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.
You wonderfully brave woman. Every post like this reminds me why I have to keep arguing against the pro-prostitution myths I constantly come up against. Words like “empowering” and “choice” thrown around by privileged, sheltered college students who talk theoretically rather than looking at the difficult, damaged reality. I’m so grateful to you and other ex-prostitutes who have been courageous enough to speak about your experiences; so frankly and yet eloquently. You are really making a difference with your voices. I look forward to reading your book.
Thank you C. Yes we know all about the privileged, sheltered college students and graduates you’re talking about. We run up against them regularly. It is somewhere on the scale between sickening and amazing for us to listen to them throw around words like ‘empowerment’ and ‘choice’ to describe an area of life that is defined by the absence of those concepts. Thankfully there are those, like yourself, who are interested in hearing the truth. Thank you for that.
Hey pet!! I was just reading an article on my newsfeed about a woman called Rachel, who’d released a book about her experiences in prostitution, between the ages of 15 and 22, in Dublin…took me a minute to realise that the pretty brunette woman in the picture was you! I was delighted! Of course I knew your book was coming out but it still took me by surprise to see you on Ryan Tubridy, and put a face and a voice to the wonderfully strong personality that shines through in your writing. Huge, massive congratulations, and I’d also like to commend you on your decision to make your name public; you are such a brave woman, and you’re doing such a good job educating people. You should be so proud of yourself!! I’ll be rushing out to Easons to buy your book tomorrow
Thank you C!
I am very happy I found your blog post today, I find your words extremely inspiring and full of courage.
I have for some time now been wanting to work, or put my skills, towards supporting organisations that work with women who have been in the sex trade (prostitution, trafficking…) and perhaps I have had that simplistic approach of someone who has lived a sheltered life, not without problems, issues…but somehow priviledge by some standards…..Now this post, as another 36yo woman, has touched my heart in the sense that we have to look at the reality of it and not the theory…..I am trying to learn about this and how can I help or bring something that is valuable to support other women…..
I am not sure why I am telling you all this but I felt I have to say thanks to you, talk to you here and connect with you.
This was such a beautiful message. Thank you so much for this. I’ll be in touch.
The power of your writing makes me catch my breath. So glad you are in the world and writing sister. Much much love XO
Every time I come across a blog like this it’s like a huge breath of fresh air. With pretty much everyone out there thinking that legalising prostitution is the way forward I feel like I’m going mental. It’s nice to see some honesty about the subject from someone who actually knows what they’re talking about. Good luck with the book and thank you for speaking out
You are very welcome, and thank you also.
There is and will always be a place, a far greater place, for you and those you represent through sharing your story, and I’m so thankful you have been discovering this over the years. There is a place of redemption and honor that exceeds that of those who have never been traumatized as such. And I’m not only talking about the redemption of God one day, I’m also talking about a place in the hearts of those who know, who understand, who see their world a little more for what it really is. In those who care genuinely. That, my friend, is a far more valuable place than that of social status.
May this post of yours be an intercession of miraculous proportion for those awaiting rescue.
thanks for writing this. i can relate to a lot of what you wrote. i started when i was 15 too.
Another hard hitting post. More education is needed , as in Sweden, for those “punters” who might care to know that paying for sex perpetrates a cycle of misery and almost permanently cuts off the ability of prostituted women and girls engage in what most of see as ordinary life.
Disability, shyness, being a virgin is not an excuse or something prostitution somehow solves as we see claimed on television & newspapers lately. Paying for company, for a body is not a way to relate to another human being.
unfortunately some liberals will argue that legalized prostiutuion(similar to the netherland’s policy) will significantly reduce sexual slavery, and that any source that says otherwise must be “bible thumper” propaganda.
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This post is so powerful. The part about fee paying schools really spoke to me, it’s a basal need for a child to get an education that is right for them, I find it grotesque that the middle and upper classes can shield their own children from the world, because £30,000 a year for their child is much less effort than trying to change things for equally deserving children. It echoes throughout society, where people in power don’t have any drive to change anything for women, girls, or children, because it doesn’t affect them enough.
I am so pleased to have found your blog, you say things that I wish I could articulate…
You have written something here that is not laced with venom or spewing anger. I see your message in it clearly. I don’t know about your personal past, though you’ve shared some of it here.
I am no stranger to being alone and nowhere. I lived in the middle of a big city for nearly six years, and yet I couldn’t connect with anyone. The only friends I had were users, and treated me like absolute trash. I used to stare out my studio apartment wondering how so many people in this world can just…not care.
This is your blog, I’ll not get into my personal experiences unless you ask. I do want to say this post was beautifully written and puts much in perspective.
And moreso to the point, you have hit the nail on the head. Money serves to separate and enslave those who don’t have it by denying them means to achieve. By denying opportunities. By excluding them.