Oftentimes it is small incidents that call us back, and it is strange how things that would appear of zero relevence to an observer can be those that draw us back so forcibly as to cause tension, anxiety, and sometimes reactions that are simply emotionally violent.
Had there been a fly on the wall of my hotel room this afternoon (assuming it was a thinking fly, that could observe, process and reason) it would have heard a tremble in my voice, a hesitation, something that maybe sounded like confusion, and it most likely would have put that down to social awkwardness, and thought no more, and moved on.
I heard all those things in my own voice, but I know, as the speaker, that there was something up with where those words were coming from. They were coming from a place of deep discomfort. I was sincerely awkward, not quite embarrassed but getting there; I was mildly panicked, in the sense of trying to squirm away from the situation I was in.
I was accepting money.
How is it that I can loan money, or gift money, without a thought, but it is always, to some degree or other, a traumatising experience to accept it? The situation was this: I had been invited to speak at a conference in New York, and my understanding was that my travel expenses would be met. I took this to mean my flights and accommodation, but this morning, on my leaving, the woman who co-ordinated the event called my hotel room and wanted to know how much I had spent on food and transportation. How much had my taxi’s cost? How much had I spent on meals? I felt something rise up in me that could be best described as defensiveness. It didn’t matter, I told her. It wasn’t much. Forget about it.
I honestly didn’t know how much I’d spent on those things, and I still don’t know. I’d been in and out of several cabs and restaurants and I had never thought to keep receipts. I would have needed to eat anywhere, I reasoned to myself, as the woman tried to reimburse me. There was a need to push this money away, a sense of ‘please leave me alone’, and it was far from the first time that had happened.
When I put the phone down I began to question myself. Why had that been difficult for me? Why had it been so awkward any of the many other times it had happened? What was it about accepting money that made living in my very skin so squeamishly uncomfortable for me?
Bingo. There it was. Yes – I get it now.
Jesus… sometimes the answer is so obvious it makes the question ridiculous.
Wow. I love your insights and how you so clearly & coherently shine light on the many unique threads that reveal, from so many different angles, what makes prostitution a uniquely & profoundly wounded (or wounding?) experience from any other. Your work and voice is so valuable & appreciated, thank you.
Thank you so much Feminist Rag for you consistent support. It is much appreciated.
Brilliant as usual darling. This ‘accepting money’ thing is always so uncomfortable for me too. And yeah — you’d think I’d make the connection immediately — but rarely do. Love love love
Today I came across your blog via twitter and I’m ashamed to say I have said ‘why not legalise prostitution’. In my complete ignorance to the horrific reality that is truly shocking to read let alone live! My views have changed after reading through all your posts on here. I hope your book educates many more people on what is going on right under our noses but we choose to ignore or shy away from. You are a brave woman, thank you for opening my eyes
You are very welcome Stacey, thank you for listening.
I get that. I guess that’s something else that affects my relationships as well. If someone treats me, buys me dinner, or something, I feel indebted to them. I’ve even ended up having sex with someone I really didn’t want to, because I felt I owed him. There were probably more like him in the past, he’s just a recent one I remember. It seems pathetic even writing this. Prostitution for me was damaging. Fact.
It’s funny you say that XLondonCallGirl because when I was in my teens I used to always tell my little sisters to never EVER accept a drink from a man they didn’t know, reason being there are a lot of men out there who take that to mean you owe them something; I’d had that experience. And then there are women, like you say, who actually feel indebted. I’m sure us sex-trade survivors are not the only women to feel that way.
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