Sunday, 25 March 2012

Not For Sale: The Sex Industry Sell Out

The one and only reason that I am against prostitution and pornography is that I am for people. I believe in people. Male and female we deserve more than this, this narrow view of sexuality and gender, this web of lies concocted and perpetuated by the sex industry and society’s acceptance of it.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Anything that crushes the human spirit, that disregards people’s humanity, must be seen for what it is and put to an end. The fact that the sex industry may have adopted the language of good – freedom of speech, empowerment, liberation of sexuality – does not in fact make it good. It has been a feature of many dominant and damaging ideologies that they have adopted language which appeals to the culture they emerge in. It is a key to their survival. But when that language bears no relation to the realities such systems create and maintain, it must be disregarded. We cannot begin to change things if we do not keep our language real.

The sex industry does men a huge disservice: it teaches them that women want to be treated like sex objects, and that to object to such a view is somehow unmanly and less-than. It perpetuates an aggressive, macho culture in which buying women, fucking women without care or respect is both normal and also something to aspire to, to laugh about, to brag about. A male bonding experience. Porn is no advocator of equality, of gentleness or mutuality. Sex is something the man does to the woman – the rougher and the more holes he penetrates, the better. It is about conquest and domination.

The sex industry does women a huge disservice. Its effects reach far beyond the women directly involved in the making of porn, in lapdancing and prostitution. Womens’ bodies are cheapened by the mere fact that they are everywhere for sale. Women in porn accept any treatment, no matter how painful or degrading, with gratitude and an orgasm to boot. Any woman who objects to women being sold risks being labeled frigid or jealous (!). Women’s magazines, tv chat shows and advice columns have been quick promote the views of the sex industry, telling women who are upset by their husband / son’s use of pornography that it is normal and healthy and to get over it. Women may find themselves coerced into re-enacting sex acts their partners have seen, and their partners are able to point to a whole host of sources which show this is mainstream: it’s normal. Teen magazines feature articles such as ‘position of the fortnight’, and women’s magazines have articles such as ‘how to keep your man happy in bed’ in which blowjobs are just the beginning, the base line of expectation. There are online ‘love and sex advice’ sites where if a woman writes that she finds anal sex painful, she will be given a load of practical advice to make it better. No one ever says, if it hurts, if you don’t want to do it but feel pressured, just don’t do it. You have the right to say no, no explanation required.

Women’s magazines frequently sell the sex industry’s side of the story: lapdancing as harmless fun and a good way to make a quick buck; stripping as a bit of glamour and excitement; 'our day (pre-arranged of course) on a porn set'. We aren’t told the truth and misinformation makes it hard to make informed decisions. Women will often argue in favour of the ‘rights’ of other women ( - I wouldn’t do it myself) to sell their bodies. This is based on ignorance as to the realities of what being fucked for money actually means, and an overwhelming pressure which tells us that to fit in, to be acceptable and non-prudish, non-judgmental, we must go along with it and say that it’s okay, even if it doesn’t feel right.

In such a worldview, there is no room for individuality, for empathy, for respect, for intimacy. People are reduced to their body parts, for financial gain. Sex becomes a formulaic, mechanical act, devoid of connection, with no space for personal preference, feeling or emotion, with pressure to perform on both sides: both parties acting an act, re-creating a vision which has been given us, illustrated for us so graphically in a thousand pornos, making the right noises, looking the part.

We must change this! The omnipresent sex industry has stolen our humanity, stolen our sexuality, stolen the way in which we perceive those around us and short changed us with a twisted, power-laden, financially driven lie. A lie which our society profits from and so continues to sell us. So mainstream is the sex industry propaganda that it has become naturalised, almost invisible. There exists, however, a marginalized but increasingly vocal group of people who risk the wrath of society at large by speaking out, saying ‘it wasn’t good for me – being sold, being forced to act like a pornstar wasn’t good for me’. We must continue to speak out, and work together – male and female, because the sex industry damages both men and women. We need to take action and say, I don’t want to be a part of this, I won’t be a part of this, I’m not buying into it because I want more and you know what, I deserve more. I am a human being and I deserve more.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Behind the Lens: Living Porn

In porn and prostitution, women are fucked over and over again for the sexual gratification of others, as entertainment. Our bodies (and minds) are put through extreme stress and trauma, to turn other people on. Sex in pornography and prostitution is rarely gentle or thoughtful. Instead, it involves prolonged, brutal penetration by strangers. The woman's discomfort, should she show it, is a source of amusement rather than concern.

So what is it like to be penetrated all day long by stranger after stranger? What is it like to be at the other end of that camera? What does it actually feel like to be that woman who users of pornography laugh at, being penetrated with anything that can be forced inside her, by object after object and man after man, for the entertainment of men she's never even met? I write from my experience of being pimped, of that abuse being filmed and photographed to make money for my abusers.

I think that if they had to endure what goes on at the other end of the lens for themselves, people might think twice about fighting for their 'right' to access this material, and about funding a system that lines the pockets of pimps and pornographers whilst quietly destroying the women it uses.

Being groomed for more and more hardcore sex acts, your relationship with your body changes. Before all this, in another lifetime, you could talk without complication of ‘I’, ‘my body’, ‘me’. They were all one the same thing, and yeah, while you might’ve had a few body hangups (who doesn’t) you accepted that it was you. Then comes the violence, verbal, physical and sexual, thanks to your partner, later your pimp: the insidious slide into being controlled that is so subtly executed that you hardly even notice it. By the time you realize where you are you’re too far in, and even looking back it’s hard to pinpoint how things happened, when things changed.

As the abuse increases, the relationship with your body becomes something else. When he shouts at you, sometimes, when he hits you, sometimes, you feel like it's not really you - you're not really there. You feel yourself splitting. Things happen to the body but you’re detached. Unable to remove yourself physically from what’s happening, you remove yourself mentally as best you can. And given what’s happening to the body, what he does to the body, and later what the men who pay him do to the body, it’s not surprising you want to disconnect. The body ceases to feel like it is yours: there are no boundaries. The porn-fuelled imaginations of the men who use you decide what happens to it, not you.

You are irrelevant. Your humanity is disregarded. Your hopes and dreams, your feelings, your pain, are unimportant. The only thing that these men want is the body, the orifices in particular, your mouth forming what they deem to be the correct noises and responses on cue. You are a living, breathing vessel into which these men pour the sickness of their perverse, woman-hating fantasies.

Porn is the training ground for the men who use you, and they use it to train you. They see something, they want to re-enact it. And the woman in the original was smiling, she enjoyed it (though her face said otherwise) and so will you. The twisted logic of the johns. Educated by porn, they are obsessed with penetration – anything goes.

The level of aggression should be shocking but it becomes just a fact of life for you, an everyday occurrence. They push your head down on their cocks so that you gag and choke, they drag you by the hair, they make you crawl on all fours. There’s a monotony to the pain, a predictability as to the format. The details differ, the men differ, what they do differs, but largely in degree. It will be painful, but how painful? You will be fucked but by how many men? They will be aggressive, but how aggressive? Will they piss on you today, half strangle you today, or merely spit on you and call you names as they fuck you?

Group stuff is rough. Surrounded by men whose only intent is to use you 'til they orgasm and the viewer at home orgasms, the sounds, the colour, the scents are too much. You are in body and out of body, detached and present, numb and in pain: God, the pain. The drink helps. Time ceases to have meaning. Hands paw at you from all directions, touching you where you don’t want to be touched. They have you on your knees, one man then another then another pushing his cock (sans johnny) in your mouth. Your jaw aches, your throat’s raw, you can’t breathe, the stench of their body fluids in your nostrils, eyes streaming as they force your head down. You’re put onto all fours in the centre. At times you feel you might just pass out, sometimes you do from the pain, only to be brought back round to carry on. Man after man inside you, if they’re filming it usually more than one at a time: double penetration, airtighting, more extreme stuff. At times you observe in a detached manner: then the sickening fall back into the body, to feeling with every nerve and every fibre of your being what they do to you. You focus on different things – on breathing, on anything your mind can distract itself with to take you out of here. Just get through, get through, got to get through. You are passed about, posed in different ways, contorted for maximum pleasure and for the camera, just breathing is hard and you don’t take it for granted.

It goes on. They cum in your mouth when they’re done, in your face, in your body and on it. The foul body fluids of man after man make you retch but you have to swallow, like a good slut. They display you for the camera – the audience at home want to see your body swollen and distended, covered in cum.

Left alone to clean yourself up, you move slowly and painfully, still not quite attached to the body, not quite in control of it. Disorientated and confused. How many men today? How long have I been here? It’s just another day being sold, the days blur and run together. You don’t remember all of it, don’t want to remember. You can’t acknowledge the reality of where you are, what’s just happened to you and what will happen to you again tomorrow or the next day,couldn’t survive it. So instead you split. You slowly, gently clean the body, because it hurts - it’s bruised and bleeding and you sort it out. And you think to yourself, I’m not really here, this doesn’t really matter, they can do what they want to this body but the joke’s on them because it doesn’t touch me at all. I am untouchable, and this is just a body. It's not me.

You have to dismiss the fact that when you touch the body where it got hurt, you feel it. You tell yourself that you don’t and chastise yourself for your weakness. To admit your powerlessness is to open the door to terror and ultimately insanity and suicide. Instead you take blame – they tell you get what you deserve anyway - and if people do stuff to you because of how you are, at least you feel you have some measure of control in things.

Looking back, now, in recovery, the truth hits and it hits hard. I was pimped, I was raped on a daily basis and gang raped frequently. This abuse was filmed and photographed and is still out there, making him rich, getting people off. I was absolutely powerless and could have died at any time. That body was me, what they did they did to me, though I still struggle to accept that. My body has been in the wars. My body and I were once one, and to heal and become whole we must cease to be strangers to one another. The me that endured all that I have endured deserves acceptance and love. Instead, in recovery I have continued to battle with my body, inflicting self harm wounds to ease the mental pain, neglecting to feed it and treat it with even basic compassion. I still often call it ‘the body’, speaking of it as if it were separate and other -lesser - still drawing a clear dividing line between my mental and my physical self, still sacrificing my body to protect my mind. We have become almost enemies, co-existing uneasily for the most part in a state of mutual mistrust. The body does its own thing: vomiting and shaking, tensing and aching; my mind is powerless to control it. Communication remains fragmented at best.

To reintegrate body and mind means feeling and acknowledging pain beyond words. My mind itself is fragmented, a result of the trauma: healing is a long and complex process. It means owning fear, powerlessness, horror, revulsion, confusion and a whole ocean of sadness. It’s a painful journey, but one I’m making now, in baby steps, because I want to be whole. I lock down, I go mute, I get nightmares - if I sleep, which I struggle to do. This stuff’s working it’s way out of me! I’m talking about my past and it’s scary and it’s huge and it’s necessary. My body and my mind have been through enough shit. I figure they deserve a shot at something more, something better. That I deserve something better. A bit of gentleness is the way forward, even though that makes me want to cry. I had things back to front: I didn’t deserve what happened to me, but gentleness? I deserve a whole heap of that.

That's what it's like at the other end of the camera, living porn. Predicted recovery time: considerably longer than reaching for the tissues, closing the magazine or ejecting the dvd.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Emotionally Challenged?

I find I have become an expert at hiding emotion. It’s the only thing I can hold onto, that I don’t give them the satisfaction of laughing at my tears, or cumming to them. Blank is good. Neutral is good. He finds fault and when any expression can lead to a beating, it’s better to have none. Although sometimes he’ll beat me for that anyway. What’s the fuck’s wrong with you you stupid fucking bitch? Not got anything to say for yourself?

I have nothing to say for myself. My lips remain sealed, there are no words - if there were to be any they would be the wrong ones and lead to more trouble. Talk is, largely, futile. There are words in my head, sometimes, but I stop saying them and sometimes they don’t connect with what’s happening anyway.

What’s inside and what’s outside cease to match up.

I can do blank and I can do detached. But sometimes it’s more than that, sometimes I manage neither but something wildly inappropriate, bearing no relation to what’s happening or how I’m feeling, will out. It’s like all of the expressions of emotion have jumbled into one big mess, firing off at random. So sometimes in the direst circumstances, about to be beaten and raped I’ll laugh, a kind of whatcha gonna do? Which infuriates him or makes him tell me I’m mental. I talk to myself aloud sometimes, apparently, I’m not aware of it until I’m told to shut the fuck up, poems and odd words, comfort words. Rare indeed are the times I’ll cry. I throw up a lot, pass out a lot, play distraction games: reciting mantras, spelling out every third letter of each word, or every word coming at me or spoken over me, thinking in colours or numbers or rhyme.

I’ll smile at times, because I’m told to for the camera or to please the punters, the threat of violence always in the air. It’s a killer, smiling for your abusers, it’s been so long since I’ve really smiled and the pain is at times so great that I don’t know if I’m smiling or grimacing. Showing your teeth, something apes do when they’re scared. Sounds about right, although I kind of get beyond scared – out the other side, a light headed dizzying detachment. You can’t survive if you acknowledge the true danger – can’t live knowing you could die at any time.

I wear a mask at any rate beyond the pulling of the facial muscles – my makeup, heavy makeup for the most part. It’s covering dark circles beneath my eyes and bruises, making the mouth they’ll be fucking more prominent, easy to find, eyelashes thickened and lengthened. Got to please the punters! They don’t want to see past damage or dirt, just the damage and dirt they’ve caused, a part of their conquest, though they’ll ignore bruising between the legs as long as it’s squeaky clean. Of course, often your pain is their pleasure – when they don’t want you to smile but want you to cry. Wiping up the tears and the cum those times they get what they want, having done what it took, feeling the sickness of selling yourself out.

I am in body, out of body, detached, terrified, numb, in pain, sick, drunk, drugged, concussed, injured, sleep deprived, starving… it’s no surprise I guess in retrospect that the emotions should get out of kilter and, further, the facial expressions should become detached from the emotions. This isn’t a tv drama or a film, where the female lead weeps unsnotty silent tears and utters powerful and articulate monologues to a sympathetic audience at the appropriate moment, unveiling herself. This is daily, monotonous torture pure and simple and the consequent breaking down of patterns of emotions. Splitting, PTSD, get in the way of straightforward cause and effect feelings and expressions of emotions. Something triggers the head and it’ll be freeze, laugh cry or vomit as head and body re-live, irrespective of what’s actually happening in realtime. Confusing and nonsensical to an outside perspective.

It is true to say I am hard. Sometimes. But I am also soft, vulnerable. Most people have emotions but emotions have me: different head, different emotion. I am not Angel sad, Angel angry, I am Sad, I am Angry, the main continuity as Angel being that these heads inhabit the same body. To some people, I seem hard and cold, able to speak seemingly without emotion about horror and loss. In fact the very opposite is true: I split, I hardened, I detached, laughed hysterically and inappropriately because I am human, because I am vulnerable. Surviving in traumatic conditions, body and mind do what they have to do to get through, to protect themselves. My unusual reactions are not proof that I am heartless or cold. They are proof that I am human and have remained human. I built a shell around myself, the hard protecting the soft. Remaining vulnerable and open and dying, or closing off and surviving. I made my choice. Tell me you’d have done it differently.

Monday, 12 March 2012

PTSD and The Prostitution Trap

There have been times when I have thought about going back to prostitution. It felt to me, at times, inevitable that I would end up back there, as messed up by it as I have been and remain, with PTSD that makes everyday life almost impossible, with insomnia, when the splitting is frequent and time loses its meaning, when even being in a room with someone is too scary, too much. When things have been at their worst, I have felt any possibility of attempting ‘normal’ life to be laughable, and I have known the one place where I could go where I would be absolutely normal, where my fucked-upness would be not merely permissible but actually required. Prostitution. As a little girl I didn’t dream of one day growing up and having men fuck me for money. I don’t believe many little girls do. But we acquire damage on the way and end up there, getting more damaged day by day, desperate to get out, sometimes too damaged to get out, or out and sometimes too damaged to stay out.

I have had PTSD for more than a decade. It began with the violence of my ex, and continued throughout being pimped and then prostituting myself. Incapacitated by it, I struggled to speak or even move at times: I simply froze up. As the abuse continued and worsened, over time, the trauma continued to leave its record on my mind and body, layer on layer. My reactions to situations, from an outside perspective, might have seemed, probably still seem, at times, a little strange or unhinged. Sometimes in the face of extreme violence, I’d laugh: out on the other side of terror, a kind of hysterical ‘bring it on’. My different ‘heads’ – I remain fragmented – manifest quite differently. Or so I am told – I don’t always know. Difficulties with memory combined with splitting mean that I can lack continuity in relationships. I might react to the same situation very differently at different times, according which head I have on.

I never have gone back to prostitution. Even when it has felt inevitable, all I’m good at, when I’ve felt I’d never get any better and that I might as well get it over and done with rather than having it hang over my head – even then, I haven’t gone back. The reason? I couldn’t do it sober. The memory of the horror of what it would mean stops me. I have enough clear thinking even in those bleak times to realize that while things might not get any better, they could get a lot worse by going back. Hell, they would get a lot worse if I went back. Similarly, I have contemplated suicide when things have felt really black in recovery. In truth, I didn’t want to die, I just didn’t know how to live. I don’t want to go back but I haven’t known how to go on.

The help available out there to women who have exited prostitution is woefully inadequate. I have found it to be practically non-existent. The first hope I got was stumbling across the Object website (, a UK movement against the objectification of women. I wrote to them, telling them my story and they wrote back. I couldn’t believe they took the time to write back! My attempts at accessing help elsewhere, at finding people who understood, who gave a shit, even within the mental health profession, had hitherto been unsuccessful. From my dialogue with Object, I gained a little confidence and started the blog, a big part of my recovery. I knew I wasn’t totally on my own, and had begun to be able to articulate some of what had happened to me, in print at least – it remained largely unspeakable. But I still lacked any face to face help. I needed someone who knew me, to whom I wasn’t anonymous, to see at first hand the different heads, the frozenness, to spend time with me and get to know me so that they could understand me and what it’s like to be me, and help me to move forward.

The last 6 months have seen that change. I am now seeing a therapist who listens rather than telling me how it is, who checks out if he’s getting things right and who I find myself able to trust. And I have a sponsor who I also trust enough to talk to about this stuff, which is immense – the power of a twelve step programme is that help isn’t confined to office hours and care isn’t on the meter. I have people I can sit down with and try and talk to about my past and work it through.

Now I have help, now I can talk to someone, I feel for the first time that I won’t have to go back. Prostitution is a trap, and simply having exited is not enough to stay safe. The mental trauma it causes serves to make women who have survived it incredibly vulnerable to going back - not because we want to (you can hear the johns rubbing their hands, gleefully saying see! They love it really!) but because in a society which has swallowed the lies and language of the sex industry, there’s quite simply no place else to go.

Things are hard right now. The PTSD’s bad: at night I keep the light on, bedroom door locked and wedged, and I sleep very little. I’m processing and re-living, body and mind. When I was pimped, it wasn’t safe to relax: I was always alert, always watching for the next danger, trying to stay a step ahead. Or I’d be dissociated, or numbed from the drugs and booze. The abnormal relationship between body mind and me is taking time to unknot. But I am so grateful to have help. I’ve done a lot of things alone of necessity, but carrying this stuff alone was impossible and made me incredibly vulnerable to going back. Things are moving, and that’s good, even if it’s painful. It’s not possible to change the future without disturbing the present, and I want a future that’s as far from my past as the east is from the west. I used to be a prisoner, locked up, beaten up, and told to shut the fuck up. Now I am free. Like a battery hen released for the first time from the confines of her cage, the mental cage can still confine me. It’s going to take a little sorting, a lot of patience and a whole bucket load of love for my head to catch up. Then I shall fly!