Meet the Fokkens: Louise and Martine, Amsterdam's oldest prostitutes

Sisters who joined sex trade in 1960s now icons of the Netherlands' famous red light district

PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 10 December, 2012, 4:12am


In a busy passage in Amsterdam's red light district, a crowd is gathering as fans jostle to have their picture taken with the city's most famous great-grannies: Louise and Martine Fokkens, the Dutch capital's oldest twin prostitutes.

Decked out in matching red leather jackets and boots, red jeans and crocheted red berets, with Stars and Stripes scarves draped around their necks, the Fokkens cut a jaunty pair as they saunter down alleys with red-framed windows where semi-nude "working women" lure customers.

Locals young and old line up for a chat, while gawking tourists look on in bemused confusion.

Since the early 1960s, first Louise and later Martine have been plying their trade around the infamous Wallen (Dutch for "canal banks"), the world's best-known red light area.

Today there are an estimated 5,000 to 8,000 active sex workers in Amsterdam - but only a fraction do business from behind the roughly 370 "frames" in the area, according to the city.

Now 70, the sisters shot to fame last year when a documentary - aptly titled Ouwehoeren (Old Whores) and translated as "Meet the Fokkens" - about their lives, played to critical acclaim at Amsterdam's International Documentary Film Festival.

The film was such a success that it was screened again at this year's recent festival.

Two tell-all books - one has already been translated into English, French and other languages - about the sisters' lives behind the red curtain followed.

A regular slot on a late-night sex-and-drugs talk show on Dutch television since October has cemented the twins' celebrity sex-worker status.

Their second book, Ouwehoeren op reis (Old Whores on a Journey) has just been released. Publisher Bertram en De Leeuw said tens of thousands of copies of the two books have already been sold, propelling them into the Dutch bestseller list.

The Fokkens sisters - both great-grandmothers several times over - say they have seen it all: in the city where prostitutes have been selling their bodies to visiting sailors and other thrill-seekers since the 15th century, very little can still shock them.

"From fathers bringing their sons for a 'first-time experience' to those with a more kinky streak, you get all sorts," Martine said. "We have slept with more men than you can count," Louise said.

They once ran their own brothel and started their own trade union for sex workers long before the Dutch government legalised prostitution in 2000.

Two years ago, Louise finally hung up her stiletto boots because of arthritis, while Martine still works once or twice a week.