The complete and unadulterated guide to sex in the Netherlands

Let's talk about sex, baby!

Sex in the Netherlands is no taboo subject, as anyone who has taken a stroll through the De Wallen district of Amsterdam finds out.

But what are Dutch attitudes towards sex? How are they educated in schools? And what’s up with the red-light districts? How low do the lowlanders drop it (and is it hot)?

Time to find out in our (un)official, but still kind of scientific, guide to sex in the Netherlands.

Sex education in Dutch schools

Sex is, unfortunately, a taboo in many cultures. In their direct, no-nonsense way, the Dutch have adopted an arguably better method than most to educate their citizens about sex.

Sex education in the Netherlands starts at the ripe old age of four, during kindergarten.

The Dutch believe that sex is a natural element of life, therefore avoiding the issues that many other cultures struggle with. Open conversations on the matter are encouraged in the Netherlands.

student boy with smartphone texting at school during sexual education in the Netherlands.
Don’t text in class, kids; you might miss out on important info. Image: Depositphotos

Dutch children are taught about sex in an arguably holistic manner. They learn about the need for respect towards their partner while also learning about the more technical aspects of sex life.

A wide range of topics are covered in Dutch sex ed. From gender identity to boys being encouraged to embrace their feelings. Girls also learn how to make their own choices about sexuality and not give in to societal expectations or peer pressure.

READ MORE | How men can step up against sexual misconduct in the Netherlands

Few topics are left unearthed. Lessons include topics such as oral sex and masturbation, which for many other cultures, are topics which can barely be discussed in public.

Teen pregnancy is low in the Netherlands

The success of Dutch sex education is reflected in their low teen pregnancy rates. While the United States, for example, has the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in the developed world, the Dutch rate of pregnancy is a staggering four times lower.

Another important aspect of their education is learning about consent. Dutch people learn that sex is something to be done in the context of a relationship based on trust and love.

Portrait of young smiling couple sitting on lawn in park and making selfie. Beautiful couple taking photos on cellphone frontal camera in the Netherlands.
Ah, young love! Image: Depositphotos

Condoms are easily accessible in stores and at vending machines in schools, while the contraceptive pill is free for any woman under 21 years.

READ MORE | The ultimate guide to gynaecology, birth control, and check-ups in the Netherlands

And it works! Sexually transmitted diseases are much lower than in the Netherlands than in the United Kingdom or the United States. 

The Dutch model of sex education can, therefore, be considered a great example of how to deal with the topic. While it might not be applicable everywhere due to cultural barriers, it can still serve as an inspiring example for other nations.

Sex in the Netherlands: when do Dutch people have their first sexual experiences?

Given their open approach to sex education, a glimpse into the start of young Dutchies’ sex life should yield interesting results.

A 2012 study on sexual activity conducted by Rutgers found that in the age range between 19-24, over 70% of Dutch men and 77% of Dutch women are sexually active.

READ MORE | Dutch Quirk #90: Go through a ridiculous number of dating stages before committing

Furthermore, the study notes that French kissing is the first type of sexual contact that people have, with 50% of young people around the age of 14 experiencing it.

By 16, half of teenagers have experienced manual stimulation of the genitals, and by 17, half of them have experienced oral sex.

Another study reveals that 64% of Dutch men and women feel confident in asserting their needs and desires and are open towards discussing sex. This is likely a result of the openness of their educational system with regard to sex.

sex-in-the-Netherlands-stats
A helpful graph for the visual learner. Image: DuchReview

Sex in the Netherlands: how do the Dutch score in bed? (according to themselves)

A Europe-wide survey on sex conducted by YouGov in 2013 looked at how different nationalities self-evaluate their love-making skills.

The Dutch appear to think highly of their bedroom etiquette, coming in second in Europe alongside Austrians. The first place was taken by the Swiss.

Dutch-couple's-feet-poking-out-of-the-covers-in-bed
Getting frisky in the Netherlands also means keeping warm. Image: Depositphotos

Interestingly, the same survey has shown that the Dutch are the least likely to:

  • Be unfaithful (15%)
  • Photograph or film themselves during sex (7%)
  • Have a one-night stand (23%)
  • Send text messages with sexual content (15%)

They are similarly conservative when it comes to:

  • Taking Viagra (5%) — joint third-lowest ranking in Europe
  • Dressing up in a costume during sex (4%) — second-lowest ranking in Europe
  • Going to a strip club (7%) — second-lowest ranking in Europe (it also costs money 😉)
  • Watching pornography (43%) — second-lowest ranking in Europe

Prostitution and red-lights in the Netherlands

The Dutch attitude towards prostitution is famous internationally, and there are no better places to gain an insight into the phenomenon than the red-light districts in the Netherlands.

The legal structure of prostitution in the Netherlands is well-developed, with sex workers benefiting from legal protection and workers’ rights akin to other employees.

READ MORE | Why is there XXX on Amsterdam’s flag? Hint: it’s not what you think

In the late 1990s, before the official legalisation of prostitution happened, a survey showed that 73% of those asked agreed with legalisation, while 74% believed that it was an acceptable job.

Red-light-district-in-Amsterdam-at-twillight
The red light district is synonymous with sex in the Netherlands, right? Image: Depositphotos

Many people are surprised to find that most large cities in the Netherlands, such as Utrecht and the Hague, have their own “red light districts” for sex work.

In these places, there are strong police presences, dedicated and private car spots to do the deed and sexual health clinics provided for the workers. It’s all part of making sure sex work is not just legal but safe.

That being said, cases of abuse do still happen. Also, prostitution isn’t completely decriminalised. Unregistered sex workers are illegal, and human trafficking is also of grave concern, as well as links with criminal organisations.

Women from foreign countries are enticed to come to the Netherlands on the promise of working in restaurants or other service jobs.

Many find themselves forced into sex work, usually threatened with violence. Estimates per year of victims of these situations range from 1,000 to 7,000.

Red Light District in Amsterdam. Red boxes with curtains and wet rainy Cobbles on the street. Place of pleasures.
The legal age for prostitution in the Netherlands is 21. Image: Depositphotos

This has led to a loss of support from the public in regard to prostitution. There are stronger pushes on the Dutch government to tighten controls, create licensing for brothels, as well as reduce the size of red-light districts.

Louise and Martine Fokkens, two famous twins in their 70s who worked as window girls, claim that the legalisation in 2000 has made life worse for sex workers. They claim that the heavy taxation only ends up benefiting the brothel owners, as well as increasing criminality.


The Dutch are quite active beyond just the red-light districts, and their education makes them both well-informed about sex, as well as private about it.

What are your experiences with sex in the Netherlands? Are the Dutch as good as they claim to be? Let us know in the comments below!

Feature Image:Pixabay
Vlad Moca-Grama
Vlad Moca-Grama
Vlad was born and raised in Brasov, Romania and came to the Hague to study. When he isn't spending time missing mountains or complaining about the lack of urban exploration locations in the Netherlands, you can find him writing at Dutch Review.

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7 COMMENTS

  1. Here in America we start teaching gender from day one. If I’m correct, we even allow complete strangers to teach our kids. It is like this : a complete stranger sees a mother with newborn in the park. Stranger asks, boy or girl, then does their rendition of gender for that baby. They are a stranger. What if they do a strange or weird performance. Seems wacky to me.

  2. I’m Spanish dating Asterdam Netherlands man but he doesn’t touch subject about sex not even close I thought because he’s cultured

  3. No Dutch are not into indian .. it’s basically the result of VPN accesses from the Indian subcontinent Dutch being the most easily accessible server

  4. Interesting article. I had my first experience with a Dutch/Indonesian 18 years old traveling in Bangkok. Just met at a skybar on my last night. The sex was hot. I wanted to return in a month to travel to Krabi with him, but he went back and forth on it, asking many questions. So i called it off.

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