By Sebastian Aceves
Young men like John and Nick spend their last night as bachelors in Amsterdam’s infamous Red Light District. Shortly before getting married and promising loyalty to their fiancées, they get drunk, visit peep shows and sleep with prostitutes. Their sinful behaviour is completely accepted – for the last time.
It’s a busy Saturday night in the Red Light District. Masses of tourists are making their way through the small, crowded streets of the historic city centre. The moon illuminates the night. People meet up with friends, having a beer or a smoke by one of Amsterdam’s renowned canals.
Sex shops, clubs and peep show theatres line up next to each other in the narrow streets. Prostitution is legal and tolerated in the city after all. That is one of the reasons thousands of tourists visit the district every day. Among them is a group of male friends, one of them wearing a wedding dress. Nick is excited to visit Amsterdam on his last day as a bachelor. His best friends have planned a party for him. He still doesn’t know what to expect: “Two weeks ago, my friends told me they would organise my bachelor party but they never mentioned it would be here”, he says, smiling excitedly.
“I hope my girlfriend will never know”
The party of the soon-to-be-husband starts in an Irish pub where his friends drink to and wish the best for Nick. With more alcohol circulating in their blood, they head to the red showcases. Hidden in the crowd, Nick and his friends knock on doors to ask for special services. After a couple of attempts, Nick decides to get in with an Asian girl.
Waiting outside, his friends are laughing as they vividly discuss the events of the night: “Nick has to enjoy his bachelor party as if it were the last night of his life. We are going to pay for everything he feels like doing tonight”, one of his friends say. Nick comes back, smiling, soon eagerly sharing his experience. Despite the spectacular night he has, John looks worried all of a sudden: “I hope my girlfriend will never learn about this night. I will be in trouble if she knows I celebrated my bachelor party here”, he mutters.
One of his obviously drunken friends tries to break the tension by pulling a vodka bottle out of his jacket to start with the first round of shots. The swans swim quietly through the canals while tourists wait in line to enter one of the theaters that offer sex shows. People spend a lot of money here, no matter if they have debts.
“I’m not cheating”
In front of private cabins that show the logo of a pink elephant at their entrance, someone dressed as a rabbit pops up. He does not seem to care about his friends making fun of him. For John, a 27-year-old-Brit, it is not the first time he has stayed in the ‘Venice of the North’: “A year ago, my best friend celebrated his bachelor party here. I love Amsterdam. I feel like I’m in paradise,” he says.
Unlike Nick, John is known by his friends for being the life and soul of every party. He is explaining to his friends that he would get free access to gentlemen clubs dressing up in a funny way: “I’m not ashamed of wearing cosplay, I think it also catches tourists’ attention”, he states. It seems as if John had been the one who planned the party. He laughs, drinks, jokes around and tells his friends where to go as if he were a tour guide.
One can barely walk between the little streets on this busy weeknight. Some tourists seemingly get lost contemplating the tiny dark brick houses. Young people sing loudly as if shouting a war cry. John does not hesitate to admit the amount of money he has spent: “An hour ago I paid $150 to have sex”, he shares. He is convinced that there shouldn’t be any boundaries at bachelor parties: “I’m not cheating on my fiancée. It’s my last day as a bachelor which means I can do whatever I want. Once I’m married, I’ll be crazy for her love.”
The group of British friends heads to the Hospital Bar, one of the most famous spots in the neighbourhood. There, they will mingle with other bachelors like Nick again, all of them craving to sin for what they think will be the last time. A typical night in Amsterdam, a memorable night for these young men. And most probably for their partners too.