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.


  1. Wow - this is a brilliant and deeply moving post.

    I feel one that trauma of surviving the sex trade is made to be embedded, is the constant dismissal of that we were raped, sexually tortured and made into living porn. It is not taken seriously, but made entertainment and part of the leisure industry.
    This makes all the violence and degradation invisible, but worse it made out to be fun and could be empowering to women.

    This is a disgusting dismissal of our pain, terror and confusion.
    No wonder that we want to go back to what we know, even if all we knew was hell.

    I have out of the sex trade for a long time now, but I still when depressed or triggered I have very dark thoughts of getting a man to buy me, preferably a man who will used me as trash. I fight that all the time.

    It is very hard to fight when I am surrounded by the cheer-leading of all the degradation and violence that is the norm of the sex trade.

    Thanks so much for this post.

  2. You're very impressive to share all of these things. It's incredible to me that people will actually say to you that you must have liked it, that you chose it, and so on. I can tell you that there are tons and tons of people who I know who don't think that way, men and women alike.

    I know it's a bit academic, but I thought you mind find relevant a concept from Marxist economic thought about how systems are created that people are forced to participate in, and that they perpetuate, recreate, and spread by participating in.

    I believe that the reason so many people heartlessly push the idea of choosing prostitution, or rape, or drug addiction, or poverty, is because they want to believe that they themselves can choose not to live a troubled life. In particular, I see many women who blame rape victims, and I think it's to psychologically insulate themselves from the possibility it could happen to them.

  3. There is one essential error in the entire process: the initial decision to go on with prostitution.

    I put the blame -and it has to be put- on both men who ask and buy for this product (sex) and women who sell it. It is a gross manner of taking advantage of something so primitive and poor. It is not an offer of services. It is not vocation. It is ABUSE.

    Sex industry? Sex industry is criminal for me. Sex is not to be sold. Why is there love industry, sex industry, child-bearing industry, organ industry? Why isn't there any respect industry? Any progress industry?

    We are corrupt to the core as a species and as a society.

    I have understanding for the prostituting woman. I have understanding for the raped woman. For the raped man. For the raping man. For the soldier, for the criminal, for the victim. Understanding is not enough. It is mostly useless.

    It is a matter of bringing our profits up in a certain way that will serve the emotional and physical health of every single person.


  4. If you only knew what the entirety of this post and the words mean to me. I'm crying.
    Amazing post.

  5. Tree Surgeon - It's hard to believe you actually read this post and that was your reply. How dare you take this womans story of which you clearly can not relate to on any level and use it as a platform to spew your holier than thou rhetoric. Show some love and understanding for the human condition. POVERTY IS NOT A CRIME. ADDICTION IS NOT A CRIME.
    What exactly have you done that is USEFUL? So compassion and educating yourself isn't useful... hmmm. Imteresting and weird.

  6. I have no other words than thank you for putting it all so brilliantly.

  7. It takes a great deal of courage and hard work to reject the adrenalin rush and letting go of responsibility that staying in abusive and/or addictive situations allows. Sometimes it is so hard to be responsible and live a clean life, especially when you feel that you don't fit in because of all your previous experiences. It really does take true courage. I have to find that courage every day. Great post as always. Thank you.

  8. To Angel K,

    I'm a friend of a women that went into prostitution in England from California and I knew her (became close to her) as she was transitioning into it under influence from a religious cult. I lost contact with her for about 12 years, contacted her again and a lot of the old feelings, sick feelings, came back regarding being emotionally connected to a person that cannot express that to me back.

    Hard to explain, but I found her to be distant and dismissive of my feelings for her when I know that she was very hurt by the implosion in the relationship. We since tried to resolve some of those past experiences but I keep running into various level of denial and her being dishonest about what had happened during the time she was a prostitute.

    I was wondering if you have any advice for me to help interact with her in a constructive manner ? and any advice for me to deal with some of those feelings.

  9. your writing is deeply moving and articulate. your humanity is huge. keep fighting. i wouldn't want to live in this world without women like you. thank you so much.

  10. Brilliat Matarij! I am an ex prostitute, I got into it through my ex boyfriend when I was 17 years old. He was 40 and had been grooming me since I was 12. I grew up mostly in care and never really had anyone there long enough to notice what was going on with me. I was very lucky to bump into my ex college lecturer one night outside the homeless shelter I was staying at, he told me to come back to college and finish. I did and a university contacted me with the offer of a place shortly after that - I never even applied! Actually when I got the call I woke up having had taken a huge overdose the night before (I'd just had an abortion and wanted to die). I do think God saved me now looking back. Anyhow, today I am a primary school teacher and on paper my life looks great, I want to enter into religous life but am still thinking about my motives. I'm 31 and single, I can't be in a relationship with anyone as it triggers flashbacks. I've had 3 partners since the prostitution (which I got out of at 18) but everytime it hasn't worked out because they don't understand :( I'm not sure if I want to join the convent because it's what God wants for my life and it will be the best place for me or if I'm just trying to run away from the flashbacks, the fear, the abuse, the agony of what was done to me and it's true not many do understand, they try to be empathetic but then they don't seem to get it that the reason I became a prostitute was because I hated myself so much I wanted to die and I thought that I deserved nothing but abuse. Anyhow thank you all for your posts, it's nice not to be alone with this x Much love and prayers to all my sisters who have suffered and who still suffer today x God bless, love and keep you all xxx

  11. Can I ask, because I am trying to gain insight having very little experience in the arena... would you say then that prostitution is a form of addiction? And if so, if I may continue to enquire, how do people who get out manage to do so and stay out?

  12. Dear you who is not despicable,

    I was just told of your blog recently, and the COURAGE in your writing shines through. I think you're right that no one else in prostitution can ever understand what it's like; it really maddens me when I try to speak up on supposedly progressive forums and I am told that I don't know what I'm talking about, women are free to choose to get in or out. As if that's all there is to it.

    The "sex workers rights" line has become so tied into lefty politics that it's heartbreaking. But I don't need to tell you that. You said it all so eloquently in your post.

    THe part about PTSD and wanting to go back...that makes total sense.

    Please keep up your courage. Your writing is prolific. You deserve print publication, if that is what you desire.

  13. I too have struggled away from the life and find it difficult to adjust. I think it would be easier except people close to me who know what I did can not seem to let it go. I get constant comments about what I used to do and one even points it out every time a man is near. I keep thinking that at least if I went back then I wouldn't have people pretending. I hope you find peace in life because that is about all anyone can do. Walk forward with your head high for you have survived hell already and we both know it.

  14. I was a prostitute at 14 , my mother bounced me around from group home to group home , my abuse started when I was one ... I was being molested by my uncle until I was 5 . I was groomed very early and my mother allowed me to stay in that situation . At 14 she have me away to some older guy I had met one of the nights she kicked me out . He ended up pimping me forcing me into prostitution beating raping and ultimateley knocking me unconscious I was a sex slave for many years on the streets , he ended up getting me pregnant and I kept my daughter . After a beating that was so bad he went to prison , my story is to long to tell on here but I suffer from PTSD depression night terrors outbursts of emotion crying anger rage etc . It's hard for people to understand . I disassociate also and it's so hard on my relationship now , I've been in therapy church nothing makes the memories go away .

  15. Thanks for writing this, Beautiful love. Wishing you all the very best in your journey of recovery. We are stronger connected!
    With love

    1. I felt my heart speed up as I was reading this. I was in the exact same position and still to this day struggle with the aftermath of my time prostituting. From posting on the Internet to being pimped out by a man who owned not only Portland's only hot tubbing spot but ran one of the biggest underground prostitution rings in Portland ever and with Oregon being one of the biggest human trafficking states in the country you can only imagine the "jobs" he'd have me do. Everytime I wanted out it took forever but if get there...and then a week or 2 later I'd find myself right back where I started. The other girls hated me and it used to break my heart cause all I wanted was someone to talk too, someone who understood me. Congratulations on your sobrietym-it's women like you who inspire me to keep moving forward ;)


  16. Thanks, Nina, for what you've written. Take good care of yourself - you deserve it.

  17. This article moved me to absolute tears. Such a well-written piece.

    I am a 20 year old gay male student who has a world of possibilities open in my future. I have extremely high intelligence and with that depression and self esteem issues as I have always stood out from my peers and been teased my whole life for my smarts. I developed physically far later than most but became very obsessive about my body and through rigorous exercise and years of eating disorder issues grew extremely fit and sexually desirable (if I could say)...

    I founs that I could have any man in bed that I wanted and the sexual attention fed the ego I had starved for ao long and gave me the validation I never had being a nerdy closeted outcast. Eventually sex became unsatisfactory for me as I longed for a relationship and deeper connection but found nobody who could see past my body into the sensitive and vibrantly thoughtful soul I so shallowly mask.

    I turned to prostitution. Meth. Theft. Dismissal of any true friendship. Love became foreign. My eyes clouded and my soul aged ten thousand years. My profits went up my nose and I dropped out of school. My musical talent was lost to my sexual talent, which i was told surpassed that of any other guy the johns i saw had slept with.

    Conceit? Yes, totally, but I didn't choose it. It comes with the industry. There are two ways to dehumanize someone: dismissal, or idolization.

    I have never experienced violence or abuse in the industry and I wouldn't have the faintest how awful it must be to go through that. I have so much empathy for you and your situation.

    Endless respect for your post and the breathtaking way it was written. I'm blown away. <3

  18. Thanks for this, Anon. Love becoming foreign, the end of friendship... that sounds familiar. So hard to trust people after being in the sex industry! As you say, even the compliments are double edged: when someone who's fucking you for money says nice stuff, what exactly does that mean? It is dehumanising. I found it made it next to impossible to receive praise in any context - I still tend to think, what are you after? No wonder drugs seem like such an attractive option - drink and drugs were the two things I did trust, and my only real relationship was with them. They weren't the friends I had thought!

    Wishing you all the very best in your journey - it's really fucking hard getting out and starting to heal but totally worth it. I got out in my late 20s and will be 6 years clean and sober in a couple of months. Things can still be incredibly hard, trust in particular, but what I have got now, with lots of (ongoing) therapy and work is more than I could have hoped for. You are worth it!

    1. Dear Angel K. Thank you for giving such deep insight into the plight of someone previously associated with this work. You see, I have a very close friend who, in order to ensure that her daughter has a good life, turned to the sex trade. I constantly have conversations with her about her past but never fully understood her feelings. She is an extremely strong person, is out of the trade and I long to see her(and maybe help her) move on from the past. Your post has certainly helped me understand a lot of things about her and makes me feel even closer to her as a human being. I feel at times, she is far stronger and more courageous than many around her who sometimes judge her.

    2. Thanks for this. Getting out of the industry and managing any sort of a 'normal' life does require tremendous strength. All the best to you and your friend :-)

  19. Angel K,
    I have been asked "Why is being a prostitute worse than being a soldier?"

    This is an excellent answer to that question, and, for me, very insightful. Thanks and all my love.