Amsterdam’s oldest prostitutes have been thrust into the spotlight with the release of their memoirs and a documentary film about their lives. The film, Meet the Fokkens, follows 70-year-old identical twins Louise and Martine Fokken as they share secrets of selling sex in the city’s famous red light district.
Louise and Martine shuffle round their cluttered two-bedroom apartment in Ijmuiden, just west of Amsterdam.
One in slippers, the other in sandals, they fetch foaming mugs of coffee and their favourite cream cakes.
There is an absent-minded synchronicity to their movements.
Martine hums as Louise breaks into an old lament about families forced to flee during World War II. Their mum was part Jewish, something they managed to hide from occupying Nazi forces while remaining in the Netherlands. Louise’s song dwells on the joy of living and the sadness of leaving.
“We were very little during the war. When the sirens started our mum would take us down into the basement. We didn’t have any helmets so we used frying pans to cover our heads. We all looked so funny. And we had fun there.”
I ask, when she looks back at her life in Amsterdam, was there more laughter or tears?
“Oh laughter, definitely laughter. You have to laugh even if you are sad because it is your life and you can’t change it, but it is always better if you are smiling.”
The sisters nod in unison…
Martine still sells sex. She says the Dutch state pension alone is not enough to live on. Louise quit because of arthritis.
Martine says she would like to retire but cannot afford to. The documentary shows her at work – perched on a stool in stockings, suspenders and patent leather stilettos…
“There are always ups and downs,” Louise adds. “Ups and downs, ups and downs…” the twins sing-song, before falling into each other in fits of laughter.
They have a century’s worth of experience between them. And now their story is going global.
The twins’ memoirs topped the Dutch bestsellers list, and now an English translation is being printed and is due to be released later this year.
The difference is in the culture and the country, of course. Unless you’re a high-priced urbane call girl – with an equivalent short work span – life for a hooker in a country like the United States is filled with added danger. It ain’t just coppers and the law. Often, wanting, needing a pimp adds to the dangers instead of diminishing worries.
But, then, the absurdity of laws based on biblical morality hasn’t changed especially. We have means tests for potential sinners, We have regulations stuffing ordinary people into categories defined by dollars. Why should we expect women who work at sex to live an ordinary life?
Unless they’re in the Netherlands instead of the Land of the Free. Except where True Believers and science-haters have turned ordinary language upside-down to suit their pleasure – consenting adults means exactly that. Age may vary from country to country; but, if you say “consenting adults” – please realize that at least one of them may also be charging for a service. And they have a right to do so.