actually little walls to ensure some privacy) but to stop intoxicated men from urinating in the street. There is no shame in using them, and they keep the busy bar areas quite clean.

I have yet to visit the famous Red Light district, but I am very very happy about the behavior instructional in guide books. Again, behavior is the key word in this community. Good behavior is a sign of respect. The guide books remind visitors that the Red Light district is a family neighborhood, with children and community privacy. Visitors are told to respect the neighborhood. Though it may sound strange for tourists to hear the families live in this prostitute thriving area, this is real. Prostitution is legal, and is considered a legit job, just like florists or waiters or plumbers. They are in the service oriented professional community, and they deserve respect. Personally, I can only hope that one day I can live in a society like this. There is 24hr surveillance to ensure the safety of the workers and proper behavior is required. Because sex is so blatant in this community, outsiders and tourists assume that this means that everything is allowed. Therefore they get extremely intoxicated in public, scream, urinate in the streets, use hard drugs, and drink outside. There is a reason locals are not too friendly to tourists, and this is why. A relaxed sexual environment does not meant that you get to act like an ass.

I love love love love that prostitutes are treated with respect in this community. Tourists are not allowed to treat them as weird spectacles but taking pictures of them, shout at them, and use bad language towards them. These are all arrestable offences. You also cannot solicit them on the street, as that is not where they work. If you were a dentist you would really hate it if someone can up to you on the street and asked you to give them a cleaning. They'd have to go to your office for something that that. Same thing with prostitutes.

It's been a little more than 24hrs being here and I am overjoyed by this communities sense of mutual respect and "normalness" of sex.

So "Why?" Because I believe society should normalize sex, and make it a non-taboo subject

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