By Victoria Serozzo
The Dutch are well known for their tolerant attitudes. They’ve legalised prostitution, allow soft-drug use (it’s illegal but tolerated), and no topic is taboo in conversation.
But I was still shocked when I unknowingly biked into the red light district of Utrecht, Netherlands, my adopted home town during a six month exchange program last year. On a visit to Amsterdam, the drug and sex capital of Europe, I was surprised to find daycares and churches located within the red light district.
Over time I adjusted and became more than comfortable with the country’s unique tourist attractions. That was until another Canadian living Utrecht asked if I wanted to visit the Moulin Rouge. Sure, I said, why not? But to be clear, this wasn’t the Parisian Moulin Rouge Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor made famous in the movies. This wasn’t a burlesque show with extravagant costumes, singing and dancing.
No, this was Amsterdam’s Moulin Rouge, the premier erotic nightclub and sex theatre, located in the infamous red light district. That’s how I found myself walking through the red light district with three friends on a night in June, passing hordes of mostly male tourists busy gawking at half-naked women in their windows lit by overhead red lights. We arrived at the Moulin Rouge and purchased our ?25 ($34 Cdn) tickets.
For each of us it was our first visit to the Moulin Rouge. We had no idea what to expect as we walked through the thick velvet curtains. The show never stops at the Moulin Rouge; literally, the acts keep repeating all night, live on stage. You know it’s time to leave when the “act” you walked in on takes the stage again. Unfortunately for us, we walked in on the “grand finale.” In the middle of the smoky room, on a stage draped in bright red velvet, next to the gold dancing pole, was a completely naked couple going at it, as some cheesy ’80s song played over the speakers.
We were escorted to our seats by the waitress, and as the couple on stage changed positions like gymnasts on speed, I couldn’t decide whether to shield my eyes or watch closely in case I missed something. Sitting next to me, my friend Shannon kept shifting in her seat to get a better view.
Walking into a live sex show is not only shocking but weird. The fact is the night only got weirder. The couple bowed and left the stage after their 15 minutes, and the next performer bounced on to the stage, banana in hand. She asked for male volunteers. Once she placed the banana you-know-where, the volunteers, who suddenly weren’t so eager, were responsible for extracting it with their mouths. One volunteer left the stage, his face beet-red.
According to the brochure, this was the “famous classic” Banana Show. The next “act” started off as a striptease. Dressed in a white tux and top hat, she danced to Tom Jones’s You Can Leave Your Hat On. As painful as the song was, I imagine the prep work for what she did next hurt much more. She reached down to where her g-string once was and pulled over 20 metres of bright green ribbon from her crotch, wrapping it around herself and trying to lasso audience members with it, while still attached to it.
Some rowdy, intoxicated Brit one row in front of me took out his camera phone to get a photo of the action. A waitress came along and threatened to grind the phone into a pulp if he didn’t erase the picture. He complied but a few minutes later he discreetly pulled his phone out again. “So do men really find this entertaining?” I asked my friend James.
His only response was “more like disturbing.” A male and female striptease later and the couple returned to the stage.
Almost two hours had passed since we arrived at the Moulin Rouge and there was no arguing amongst us, we’d definitely overstayed our welcome.