Something that I would find incredibly baffling – if I didn’t know exactly what’s going on here – is the amount of women I’ve come across online in my post-prostitution life who claim to be happy in prostitution. I would find it incredibly baffling because I never met a single one of them in all the years I was in prostitution.
In all the innumerable brothels, on all the dingy street-corners, in all the knocking-shops that went – Hyacinth-Bucket-style – by the term ‘Escort Agencies’ there was an absolute dearth of these ‘Happy Hookers’. So, if I didn’t already know the answer, my question would be: where were you all hiding?
Were you underneath the sofa? Did you keep on jumping into the wardrobe every time I walked in? Was there some big conspiracy not to let us miserable ho’s in on the secret of your existence?
If we want to get metaphysical about it, I could be wondering, is there some sort of chink in reality; some sort of crevice in the fabric of the world, with all the happy hookers over on one side and all the broken, shattered ones on the other.
I think it’s safe to assume that vast numbers of happy hookers were not hurling themselves under sofas and I have no evidence to suggest such a split in the fabric of the universe, so we need to take a look at this situation and inject it with a little commonsense.
If any obviously discernable numbers of hookers are actually happy, well then, surely brothels are the places you could reasonably expect to find them? It’s just common sense, much like you’d find happy children in playgrounds, or happy drunks at parties, or happy gluttons at the all-you-can-eat.
Even if only a small but reasonably-sized minority of prostitutes are happy, well then surely I should have come across one of them somewhere among God-knows-how-many locations and over the span of seven years?
This situation reminds me of the Yeti; that unfathomable creature that supposedly exists somewhere in the foothills of the Himalayas – often spoken of but never to be seen.
Sometimes these cyber-world happy hookers tell us that they view prostitution no differently to hairdressing. All I can say to that is they must be getting their hair cut in the bowels of hell.
Sometimes they’ll tell us that they see prostitution as no different to a man who rents out the use of his body as a labourer. That’d make sense if labourers routinely suffered Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of their employ.
Sometimes they tell us that it is their body to do with what they will, and the simplicity and apparent reasonableness of that statement conceals that their insistence on being made into merchandise means that they assert it is tolerable for women to be made into merchandise in the first place. They view humanity as highly individualised, rather than what it really is; a community where each of us affects the other, fused together in that sense, rather like coral on a reef. The damage of their stance is incalculable.
The internets happy hookers will deny that their insistence has any consequences for anybody but themselves, and will say ‘No, we do not advocate prostitution for all women; only for those who choose to do it’. In saying so, they first deny the severity of the constraints behind those ‘choices’ for the vast majority of women. They then go on to ignore their insistence on a class of women who are made merchandise means that they insist all women are potential prostitutes, just as the cars in all of our driveways might one day be bought or sold, depending on fiscal constraints, because of their commodified status. This is what happens to women when they are reduced to the status of products and goods.
Yet even faced with these bald truths, they tell us over and over that we are talking nonsense; that the opinions that have emerged from our own lived experience are nothing but propaganda sprung from some poisoned fountain of religious fundamentalist ideals. But it is not so much what these happy hookers tell us that frame’s the bigger part of the picture; that is concealed by what they do not tell us.
They do not tell us – for the reason that they’d like to conceal it – about the same disconnect that academia isn’t telling us – because it is incapable of revealing it.
They do not tell us about the soul-level injury that capitalism and patriarchy have combined to create. They do not tell us about that precise point at which female sexuality is severed from the self. They do not tell us about what it means in the mind and the heart and the spirit, when you’ve been paid to say ‘yes’ and behave ‘yes’ and perform ‘yes’, so that you are mute – and rendered mute by the very reality of the transaction that has bought your silence – but everything non-audible that makes up who you are is silently screaming ‘NO’.
They do not tell us about any of this.
Now can anyone who has not experienced this please take a moment to imagine the layers of pain and shame and inner-torment this situation causes, when it has been lived over and over and over again, for months, years, decades in some cases.
The memories that occasion writing these things tire the soul. Sometimes, turning on my computer, I feel like I am going into battle. Often, turning it off, I feel like I have just laid down my arms, and there is no great relief in that when you know you have to pick them back up again. So I am tired, and I will just add this: If any reasonable percentage of prostitutes are happy then I surely must have met them, and if any of those women were happy, then they certainly missed their calling. They should have been on New York’s Broadway or London’s West End, because they did a bloody good job of looking miserable.