Rebecca Mott, in her recent article ‘Your Kindness is Killing Us’, spoke out about the illogic that permeates the reasoning behind placing prostitution indoors for safety reasons. I can affirm every word of her article, having worked outdoors and indoors, and at all the places on prostitutions spectrum, be they dark street corners, no-frills knocking-shops, massage parlours, or high-end escort agencies. I’ve worked them all, and I’ve been subjected to the same thing in them all: that thing was the most extreme form of degradation – the experience of being treated, as Rebecca says, as “sub-human”. That was distinct to nowhere: it was universal.
There is no safety to be acquired by placing the prostituted indoors; quite the opposite. As a street-walking prostitute at least I had the opportunity to size the punters up. At least I had the chance to look in their eyes before I got into that car, and to lean in the window to check if they had alcohol on their breath. I had no such opportunities indoors. Indoors I was trying to protect myself with one of my senses, or maybe two, instead of all five. I paid a price for that, as did every other prostitute I knew who got run indoors in the wake of the notorious Irish legislative change of 1993, which made it illegal to loiter publicly for the purposes of prostitution.
What struck me most though, on having read Rebecca’s article, was the vicious vitriol it elicited; the wrath and the anger and the fury it drew forth. The posts that made up that attack have since been removed, but the responses to them are there, and they make clear that Rebecca was absolutely vilified for having an opinion; an opinion that was and is rooted in the most profoundly painful personal experience.
Her treatment constitutes the evil of an enforced silence. This is very important – it is very important to see this for what it is, to see why it is done, and to see what is to be achieved by those who are trying to do it. Anywhere in history where we’ve seen oppression we’ve seen efforts to oppress the voices that speak out against it. This enforced silence is just another facet of the original oppression. The existence of any oppression depends upon this silence, and so it will be enforced rigidly, relentlessly, and with great ruthlessness.
The deliberate enforcement of silence has accompanied every oppressive regime since humans began recording their own history, and the present-day silencing of prostitution survivors is just our most recent historical example of this.
The tactics employed to silence formerly prostituted women are aggressive, intimidating and extremely hostile. This attempt at enforcing silence is delivered with a dearth of compassion that is sickening to observe and deeply painful to be on the receiving end of, just as it is designed to be.
The intention behind it is to frighten us into submission. The intention is nasty, cruel and utterly futile – and it is futile precisely because it is directed at women who have already overcome the worst form of oppression the world has to offer women, and they have not submitted to that.
To the pro-prostitution oppressors who continue to try to silence us I will say this: we are not fools who do not know what you are doing. We know exactly what you are doing; we know why you are doing it, and we also know that you are wasting your time. We have lived the demeaning, degrading violence that is prostitution – the same violence you tell the world is just ‘harmless consenting-adult fun’. You know that you can get away with telling much of the world that, because much of the world has not lived prostitution – but we have, and you know that we are engaged in accurately interpreting it and putting the truth of this oppression before the public, and that is exactly why you are so frightened of our voices. Every time you attack us you only put your own fear on display, and your enforced silence will never work on us; our days of being intimidated, coerced and compelled are over.
So here is my message to those who attacked one of my survivor sisters last weekend: you are not going to get away with that. I am not – and we are not – going to stand idly by while any one of us is viciously verbally assaulted for expressing an opinion that she has damn-well earned the right to express. So you can take your enforced silence and shove it exactly where so many punters would like to shove their dicks if you yourself were prostituted – that is to say, you can take your enforced silence and shove it straight up your arse.