Red Light District

When they say red lights they literally mean red lights. I don’t know what I envisioned. Is it red for stop? For hell? For love? For all of the above?

This is what I thought as I walked down the cobbled road puzzled by the women staring back at me through thin glass while I also tried to avoid getting bulldozed by a bicycle.

Suddenly the kids sized jacket I bought for myself at REI for the cheaper price seems appropriately matched with my widening pupils and awkward stares.

I bump into the person in front of me as I watch a brunette in a window sway back and forth in her stilletos and bikini. The girl in the window next to hers has a chair she’s sitting on while she eats rice noodles out of a cardboard takeout box. She’s just a normal person. Working a job. It’s her break I’m guessing and she’s on display. She only shows her profile as she tries to hide her food. Maybe to try to keep the illusion that she isn’t real? With real hunger? Real emotions? I don’t know.

“They must be so cold.” A woman says to her group as they pass me on the left. She sounds like a mother about to run to her closet to grab a cardigan to drape around their shoulders. Though I do hope it’s heated in those glass windows.

A poster advertises different sex positions with actual photos of women in such poses. The blinking neon sign above us states “Live Sex Shows” with a ticket man waiting by the door.

Each window I pass I’m shocked/stunned/amazed at the ability of each woman to uniquely drape pieces of clothes to hide “just enough.”

Is this empowering? Should women have the ability to sell their bodies? Who am I to say what a person should or shouldn’t do? 

Are these women trying to flip the sexualization of their bodies on its head and take control? Or is it simply giving in?

Is it women with low self esteem that don’t think they can amount to anything else? Are they forced? By people or for a need of money? Or do they actually enjoy this business? Is this an opportunity for women to become self employed? 

We heard many of these women actually own their storefronts. They control their hours. They set their prices. But we also heard  the line between self employment and forced employment is very thin. 

Does this further the horrible idea that all we are as women are bodies?

Two nights of walking these streets before I could look into the eyes of these women. To actually face them.

Blank.

Emotionless.

Do they know people are just looking from their neck down? Do they hate it? Or love it?

Across from a woman toying with the straps of her bra, a man stands giddy with his buddy. They giggle and fumble in their jeans pocket.

In the next window a balding man with stubby fingers clumsily grasps with his whole palm the shoulder of a girl and guides her away. And another steps in her place…

I can’t really process any of this as it happens. Maybe some people wouldn’t see it as drastic as I did. But I would have to argue about the desensitization of our society to these images. 

All I really know is I want to discuss these things. I want to talk to one of these women. Maybe several. Grab a cup of coffee. Ask these questions I have. Hear their story. And I hope one day I have this opportunity. 

More next time!