Drugs, Prostitution and Vice
in American and Europe

" I have to tell you, with all due respect, that you are exactly the type of person that I want to get away from."

Date: Thu, 19 Mar 1998 23:16:51 -0500
To: cybrgbl@deltanet.com
From: john.smith@aol.com
Subject: Read Your Story


Just read some of your story about Amsterdam. Honestly, I didn't read it all, but may finish it later. I just wanted to let you know that I will probably be one of those people flocking to that city precisely for what you consider all the wrong reasons. I live in America, born and raised - I love it, but I do get sick of the...intolerance. That story of yours was written back in 1991, so this may be out of the blue. And I've never been to Amsterdam, so I can't disagree with you. You may well be right. But I have to tell you, with all due respect, that you are exactly the type of person that I want to get away from.

I'm sick of judgement. I'm sick of sweeping generalizations. I'm sick of narrow-mindedness. I'm sick of cops busting people for victimless crimes. I'm sick of people thinking that their way is the only way. That their good is the only good.

Legalize drugs? Legalize prostitution? In America, perhaps not.

Decriminalize both? Absolutely! Meaning that, barring extenuating circumstances, to arrest someone on the grounds of drug use or prostitution alone is morally unjustifiable.

But this isn't meant to be a hostile letter to you; the tone isn't meant to be as such; it's just a note of disagreement.

I'd like to live in a place where I could roll a joint and smoke it without the fear of armed DEA agents storming my apartment, hauling me off to jail, and taking anything of value that I own while claiming that I purchased it with drug profits.

I'd like to call a whore in for a little nasty amusement without her pulling out a badge and slapping me with cuffs and getting my name printed in the paper the next day.

You talk of crime in Amsterdam - my statistics are old, but when Amsterdam was approximately the same size as Washington D.C., the murder-rate ratio was something like 4 to 400, respectively.

You talk about being disgusted with what you saw - why then were you so intent to sit there and see it?

Everybody has their thing. Everybody has their reasons. When there 'things' or their 'reasons' start impeding other people's liberty, then there's a problem. But until that point, let people be what they want to be and do what they want to do, and in the immortal words of an old Hank Williams song (paraphrasing), "mind your own business - because you can't mind your own business while you're minding mine."

Maybe I'll post a web page with my own views of Amsterdam someday.

Good day sir, and best regards.

      Dear John,

      Drugs and prostitution are hardly phenomenon I think about often. That people drug themselves senseless day after day or pay money for sex does not drive me to distraction and neither do I loudly champion their prosecution. But I have seen enough of the world to realize that when you go to places where those activities are rampant vice and unfortunate incidents routinely follow. Let me put it more clearly: It is not the activity itself which bothers me but the spirit of vice underlying it all. It is not just a "European" or "American" thing; the same ambiance one finds in Amsterdam is present in Hollywood, Greenwich Village, Haight Ashbury, Soho and areas of Berlin. If I wanted to live surrounded by modern-day lotus eaters or women forced into selling their bodies for money and their clients, I would choose to live in one of those subcultures. Having spent time ( often much time) in such places, I have chosen to do otherwise.

      I have seen many many people suffer from chemical abuse. My brother is an addict and this has caused immeasurable pain to my family. And although I have never paid for sex, I have spent my fair share of time around prostitutes and strippers in bars American and foreign. I have come to see an element of depravity and naked need which is debasing for all involved in the "oldest profession." This might be a "judgement," as you call it. But it is also my honest opinion on a matter to which I have devoted much thought and reflection. I rather wonder if the vices of chemical dependency and prostitution are not the results of human frailty and weakness and want. I wonder if they are not the roots of much suffering and unhappiness in the world. Not that I am moved to self-righteous anger, but that it all makes me deeply sad.

      I hope this message finds you well.

      Very Truly Yours,


P.S. I sat there "watching it all" in Amsterdam because residing in the downtown district one has little option other than to do so. I do not regret what was very much an opportunity to learn.


I was surprised by your e-mail. I've sent a few e-mails to people, strangers to me, like yourself, but haven't received many back. Your words are as powerful as they are direct, as eloquent as they are reasonable. It's funny, but sometimes I think we live in different worlds, the way two people can see or otherwise experience one phenomenon and come away with two totally different takes on the subject.

You know those girls, the kind that work in the jack-off booths that you might find in the seedier sections of some American cities? One of those girls was once a girlfriend of mine. In a very strange, ethereal, and at times frightening way, being with her was one of the most thrilling adventures of my life. I used to know a black homosexual man who mainlined cocaine, among other things: he was the best and most beautiful friend I ever had. Your words, your views, your conclusions, are well-founded and very often true - I would be a shameless hypocrite to say otherwise - but they are not always true.

I still...resent...being considered a criminal for no other reason than drug use. I resent being made out to be a bad guy when I'm not. I resent people calling aspects of my life "depraved" when first and foremost that which they consider "depraved" is none of their business. I especially resent hearing that word, "depraved," aimed at me when it comes from the mouth of avid golfers (for reasons that, for me, are too darkly humorous to go into right now).

I deeply resent going to jail for something that did no harm to anyone. I deeply resent living in fear of going to jail for doing something that causes no harm to anyone. I deeply resent this scourge of bipolar hysteria when it comes to sex and drug use in my beautiful country, the Land of the Free. I just think that there's a better way of approaching these things, but at present even "speaking" about sex and drugs in any vein other than the vehemently negative is to put one's self at risk. I am putting myself at risk doing this and this alone: speaking my mind about drugs. The thought of having an honest and open dialogue about these things is practically verbotin in this country.

About your brother, I can offer you nothing but condolences. I've seen that aspect of addiction myself. I don't know what to say, so I won't even try except to acknowledge that I sense the pain and sadness in the way that you write your words.

And, my heavens, there's a million other things to talk about besides sex and drugs. Amsterdam, for instance. I'm going to go back to your page and finish your story. I want to go there so dearly Richard, I can't begin to explain. For me it is the geographcal embodiment of Freedom. The freedom to do, or not to do.

Write again, if you'd like. I find this refreshing (though if I don't hear from you, I understand - so much to do, so little time).

Even though I may disagree with you, I do so respectfully, as one peer pays homage to another.

You are a great writer, and so am I.