No Dogs Allowed, but Sex Is Okay

What’s an externality? My friends tell me that in the Vondelpark, a delightful reserve in central Amsterdam, it is illegal to let your dog off a leash. But it’s perfectly legal to have sex in the park, so long as it is not in view of a children’s playground. The argument is that the dog may make a mess that imposes costs on the unwary walker, while the couple imposes no costs on other park users.

I wonder which of these two actions would be more likely to be outlawed in the U.S. Implicitly, how do attitudes toward negative externalities, as expressed in city ordinances, differ between the U.S. and the Netherlands-or among other Western countries?


Martien's explanation makes sense as there is dog tax outside. But open sex does not make a sense.


Nina, why is kids seeing adults having sex inappropriate? It is normal; natural; common. What is there to be scared of?

Tulla Brendingulo

Some types of sex can be very disgusting. They should make sure it's done behind hedges or something and making sure the walker doesn't inadvertently blunder into a rather unnatural exhibition of yuk that can do to your stomach what you fear the dog's business might do to your shoes.


wait, how does this affect the fixer-upper real estate market? what if freelance graphic designers tired of living in park slope or williamsburg find a to-die-for canalhome just off the Surinamplein? How will this weigh on their iphone reception?


'No dogs off leash' does not mean 'No Dogs allowed.' It means that dogs have to be controlled at all times in a busy area.
And you assume that a dog on a leash will not make a mess?
I will assume you do not own a dog...


I think it is a bit more complicated than Mr. Hamermesh writes it in his small note.. the way he writes it, it sounds like it is/will be completely normal to see people having sex in Dutch parks..this is and will not be the case.

Where it comes from is some gay cruising going on at night.. of which you might wonder if it is actually harmful to anyone... and if not, why would it be punishable... So as long as nobody is disturbed and there is no littering, why make a fuss about it?

As this is an important part of it, I think it is not right to put it as written in the small note which makes it sound as if you'll find people humping around and in the background an officer is writing a ticket for an unleashed dog.

Richard Netzband

What this, doing it in the park is alright? So, why not on the sidewalk or in a doorway, of course out of view of a child,.. God forbid that! Oh, and... with some cloths on, of course, so as not to see privates parts.


Apparently, I have lived such a sheltered life that coming upon the most private of human acts in all it's flagrancy would indeed affect me much worse than having to "cope" with what Fido left behind.

I still remember when I saw the movie "Deliverance." I had never seen a rape scene, I don't think--let along a homosexual rape scene. I was a bit traumatized for the next couple of days.

If I came across a similar (but less violent) scene in Amsterdam, I would much rather have "stepped in it" than to have "stumbled across" the other.

Maybe there's a reason America is the world's superpower. And maybe it all traces back to little things like this--maybe, indeed, we run on some latent "Puritan Power."


Gee thanks Martien for finally clearing that up,...having spent the last 10 years doggedly trying to avoid heaps of dog poop whilst running,walking,standing, stepping out of the car, off the fiets, parking the fiets, yanking small children in all directions....the mystery is solved...the dutch aren't just lazy after all....they pay for a service!!
...I'd rather walk into people having sex in the park!


Independent of any factual analysis, the story illustrates how Europeans are more likely to engage in externality considerations in setting policy. Their heightened concern with global warming, relative to the US, is another example. The greater restriction on sexual activity in the US is admittedly an exception to this statement, and is no doubt ,as others have already noted, a reflection of our Puritan heritage. (Pity the Puritans; descriminated against in England, we continue to castigate them in a country they were instrumental in founding.) BTW, jogging IS fun, almost as good as intercourse, and certainly conducive to better sex from both the performers' and observers' perspectives.

Eric M. Jones

So why is porn not allowed on TV generally but extreme violence is? Perhaps because one influences behavior and one does not so much. The stats are out on which is which.

As for dogs doing their business in the park.....more aesthetically pleasing than seeing some other things---you can be sure.


Couple? You sure it's not a threesome, foursome or more?


The question you are asking has little to do with economics and more to do with cultural studies.

Given that in America the attitudes toward sex have not evolved much since the early puritan days, I don't see sex allowed in any US park in the near future.

There is a potential positive effect of allowing that though: kids who will eventually see what's going on will learn about sex from real life instead of from Internet ;-)


"can has sex in park" - is that the translation of the asserted to be untranslatable expression "gezellig"?

Day Bill

Another example of value differences can be found on Youtube where two cuts of the same video can have different reactions. I posted a video of native Amazonians performing a dance ritual. Some of the women were topless. The english language version was flagged for being inappropriate. But the Portuguese version received no restrictions whatsoever.


As someone who resided in the Netherlands (Amsterdam, in fact) for eight years and has dual nationality, I would like to point out that the Dutch, unlike the Americans, are driven primarily by pragmatism and by what they deem humane, the scenario that causes the least damage. They don't suffer from the American knee-jerk self-righteous moral-outrage response to sex and to nudity (and, for that matter, to drugs). In this particular case it's not a matter of cosseting minorities (gay men) but one of preventing the grass in the Vondelpark from being covered by rather vast amounts of dog excrement. Don't forget: Amsterdam is very densely populated and the Dutch are also particularly fond of dogs, so there are many about. One learns rather quickly to be vigilant about stepping in dog crap, or lying in it when sunbathing in one of the parks. (It is, however, virtually impossible to avoid being downwind of it when recumbent on the grass on a summer day.) And this is why it is necessary to have a law in place, although for a long time many Dutch dog owners would react with indignation and even aggression when ticketed for allowing their dog to relieve itself and then failing to clean it up. I think, however, that they are coming to their senses.

It's very pleasant to live in a place that is ruled by pragmatism and logic, a place where sex and nudity are considered acceptable and normal, healthy, in a culture that is not litigious, grasping, self-promoting and hypocritical, and driven by materialism and materialistic envy, propelled by advertising hype. I miss the Dutch... just not the weather and the likelihood of stepping in dog droppings.


Rudiger in Jersey

Can a human poop on the grass in Vondelpark?
Is there a legal obligation to to clean it up?

Can leashed dogs fornicate in the park as long as they don't poop?

Having sex is natural. So is pooping and urination. Machine gunning zombies or Nazis is not natural. But will children be 'psychologically scarred for life' from watching anything? ...............Hello Internet videos.

Some humans should be on short leashes. Some dogs are smart and safe enough to be off leash, and the leash just degrades both the owner and the dog.

We all have rights but also RESPONSIBILITIES as citizens in a democracy. Leave the Park better than you find it. Pick up litter. Clean after yourselves and your pet. Don't leave poop any more than leaving used condoms and tampons. Leave only footprints.


Hmmm, this post makes things sound a lot simpler than they are. For all you shocked Americans in this thread: no, you are very unlikely to stumble upon a couple having sex in the Vondelpark (or any other park in Amsterdam). The Vondelpark has a tradition of gay cruising going on after dark (in the bushes and out of sight). I routinely cycle through the park after dark and I have yet to spot anybody having sex there. Nor are there people having sex on park benches during the daytime. However, in the past people have been arrested or fined for participating in the gay cruising - so now they are just left alone. Just like gay cruisers are left alone in the bushes along on a lot of resting zones near highways in the Netherlands.

Littering (including leaving condoms or anything else behind) is illegal everywhere in Amserdam, including in the park, as is leaving dog poo lying around. Too bad many people just don't clean up after their animal - but it still is officially illegal to leave your dog's poo.

Obligations to leash dogs in parks are usually not inspired by concerns about dog poo (they also poo when leashed so what's the difference), but by concerns about the animals living in the park, traffic going through it and the other people there. The Vondelpark is a busy place. It is a major route for cyclists going cross-town and there are always a lot of people there. If dogs would be allowed to run around freely, they would be likely to cause traffic accidents involving bicycles, dog fights (there are lots of dogs there too) and other incidents (running through people's picknick in pursuit of their tennis ball, for example). There are also quite a lot of ground-breeding birds there, such as ducks and other water fowl that breed on the border of the park's ponds. Dogs running loose would be likely to disturb the nests.

Conclusion: it's a lot more complicated than a choice between stumbling upon people having sex or stepping into some dog poo...



When I was a boy my brother and i had the unfortunate experience of running into a couple of gay men having sex in the bushes at Hamsted Heath in the UK. We felt a bit afraid and a little unsure as to what these folks might try to do to us. In the end we escaped unmolested. Most sensible people don't want to have sex outside in the bushes in a public area. Its usually the deviants and perverts that would do something like that. I have a lot of gay friends (live in Atlanta) and none of them have any interest in public sex.


What a bizarre article. You really seek to compare ordinances and social mores in the prudish United States and the Netherlands of all places? Or even almost anywhere in Europe? We're talking about a place where you can watch topless game shows at 9 in the morning.