A personal refutation of the concept of ‘choice’

Many people think of choice as I might have done, had I never worked as a prostitute.  For many, choice is something perceived akin to standing in front of a deli-counter.  Choose this, choose that, pick out your preferred option.  The men who choose which woman they’d like to fuck as they stare at those lined up for their consumption understand choice in just this way.  Their concept of choice is rooted in the privilege of a genuine alternative.  Their concept of choice itself is limited.

Choice does not always present as balanced; it does not always offer a different-but-equal alternative.  When I think of my choices there were simply these: have men on and inside you, or continue to suffer homelessness and hunger.  Take your pick.  Make your ‘choice’.

People will never understand the concept of choice as it operates in prostitution until they understand the concept of constraint so active within it.  As long as the constrained nature of this choice is ignored it will be impossible to understand the pitiful role of ‘choice’ for women within prostitution.

I’m going to reveal something very personal now, and I’m going to do that simply to illustrate how warped the concept of choice was in my circumstances.  I had a conversation recently with my sixty-something aunt who is currently spending a few months visiting Ireland, after having lived forty years in America.  She reiterated something I’d heard many years ago in our family.  It was a conversation my paternal grandmother had with the psychiatrist treating my parents in the local mental hospital.  My grandmother (and this was before I was ever born) had made an appointment with the doctor, very upset as she was that my manic-depressive father and his schizophrenic girlfriend had just announced their intention to marry.

She wanted to know what could be done.  How could this marriage be stopped?  How could these two very unwell people be allowed to go ahead and marry?  The doctor told her that mental illness could not be used as a reason to curtail a persons civil liberties and that was his view of the matter.  But what, my grandmother wanted to know, would happen to any children born into that union?

I wish I could go back in time and give my grandmother a hug for having the compassion and the foresight to think of where that situation would leave us.  She was right to worry.  It left us in state care, one after the other.  And as a young teenager it left me homeless, hungry, and prostituted, in that order.

The constraints of my own choices began even before I did.  And if we were to shift this situation into the deli-counter analogy, there is no young girl standing there deliberating on what choice to make.  There is only a young girl standing waiting for what’s already been selected and pre-wrapped for her, and she can take it or leave it.  Those are her options.  That is her ‘choice’.


3 thoughts on “A personal refutation of the concept of ‘choice’

  1. Pingback: A Personal Refutation of the Concept of Choice « Survivors Connect Network

  2. I am writing this primarily to choose my stance on what constitutes a choice as regards prostitution. Even my first sentence shows a flaw. Obviously there is not a special definition of choice to be applied to prostitution. So already I have discovered that I think the definition of choice does not change depending on the situation. I think the situation determines whether or not a choice exists. The author claims it was not a choice to practice prostitution because the alternative was homelessness and hunger. I agree with the author that it was not a choice. I suspect she will be surprised as I disagree with her views on prostitution in general. Having been a Canadian infantry soldier I know hunger and the elements etc…, and I do not expect most people to be able to endure them for very long. And here I discover an element in how I define choice. That if the person in question is not able to endure the alternative it is not a choice. This leads me to believe the public definition and consideration ought to be what an average and reasonable person could be expected to endure is an option they could choose. I have always said there is no guilt in stealing food because of real hunger. Addiction can be just as powerful as hunger in driving behavior. As pimps know, addicting a prostitute to crack equals control. Now legally these and other difficulties are often taken into account but do not exonerate. Society could not function if crime was excused because of poverty. Consider that men will usually engage in other criminal behavior to avoid hunger or feed addiction. This is partly because they don’t have the option of prostitution. I for example would not be very bothered by fucking even an unappealing woman for money but would rather rob a man than fuck him. I am heterosexual. How many of you would accept I had no choice but to rob to buy food? Come to think of it why don’t women choose stealing rather than prostitution? For the most part these types of excuses are not relevant in Canada or I suspect in Ireland because both our countries have sufficient social supports available, significantly more for women. Unlike the third world, in Canada we have welfare, disability, free healthcare, subsidized housing, shelters, food banks and on and on. Basically in Canada the social assistance available to anyone is adequate and superior to the standard of living for the majority of the planet. This means that prostitution is a choice because the alternative, social assistance, is by no means unbearable. It is also a choice if the alternative is long hours of hard, unrewarding work for minimum wage. I must also reject as ridiculous the claim that there is no choice between minimum wage and much greater earnings from prostitution. Between hunger and food there is no choice. Between 25K and 100K is a choice. There is also no choice where violence or threats are used. If you are forced you did not choose.

  3. To the Canadian “gentleman” with the ability to reason his way out of a plane crash:

    As a woman who worked in the sex industry in New Orleans I can tell you that when a man told me he was from Canada I would look for a better John. They where usually the most inhumane, rude, and poorest paying men of any night I was desperate enough to take their money. Your logic is sound but as the lady said that is often the case while standing in a position of privilege and power you are oblivious to.

    Do little girls dream of being hoes? No. So how do girls grow to be woman who suddenly decide it sounds like a good career move? They don’t. Circumstance, after compromising circumstance lead them to a path almost anyone would rather avoid. You would rather steal you say? How long do you believe you would get away with stealing enough to live with out getting tossed in jail (a place where woman are regularly put through more sexual abuse)? The goal of prostitution isn’t doing what’s best for you it’s a survival mechanism, kind of like Stockholm Syndrome. You are so constantly abused that having any illusion of choice in the matter is preferable. Admitting that is hard. It’s even harder to change it. Even if it starts out fun. My life in the sex trade did. I was a stripper. A good one. I didn’t do extras and liked it that way. Until I got raped. And then again, and again…….until I decided to take matters into my own hands and “own it”. I didn’t realize I was trapped. I had to choose homelessness to leave it. It was hard. I did steal a few times but I mostly just learned to ask for help(admit my powerlessness). I am now three years out and have a good life. It’s not cushy by any means. Hooking wasn’t either but it’s my choice for real this time and it is priceless to me.
    There is no talking to people who have nothing to gain from seeing things differently. Men like the idea that woman are driven by mens desire and in a way we are, so many of our “choices” are made out of fear of mens desire to hurt us.

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