Journal of Sex Research vol:42 issue:1 pages:54-62
It is generally accepted that in sexual interaction men are the hunters and women the gatherers. An expressly sexual environment such as a red-light district would be expected to only reinforce this image. Strikingly enough, however, it is precisely prostitutes who seem able to break with these established gender roles. This ethnographic study uses participant observation to demonstrate how assumptions about sexual interaction may be specious: Female prostitutes are frequently not the passive victims and male clients not the active sex-hunters they are taken for. Both the communicative function and protection of privacy play an important role in these processes in a red-light district. In the red-light district, gender interaction is bound by social regulation and unwritten rules that greatly exceed the influence of formal institutions. In this paper, the case of the red-light district "De Wallen" in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, is discussed in the context of several disciplines including urban anthropology, social psychology, geography, gender studies, and urban sociology.