Meet The Fokkens. And don’t be shy about saying Hi to them — they’re very friendly.
The Fokkens are twin sisters Louise and Martine, and they have gone down in history (and elsewhere) as the oldest prostitutes in Amsterdam, finally closing up shop around age 70 after nearly five decades of proving these tricks certainly aren’t for kids, silly rabbit.
They also are the stars of Meet The Fokkens, a documentary that, like the Hollywood movie of a similar name, features over-the-hill performers. (Be careful not to confuse the two films when you are picking a flick for the next family night at your house.)
It is said that theirs is the world’s oldest profession, and these two have been around since its beginning. They’re the McDonald’s of prostitution, having served, by their own estimate, more than 350,000 over the years, which puts porn stars and legendary man slut Wilt Chamberlain to shame.
If you do the math, and assume the Fokkens worked year-round over their careers, they would have “entertained” about 10 (presumably) male clients each and every day. Which leads to a very obvious question: What did they do with the other 23 hours in their day?
Interestingly, no one really cared about how the Fokkens made their living, since prostitution is legal in Amsterdam. The sex trade workers (which is a legit title, given that a trade can be defined as requiring a special skill and involving a lot of use of your hands) provided their wares openly, paid their taxes like any other business, and obviously excelled at service, ensuring the customer always came first. Now, after doling out benefits for so long, they can finally collect some, thanks to a state pension.
It’s a very progressive approach to an industry that in Canada is in a very grey area. Prostitution isn’t illegal here, but soliciting and running a brothel are against the law. That effectively forces participants to work underground, where safety is an issue, health checkups aren’t mandated, and there is no financial security.
Now, rather than rehash all the well-worn arguments for and against legalization of the sex trade, let’s just compare the retirement years of the women who work in Canada and in Amsterdam.
Over there, the Fokkens have good health, a government pension that allows them to spend their days painting and gardening, and no stigma from their choice of profession (though they are unlikely to ever be invited to speak at high school Career Days).
In Canada? Well, there’s … uh … hang on, we’re thinking …
Not much of a comparison, is it? One approach is compassionate and fair, treating the women as people; the other is cold and punitive, treating the women as pariahs.
Not very friendly, to be sure. Some might call it a Fokken disgrace.
Above: Twins Louise (L) and Martine (R) Fokkens, 70, pose with a street artist ain the centre of Amsterdam on November 15, 2012, the Netherlands. Twins Martine and Louise Fokkens, nicknamed the ‘Queens of the wallen’, are Amsterdam’s oldest prostitutes, having worked for fifty years in the city’s red-light-district, and they have wrote two books about their experiences.
Image credit: ANOEK DE GROOT/AFP/Getty Images