I started this blog wanting to express what it is to be prostituted.
Now, I want to speak to the centre of prostitution – the male demand and those who profiteer from that demand.
The more I write, the more I speak out, the more I listen to my exited friends – the more I know the focus must be placed onto the demand and supply, and away from the individual prostituted woman (man or child).
To face up to that demand and supply, we must explode many myths.
We must know that prostitution is not inevitable – it is not the oldest profession, it has not always been with, and there can be a world without prostitution.
We must think men are better than wanting to be punters and profiteers of the sex trade.
That men can and will learn to see women as equals – not as sex…
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Something I noticed when I was stripping was that the younger, “hipper,” generally white patrons I came into contact with were by far the most vested in the whole “emotionally invasive performance of enthusiastic consent” thing. They all wanted to hear how I was doing it because I was “empowered” or an “exhibitionist” or just “a slutty sexual deviant that just does this for fun.” Like, I can’t even tell you how many times I actively encouraged this or worked it into a spiel, because nothing kills a sale like a pang of conscience alerting men that maybe this smart, seemingly stable girl doesn’t want to be here. I think that thinking I was “into it” somehow made it easier for them to feel like they weren’t just giant losers paying for sex.
I am entirely convinced that men only care about women being “empowered” by things like sex work…
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It was sweltering on the pavement the day I took myself in for an abortion. Two crowded buses to an outer-city suburb, on one a man was pressing his erect penis up against my back as we stood hanging onto cords.
The abortion clinic didn’t look clean but the stench of bleach was profound. The staff were practical and kind rather than sentimental, which I appreciated. Those who could afford to pay paid, those who couldn’t didn’t.
I waited with teenagers and their pimply, put-out boyfriends. Teenagers with their mothers who looked worried, firm, stressed. Older women with male partners. I waited with middle-aged women who had come alone, like me. I didn’t like being in a waiting room with boys and men, but there wasn’t a separate space, and I didn’t begrudge other females needing their own terms of support. Some of the men were perving on other females. Poor girls and women, thinking this is maybe one day your man is going to treat you better….
Outside the ‘pro-life’ team were a small group, with a card-table of flyers of warnings and salvation. One man holding a placard of a fetus in utero stating ,”This is who you are killing”. Yeah, I know, I said to myself, I didn’t come here for a tooth extraction. They didn’t yell and they didn’t grab- it was a semi-silent vigil.
There was an on-staff counsellor to make sure abortion was the decision I wanted. I cried, I was scared, but I had made my decision.
Back to the waiting room until the call (it seemed like hours- it was almost two I think. Some of us had been awake for 8 hours without a sip of water which is normal in these procedures.)
A hospital gown and being taken to the operating theatre. The counsellor took my hand as, with my legs in stirrups, (“move your bottom down, no, bit further, no further- that’s it”) they counted me down into twilight sleep.
I woke in a cot vomiting into a surgical tray next to girls and women in various stages of consciousness. I was starving.
The effects of sedation made me feel “just fine” to leave but they told me to wait and the plastic cups of hot, sweet tea and packets of Arnott’s Family Assortment’ biscuits were like a revelation. Like I’d never had them before.
“You out of it?” grinned a groggy girl beside me.
“Has to be something good about this”, I smiled back.
To a nurse I said, “I so wanna a cigarette!”
“I know! You just have to wait!” – her smile whizzed past.
It wasn’t long before I was awake enough to put on my jeans and go out side onto the narrow verandah. I sat there smoking watching the ‘pro-lifers’, tired of them (not angry- just tired), and grieving my aborted fetus. Knowing my decision was right, but grief seemed only permissable on their terms.
Suddenly an older woman came out the same door I had, she was in tears. She didn’t want to intrude but…? I gave her my hand.
“My daughter is in there. Did you have to walk through these people? She had to walk through these people!”- voice quiet, shaking, raging.
“ I’m so sorry.”
“Are you okay?” she asked me. ( Here is a woman, I thought- getting right to the person before her- extending solidarity of care.)
“You’re being brave. You can’t be okay. Look at these people. They have no idea. No right.”
I was still sedated but looked at them again. I turned my head up and down the street. Had the pavement cracked with heat I wouldn’t have been surprised. Dead gardens and some limp hoses slugged out globs of useless water.
I saw the cars adorned with ‘Pro-life” stickers. Run-down, banged up cars- cars that people who can barely afford gas let alone air-conditioning drove.
I shook myself back to the woman beside me.
“No they shouldn’t be here. Hey, if you’re wondering, the procedure is painless, fast and your daughter will be drinking tea in about – ooh- seven minutes.She’ll be okay.”
Of course, I couldn’t promise that. She may have felt dreadful. The procedure may have got messed up. She may have been sick as a dog. I just knew it wasn’t likely.
After I picked up my script to take to the pharmacy I left through the front entrance and wound my way relatively unmolested through the small sad group. Cramps were kicking in. A woman approached me shyly and handed me a flyer about Jesus. She told me she would pray for the spirit of my aborted child. I think I said “thank you.”
Walking alone up the street I saw children packed in the protester’s old cars, in abominable heat. Staring out at the abortion clinic, staring at their parents, staring at me.
I turned and called back to the woman who was praying and the surrounding group, “You need to get those kids out of those cars or they’ll die.”
There was some fussing around and a lot of shocked faces and even the placard man was silent.
“Get them out or I’ll call the police. I’m gonna wait here until they’re out of those cars and I see them with water.”
It occurred to me the only shade the kids could have was under the abortion clinic verandah. A predicament for the girls and women having to put up with the protesters.
“You see those trees right up there?” The group turned and peered, shading their eyes in glaring sun, way down the street, looking to where I was pointing.
“Well, get them out of those cars, there’s a tap in the park. I mean it!”
I got home to my toddler and we read stories. She delighted in “camping food”.
Beans on toast for dinner.
[TW: severe sexual and physical violence against women]
Brief structured interviews of 100 prostituting women and children were conducted in Vancouver, BC…90% of these women had been physically assaulted in prostitution. Of those who had been physically assaulted, 82% had been assaulted by johns. 89% had been physically threatened while in prostitution, and 67% had been threatened with a weapon. 78% of these respondents had been raped in prostitution. 67% of those women had been raped more than 5 times in prostitution. 76% of those who reported raped stated that they had been raped by customers. 67% of our interviewees reported that pornography was made of them in prostitution, and 64% had been upset by an attempt to force them to perform an act that customers had seen in pornography. 75% of the women we interviewed in Vancouver reported physical injuries from violence in prostitution. Many reported stabbings and beatings…
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Choices rarely happen in a vacuum. The post-modern way of thinking that all things are relative and valid depending on one’s point of view troubles me greatly. Like anyone I live with contradiction and paradox in what I think and feel. But I would not leave legislation to ambivalence, more importantly I would not leave legislation to those who are impacted by it least. My experiences in fully decriminalised, legal and illegal prostitution are held up constantly as anecdotal and dismissed as nothing more. If my experiences were that of a minority, that would be fair enough, but they aren’t. My experiences are reflected in varying degrees of cruelty, torture and coercive circumstances, in the majority of currently and formerly prostituted women
Due to the preponderance of ‘sex worker rights are human rights’ chants being reflected in the media it is understandable that many people outside of the sex trade are caught up in the promulgation of prostitution as viable work like any other. Terms like “sex work” are flung around in a highly effective campaign by the pimps and johns (buyers), and out of a vague ‘solidarity’ by an unknowing general public, to lend some non-existent dignity to an inherently exploitative trade in human beings. For every cry from a ‘sex worker’ claiming it is ‘stigma” that is endangering her or him, are a minimum of 89 crying out to escape the trade.
The ‘sex worker’s’ cry is given credibility; she is brave, defiant, bold, empowered and brimming with ‘agency’- paradoxically she is also a labour worker who needs union support to protect her from religious zealots, prudes, and tellingly, dangerous johns. She’s a working class hero or a $600 an hour ‘escort’. She is a shattered or proud victim of feminists, or anti-feminists, or a labour right’s worker fighting ignorance of a basic right to earn a living, or so far above any she is part of the entrepreneurial elite.
In another flip around, state sponsored Occupational Health and Safety are oppressive to her- mandatory testing for STI’s are ‘stigmatising’ as ‘sex workers’ are well-educated about STI’s, better than the general populace in fact. I have my own reasons for opposing mandatory testing of prostituted women which I won’t go in to here, but still, lets have a quick look at health guidelines set out by the sex-trade itself. They tell us to inspect a penis for STI’s, as though HIV and a myriad of other infections are visible, and as though demanding this of a john isn’t potentially dangerous. The preferred health guidelines for ‘sex workers’ also include such useful tips as ‘if a client is drunk or dangerous try and escape out the window”. Burn-out (aka PTSD) can be treated by eating some chocolate cake, having a bath and a break. If an assault happens in a vehicle try and leave some evidence in it, like vomit perhaps. But we are told to believe it is stigma harming women in the sex-trade, not men. Women in the sex-trade are admonished that those of us out here trying to have exiting strategies, financial resources and counselling implemented while lobbying for the Nordic/Swedish Model are such drags,( you don’t need that kind of negativity in your life baby.) Rape victims are told to buck up, (unless they serve a political purpose) and women who contract HIV in the sex-trade are shunned without compensation. Terrific union eh?
This ‘stigmatised sex worker’ boasts banners of “whore” and “slut” and carries a red umbrella and scowls at those of us who do not embrace these colonising terms. We’re called “whorephobic”. Victims and survivors of prostitution are hateful women. PTSD sufferers with physical injuries and almost zero employment opportunities due to disability are “selfish, uptight, despicable and non-feminist.”. Victims are the definition of monsters who want to spoil the fun for the rest. At best we are informed we are just doing it wrong, not ’empowered’ enough. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been subjected to the somewhat narcissistic accusation “You’re trying to rescue me! I don’t need to be saved!”- as though somehow I care more about one particular person’s personal life, as though s/he fascinates me- over the millions who don’t want to be subjected to abject horror.
My message to such individuals is, I don’t think about you so much, I think very much about the impact of full decriminalisation of prostitution on the majority who do not want to be there. Sure if you needed food and shelter I’d help you out, but demand legislation which is proven (not guessed at, not false, not biased, just factual) to expand the sexual slavery of the majority- no, I won’t help you with that.
Why am I banging on about this minority of “sex workers” anyway? It is men that do this to us, and men who buy women for sex hate women. Don’t be fooled, that iota of entitlement contains the unstated reality – men believe they deserve to use our bodies. The contempt is implicit in the belief and in the act. They do not have to physically beat us to prove this, though they often do. The men who make sneering jokes about us with other men are not ‘decent guys’- they boast or they complain. They also lie and say things like “I don’t need to go to whores. I can pull a woman, I don’t need to pay!” (charming.) They evaluate us on social media sites and rate us from 1-10. Whine about our breasts or celebrate our behinds. Grow infuriated if they feel conned -“She wasn’t as young as she claimed! I f**ked her anyway but not worth the money. Buyer beware.” “She didn’t look like she was into it and I forked over too much money.”- feeling respected yet?
To this extent stigma is indeed a reality, and look who is doing the stigmatising.
Then there are the disabled men- oh the magnanimity of those who are paid to give these men sex – even their parents seem desperate to make sure their boys don’t miss out on the opportunity to sexually exploit women just like able-bodied men do. No thought to the disability created in women who are bought for sex by men, able-bodied or not. Guess what, disabled men can be misogynist, self-obsessed aresholes just like able-bodied men. Stop the discrimination for f**ks sake ! We only need one piece of filmed propaganda, such as Rachel Wotton in Scarlet Road ( “sex worker” to the disabled, bless) to believe her choice is worthy and forget for a moment what full decriminalisation does for the rest of us. Are men more important than women? You bet they are. Is Rachel Wotton’s choice more important than the majority who want to leave the sex industry? You bet it is. You can find the documentary online yourself and see if you’re not moved. If she doesn’t come across as one of the kindest and cleverest people you’ve ever seen I’ll eat my hat. So what?! Who cares! Once you’ve put your hanky bathed in bittersweet, heart-warmed tears away, take a moment to consider that full decriminalisation still doesn’t serve the majority of the prostituted. You can also have a look at articles written by disabled women who object to being treated and spoken of as sexually untouchable, and who have been subjected to sexual abuse by predatory disabled and able-bodied men.
How about the soldiers who buy women in the countries they are occupying, women in war-torn countries, grimly hanging on for dear life to support their children while guns and missiles shudder and explode around them. The soldiers who come back with or without PTSD and feel entitled to a little relief from the horrors they have witnessed or inflicted themselves. That the prostituted suffer PTSD on par with combat veterans and torture survivors isn’t thinkable- but true.
As with all men who buy women – Well, she’s there isn’t she? She smiled! She encouraged me! Newsflash- that is the job description!
In response to objections to Amnesty International’s Policy on ‘Sex Work’ which decriminalises pimping and buying, Ken Roth, head of Human Rights Watch tweeted “Why deny poor women their right to earn a living?” It is hard to put into words how noxious that statement is. He may as well have said “Why deny men the right to buy impoverished women for sex?”.
The facts are in on who is buying and who is being sold. The men are overwhelmingly in their 40’s, married with children and enjoying secure incomes. The prostituted are overwhelmingly young, often entered into the sex-trade before the legal age of sexual consent, overwhelmingly indigenous, and impoverished. Yes older women are trotted out to tell us their empowering anecdotes- always remember that minimum of 89 behind her being silenced. There is no safety in fully decriminalised prostitution, but there is damning evidence that it expands the sex-trade up to 4-fold where ever it is implemented.
Decriminalising the prostituted rightly removes the burden of criminality on those most marginalised. Criminalising the buyers and pimps places the stigma and burden exactly where it should be. On those who seek to sexually exploit and profit from the subjugation of women,children and some men,throughout the world. This is the key facet of the Nordic/Swedish Model.
The red umbrella lobby who shout for ‘sex worker’ rights are often in positions of management so have a vested interest in maintaining and expanding the sex-trade. The minority who do sell sex and are against the Nordic Model are a minority indeed, yet they are heard above almost all others. There are women currently in fully decriminalised prostitution (in New Zealand as just one example) who want the Nordic Model and their voices go unheard.
I used to be one of those “personal choice” advocates, desperate to place the blame for the psychic scars I endure on some external stigma, desperate to blame anyone but the men who demand human beings for sex. Unconscious that every time I employed the “It’s my choice” mantra I was propping up a system of tolerance for sexual torture. That not questioning the right of men to buy me and pimps to act as agents, was selling millions of women down the river. If I had known I would have fought then for the Nordic Model. I would have taken the support to get out- but I didn’t know there was an alternative, and there wasn’t at the time. What choice did I have when there was no choice? I wasn’t waving any red umbrellas or obnoxiously insisting that my rights were more important than the majority, but I accepted the status quo- that prostitution was the oldest profession and inevitable. I excuse myself for this as I was the victim, but how can I excuse the head of Human Rights Watch, or Amnesty International, or the countless organisations and media who trumpet the cause of the johns and pimps? I can’t. I was lucky I escaped, had a look at this slippery word “choice” and found it wanting. When I escaped, I literally escaped, with no support from the red umbrella lobby (only hisses and hatred, oh dear, where did my ‘rights’ go?) and no support from the government. Why would a government offer support services to leave a legitimate legal ‘job’ ? Ask the sex-trade propagandists -they’re the ones who insist this is a ‘job like any other’.
It’s very simple, if full decriminalisation made prostitution safer I’d be all for it. But it doesn’t. It perpetuates, unapologetically, an ever expanding cycle of abuse and more abuse. I demand better than this for all women. I am not alone.
I do not use this blog to write to what is on the news, but the events in Germany have made so angry and sick.
As I wrote in my last post, this is because of the sheer hypocrisy of the majority of reactions, plus it being used as excuse for racism and ignorance.
It all about making the elephant in the room invisible, or maybe the two elephants standing in that room.
That men in mass crowds of all cultures, all backgrounds and in all times of history has been sexually violent to females.
That Germany has made itself the brothel of Europe – that is it ok to rape, mentally abuse, torture and even murder women and girls as long you pay for it.
It is only wrong if done non-prostituted women and can be framed as not part of German culture.
I have try to stay silent, as bile raises…
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This is the text of the speech given at Reclaim the Night Perth 2015 following the reading of the names of men who killed women in Australia from 1 January 2015 to 30 October 2015. The men whose names were read had been charged with the deaths of the 68 women, as listed on Real for Women – Man Murders Woman 2015.
Reclaim the Night 2015 – Stop Domestic Violence
One of the hardest things to deal with if you’ve lost a loved one to male violence, or if you’ve been campaigning against male violence to women, is to hear the media report the perpetrator as “such a lovely guy”. To hear them build a narrative about how unfathomable his community finds it, how shocked his neighbours are. To hear people pronounce how loving he was to those he killed. Because the reality is that almost never does this…
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