The Aftermath

In the wake of every traumatic experience humans are re-traumatised, in new and unfamiliar ways.  These repercussions combine to create the occurrence of an aftermath, and are ripples of the traumatic events which gave them being.

To negotiate the aftermath of prostitution is to traverse a strange and foreign hinterland that is uncomfortable in its very unnaturalness.  It has been remarked by several other exited women that what is normal for others is not normal for us, and it is our very unfamiliarity with social norms that makes the effort, or even the contemplation of that effort, an enormous struggle.

Sometimes a woman will feel drawn back to prostitution because that is the sphere of life into which she has become institutionalised.  That is the sphere of life in which she can, through experience, navigate.  More often a woman will feel drawn back simply because she is now dealing with the same financial problems that drew her into prostitution in the first place.  Poverty is a frightening and deeply vulnerable sphere of life in which to be suddenly thrust, and she knows, through much practice, how to remedy that.

Also there is the strong feeling (and this is the one I personally identify with) that she is not fit for anything else; that she has been morphed and transformed by prostitution in such a manner as to make living in the ‘real world’ simply impracticable.  What this stressor does, and does with great ruthlessness, is to convince us – once we have found ourselves here – that we are unable to operate in this normal non-prostituted reality occupied by the majority of humans, which seemed for so long exactly the Nirvana we were all missing, and seeking.

Of course a woman on the verge of exiting prostitution does not know this, and when she discovers it, it comes as a bitter, unexpected, and most unwelcome shock.  It is a cruelty, and perhaps the greatest essence of this cruelty is the way it strikes with that most potent of weapons: the element of surprise.

To the inhabitants of any oppressive regime, freedom will always seem like the Holy Grail of all experiences.  It will always seem as though all our problems will be over the moment we make the transition from one phase of life to the next.  What we don’t know, and what we are most disappointed to discover, is that the next phase has its own difficulties, directly related to and drawing from the first.

This causes a state of intense disillusionment.  It is only natural then, in the face of this unexpected and unwelcome reality, that some women will feel drawn back to prostitution, where at least they knew the rules, understood the functioning, and could operate without the new and frighteningly unfamiliar social rules they have since had such trouble accustoming themselves to.

Remember also that formerly prostituted women are blocked from their entry into normal society on levels and in ways that are thoroughly alien to those who have not experienced them.  They are, nevertheless, relentless.  Even now, almost fourteen years after my own exit from prostitution, I still find myself confronted by these obstacles.  Most recently, for example, I find myself job-seeking.  After three years with the company my contract at work has run out and, for reasons related to the Irish recession, they cannot keep me on.  So now I must explain, again, to any potential employer why it is that I am in the unusual position of having a university degree but no leaving certificate.  I can hardly say: “I did not progress beyond more than a year of my second-level education because from fourteen onwards I was homeless and from fifteen onwards I was a prostitute, but I got my life together and returned to education as a twenty-four year old adult”.  I can hardly say this – if I want the job.

So many times in the company of others I must erase those seven years and cover them up with omissions, and at other times outright lies.  Each time I must do that, prostitution has revisited my life, and each time it does that, I am forced again to live with the aftermath.

All of this means that the pain of prostitution extends far beyond and long after the physical experience of prostitution itself.  This is not pain with a conclusion; this is pain with a series of phases, and the physical lived reality of prostitution is only the first one.


9 thoughts on “The Aftermath

  1. Pingback: The Aftermath « Survivors Connect Network

  2. Brilliant post, as is all your writing, truly. I hope you were able to find a new job since you wrote this. It’s really hard out there employment-wise for anyone not born into some sort of privilege. If I were in a position to hire people, I wouldn’t think twice about hiring someone who told me they have a huge employment or school gap due to prostitution, if they seemed able to do the job. I know most employers wouldn’t know what to do with such honesty and information, which is very unfortunate because if you think about it, prostituted women have got to be some of the smartest, savviest businesswomen around to have navigated through the industry. I feel the same way about addicts — it takes some real brains and resourcefulness to be able to find and score drugs all the time. Drug addicts are some of the most successful capitalists out there. Just sayin.

    I hope you’re faring better these days in the non-prostituted world. I know it’s not easy, because the culture we live in is weird, harsh, and not too receptive to humanness (though sounds like the world of prostitution was very much this way, maybe just different, and more blatant and extreme?) . Your humanness shines through your words and I hope you find yourself in and among more and more human spaces and people and able to find employment that is meaningful. It’s all any of us can hope and strive for.

  3. p.s. I do not mean to say that prostitution is a business like any other, because that’s not how I feel at all, since being raped & tortured are nowhere near “jobs”. What I meant was that some skills and survival strategies used in the sex trade are skills and qualities that can be carried over and used in other areas of life, including employment, e.g. the brain power used to assess and deal with situations and people.


  4. For me, the difficulty has been to navigate the overwhelming hypocrisy that also exists in the ‘civilian’ world. To see that a dental assistant can be fired because she is ‘too irresistible.’ You probably know the case. It was the wife of her boss that was most insistent she be fired. So many women follow the ‘straight and narrow’ path of social correctness and etiquette, only to be rewarded with such actions.

    As a woman who has been prostituted, you try to come out here into the ‘real world’ and do the ‘right thing,’ but you still see the ugly mug of a punter masked by his position as CEO, judge, what have you. It’s a very painful awareness and one of many disturbing insights one earns as a former sex worker. That is a ‘gift’ from my experiences in prostitution I’d rather not have received. But I suspect will always be with me.

    I worked in the UK in a sauna and also here in the US, independently. I am an American citizen. Punters, johns, it’s all the same thing to me. Predictably universal. It’s hard to be out in public, spotting men who seem to me to have the profile of a ‘john’ and then having to be polite to them. Same goes for those who would interview me for ‘straight gigs.’ I had the misfortune once of interviewing for a city court position, only to have one of the interviewers proposition me for a ‘session’ when he found my online ad, which did not in any way, shape or form reveal my face. When he found out it was me (I sent a face pic out whenever receiving a private inquiry, perhaps foolishly), there was total radio silence. Quite understandably.

    Suffice it to say, I am having a very hard time reconciling the two worlds, which many times have revealed themselves to be one and the same thing anyway. How does anyone who has done this type of work manage that?

    Anyway, thank you very much for your valuable observations and for telling it straight. Thankfully, this is far from being one of those blogs that advises women that pole dancing classes could work wonders for their self esteem…

  5. Thank you. I came across an interview, you and Megan Murphy.

    Your strength and endurance leaves me gobsmacked. I think in the environment of political correctness treating prostitution as a capitalist transaction diminishes us all, because it is women who are the ‘labourers’ and we are sanitised more and more by the extremes of ‘legal brothels’ and the ‘woman as madonna/whore’ and complexity and messiness of life gets undermined.

    Wishing you every success.

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