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Secret seducers


Crime, Law and Social Change

Published online on


At the end of the 1990s, a moral panic erupted in the Netherlands about the phenomenon of what came to be known as ‘loverboys’. The suspicion was that a growing number of Dutch girls were being groomed by handsome young men who employed all sorts of devious methods to prepare their girlfriends for life as a prostitute. Stories about a new generation of pimps, often of Moroccan origin, regularly appeared in the Dutch media. In this article, based on ethnographic fieldwork on pimps operating in the red-light district of Amsterdam, we describe the ways in which these young men operate and how they justify their behaviour. On the basis of empirical research we intend to present a more realistic picture of what goes on in the prostitution industry and highlight the discrepancy between what is reported in the media and what is actually happening in the prostitution sector. We also examine the background to the moral panic about loverboys and the ways in which these young men were supposedly able to induce many young girls into becoming prostitutes.