Experiencing Amsterdam’s Red Light District as a female resident: normalization, alliances and diversion

Astrid Mörk, Amanda Brandellero*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Every year, Amsterdam’s de Wallen neighbourhood attracts high numbers of tourists looking to experience a unique Red Light District (RLD). Yet de Wallen is a multi-use area, that combines sexualised consumption and leisure practices, with everyday residential urban functions and public spaces. This study investigated how female residents of this neighbourhood experience its sexualised nature, adjust their behaviour to it, as well as how they negotiate their feelings of belonging and being at home. Data was collected through in-depth interviews and focus groups. The results indicate that female residents navigate their ordinary lives in the neighbourhood with a sense of normality and familiarity, while acknowledging and maintaining a distance to the areas more extraordinary peculiarities, nuisances and darker, more unknown sides. They take ownership of their neighbourhood by creating a community, standing up for sex workers and reacting boldly towards sexual harassment. Becoming targets of objectification and sexualisation by male visitors to the area stimulates them to deconstruct power relations between genders. Generally speaking, this study shows how respondents residing in de Wallen manage to feel secure, spatially confident as well as attached and protective of an area that is both ordinary and extraordinary.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-21
Number of pages21
JournalGender, Place and Culture
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 15 Aug 2023

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© 2023 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.

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