Mental and Emotional Torment, Repackaged as a ‘Review’.

Because of the timeline I worked in prostitution (I’m well over a decade out of it now) I was, thankfully, never subjected to the creepy and debasing practice of punters online reviews.* Formerly prostituted women tell me about their experiences of seeing what fat, heaving, physically repulsive strangers have had to say about their bodies and their sexual performance online. Often they complain that a woman ‘didn’t seem into it’ and other such inanities.

I am not a conventionally trained actress, but I doubt if I were I could pull-off the performance in a manner that would satisfy these men’s fantasies. It is beyond my capacity to understand why, if they want to experience a woman who is ‘into it’, they don’t work at fostering genuine relationships with the women in their lives. Or if they want to treat a woman as a piece of sub-human scum, as so many of them do, why they do not go for some form of psychological help.

The same men who sit, keyboard-warrior style, debasing electronically the women they’ve already paid to debase physically, are debasing another party here. They are debasing themselves.

If there is one thing more repulsive than the bully it is the bully who gloats, who sits around with his friends making entertainment out of the damage he’s done, talking about how much fun it was, to his joy, or how much fun it was not, to his intense displeasure and disappointment. In all cases, no matter what a man has had to say about a woman whose body he has paid to use, the act of writing a review in itself casts the woman as subhuman.

‘But nobody says restaurant reviews treat waitresses as subhuman’ I can hear the pro-prostitution lobby bleat. That’s because they don’t. To do that, the restaurant reviewer would need to strip the same waitress of her clothes, lay her spread-eagled on the table, shove his penis and fingers into every orifice of her body and then do a write-up on how good or bad a job she did of pretending to like it.

That is what a ‘review’ is, in this context. It is a secondary, supplementary ‘top up’ to the original degradation that characterises the prostitution experience.

Putting aside the sheer nastiness of reviewing women in this way, the fact of the matter is that a woman in prostitution can never get it right. She can never adhere to one set of rules and expect that all the men she meets will be satisfied by them. Just as we all like our steak cooked to suit our own preferences, the women in prostitution, regarded as living meat themselves, must conform to the preferences of those who consume them. But what are those preferences? And how is she to know what they are?

Some men get off on the thrill of a willing woman, a woman who seems to love every moment of the sex-for-money exchange. Others feel very differently, as expressed by this direct quote – “I’d feel cheated if she enjoyed it”.**

In other words, some men are so inhumane (and I met PLENTY of these) that they need to understand that the woman they are paying is experiencing sexual abuse. They need to feel her shrinking from his touch. They need for her to turn her face away from his kisses. They need for her to shudder with disgust as her nipples are pulled, sucked, twisted and chewed, and they need to feel her deaden herself like a doll as he shoves his penis into her. Why? Because they enjoy it. Because it is necessary for their orgasm.

These men accounted for a disturbingly sizable minority of the men I met in prostitution, and I could always sense them. I always knew when I was dealing with a big-time misogynist, often before he’d even open his mouth. There was something in their eyes that gave them away. When you’ve seen that look enough times, you will recognise it forever. It sucks the air out of your lungs, to know what’s coming; to know that here, now, again, you’re going to experience what it is to be treated as less than nothing.

Lone Lindholt, of the Danish Institute for Human Rights, amongst a plethora of other prostitution-related research, discovered a disproportionately high suicide rate amongst prostitutes. I know why.

There is a way out of being treated as less than nothing. It is to be nothing at all.

How much more compounded, I wonder, is the mental and emotional torment for the women who’ve been subjected to these reviews? How many of them have read reviews of themselves and thought about being nothing at all?

FreeIrishWoman

*For a dissection of how it actually feels to be reviewed, see DCG’s excellent post ‘How it Feels to Get Reviewed’ on her blog ‘secretdiaryofadublincallgirl’.

**from the American research study ‘Comparing sex buyers with men who don’t buy sex’

7 thoughts on “Mental and Emotional Torment, Repackaged as a ‘Review’.

  1. Pingback: Mental and Emotional Torment Repackaged as a “Review” « Survivors Connect Network

  2. Your description of the violence in their eyes is so true. There’s a coldness, a brutality. No emotion. Yet they watch your eyes to see the pain – they push it to the last penny. But at least that’s the here and now. You deal with it. It’s over. You can try to forget. I cannot imagine the horror of the reviews .Idellible ink.

  3. Thank you Sandra and Razi Red.

    The practice of punters reviewing a woman’s body and sexual performance is something that serves a purpose; it compounds her commodified status, which moves her further away from the experience of living life as a human being. It is as disgusting a practice as I can think of, and the men who write these reviews sicken me to a degree that is truly profound.

  4. Hi Rachel,

    You’re probably never going to respond to this comment but, for what it’s worth, here goes:

    ‘To [dehumanise a waitress in the same manner as a prostitute is dehumanised], the restaurant reviewer would need to strip the same waitress of her clothes, lay her spread-eagled on the table, shove his penis and fingers into every orifice of her body and then do a write-up on how good or bad a job she did of pretending to like it.’

    It seems to me, having browsed your weblog quite a bit in recent months, that you find the idea that women might actually enjoy casual sex with strangers or acquaintances incomprehensible and that it is partly this that motivates you in your campaign against prostitution. Just taking the example of the above quote, you portray the hypothetical waitress as entirely passive and as enduring sex that is being done to her, as opposed to being an enthusiastic participant in sexual activity with (one presumes) someone she does not know, or at least does not know very well. It is possible, in this hypothetical scenario, that a tip is being exchanged for the sexual activity, but you make no mention of this, which suggests to me that it isn’t just the financial transaction involved in prostitution that you object to, but also the fact that it generally entails casual sex, which you evidently don’t think a woman could possibly engage in, except as a passive victim.

    Your reasoning seems to go like this: prostitution involves casual sex between strangers or acquaintances; no woman engages in casual sex with strangers or acquaintances because she enjoys it – there have to be certain circumstances that compel her to behave in this way; in prostitution, those circumstances may include being trafficked or pimped, being recruited into the trade as a child, being forced into it by a violent partner or spouse, having a drug addiction and/ or desperate financial or economic circumstances; therefore, no woman is in prostitution except circumstances of one sort or another that force her to be. Furthermore, since it is contrary to the nature of women to enjoy casual sex with strangers or acquaintances, the fact that they nevertheless engage in this behaviour must be the fault of evil men who exploit women’s vulnerability and make them act in ways inimical to their true nature.

    The idea that it is impossible for women to genuinely enjoy casual sex with people they don’t know, or don’t know very well, has its origins in a deeply reactionary, patronising and, dare I say it, misogynistic and patriarchal view of human sexuality. It is rooted in the myth that women don’t enjoy sex for its own sake, a myth that has consistently been used to control and stigmatise female sexuality down the ages. I gently put it to you that you appear to be lending credence to sexist views of human sexuality, implying that women who enjoy casual sex with acquaintances or strangers are somehow deranged or abnormal, which I’m sure is not your intention.

    Don’t get me wrong; I’m not suggesting that women in prostitution are necessarily there because they enjoy casual sexual encounters. In some cases, that is a factor; in others it isn’t (it most definitely wasn’t in your case). Nor am I denying that coercion, trafficking, economic or financial circumstances, etc play a role in women entering the trade. I’m merely suggesting that seem to be basing your opposition to prostitution, at least in part, on the assumption that women don’t enjoy casual sex with strangers or acquaintances, and inviting you to question that assumption.

      • Oh, you responded! Yay!

        Tell me, what am I wrong about? That you find it inconceivable that women enjoy casual sex with strangers or acquaintances? In that case, I apologise, but that’s the the attitude that, to my mind, emanates from your blog. That this apparent disbelief that women enjoy such sex partially underpins your opposition to prostitution? If so, then again, forgive me, but that’s the impression I get from you.

        I know for a fact that you disagree with my assertion that in some cases (I’m not saying it’s the majority of cases), enjoyment of casual sex is a factor as regards women entering prostitution. All I would say is that, whilst in the vast majority of cases, there are economic and/or financial factors at play, beyond that the motivations of women (and men) for entering the trade are highly variable, and enjoyment of casual sex is occasionally a motivating factor, albeit one amongst others.

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