Tuesday, 29 November 2011


I've felt a real sense of shame of late. But then I think, whose shame?

And I think about...

The endless sexual objectification of women all around. No escape, no getting away from it, in cinema, films, television, 'lads' mags, womens mags, porn mags, adverts, music videos, internet pop ups, spam, porn dvds even radio and books. Everywhere the submission of women celebrated, inequality defined as natural and celebrated, her goal and his. She wants to be used abused and sexualised just as much as he wants to use abuse and sexualise her.

The dominance of a few voices. Jenna Jameson, a porn 'success' who made some money here, the exception not the rule, one of a tiny but powerful minority of sex industry puppets, women whose voices are used to defend its operation, wholesale. They use women like Jenna to tell us how good porn is for us, even the women it uses. Want to be Jenna Jameson? Gang raped and left for dead as a teenager, and she won't watch her stuff back. We needed therapy and instead we got fucked over literally again and again for the profit and pleasure of others. Now we have trouble talking in therapy.

It's a feedback loop: I feel dirty and shameful so I accept being treated as dirty and shameful which makes me feel dirty and shameful. Trapped to the gain of the pimps and johns, for the pleasure of the purchaser of the record of my abuse, an 'adult' dvd or pictures.

Whose shame? The pimps' and the johns'. I used to think it was my shame. My shame? My arse. Literally.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Drowning Rabbit

And I feel the words slipping away, find my body not responding, feel my mouth clamping shut. My lips feel as if they're stuck together, like I'm gagged and mute and bound. I'm utterly helpless, frozen like a rabbit caught in headlights. My thoughts race or else empty: I either over-inhabit my head or I'm gone, carried away in a wave of nothingness. The thoughts there are slow, detached: those of an observer, mildly interested. At the other extreme, I experience myself as utterly trapped, chained to this body and disabled by it: I command it to move and it doesn't, shout in my head for my lips to move but they don't. I feel like I'm drowning and I can't shout for help. I can blink, but that's where it ends.

The cause of this extreme shutdown response? Anything that triggers the worst of my past. My head and body reel with re-living the trauma, I'm overwhelmed by it, engulfed by it. I pray for the detach response: the other stuck-ness is too painful, too lonely, to be borne. Encountering it in therapy the other day I experienced myself trapped in my past, torturous technicolour images of the abuse burning through my mind and body, incapacitated and alone there.

I don't want to go back there on my own any more.

Everything is connected. One thought, one memory triggers another and another and it's off, an ever-widening circle of horror replaying for my eyes only, for my mind only. I want to scream 'help me, please help me, be with me here, help bring me out of here', but no words come. My lips remain welded together, impervious to my commands to open.

It shouldn't surprise me that at times I struggle to open my mouth, whether to eat or to speak. My mouth was sorely misused when I was sold: I retched and gagged on cock after cock thrust down my throat, lungs burning, eyes streaming. Feeling unsafe now, my mouth refuses to cooperate.

As for words, for speaking, for asking for help, that shouldn't surprise me either. When I opened my mouth I risked his fist, so I stopped talking. And words failed me anyway, were inadequate anyway, fell away anyway. How do you convey the terror that is gang rape? How to convey the debasement that you experience every day of being beaten, being sold. Narrative becomes disjointed, the result of blackouts. Feelings? God, you have no idea what you feel. Fear beyond description, pain beyond words, the numbness of going beyond that, beyond.

Everything falls away in the end. You detach and observe yourself beaten, yourself raped, yourself near death. You have no power over it, no escape. It's a little like observing the world from under water, at a distance: sounds seem far off, actions seem slowed down. A slow motion car crash without the emotion.

Then the sickening fall back into your body, back into the feelings, back into looking with your eyes, hearing with your ears, feeling what they do. Back into the fear and the racing thoughts, the shaking and the being. Reunited with your body, the pain rushes back in and stifles you. Your chest constricts, your throat closes up.

My current experience, then, of PTSD, is an exact re-living of how I experienced the trauma of being prostituted at the time. The fluctuation between detachment and over-embodiment remain, though the external circumstances of my life differ. I am no longer subject physically to the abuse I suffered. But the mental scars remain, and have a physical effect. They incapacitate me as they did then, but no longer serve a purpose. At the time, it was what my mind and body did to survive. Now, it serves to isolate me.

Trust doesn't come easily to me, for good reason. But now I need it more than ever. I need to be honest and ask for help. And I need a lot of help. I doubt this job'll be a quick fix. Until I'm able to open my mouth, I thank God for the ability to write. Without that release valve, I'd be as I was then - absolutely fucked.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Destruction Calling: Come on Down

I get the strongest urge at times to utterly destroy myself, to hurt and hurt and hurt myself, to shred myself to bits. To punish myself. It's as if I've internalised what they said to me - you deserve it, you like it, you were meant for this - worthless! Bitch! Dirty girl! Slut! Whore... and on. There's a part of me that feels horribly dirty and damaged beyond repair, which makes any attempt at change seem utterly futile.

My therapist said to me, when you encounter evil of the type you have experienced, most people go with one of two options: destroy others, thus perpetuating the evil, or destroy themselves. I took the latter course. I believed the badness, the hatred and aggression, and the dirtiness, which belonged to the men who used me, to be mine. There were no boundaries: nothing was mine, nothing was sacred, there was nothing that couldn't be smashed and tainted. Their words circled in my head, their hands possessed my body, their body fluids in and on me, my pain their orgasm. They consumed me. Not surprising then that I was confused about what was their stuff and what was mine. Degradation after degradation, beating after beating, rape after rape. It was always my fault - my fault I got hit for not cooperating, for showing him up, for making him angry, my fault I got raped because I deserved it, liked it, was a slut anyway, had it coming to me.

They told me it was my fault, and I believed them. Their voices were louder, more persistent, more cruel, playing on my fears, on my insecurities than the small whisper in my head that said this isn't right, what they do and say isn't right. They told me I was dirty and it fit my experience: I felt dirty, a collection of holes to be fucked and cum on and in. They told me I was worthless: I felt worthless, disposable, when one man after another used me and then left me, a battered wreck, to clean myself up, to make myself decent for the next fucking. They told me I liked it, and I thought, no I don't, but I found myself saying I did, colluding, to try and stay safe, try and avoid any more violence.

I felt at times I simply can't take anymore - anymore shouting, anymore beatings, anymore punishments. Anything but that, I'll do anything. And I did. The shame stays with me, the self-blame stays with me.

To survive what was happening, I used to tell myself it doesn't really matter, I don't matter, this body isn't really me. Unable to remove myself from that situation, just to survive, I ended up internalising the attitude of my abusers, denying my own feelings and rights and humanity. Knowing I might die there, but powerless to change that, coming close, I detached from myself, and said to myself, so be it. So tired, so so tired of the fear and the pain and the daily horror of being sold.

It's a slow and painful process to say to myself that I do matter, that what was done to me does matter, and to really believe it. There remains a behaviour pattern in me that makes it much easier to say, particularly when I'm tired and struggling and hurting as I am right now, it doesn't matter: none of this matters and neither do I, and hurt myself again. To detach from this body, as I did then, to separate off, let the body take the punishment, and self harm. I get this overwhelming urge to purge myself of this evil, to be rid of it, to destroy every last bit of it, but this evil left its marks on me, on Angel, in the form of scars and body memories, association. To wipe out the past would be to wipe out the body, to wipe out me, to end myself.

I have come to understand, though it has taken time, and the urge to hurt myself, to punish myself remains strong, that this is misplaced emotion. I don't want to erase Angel, and I shan't. I just don't want to feel dirty anymore, feel shameful anymore, feel worthless anymore. I still feel powerless in the face of the sex industry. But I can see that this is not my shame to bear. I can see that the dirt and the guilt and the blame lie with the men who used and sold me. The feelings, though, oh the feelings! They take a little longer to catch up. As long as I keep doing the right actions - talking about this stuff, writing about this stuff - I don't have to act on it. I didn't get clean and sober to fuck myself up another way.

You know what needs destroying? The sex industry with all its lies and abuses. I fully intend to do everything in my power to aid that process.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Porn Again

As I was driving the other day I caught a programme on the radio about HIV. It made me think about the practice of safe sex and pornography. Punters want to see skin to skin contact, unsheathed penises, and cum - plenty of it. 'Bare-backing' (sex sans johnnies, in whatever way) is the norm.

Unprotected sex is not without risk. But the sex acts in pornography all serve to increase that risk: anal sex, sex with multiple partners, rough sex (including rough oral sex), ass-to-mouth, anal-vaginal, bukkake (on the up)... Anything that may cause tearing increases the risk for HIV and hepatitis. Because of the aggressiveness of so much porn, and the prolonged penetration, including with objects or fists, the chances of tearing are much increased. Old injuries, from the last fucking, may re-open again as she is used again - oh so painful! (been there) and unsafe.

Supposed 'health checks' imposed in some quarters of the industry (largely to appease the public conscience) are beyond laughable. Women in porn are routinely prescribed painkillers to 'help' them work, and many more use drink and drugs to numb the pain. The result of this is that even when the woman is physically damaged in the making of porn, she is less likely to feel the full extent of it at the time and therefore less likely to stop and so prevent further damage. Which also assumes that she is in a position to stop what is happening to her - which is often not the case. Even when a woman isn't overtly pimped, there are many other means of trapping her into sexual acts she does not wish to engage in. Drink and drugs affect inhibitions and consciousness, leaving the woman more open than ever to abuse. She can be told that the contract she's signed requires her to do certain things, or be pressured by her agent to perform more extreme sex acts for the camera (it makes him more money). It's hard to imagine a woman in a gang bang scene, surrounded by men, and likely with a penis thrust down her throat, being in a position to say 'stop it, you're hurting me'. Indeed the fear and pain visible on the faces of porn 'actresses' in many dvds clearly attests that this is not the case. She may be desperate for money and so vulnerable to being pressed into doing more unpleasant stuff for more cash. Or she may be so mentally scarred she can see no other option for herself, no way out.

Porn uses the most vulnerable women and it heaps upon them damage after damage, mental and physical. Retching on cocks, covered in the cum of man after man inside and out, bruised, swollen and bleeding between her legs, throat raw, jaw aching, and feeling like her insides are going to fall out, the glamourous pornstar, the 'actress'. Her anus, her vagina, her mouth, her breasts and her body are offered up for the camera, to be used and abused without compunction. And we name this thing that is done to her for the gratification of men she has never met empowering, liberating, harmless fun! The statistics regarding drink, drugs, suicide and histories of abuse tell a somewhat different story - not that you'd know it: the industry, with the collusion of a society which does not wish to know, manages to keep those figures out of the debate. Instead we fall back to babbling without meaning about 'choice' and 'glamour'.

And so porn normalises the practice of unsafe sex, in every meaning of the word. The john can enjoy looking at the photo, watching the movie, a million miles removed from the smell of cum, of filth, without the pain and the fear and the danger. He laughs when she gets cum in her eyes - guess it won't be him queued up with an eye infection tomorrow. He gets a thrill watching ass-to-mouth: safely at the other end of the lens he doesn't have to worry about STDs; he imagines the humiliation, it turns him on, but he doesn't know what it really feels like.

While she limps home to scrub and scrub and scrub herself clean in the shower, to check if she's bleeding, to assess the damage, to get wasted and try to forget, he folds the magazine away, ejects the dvd and mentally flips channel, content in the knowledge that his behaviour is 'normal', that it's socially acceptable - no harm done.

There is nothing safe for the women in porn, or for those who are pushed by their partners to emulate the painful and unsafe practices porn promotes. Porn treats women as disposable -literally, it fucks them over, and then moves onto 'fresh pussy'. Porn is also everywhere - it is now mainstream. How can we be so blind as to miss the glaring contradiction between promoting safe sex practices and glorifying porn? The two are totally incompatible.

The words 'safe' and 'pornography' don't even belong in the same sentence. Porn damages - body, mind and spirit. Fact. I'm still working on unknotting the damage it's done me.

Monday, 14 November 2011

A Day in the Life


Waking at 4am, shaking, sweating as the alcohol and drugs leave your system, and just not knowing what to pray for. You're terrified there on your own in the night ill and alone but when morning comes it'll be the same old merry-go-round, the same old stuff, being fucked by men and you don't want to be touched but you need the money for the drink and drugs cos you can't get off them, can't do it without them, they go hand in hand the addiction and the prostitution, the self abuse and the abuse. Your heart's racing out of sync, your liver's throbbing, stomach burning, sore between your legs from the men who fucked you today. You feel terribly terribly stuck and you hate yourself and you find yourself around people who hate you, play back that image to you.

You thought you were worthless, your ex told you you were worthless, and the johns treat you like you are, tell you that you are, that you like how they abuse you, they whisper sordid, sick fantasies into your ear before they act them out on you and they say 'and you'd like that, wouldn't you?' and you hear the sound of your own voice, though far off and disconnected like it's not really you saying, 'oh yeah, baby, that makes me cum'. You feel that knife twisting in your side, you're selling yourself out, any shred of self respect you might have had dies as those words exit your lips.

Your body's not your own, your words aren't your own, even your pain's not your own: sometimes they want to know you don't like it, what they do to you, they demand to see your tears, see your pain. You will the tears from your eyes but they won't come, they don't come, you're not connected, can't reach this body of yours. You know in a distant way that it will be safer for you to cry, to get it over with, so they'll finish, climaxing to your suffering, your humiliation, so they'll stop. No tears come. They keep doing what they're doing, or something more sadistic, til you either pass out or beg for mercy, their orgasm your final destruction. Or else you find the tears streaming down your cheeks, powerless to hold them back, feel the warm glow of shame and pain, and feel utterly betrayed by this body of yours, by yourself. You have nothing to hold onto, nothing is yours anymore: their hands touching you all over, inside and out, your mouth used for their pleasure, every bit of you used for their pleasure, their gratification, the open target of their body fluids, their sick and twisted fantasies, your pain their thrill. Consumed by them.

The drink helps, the drugs help, they numb you out, help take you away from what they do to you, from yourself, but also serve to keep you there, the need for funds keeps you there, locked in this cycle of abuse and self abuse, you know that you're killing yourself, know you may be killed, but how to get away from that? It seems impossible.


So crushed that to dare to even hope for something more, for anything more, seems frightening: you'll get hurt, it won't work out, best to endure, best to forget, best to keep your head down and survive. Normality is just a word to you, an unknown quantity, but surely something other, something better, than this.


Getting out, and you're one of the lucky ones, not everyone makes it, one of the lonely ones, the chasm between you and others around you, without your past, is unbridgeable. Every day you thank God for being clean and sober, every day you deal with the aftermath of what happened to you, what it is to be prostituted, to prostitute yourself. You lack the language, can't articulate, what happened, even to yourself, your past's a series of disjointed technicolour images, scents and sounds with blackouts inbetween, the result of the drink and the drugs and the head injuries, a jumbled non-narrative of horror, burned into your skull. When you sleep you get nightmares, when you wake they continue: panic attacks, re-living, triggered off by the everpresent background hum of the sex industry. Every film has sex in it, every ad has semi clad women in it, every newsagents has porn in it, women for sale everywhere, inequality sold as equality. You just can't get away.


You begin to piece together what happened, put words to what happened, inadequate as they are, words like 'pimp', 'rape', 'gang rape'. You start to realise that when even the most mild forms of abuse you suffered seem unspeakable, unacceptable, that your truth separates you, is too much for most people to hear. When being gang raped was just another day for you, just another day surviving, enduring as best you could, the only way you know how. Treated like an animal you became an animal to survive, and the shame burns you, the guilt burns you, the sickness of what was done to you, what you did to get by eats away at you. You live knowing that there are images of you out there, images of the abuse, men wanking over them, making money from them, your pain their thrill, their profit.

You realise you are one of too few who know that prostitution and porn and lapdancing are all the same, selling women is all the same, there are no boundaries, no distinctions. Your ex made you perform for them, made you dance for them, made you strip for them, made you entertain them whatever that required, and made money from your abuse. The johns photographed you, the dealer videoed you... No distinctions, no boundaries left to break though, every last piece of your humanity trampled down for power and for profit.

You live knowing first hand just what people are capable of, hearing people all around you defending porn, defending men like your abusers, calling people like Maxx Hardcore 'groundbreaking' and 'inspired', hearing ill informed arguments denouncing women like you who speak a truth no one wants to hear. You know that just because she's smiling doesn't mean she likes it, just because she's saying 'fuck me harder' doesn't mean she wants to be there, is free to choose to be there.

Harmless fun?
Sexual liberation?



To be a prostituted woman is to be in hell. To be a woman who has exited prostitution is to live in that knowledge, knowing where you've been, living with trauma, and being dismissed as an abberation - or a fruitcake. The mental health problems you now suffer as a result of the abuse are used against you. Even those who believe you dismiss you as exceptionally unlucky - 'it's not like that for most women in porn'! And you're afraid to speak out anyhow, mistrustful anyhow, scared of being alone with your head but scared to let others in in case you're hurt again, fucked over again.

You feel overwhelmed, invalidated. You feel scared and alone, scarred and broken, and lost. Painfully lost.

Imagine that and you have some insight into what it is to be me, to be a prostituted woman, a survivor. Take that knowledge and take action, to help a little, change something a little, maybe not laugh along when someone jokes about porn, maybe not join in the consensus when people say about the sex industry 'well, lads will be lads'. Maybe stand alongside me, alongside us, make it a little less lonely.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

The Joys of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

I could sit here and write in a million different ways why prostitution and pornography are so deeply damaging, and as such are grave evils to be overcome. But in truth, right now, I am just too shattered to do anything requiring such mental effort and articulation.

I am beyond tired.

Bone weary

The cause? My PTSD has gone into overdrive again. I'm simply overwhelmed by re-experiencing the trauma of the past. It's like I've been submerged in it and now there's no getting my head above the water.

So many images all chasing through my head! My body tenses and shakes, vomits and aches: headache, stomach ache, muscle ache, even old injuries ache. When I sleep, I have nightmares, and when I wake, I fight up from sleep into a panic attack. My heart beats faster, I find it hard to open my mouth to eat.

I've just begun to make inroads into talking through some of the worst of what happened to me in therapy, which I know to be necessary: this stuff eats away at me like a cancer and stands between me and a happy life at best. At worst, it risks me fucking myself up majorly over it: at times it's so unbearable to live with that it seems to me it might be better if I weren't here.

I get that old urge to self harm. When I'm detached, sometimes I feel as though I've got stuck outside of my body and I can't get back inside, which scares me. Everything seems unreal, starting with me. At those times, the thought of self harming suggests itself as a means to get back inside myself: I am real, I can feel pain, I bleed. At other times when the mental pain reaches such a pitch that I feel I just can't take it anymore, not another second, self harming suggests itself to me as a means to detach: feel the tension drain away with the blood in the sink, feel the calmness, the distance, flood in.

I'm either too detached or too in-body. I get scared of myself, of being alone with my head, and scared of other people because I don't want to be hurt anymore. I trust no one.

I need to talk to people, to tell them what's going on in my head, specifically. I'm a great one for generalising: 'I don't feel great', 'bit of a headfuck', 'past stuff'... All words meaning something and nothing. I guess I'm back at that jumping off place once again of daring to say what exactly I'm remembering and reliving. That feels like a lot of power to give to someone, even someone I trust. In the past my very survival has depended upon pleasing other people, not rocking the boat, keeping stumm about the abuse. Talking about what's in my head isn't going to be easy listening, and any negative reaction, or potential negative reaction, perceived or real, by the person I talk to triggers off massive fear, which I feel mentally and physically. I don't like the idea of sketching out the images in my head that fill me with shame and make me feel sick about myself into someone else's head in all their glorious technicolour.

So I am exhausted. I'm reliving some of the most horrific times of my life. My therapist said, you've been tortured. Have been, but I feel like I'm still being tortured and I guess realistically that's not going to pass quickly. We're only just beginning to tentatively look at this stuff. I guess I need to keep on keeping on. The tiredness and the sadness are part and parcel of moving on. But the pain? How those things make me feel? It defies description.

Friday, 11 November 2011

The Logic of Illogicality

We live in a system full of tensions and downright illogic. We live in a country in which rape is illegal but pornography showing increasingly aggressive and painful acts against women is becoming ever more mainstream, in which no means yes and even where a woman doesn't initially know she wants sex, she learns to like it and orgasm through it when she is fucked. We live in a society in which battery is illegal but where pornography depicting women being slapped, spit on, being forcibly held down to 'deep throat' male porn actors to the point of crying and retching, is commonplace.

So violence in porn is permissable, coercion in porn is permissable - remember it's only fantasy, except that this fantasy is meted out on the bodies of the women used in porn. Being penetrated and cum over isn't fantasy for these women - it's the reality. I know this - I've been there. This stuff is painfully real to me. When the john, the punter, has got his rocks off, turns the dvd off, closes the magazine, performs a mental channel change, can she do the same, can the woman in the pictures do the same? The camera stops rolling and she picks herself up, cleans herself up, the cum on her face and body, inside her, checks for tears to her anus, her vagina, her throat. She's at high risk now for STDs, Hep B, HIV. She limps to the shower, swollen and bruised, and then goes back to her homelife, such as it is, knowing that images of her being hurt, being fucked, being laughed at, are now going to help make the man who sold her a very wealthy man, that those images will be wanked over, laughed about, that she will continue to be consumed by man after man even when the initial assault is over. Drinking helps, drugs help: they make it all a little more distant, make the pain a little less real. They help in trying to pretend that what happens doesn't matter, that she doesn't matter, that nothing really matters just the next drink or drug.

She begins to feel like her body isn't hers. Unable to remove herself physically from the abuse, retreating into her body, into her head, is not enough. The men follow her inside. She splits off from it, watching it yet living it, there but not there. This body isn't mine. Don't show you're hurting don't show you're hurting (or they'll hurt you more - they get off on it) becomes a numb I don't feel it anyway, nothing touches me, nothing moves me. You can beat me and fuck me and laugh at me but I'm not here anymore, you're just touching a body, shouting at a body, laughing at a body. I feel no connection. It oscillates: fear and numbness, extreme pain and total detachment, in body out of body. The name they're aiming this abuse at used to feel like my name, used to be mine, to be me, but it's not now. It refers to the shell, to the body. They don't know I've gone. They can't hurt me, don't know my real name, my real being, my real essence.

Getting back into the body, my body, piecing back the broken fragments, is slow, so slow, and painful beyond measure. The illogicality of a society which approves porn as 'normal' but claims to have justice for rape victims, victims of domestic violence, acts seen mirrored all the time in porn which are treated as not simply permissible but harmless and even fun, makes the process almost impossible. How do I live in this society? How can I possibly belong there, be validated there, be affirmed and supported, listened to and respected, with my past, my present? The images of the abuse continue to be out there, to be wanked over and laughed about. And I am told by people with absolutely no first hand experience of what it means to be sold, to be raped on camera, sometimes by one man and sometimes by many, for entertainment, that maybe it wasn't so bad. Porn isn't so bad.

You misunderstood, Angel. Porn's harmless fun, women choose to empower themselves and celebrate their sexuality and bodies by being in it, they get paid and laid and everyone's a winner.

Wrong wrong wrong. Everyone's a loser in porn. When I was sold, I lost everything: my body was used in ways that hurt me to the point of passing out and throwing up by the men around me, the images of that abuse continue to be used now by men who don't know me, although they think they do. Have you ever read the commentary in porno mags and on dvd labels? 'This little slut had it coming and couldn't wait to get all her hot holes filled'... 'This cunt took on more than she bargained for in her first gang bang, including taking her first DP and she loved it'... The experience was debasing, the images are debasing and the final insult is that it's described as being exactly what she wanted and deserved.

With how mainstreamed porn has become, and how increasingly aggressive, little wonder that public perception is often that rape victims are to blame. We are teaching the next generation that women want to be treated as sex objects, we demand it, that no doesn't really mean no and we had it coming to us. Follow that thought process through to its logical conclusion and it becomes clear that we are living in a rape culture. To deny that would be illogical.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Freak Show

Pretty woman starred Richard Gere. Sadly, dear Richard is not representative of the men who buy women, either looks-wise or behaviour-wise.

There's a reason that the men who buy women have to buy women.

Let me paint you a more accurate, if less pretty, picture. The johns are there for a reason, and if you think that reason has anything to do with loving women or entering into a simple financial contract, you'd be wrong. Let's have a closer look at the johns.

The woman hater. This man has a personal history which has led him to hate women. It may go something like this: his mother abused him as a kid. Or he feels a girlfriend / female work colleague humiliated him. Or he has a female boss which he can't bear. Or he can't get women like he deserves. The history may differ but the result is the same: he wants to teach women a lesson. He wants to make women, that woman, any woman, this woman he pays for, feel pain as he believes the women in his life have made him feel pain. No matter that this is a different woman. The point is, the prostitute is available to him as a means of expressing his hatred and aggression in a way that the woman or women he wants to even a score with are not. He can't get a relationship with a woman because of how he treats them. The thing is, and he knows this only too well, with a prostitute, there are no consequences. If he beats her, if he rapes her, half strangles her, threatens to kill her, nothing will happen to him. No blue siren will arrive to take him away. That's what she's there for isn't it? An outlet for the rage. He gives her money, or maybe he withholds payment and just uses her and leaves her bleeding on the street as a final snub to her (she should be grateful to be alive. Bitch).

Then there's the conventionally unattractive man. He can't get a relationship with a woman because of his looks or his personal hygiene. For him, the prostitute is the woman who can't say no. An attractive prospect? Maybe not. Was it good for me? NO! But I'll fake it because I have to.

Next up is the porn addict. He might or might not be in a relationship with a woman. He may even be married. Point is, he wants to try out some of the more extreme sex acts he's witnessed in porn, which his partner won't do or he's afraid to ask to try maybe because somewhere deep down he knows it's not something women who can choose will choose. This might be anal sex, taking pornographic photos on his 'phone, two girl shows, DPs, fisting, watersports... you get the point. Driven by his porn fascination, he divides women into two groups: madonnas and whores. He dates madonnas, but he sees it as his right to explore other sex acts brought to his attention by porn and he knows that for the more unpleasant stuff, prostitutes are the only option.

Finally there is the john who just can. He likes to pay for women to have sex just because he can - it's a power trip to him. He can get women for himself, he might not be physically unattractive, but he also gets off on knowing that if he offers cash to a prostitute, she can't say no. He can do whatever he likes with the prostitute and then pick up his current girlfriend and whisk her off to an expensive dinner, smiling even as he does about where he's just been. To him it's a thrill, a buzz.

In short, the johns are a group of men who are accountable to no one. They demand to use and abuse in whatever way they wish to get their orgasm, with not a humane thought towards the woman they have used. The prostitute is at the bottom of the heap, the subject of hatred and fear, the stuff of fable and folklore. She is fucked, discarded and laughed at. The john holds all the power and he knows it. That she is desperate for his cash is self-evident: it is her reason for being there. If he rapes her and beats her and leaves her half dead, the law won't come for him because as a prostitute, she has no recourse to the law. He is safe in the knowledge that even should she try to speak out, her voice will be dismissed as unbelievable, hysterical, extreme. In fact, the worse he hurts her, the less chance she has of being believed. It can't have been that bad.

I write this from my experience of johns during my time as an escort and in the brothel. The men varied but their reasons didn't, their behaviour didn't. Being pimped was even worse.

Richard Gere? Not a hope in hell.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

On Morons and Oxymorons

A quick thought on another article I found this month on the Guardian online. This particular article referred to Anna Arrowsmith as a 'feminist' pornographer. I'm sorry, but there is no such thing as a feminist pornographer. Let's rephrase it: a feminist woman-abuser. See what I mean? It doesn't work. It's like saying an atheistic believer, or a round square.

It's an oxymoron.

Pornography naturalises the subjugation of women - it treats them as less than human, and as demanding to be treated as such. The men are aggressors - they take, fuck, dominate and cum on or in as a statement of possession, as a cat would piss to mark its territory. Feminism's efforts to advance sexual equality, with both men and women treated humanely as human beings, sets it at odds with such abuses.

Feminist pornographer? We're in the domain of the moronic there.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Anna Arrowsmith: So Open Minded My Brain Just Fell Out

My attention was drawn to an article in the Guardian online stating that porn is good for society. In it, the (female) writer argues that there is no evidence that porn causes any damage. I've just left my two pen'orth in the comments section for what it's worth, a little apprehensively (defenders of porn may claim to be in favour of free speech but in my experience they're never backward in coming forward to tell anyone who disagrees with their perspective to shut the fuck up - prude! conservative! do-gooder! frigid cow... you get my point) . I'm prepared for a backlash.

That the author, Anna Arrowsmith - a porn director - is likely to be a tad biased in favour of porn is hard to dispute. That she makes sweeping statements, as if of fact, as to the harmlessness of porn, is a little harder to swallow. And as a survivor of prostitution and pornography, I've had to swallow a good deal!

Of course, reading through the comments, her view is a popular one. Men and women who get off on using porn, without too much thought as to any consequences beyond their own orgasm are unlikely to thank anyone who draws attention to the damages caused by porn. Hell, it might take the edge off things or even make them feel a bit bad, and porn's all about feeling good after all, isn't it? Having a laugh, getting your rocks off, not too serious, no harm done.

As if.

Porn damages. Fact. In it, women are sex objects, a set of orifices to be bought, wanked over and discarded. Men who object to this view are seen as unmanly, women who object as prudish or jealous. Or anti sex. God, that makes me laugh, yeah, of course, I object to women being sold and abused to make vast sums of money for an industry that then discards them with their mental health problems and physical damage, so I must be an enemy of sexual empowerment and sex.


The arguments put forward by the sex industry are thin and reedy, when they are seen for what they are. Once we discard the fear of being called names for not supporting an industry that destroys women, we can begin to speak. But more than that, we can point out a few facts that unlike Anna Arrowsmith's wishful thinking are harder to dispute. The argument put forward by the industry is little more than hot air, a huge spin machine there to protect maximum profits for the business men behind it. The sex industry doesn't care about promoting a healthy varied view of sex, it cares about money! It is profit driven. The pimps don't care about the women's bodies, they care about new, ever more extreme niche markets. Double penetration? Double anal? Fisting? They all hurt. But they make money, push the boundaries, have an edge. Porn isn't free speech: since when did a vagina or anus have a voice? It's the very opposite, a muting of the voices of the women it uses and hurts. They can't say: this hurts! They have to say: I love it, I choose to be here, it feels so good, fuck me harder, or else not be paid or be hurt by the unseen pimps and coercers hidden in pornography at the other end of the lens.

I know: I've been there. The words I said weren't my words, they were the words of my ex, of the man who beat me and raped me and sold me for other men to photograph and film and beat and rape. Being forced to say I enjoyed being abused, wanted more of it, nearly killed me, and I'm not speaking figuratively. I've wanted to die even since I exited.

Women don't get into the sex industry because they're happy and sorted and well adjusted. We end up there through mental health issues, substance abuse issues, violence, past abuse... desperation. And once you get in there, it's all down hill from there on in. The trauma of being sold, of being used as pure entertainment, of being abused, being laughed at and hurt and fucked and told you deserve it, stays with you. If you're lucky enough to get out alive, and not everyone does, you are left so damaged, so scarred, that you feel you no longer fit in, no longer belong. You feel you belong back there, although you hate it, are terrified of it. It's the only place they'll welcome a fuck up like you. Everywhere you go for help they tell you that prostitution's just a job, that porn's harmless, they invalidate you, they judge you (you've got bad mental health now after all, you're easily dismissed, and a 'history' of substance abuse issues, of self harm) and they send you away. Even the so-called mental health professionals don't want to hear your story.

Mute then, and mute now. Disposable then, disposable now.

Because, as Anna Arrowsmith's article, and the majority of comments beneath it show, most people don't want to listen, don't want to hear the unpalatable truth. Society demands that the individual be able to use a woman, buy a woman, wank over a woman and then fold her back into the bedside drawer, with a box of tissues and a spotless conscience. This state of affairs will continue for as long as there is fear in speaking out. No one likes being called names. As for me, though, when I hear defenders of porn saying that people who are anti porn are closed minded, I say: it's ok to say that somethings are damaging. Porn damages. We have to draw a line somewhere. Otherwise we will continue to live in the situation in which we are so open minded, our brains have fallen out.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Waving Not Drowning

Where the anger ends there is a whole ocean of sadness. In truth, I have put a good deal of effort into avoiding this sadness: I don't watch sad films or read sad books, if I sense an ending I'll flip the channel, I don't listen to classical music. I don't even like last seasons of programmes: it'll be over soon! The rawness of the sadness, my sadness, the depth and the width is immense.

I'm scared I'll drown out there.

It feels uncontainable, unmanageable, and that terrifies me. Much better, much safer, to be angry instead. Of course the problem is that in order to stay clean and sober, and to try to move on, this sadness is going to need to be looked at, experienced and talked and cried out. How to release it slowly, rather than sinking in a deluge, is a tricky one.

Everything interlinks. One thing triggers another: the death of my parents; the horror of addiction and active alcoholism; the insidious slide into domestic violence; being pimped; the violence of being pimped; the trauma and escape and fall into prostituting myself and the violence I met there.

In order to survive, just to get through, I told myself I don't matter, what's happening here doesn't matter, nothing touches me, these people and this situation doesn't matter and neither do I. Now here in recovery I have to resist that thinking. In truth, when I got sober, it was because there was a part of me, a tiny fire which was strong enough to say at my lowest point - enough! I am worth saving. I have to stop or die here, alone and terrified, just another addict prostitute gone, just another statistic.

But following this magical new outlook on me through to its logical conclusion continues to be painful. If I matter, then what was done to me matters, I can no longer snarl and say these fuckers can't get to me, they'll never hurt me. The fact of the matter is they did get to me. And they have hurt me, immeasurably. I survived through stuff as best I could by denying my feelings but those feelings are lining up to be heard, to be felt and acknowledged and accepted.

I guess that when you've pushed so much under the rug that it's become a mountain with a rug perched on top it's time to lift it up and clear some stuff out!

Scary but necessary. Anger, channelled positively, is a great driver in my life, and I'm not about to ditch that. But I'm at that jumping off point with the sadness, with being honest enough I guess to admit that I hurt, and to let some of it out. To be vulnerable. No human being can walk through all that shit and be unscathed. I'm just human. It fucking hurts. But I don't want to drink or use again, and I want to find some peace. Whatever it takes, I'm moving forward because going backwards just isn't an option.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Unwatchable? Or Voyeurism Run Amok?

I heard about the storm the film 'Unwatchable' has caused when my therapist mentioned it to me. Suffice it to say I have no wish to watch the re-enactment of a woman being gang raped and hideous violence meted out to her family to put across a point about abuses which occur through the mobile 'phones industry in the Congo.

This is in no way because I think this stuff shouldn't be given publicity, and be denounced and taken action against. I believe passionately that wherever there is violence and injustice that the truth must be told and brought to people's attention, no matter how unpalatable. Here in the West we too often sit all too comfortably on our complacent arses and think that as long as life is good for me, then I'm not too bothered about anyone else. We live in a 'me' culture. Even when things that bring us pleasure cause other people pain (pornography being the main example I have drawn upon here in my blogs) we prefer a good old ostrich approach. We need to be made uncomfortable! Only if I am uncomfortable will I move from my armchair and take action.

But to draw attention to rape and torture doesn't necessitate a re-enactment. It just seems to me to be part of the same old same old pattern: people get desensitised to pain and violence, so rather than finding more creative means of expressing the destructivity of rape and violence we simply show it in ever more graphic ways. And so the shock factor barrier gets pushed further and further and the images on our screens become more and more sordid.

The truth is that rape is sordid. It is damaging, it is scarring, it is the fundamental loss of something irretrievable: yourself. As a survivor of rape, and of gang rape, I felt lost even to myself, disconnected, other than my body, betrayed by it. Unable to stop what was happening to it, I removed myself mentally, I split off. My body remained but I didn't: I was there but not there, present but not present. The rapes and the violence remain a part of me, even now: they were my reality, that was my life as a pimped woman, addicted to drink and drugs. And there's no moving on fast from that. Everybody likes a happy ending, boy how we love them! She got away from him, got clean and sober and now lives a happy life. The end! We can move onto something else conscience clear.

Not likely. Not in my experience, anyway. Healing from trauma takes time and help, and healing from severe trauma takes a lot of time and help.

What has been produced is a quick, sensationalist video of graphic sexual violence (likely to trigger survivors of rape), another piece in the ever growing pile of more sexually graphic material that's already coming out of our ears. This has triggered off a flash shock-horror-this-is-what-gang-rape-looks-like kind of response which seems likely to fizzle out soon (we'll see if the hype it's created moves beyond talking about the actual video into actual longterm action and pressure groups). Isn't that the pattern with shocking images? Shocked, then less shocked, then just forgotten as something more shocking comes along. I've watched a video and been outraged and talked about it, maybe even signed a petition so now I can wash my hands and forget... Wouldn't it have been more effective perhaps to draw attention to the psychological damage of rape? Wouldn't a broader conversation rather than a visual shock tactic have had more of a lasting impact, getting people thinking, triggering whole areas of helpful frank discussion and action rather than a routine response?

Why are we still obsessed with watching a woman being raped rather than talking to a rape victim and hearing her voice? Why is the emphasis still on a naked helpless woman's body rather than the whole woman?

Wouldn't it be a refreshing change for us not to be the voyeur?

In a society saturated with hardcore pornography in which women are routinely subject to violence, where lapdancing clubs where women are objectified and bought every day are thought of as harmless fun, where stripping and pornography are seen as empowering for women, in truth nothing is unwatchable. A more helpful and unusual approach given our society's obsession with objectifying women's bodies would have been to actually hear the woman's voice, not linger on her with the camera, frozen in time, as she is raped. If people are uneasy about this film (and they should be: I'm arguing here that there was a better way of raising awareness of this issue, not that this issue shouldn't be raised), maybe we need to ask them not so much why they are distressed by the realities of what's happening in the Congo as why they aren't distressed by the realities of what's happening here and now in our own country.

1 on 4 women will experience domestic violence.

Every week, 2 women in the UK are killed by their partner or former partner.

The incidence of rape still makes it a threat for every woman.

The conviction rate for rape remains at 13%.

Polls continue to show that most people, male and female, believe that the rape victim has some degree of responsibility for being raped.

Our culture is a rape culture, that is, one in which women remain unequal, where pornographic material of an ever more hardcore nature is becoming more and more mainstream, and where this is deemed as a good thing, not at odds with promoting sexual equality. The makers of 'unwatchable' aren't the only ones who realise that more shocking tactics than ever are required to pull in an audience. Pornographers are entering more and more extreme territory to pull in johns to buy it. We are desensitised. The price pornographers are willing to pay is the damage done to a woman's body as she undergoes more and more brutal acts for the punter's kicks. Strikes me, if the people who made the video were really bothered about women, they shouldn't be taking a leaf from the pornographer's books and focussing on more extreme graphically depicted sexual violence. Being a voyeur is not enough. Instead, it would be more helpful if people stood alongside survivors of rape and heard our voices.

I can't speak for every rape victim, but for me? I'm tired of people standing by watching, be it shocked or unshocked, as women are raped and beaten. We need access to help, and beyond that, we need a voice, we need understanding, we need to live in a society where we are not blamed for being raped because of what we wore / said / how we acted, where people stop simply seeing us frozen in time as the woman being raped and see the whole us: our history, how we came to be here, our hopes and dreams. In short, we need change, which can only mean one thing. Action!

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Is it Him or Is it Me?

I've been around a lot of anger of late. A lot. It's a tricky one. A very large part of me holds myself responsible when people treat me badly. I know somewhere, on some logical level, that that's not true, that when people act badly or abusively towards me, that's their stuff, their responsibility. But I don't feel it. I know it but I don't feel it.

Problem is, what's going on now gets confused by all the past shit it triggers off for me. My PTSD's in overdrive at the moment. Having been with someone who used to beat the shit out of me, and sold me to other men, and encountering more violence as I did when I prostituted myself, I find that anger - shouting, stony silences, aggressive body language, even sarcasm - all trigger that stuff off. I rapidly detach, or get faint and sick. It becomes unclear to me whether the raised voice I'm hearing belongs to the person in front of me, my ex or myself (yeah, I found in the end that his voice became my voice. Bastard.)

I went to IDAS (Independent Domestic Abuse Services) for a while since getting sober, and they really drummed it into me that no matter what, you can't make someone hit you. They are in control of their own fist. I know from my own experience of when I get really angry that I could be violent if I wanted: I just choose not to be. I passionately argue against those who tell victims of domestic violence, of rape, it was their fault. When I think about anyone else on the receiving end of such violence, I can see that idea for what it is: BS.

Yet when it comes to me, I'm uncertain. I guess it goes to show how much I internalised what my abusers told me: that I deserved it, I made it happen, that I should count myself lucky they were so generous towards me (some generosity, huh). Yet in with all the self loathing and the self destruction and the self harming, it stuck. It stuck in my head that I am the problem. I am a big fat fucking problem. I attract trouble, I cause trouble, I make bad decisions, boy do I make some bad fucking decisions. I give out the wrong signals and I make people hit me. I do it to myself.

The judgment I encountered from professionals in the course of the violence has stuck too. My fault! I should just leave him. I don't count anyway, I'm just a drunk. After another talk with the policewoman, I remember saying do you really think I want to go and stand in court and be ripped to shreds by his counsel because with my substance abuse issues, my mental health history and with the way our system deals with victims of rape and domestic violence, I don't stand a hope in hell out there. Even if he went down, at what cost? My shame and my weakness hung out for everyone to see and judge. They would've destroyed me.

And I remember the policewoman saying, what if he does it to someone else? And thinking there's no point even trying to respond to that crap. If he does it to someone else, that'll be his fault, not mine. I'm not some kind of co-abuser, jointly responsible for him somehow. Fuck, I can't stop what he does to me let alone try and step in to save someone else.

I thought then, as I think now, what a broken system. And what a damaging misperception. Yet here I am, four and a half years sober, and trying to work on self care, on not hating myself, trying to put my shattered person back together, and I find a voice in my head telling me that if this person here and now in 2011 abuses me, its my fault! A large part of me still despises myself, still blames myself. Slow progress. My different fragments, the fallout from splitting, detaching through trauma, tell me different things. The voice that happens to be there, the person I happen to be when the triggers occur, dictate my response. My fault - not my fault. He's the dick - I'm the dick. His stuff - my stuff. I deserve to be loved - I deserve to be hurt.

I'm not sleeping which never helps. I feel trapped in the past. And confused, so confused with the jumble of thoughts, with the fragments. Still, I remain clean and sober, so I guess that's progress. The mind / body shit's taking a little longer to shift.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

To Trust or Not to Trust

I'm really struggling with trust at the moment. It's the kind of thing you don't notice in your everyday interactions with others until it's gone and you find the whole business of communicating with others, interacting with others, a maze and a nightmare. In recovery, through a huge conscious effort on my part, my ability to trust has grown a little. By the time I got into recovery, my trust was shot to shit. I didn't trust anyone, male or female. I felt sold out, betrayed, not simply by the men who abused me but by the whole system, the way our whole society's geared up to turn a blind eye to such abuse and classify it as fun. I felt angry at the middle class worldview in which I was brought up, which left me so totally unprepared for what happened to me that I didn't even have the vocabulary for it. Pimping. That was a word I came to only after 2 years of getting clean and sober. My ex pimped me. At the time, with the fear and through the haze of substances and head injuries I couldn't have said what was going on. In fact, I largely lost my ability to talk at all. Rape. That's another one. I think like many people I grew up believing that rape was something that only a stranger commits. The idea that a partner might rape me, and frequently, and a circle of others some of whom grew familiar to me was so far removed from my understanding that I couldn't understand it. It's a word I still can't say out loud. I could maybe now just about manage 'made me have sex'.

The professionals I encountered in the midst of this enforced this confusion, and multiplied my sense of shame. On the rare visits I made to hospital with injuries, it was made clear to me that this was my fault. I was treated with disbelief and palpable hostility - 'she's going back to him'. People spoke over me as if I was not there, and didn't even try to understand. He was in my house, and my money was tied up in my house, and I was scared and lost and struggling with an addiction beyond my control. I didn't understand why this was happening, I didn't know what to do. Brought up to trust in the medical profession, I didn't know where to turn.

When I got sober, I realised that to stay sober I was going to have to do things a bit different. I heard other people sharing about their feelings, and with the help of a few good people around me I began to make sense of what I was feeling. In early recovery, I just felt - bleugh - that was about as articulate as I could manage. Years of burying emotions, splitting off from myself, numbing myself out and detaching made it hard for me to handle any feelings at all. They threatened to overwhelm me. Identifying and labelling emotions - anger, fear, sadness - took time.

But there remained, even as I began to be more open and honest about how I was feeling, large swathes of my life about which I simply could not talk. The violence, the pimping, the filming of that abuse, stayed for me unspeakable. That was one of the reasons behind me starting this blog back in 2009: as I began to put a narrative to what had happened, as more stuff came back to me, I realised that this stuff had to go somewhere, or else I would go mad. Unable to say it aloud, and mistrustful of others on matters of this weight to me, I chose to write and just put it out there. I had a voice but without a face, I could be honest without dealing with another persons reaction to me, to this.

I have at times managed to speak a little about this stuff. I saw a therapist for a year and began to try to talk about some of it. It was incredibly raw, incredibly painful. There were long silences and I worried that I might pass out or throw up. And about his reaction. Because it was in my first year of recovery, I was still struggling for the vocab. Trying to open up a little to other people has been much less successful. I've found that even with decent people, people I count as friends, their worldview simply has no space for what I've experienced. In a society saturated by porn, which makes light of violence against women, and when a woman is raped or beaten tends to say 'well, she did go back to him / give the wrong signals / lead him on / have a drink / wind him up' it's hard to know where to go when you're struggling with the after effects of being abused. Women are in my experience often just as judgmental, and just as likely to take the side of the abuser.

This year, I've lost my last parent. That has made a big difference to my ability to trust. I've really gone backwards. Because we're not great at death in this country, I've had some negative reactions to my loss, a couple of friends have avoided me (their stuff, I know, but painful nonetheless), a few people have made comments along the lines of 'well you've just got to get on with life' (I know that! What do you think I'm fucking doing?) which translates as 'please don't talk about this' and it has reignited my total mistrust. I trust no one. My closest ally at the moment is my pet dog.

Which leaves me in a pickle because obviously this isn't going to work, I have to trust people to stay sober, but it's really hard. I am scared and lonely and so lost right now, I don't even trust myself to choose the right people to talk to. I've just begun therapy again, which is positive, and I'm having to fight against all my defensive instincts to actually let him help me. I want to be close to people, I want to love and be loved, but I'm not sure I know how to do that anymore, which makes me so sad I might cry if I only let myself. I guess I'll have to 'act as if' and just try being honest against all my instincts. In truth, I've managed on my own for too long in the past, battling on, and I'm tired, and I don't think I can do it any more.

I'm at a jumping off point. I just hope I land on terra firma, not in the shit.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

The Fantasy of Fantasy

I find it truly bizarre when the women who are used in pornography are called 'actresses'. It strikes me as something of a misnomer. While it is true that they are often given lines to repeat to camera ('fuck me harder', 'it feels so good' being staples), and are told to smile as if they were enjoying it, there the acting ends. What is done is really done to the woman. It's not like any other show where you tune in and watch as actresses and actors pretend to be hurt. Take Casualty for example, or Midsomer Murders. It is stating the obvious to say that when the written role involves violence against the character or harm done to them, whether it be a car accident in Casualty or a murder victim in Midsomer Murders, this violence or harm is not actually done, is not actually perpetrated against the actor or actress. When, however, in pornography you see a woman being fucked, she might be speaking lines but the experience is real, it is something that is happening to her, that is done to her. It is real. The penetration, the 'money' shots, the aggresiveness, are her experience. The obviously painful tricks and the less obviously, they happen, they hurt her. No fake blood or fake bruises here, no painstakingly crafted fake body parts to take the impact of the actions. Whatever is done is done to her, done to her to make him money, done for your consumption, for your pleasure. Her expression of pain is for real.

The money she receives, what if any she gets of it after her pimp or 'agent' has his cut, simply expresses the fact that women have to be paid to take this crap. Or the men who control us have to be paid for our use. We don't do it cos we love it, as the pimps and pornographers would have you believe, we do it because we need the money, be it for drugs or food, and we see no choices, or because they want the money, our pimps want the money and there'll be Trouble if we dissent. The women used in porn don't generally come from the happiest backgrounds. We're damaged, and in porn we get more damaged.

The risks and the harms done are grave. Unprotected sex with numerous parties having unprotected sex with numerous other parties is hazardous, with or without screening. HIV and Hepatitis B are a couple of a whole host of other blood and fluid borne diseases. Prolonged rough sex, be it vaginal or anal, or the insertion of objects can lead to internal damage and bleeding, to urine infections, prolapses, fissures and other long term problems. Many of the more 'hardcore' acts are undisguised expressions of aggression.

Put yourself in her shoes for moment if you will. She is hurt, she is humiliated, by one man or several, while somebody films this happening. While she is physically in pain, she is called names like whore, cunt, slut, bitch, and told that she likes it. She is told to say she likes it -'fuck me harder' 'fuck my arse'. She is made to say she enjoys being abused. They laugh at her, about the damage done to her body - 'she just might be wearing diapers soon!". Imagine being her, opened up for the camera, nowhere to hide, for the pleasure of a bunch of men she never even met, who pay the men who do this to her to do it, who will also sit and laugh at the damage and sit and orgasm to her pain.

Not good for the old headspace, is it? Or for the body. The physical experience of pain of being used in pornography is matched only by the mental pain. The rates for PTSD, drug and alcohol abuse and suicide in prostitution and porn speaks for itself. Trust issues, body issues, dissociation, self harm, substance abuse issues... and on, the glamour of 'acting' in porn goes on, it doesn't just end with a quick scrub off in the shower. The nightmares begin, the triggers begin.

Powerless to remove yourself from that situation, you do the only thing you can do to cope, just to survive, to get through. When the pain is unbearable, the fear is unbearable, the degradation is unbearable, you split off. Your body feels like it's no longer your own, you're not even safe in that, and their words are in your head, they're in your head. No place is safe and so you go to no place, a kind of disconnected numbness that pulls you through at times. When I can't get there by willing it, I cut or I drink or I use. I try to forget, try to maintain some shred of this self, such as it was, against all the odds.

In recovery, I often find myself disconnected, sometimes pleasantly so but mostly it scares me, I feel stuck outside my body and there's no getting back. Every movement this body makes feels like an immense effort, a conscious pulling of strings. I feel fake because I don't know who I am, who Angel is, which of the shards and the fragments and the competing but opposing voices are me. The despair or the hope, the optimist and the pessimist, the hard and the soft, the cold and the warm. What you get when you encounter me depends largely on whichever part of me is dominant at that time. Trying to integrate myself is slow progress and right now I feel as if I've gone backwards. Trust them - don't trust them! Be honest - show nothing! I matter - I don't matter! I live in a warzone and it's exhausting and scary. I don't know who I am, and that makes me sad and lost.

My experience of being used in pornography has been one of extreme and enduring trauma.

Now I'm no mental health professional, but I'll wager that the actress who was in a car crash in Casualty went home with a paycheck, nothing more. The 'extras' a porn 'actress' leaves with - physical and mental trauma - mark her as separate. Porn is not fantasy, it is not acting - it happens to and hurts real women. Instead we should see it for what it is - lies and abuse. The women in porn are the rubbish dump for our perverse imaginations, used and discarded for our pleasure, at the bottom of the pile in a series of unequal power relations.

Actresses? My arse.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Comedy Club Central

I was reading an interview with Larry Flynt the other day (The Independent: Fri 27th May 2011). The guy who claims he lost his virginity aged 9 fucking a chicken (leaving it bleeding and squawking - he killed it after). He seems to have spent the rest of his life taking much the same attitude to women through his magazine, Hustler. This is the magazine that depicted a woman being gang raped on a pool table, showed rats coming out of women's vaginas, showed a woman being forcibly shaved, raped and then killed in a concentration camp. To name but a few. Criticised for inciting the gang rape of a woman on a pool table in New Bedford, Hustler brought out postcards showing another woman being gang raped on a pool table with the tidings: 'Greetings from New Bedford, Gang Rape Capital of America'. The rape victim's reaction is unrecorded, but it made Flynt laugh and seemed to satisfy his 'readers'.

This guy got filthy rich by publishing hatred against women's bodies and encouraging people to have a laugh and a wank over it.

How did such pictures come to be legally defensible as 'free speech'? Since when has a tortured vagina been able to speak? How could rape and torture, the complete absence of freewill and choice, come to be celebrated as a freedom, fought for as a freedom? Why would people rally to the call of such a man and come to his aid?

What ever happened to the rights of women not to be violated, not to be shamed and humiliated and tortured and used for the entertainment of others?

Do we really want to encourage people to laugh at this stuff, get turned on by this stuff? Would you feel the same, could you feel the same if your daughter, your sister was used in one of these photoshoots? Still think he's a hero, a warrior for free speech, not just some overweight white guy getting rich and getting his rocks off by degrading women, selling women? What about Chester the Molester, the cartoons he published about a paedophile's exploits until the guy who drew them for him got busted for paedophilia?

Is anyone still laughing out there?

Porn isn't in some bubble. What is acceptable there, the attitudes towards women promoted there, are going to have an impact on how the people who 'use' (wank over) it regard women in real life. And yet as a society we wilfully choose to turn our backs on this unpalatable truth and lumber on, any passing doubts quickly overridden by a fast orgasm and a mental channel change.

Maybe it's time to join up the dots.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Memory, but Not of the Moonlit Variety

So the problem I find myself coming up against time and time again is this: how to live with these horrific images and memories which are burned into my brain? I'm clean and sober, this week it is four years.

The images remain.

If I'd hoped that getting clean and sober and working a programme would somehow magically erase that shit I'd be sorely disappointed. Sobriety enabled me to remove myself from that situation, and every day sober adds a little distance timewise from that place. But the phase I'm finding tricky is the next phase: the cleanup operation. An oiled seabird rescued from drowning won't survive if it's simply pulled from the sea and dumped on the beach, covered in toxins, its warmth draining away through soiled feathers. Similarly, simply being out of prostitution, even out and clean and sober, isn't enough for me to survive in any meaningful way unless I can get the toxic crap left behind by years of abuse and being sold out of my system. I've spent the last 4 years trying to work out just how to do that because until I can change this, it's always there, smothering me, threatening to engulf me at times when it's particularly raw.

This is my Achilles' heel.

Just to clarify: sobriety gives me a hell of a lot. Every day I'm grateful to be in recovery, out of physical danger, not revisiting groundhog day with the terror and the shame and the degradation of being an addict in prostitution. One of the many things sobriety does do is give me a chance to try and work this thing out somehow.

The thought of speaking this stuff aloud, naming things, putting words to the images and sharing them with another human being scares me. But the thought of not doing, and continuing with this stuff rattling around me head, affecting everything, is more scary still.

I have come, as they say, to a jumping off place.

It's incredibly difficult to tease out the truth of what's really going on in your life at the present moment when the past intervenes and tangles everything into one big thorny knot. Every interaction, every response, is informed by my past.

I guess I'm struggling to feel connected to 'normal' life, although I go through the motions. I feel anything but. Nothing devastates trust or intimacy, nothing separates one quite so much as the experience of extreme pornography - being made to watch it and perform in it - and violence. When people have trampled all your boundaries, it's hard not to create boundaries everywhere afterwards physical and emotional to stay safe. They're not hurting me again! They can't get in, can't get close. But neither can you get out. You get trapped. You feel a sense of loss and loneliness, knowing what you know. The pictures in your head remind you you where you've been, what people are capable of, where these things lead, these things you see people laughing and joking about, defending everywhere as harmless. Because they can't, won't acknowledge the damage - the damage done by pornography, the damage done by prostitution - they won't acknowledge you. Your experience makes you invisible.

They've changed the language, see? if something's harmless, and it's a woman's right to be able to do it, then it stands to reason there can be no casualties of it. You're a victim of the language game and of a system which denies women their human dignity by silencing the victims of the system, the exploited, and framing in their mouths the justifications of the pimps and pornographers - she likes it, she chose it, she is responsible for it. End of, no exceptions. Women who will say things that support the sex industry are allowed to remain, courted by the mainstream, paid to tell their 'saucy' stories in women's magazines and in chatshows.

Women who tell a different story are outcasts. Not only have you been abused but you're told that you weren't, that what happened is ok, merely adult entertainment. I have to tell you, being used and abused as entertainment is inhumane.

People who say 'just get over it' are uttering a curse. I want to scream 'how, exactly?' at them but I don't because often these people just mean shut the fuck up up get on with your life which I do: I am clean and I am sober and I get on with my life. The fact that I am suicidal because of this stuff and struggle with PTSD on a daily basis is a matter of supreme indifference to them as long as everything looks good from the outside.

I refuse to shut the fuck up though.

For me, the images remain, the memories remain, reappearing in dreams, and when triggered in everyday life, often with little warning. Healing requires gentleness and the possibility that when you or I speak our story, it may be believed. Currently our society simply doesn't offer that to the survivor of the sex industry.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

A Hand to Help or to Hit?

Someone asked me the other day how to talk to an old friend of theirs who had been working as a prostitute. They had lost touch for a period but now, with contact re-established, she seems distant, unable to accept love and kindness. She seems to be in denial about what happened to her as a prostitute.

In some ways I am well placed to give an insight into this, yet in other ways I am quite lost. I identify with the woman in question, but I don't always know what I need, what would help me to move on. Sometimes it's hard to know when someone reaches out a hand if they're going to help you or hit you, particularly when past experience of reaching out for help has met with more of the latter.

I can still be very mistrustful of people, men in particular, who profess any affection for me, more so if it is romantically inclined. You get used to the johns giving you lines for their own ends. My first thought can still be, you ain't getting anything from me, fucker. Obviously, it's not an attitude that's conducive to great relationships, so it can be pretty lonely. Sometimes, when things are going well, I can make a conscious effort to avoid thinking like this. But inevitably if I'm tired, or scared, or hurting, its my default. The defences go up.

Being vulnerable with someone is an incredibly brave act, particularly if people have hurt you in the past and preyed on your weaknesses. Positively dangerous. Better, always better, to appear hard and uncaring and unmoved. Opening up, and being honest, requires safety, reassurance, and time. I saw my counsellor for 6 months before I began to open up to him. I had to be as sure as I could be that he wouldn't hurt me, of his integrity, his professionalism, his caring. I tested him for any hints of judgment or assumptions about me for a long long time, and even after all that time, and in that setting, I still doubted, and I still felt unsafe. The fact that his attitude towards me remained consistent both before I opened up and as I let small fragments out allowed me to continue. There's nothing more off putting than someone really pushing you to talk before you feel ready, nor than someone shutting you up or misunderstanding if you do talk. It's something of a tightrope walk.

I couldn't have rushed talking about my past, in part because getting my feelings back after trying to switch them off in prostitution and addiction has been a slow process. And then having the words and saying them out loud are 2 different things. I was afraid that by saying these things, it would somehow make them real. I would have to acknowledge that these painful and frightening things had really happened, and then deal with not only his reaction, but with mine too.

I wasn't sure I could handle it. Taking a proper, sober look at what had happened to me was a terrifying prospect. My mind and the drugs and alcohol had managed to numb me enough while it was happening to get through, just. I managed to distance myself from my body to the point that it didn't feel in any meaningful way to be me. Now looking back at my past, I could feel it. My body varied from numbness to shaking and aching with the flashbacks and memories. Muscles tensed and wobbled. At times I would physically vomit.

I felt that if I spoke, the feelings might overwhelm me and somehow I couldn't cope, wouldn't cope. I'd do something stupid and fuck my life up again. I felt I couldn't look another human being in the eye and say those truths, incredibly hard truths, aloud. I thought he'd hate me. I certainly hated myself. I thought he would judge me, and say that I'd liked it, like the abusers did. I think worst of all for me was the idea that in this man's head I was painting images of myself, horrific images in which I was naked and helpless and humiliated and being used as pure entertainment. I felt as if he could see it for real. Because I felt like I was really back there, it was hard to think he wasn't watching alongside the other men. I also worried at bottom that he wouldn't believe me. My ex constantly put that fear into my head, and it can still rattle around there if I'm not careful.

Denial's a tricky one. To survive as a prostitute, it is necessary to construct a network of lies, even to yourself. If you don't say it'll be different tomorrow, tell yourself that you don't care, that this doesn't matter, doesn't touch you, maybe even that you chose it, then how can you get up in the morning and face the johns all over again. To survive being sold and poked and prodded and fucked and told and made to do disgusting, demeaning things by punters, you have to change the experience, and if you can't change what's happening to you physically, you try to change your perception of it in your head, distance yourself, separate off. Your body's being fucked but you reach for the denial - I'm not really here, this isn't actually happening, they can do what they like to that body but it's not me. Trying to merge the fragmented parts of myself in recovery continues to be a slow and painful process, because it means accepting that the unacceptable happened to me, hurt me.

4 years on and I still at times find myself drained of all positivity and warmth, all connection. I feel separate from myself and from other people, cold, malicious and capable of complete self annihilation. There is a strong pull to self destruct and destroy everything that has meant anything to me along the way. It feels like someone has poured ice into my veins and unplugged my heart. I want to push people away, 'though I know when this passes I'll regret it.

These episodes occur when something triggers me and puts me back into my past. I think that underneath this savageness is a whole world of hurt and pain and more loss and sadness than I could have imagined possible before I experienced violence and prostitution.

I hope that there will always be people who will take the time and have the patience to get beyond the damage to the woman inside. I feel privileged that someone asked my advice. Sometimes it's hard to know what would help, or if you're in the position of trying to help someone who's exited prostitution, how to help them. I guess I'd just say that a little love and patience go a long way.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Despicable Me

I was listening to the radio the other day and there was a piece about soldier who shot two of his comrades as a result of his post traumatic stress disorder after they'd been drinking. They were talking about how PTSD can make the sufferer re-experience past traumas. Their messing about had apparently triggered off for him the experience of being under attack in a warzone. So he killed them.

I have been diagnosed with PTSD some years back as a result of the abuse I suffered as a prostitute and battered woman. I remember my therapist saying to me that soldiers often suffer with it, and that people who experience severe trauma may develop it. Symptoms include flashbacks, nightmares, and triggers.

I have all of these.

But what the expert on the radio said which really caught my attention was that soldiers who've been in conflict find it hard to adjust to civilian life afterwards, left with all those horrific images of the atrocities they've witnessed emblazoned on their minds. And so they may wish to return to active duty and a combat setting, because there they will be around other men who are experiencing what they are experiencing and who understand.

And there in that one sentence which I caught by chance on the radio I found an answer to 4 years of guilt and shame and confusion. Since exiting prostitution I have at times felt a pull back towards it, in particular when people have refused to help me, or have told me that I chose it ergo I must have enjoyed it. There's nothing worse than having someone explain to you that you're wrong about how you feel, about how things were, that you somehow misunderstood. I could never understand why I would feel pulled back towards something which I found so horrific, and had come to the conclusion that it must be my self destructive urge, which is strong at times.

But what was said about the soldiers made perfect sense to me. Since exiting prostitution, I have found my experiences invalidated at every level, dismissed or denied. I still find, 4 years on, that almost without exception (and there have been very few exceptions, even amongst so called mental health professionals), I have not found anyone who understood what it is to prostitute oneself. Most don't even try.

So the only place I have ever felt truly understood was amongst other prostitutes.

There is not other situation which parallels prostitution, none that attract so little understanding, so much judgment and hatred and scorn. If you're beaten as a prostitute, you deserve it. And if you're raped... can you even rape a prostitute? Surely that just means not paying, and she obviously likes sex well enough or she wouldn't choose to be there. I've been told I chose all this. Well, Angel, what did you get out of that? Take responsibility for what happened to you! I don't fear taking responsibility for past wrongs but I draw the line at being told I wanted this stuff. Nobody chooses rape.

The prostitute stands condemned, both by those who despise her for what she does and by those who argue so generously (on her behalf - they wouldn't dream of doing it themselves) for her right to be an abused woman, to be a prostitute.

It's a desperate place to find yourself.

There was no suggestion by the expert or indeed anyone on Radio 4 that a soldier might try to get back to active service because he enjoyed witnessing the atrocities that had triggered his PTSD and so disconnected him from the general civilian population. Where is this compassion and understanding for the prostituted woman? Why does she among all people get blamed again for being hurt, and told once again that she chooses this because she likes it? There is a complete lack of understanding of choicelessness, addiction, hopelessness, and the trauma that results from being fucked and used and abused and treated as less than human. As a prostitute I was a human fuck doll, the only difference being that I was expected to enthuse over the abuse and take pleasure in it. A blow up doll would've been treated more gently.

It's not so surprising there's a pull to go back, looked at like that. A woman who has been prostituted is a woman who does not belong. Damaged as she is by the experience, she is, simply Unacceptable, a truth too dangerous to handle. If women used in the sex industry don't actually like it, it casts a harsh shadow of doubt across every person's 'right' to wank over women in lapdancing clubs, magazines, videos and on tv, and society isn't prepared for that to happen. So we are used and then discarded, an inconvenience, the human waste generated by a system of perpetual inequalities and abuses.

Being human garbage? Now that's rubbish.

Monday, 28 February 2011

On Total BS

The total BS that goes on in everyday life as part of our culture in Britain is really getting to me. I was thinking this morning as I got dressed (a great thinking window for me) just how much is stacked against me. Not just me, but every woman who lives in our culture faces a choice: buy into the game of pornification, of female 'laddishness', be a part of it (thinking: 'alright, I see the game here, I'll play the men at it, I'll dress as they want, behave as they want, and get what I want ie to be wanted and desired by them. Then I'll be powerful'). As if to be a female fuck doll was somehow empowering. How do I know? I used to think this! Or think, I want something a bit different. Being treated as a sex object isn't empowering, being able to attract hundreds of men who want to fuck you isn't actually a measure of power. I want to play on my terms. I want to be attractive and have fun, but not attractive by conventional measures. I want to feel at ease with my body, rather than beat myself up for not being stick thin with fake breasts, as out norms demand. I want to treat men as my equal, rather than playing games with them in which I despise and scorn them and they degrade and scorn me. I want something more than skin deep, and more intimate than fucking.

Opting for the latter choice, as I do these days having witnessed the destructive damage caused by a sex industry pushed game playing based on lies and misinformation, I feel very very outnumbered. The other view is everywhere! Women are chosen as actresses on mainstream shows because of what they look like. They pose in scantily clad 'lad's mags', looking exactly the same as every other woman there - no room for mold breaking or individuality here! - and speak of feeling liberated. Sitting in our living rooms, we feel the opposite. Almost every film has female nudity in it, not parallelled by the males, and we've lowered the ratings. Almost every garage, every newspaper shop has shelves of 'lads mags' (so called 'softcore' porn, as if porn could be 'soft' or harmless) , every music video features gyrating semi nude women, pornography is now sold in Anne Summers which purports to be female friendly...
I could go on ad infinitum. There's no escaping it, as a woman, you have to fight to be seen in any other way than as entertainment. And as a man you have to fight against the all too common view that if you treat women as equals, as human beings not sex objects, you are somehow not 'a man'.

Let's cut the BS, take a risk and speak out and say that treating each other as the enemy, to be manipulated, conquered and discarded is neither healthy nor somehow inevitable. Men and women we can stand together and refuse to have our sexuality dictated to us by an industry that couldn't care less about sexual liberation or the people it uses, but is purely and simply a vast money making enterprise, the most profitable industry in existence.

Get active. Fight the bullshit.

Monday, 14 February 2011

The Art of Grieving... Learning to Be

I've just lost my remaining parent, a difficult time. Though to the untrained eye I appear to be functioning pretty much as usual, I don't feel right. It's hard to say how I feel. So easy to say 'all over the place' but that doesn't really mean much. I feel, by turn, disconnected, lonely, angry, fearful. Ah, the fear! Always my default setting. I feel like my confidence, my security, has drained away through the sole of my shoes and I am scared, so scared, of life. The fear as ever shows itself through anger, an unreasonable temper and a clingness which throws those nearest and dearest to me into the middle of a tug of war: don't leave me - fuck off! Aware, as I am, of my moods, I feel I should isolate myself, crawl under a stone, and leave the others be. Of course I don't do this, because my addiction, my alcoholism, craves that.

I know what to do to stay clean and sober but beyond that, I feel lost. I don't know how to be. How should one be in grief? I know there are no 'shoulds' but I wish someone had told that to my casual acquaintances. They act nervous and embarrassed around the subject of the death, quite without need: my temper only manifests amongst intimates.

My body vibrates and then exhausts with feelings unrecognised, thoughts unheard. I feel a vast movement of things of which I feel I am at best partially aware. Old hurts return, the prostitution, the violence, the abuse. I'm on the defensive again. Past, present and the future run into one another. I take it one day at a time, but which day is it? My sleep and dreams are over-full - too much to process! The night holds no peace.

Still, I have much to be grateful for. I don't drink and use, I don't have to prostitute myself anymore, and I am not beaten and raped and in fear of my life as I was. Looked at like that, anything else is a bonus.