Exclusions Apply

I haven’t written on this blog in months. I’ve been far too busy with the final edits on my book and with campaigning for the introduction of the Nordic Model in this country, and have made trips abroad, and have more to make, so I’ve been kept very busy; but I was sitting idly reading one of those few-euro-off panel of supermarket tokens that came through my door (the ones that annoyingly assume you’re going to make two trips to the same shop in the space of one week) and as I read it I noticed some tiny writing along the bottom that put me in the position of having to write this post. The words read: ‘exclusions apply’.

It’s funny how so many things can come back to prostitution, how many little reminders there are all around us that there is something very wrong with the world. I thought ‘yeah, exclusions sure do fucking apply’, and that got my mind working, and it got me remembering, and so I had to sit down and write out those remembering’s and feelings. 

When I was a little girl I got hold of a brochure somewhere for a fee paying school. I, as the child of working class parents, was ignorant that there was any such thing at the time. I was ‘between schools’ as I often was, for months at a stretch, and I was amazed at the discovery of this wonderful solution. Here was a school where you could ride horses, learn to play the piano and choose speciality subjects, rather than have everything you’d learn dictated to you by the teacher. The uniform looked like something off the covers of the Enid Blyton books I so adored. I was mesmerised and brought the brochure home to my mother to share the wonderful news. The sound that came out of her would have been a laugh but for the fact that it came out her nose. A derisory sniff, laced with contemptuous undertones – that’s what it was. I heard that noise from her several times down the years, but I would be an adult before I’d know how to describe it.

That attitude, that ‘there is no place for you here’ certainty reminds me forcefully of the total social exclusion I would experience just a few years later as a fifteen-year-old prostitute. It was the experience of existing nowhere on the social scale; too inexperienced to seek employment, too young to draw the dole, too under-qualified to advance myself within the educational system. ‘Nowhere’, I have come to find, is the loneliest word in the English language, and for me, at that time, the most appropriate. There is a common, and noble, idea enshrined in our constitution; it is that all the children of the nation must be treated equally – but the lessons of my life taught me different. They taught me that exclusions apply.

If you are poor, if you are from a background of dysfunction, or parental addiction, or childhood sexual abuse, then you are cannon fodder for the brothels and you are of ‘equal worth’ in name only; and the men who use your body will tell themselves and others that you are there because you want to be, while at the same time protecting their own daughters (some of whom are older than you are) from the same things they do to you. When it comes to the women and girls in their own lives, these exclusions are most forcibly rejected and NOT allowed to apply.

I am in a place in my life now where I am very glad, and grateful, that I have overcome the carnage of the past in a way I could not have imagined while I was living it. But I remember, and always will, the loneliness of standing on Waterloo Road in the dark and the rain, while strangers drove by and had a good gawk at the ‘whore’ standing on the corner; and I remember, with the passion of a very great sadness, sitting, some years later, in a penthouse apartment’s uppermost room, which was composed almost entirely of glass. I would sit there smoking cannabis at night, in that room that looked like it was a conservatory perched on the top of an apartment block, and I would look out at the night sky and all the stars that were in it, and I would wonder how, in all that expanse, this stylish whorehouse was the only place for me.

I know why today: it is because exclusions apply, and as long as we accept that a separate class of women and girls should exist for the purposes of sexual exploitation, they always will.

FreeIrishWoman