Something that I would find incredibly baffling – if I didn’t know exactly what’s going on here – is the amount of women I’ve come across online in my post-prostitution life who claim to be happy in prostitution. I would find it incredibly baffling because I never met a single one of them in all the years I was in prostitution.
In all the innumerable brothels, on all the dingy street-corners, in all the knocking-shops that went – Hyacinth-Bucket-style – by the term ‘Escort Agencies’ there was an absolute dearth of these ‘Happy Hookers’. So, if I didn’t already know the answer, my question would be: where were you all hiding?
Were you underneath the sofa? Did you keep on jumping into the wardrobe every time I walked in? Was there some big conspiracy not to let us miserable ho’s in on the secret of your existence?
If we want to get metaphysical about it, I could be wondering, is there some sort of chink in reality; some sort of crevice in the fabric of the world, with all the happy hookers over on one side and all the broken, shattered ones on the other.
I think it’s safe to assume that vast numbers of happy hookers were not hurling themselves under sofas and I have no evidence to suggest such a split in the fabric of the universe, so we need to take a look at this situation and inject it with a little commonsense.
If any obviously discernable numbers of hookers are actually happy, well then, surely brothels are the places you could reasonably expect to find them? It’s just common sense, much like you’d find happy children in playgrounds, or happy drunks at parties, or happy gluttons at the all-you-can-eat.
Even if only a small but reasonably-sized minority of prostitutes are happy, well then surely I should have come across one of them somewhere among God-knows-how-many locations and over the span of seven years?
This situation reminds me of the Yeti; that unfathomable creature that supposedly exists somewhere in the foothills of the Himalayas – often spoken of but never to be seen.
Sometimes these cyber-world happy hookers tell us that they view prostitution no differently to hairdressing. All I can say to that is they must be getting their hair cut in the bowels of hell.
Sometimes they’ll tell us that they see prostitution as no different to a man who rents out the use of his body as a labourer. That’d make sense if labourers routinely suffered Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of their employ.
Sometimes they tell us that it is their body to do with what they will, and the simplicity and apparent reasonableness of that statement conceals that their insistence on being made into merchandise means that they assert it is tolerable for women to be made into merchandise in the first place. They view humanity as highly individualised, rather than what it really is; a community where each of us affects the other, fused together in that sense, rather like coral on a reef. The damage of their stance is incalculable.
The internets happy hookers will deny that their insistence has any consequences for anybody but themselves, and will say ‘No, we do not advocate prostitution for all women; only for those who choose to do it’. In saying so, they first deny the severity of the constraints behind those ‘choices’ for the vast majority of women. They then go on to ignore their insistence on a class of women who are made merchandise means that they insist all women are potential prostitutes, just as the cars in all of our driveways might one day be bought or sold, depending on fiscal constraints, because of their commodified status. This is what happens to women when they are reduced to the status of products and goods.
Yet even faced with these bald truths, they tell us over and over that we are talking nonsense; that the opinions that have emerged from our own lived experience are nothing but propaganda sprung from some poisoned fountain of religious fundamentalist ideals. But it is not so much what these happy hookers tell us that frame’s the bigger part of the picture; that is concealed by what they do not tell us.
They do not tell us – for the reason that they’d like to conceal it – about the same disconnect that academia isn’t telling us – because it is incapable of revealing it.
They do not tell us about the soul-level injury that capitalism and patriarchy have combined to create. They do not tell us about that precise point at which female sexuality is severed from the self. They do not tell us about what it means in the mind and the heart and the spirit, when you’ve been paid to say ‘yes’ and behave ‘yes’ and perform ‘yes’, so that you are mute – and rendered mute by the very reality of the transaction that has bought your silence – but everything non-audible that makes up who you are is silently screaming ‘NO’.
They do not tell us about any of this.
Now can anyone who has not experienced this please take a moment to imagine the layers of pain and shame and inner-torment this situation causes, when it has been lived over and over and over again, for months, years, decades in some cases.
The memories that occasion writing these things tire the soul. Sometimes, turning on my computer, I feel like I am going into battle. Often, turning it off, I feel like I have just laid down my arms, and there is no great relief in that when you know you have to pick them back up again. So I am tired, and I will just add this: If any reasonable percentage of prostitutes are happy then I surely must have met them, and if any of those women were happy, then they certainly missed their calling. They should have been on New York’s Broadway or London’s West End, because they did a bloody good job of looking miserable.
Thank you Free Irish Woman for your clarity that breathes not only the depths of pain hidden by invisibility of the happy hooker myth but because you speak truth to power the hope and possibility of change. You demolish the myth of the happy hooker which in my own thinking is tied to the myth of the happy housewife who is subjected to abuse by her husband but insists that she loves him, loves being married. Why is it that feminists understand that she is defending a painful situation she does not know how to leave, then organize shelters and programs to help her get away, but turn around and teach “sex work” to their students, preach the happy hooker myth in their work? You have hit very close to home.
Thank you Kathleen for your kind comments, but thank you moreso for your own work which was obviously undertaken with the intention to power the hope and possibility for change. That means more to me than I could possibly say.
As to the numerous ‘feminists’ who buy into and promote the mythology of the happy hooker, it is very hard for me not to be overwhelmed by the sense of contempt they generate in me. I think that they are too frightened to face the enormity of the truth here, and that they have become willing accomplices through their own fear – and it is easy for them to comply with the male demand for sexual access to the bodies of women and girls, as long as those bodies do not belong to their daughters, their sisters, or themselves.
Really anti the feminist bashing here! Many feminist are against the happy hooker. Myself being one of them.
Thanks to both of you, FreeIrishWoman and Kathleen Barry for your important work on behalf of women who are enslaved and abused in the sex industry. I believe that the contradictory way in which some feminists treat domestic violence survivors (as in need of support, shelter and legal protection) as opposed to women in prostitution (as empowered, liberated “sex workers”) is at least in part due to the “exclusions apply” mentality that FreeIrishWoman wrote about in a previous blog. Perhaps these “feminists” (I’m sorry but I have to put it in quotes in this context) can identify with the woman who suffers domestic violence in her marriage or relationship, because she seems like them or like someone they know. So they can see her as fully human. Like them, she is in the mainstream. But when it comes to women in the sex industry, they don’t identify with them. They are somehow “other” — capable of enjoying being bought and sold for someone else’s sexual use, being raped and otherwise abused by strangers who feel they have the right because they have paid for the abuse. The “other” is always less human than we are and we convince ourselves of so many lies about the “other” in order to justify inequalities and other injustices. Just as the punter who believes his daughter should be protected from all of the things he feels entitled to do to a girl who is the same age or younger than his daughter because “exclusions apply.” Sadly, even among some feminists, exclusions apply.
Thanks again to both of you for your work.
Also Kathleen, I think that once we move away from the understanding of prostitution as a human rights violation, it is then possible to frame it in whatever way we choose, as is always the case when we are working from a false premise.
Along with safe abortion: if Canada had a national housing program, and guaranteed income supplement, plus affordable and available daycare, plus a pension for raising future taxpayers and/or soldiers (which btw all very easily affordable, just stop giving trillions away to corporate welfare and war)…… —–>>>>> WOULD women and children still work as sex slaves?
…methinks no, so give your heads a shake, you think the 1% is going to give up their endless ocean of desperate sex slaves? Who the heck would have sex with them if they didn’t pay for it??? COME ON !!!!!!!!!!!! The suits need a lapdance, NOW damn it. Dance monkey dance ! ! ! ! ! !!!!!!!!
I have always said that legislation alone will not tackle this issue Nadine. I agree with your points about adequate housing and childcare. Women need exit strategies that offer them supports in the same areas where they experienced the difficulties that drove them into prostitution in the first place.
Unfortunately the figure of 1% of males buying sex is a huge underestimate though. Every study I’ve ever read places the figure far higher than that.
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i am delighted with your impressive words. please keep posting these awesome articles.
You’re so right. Particularly the bit about having to say yes while everything screams no, that so resonates with me. And yet, selling your body is so easy – you don’t have to interview, you don’t have to job hunt, everyone’s got something they can sell and often for a high price – no wonder we do it. I have known, well, one woman who said she liked it, but then she was a damaged individual and I think it fed into her ‘issues’ in some way.
Isn’t that part of it strange Rose, that the world makes prostitution so accessible – that society makes it so uncomplicated for women to find their way to doing the most emotionally complicated thing? And then, while they’re at it, they make leaving the life so complex it’s practically impossible to get out. The trap couldn’t be any more perfect had it been designed, and I think it’s maybe time we started looking at the probability that it was.
I agree with you. An historical example is Australia. When the English first settled in Australia men outnumbered women 6 to 1 and prostitution was overtly encouraged. It did a 180 when the first class travellers arrived and numbers made 50/50, making fraternizing or being seen with a known prostitute illegal. It imposed more harsh laws and penalties against prostitutes than the English laws with public hangings post public torture.
When prostitutes are deemed needed by men it was encouraged. When no longer needed brutality followed.
So, how is today different?
i loved this post!!!
Thank you Saie!
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I think you are absolutely right. It is a shame the media depicts prostitution in a glamorous manner with the Belle de Jours of the fake world they are trying to sell society. That 75% of prostitutes have been sexually and physically abused as children and that 70% of prostitutes have experienced multiple rapes is the reality. This is the sad truth. Thank you for your post.
Thank you Ruth.
Online prostitutes…probably none of them were available to meet in person and sit down and discuss their pleasure with what they do. As the precious writer of this post shared, women are so broken into being Yes-women through psychological and physical acts of violence, that if these onliners are actually the prostitutes themselves, they are simply a product of their traffickers. Of course, these onliners could be the traffickers or madams as well, standing in and spraying their lies.
The woman’s sexuality severed from herself…wow…along with her dignity, worth, and everything else about her. As FreeIrishWoman stated, we who have never experienced the violation of our most sacred part of our soul and body must take the time to consider this…5-20 times a day, 364 to 365 days a year, some for many years. It is our solemn responsibility to take what they went through and bind it around our hearts, carrying it with us, and hopefully, per chance, giving them genuine love in the process.
FreeIrishWoman, I don’t have the words. The moment I try to give it words, it becomes not enough. So may you simply receive it by grace. I can’t thank you enough for writing this post. May you rest, if your computer is off now…and please, please know, that when you open your computer to do war, you have a brother across the way doing war likewise when his computer is up and running.
Blessings always to you…
Thank you Justin, that is comforting to know.
Whilst accepting that there are many prostitutes who are doing it reluctantly or even against their will I find attempts to claim that all prostitutes are in this category rather demeaning to those who do it happily, freely, of their own choice, uncoerced, unpimped, without resorting to substance abuse and without suffering emotional or psychological damage. You cannot shove all prostitutes into the same basket and then claim to speak for, or about, them.
Fred, this blog is about everything I personally experienced over the course of seven years, including everything I saw, heard or otherwise witnessed during that time. The utopian view of prostitution you’ve laid out above featured nowhere in it.
If you want to read happy hooker testimony there’s a plethora to choose from and I suggest you go elsewhere to find it; this blog is not constructed for the benefit of male fantasy.
I have removed the offensive comment you directed towards another of my posters. I am hardly going to allow those sort of comments towards people who’ve taken the time to post here.
Also, should you want to post here again, please first read the ‘about’ page, which lays out the type of remarks that won’t be appreciated here clearly.
I did not and am not disputing your personal experience, but I find it very telling that you are not honest enough to allow opposing views in your comments, I am not indulging in ‘male fantasy’, I speak with the benefit of many years of friendship (and I emphasise that I mean friendship, not ‘professional relationships’) with ladies whose experiences differ significantly from yours.
It’s obviously dishonest to say I don’t allow opposing views as if I didn’t your comments would not appear here.
As for nearly all of my comments being supportive; maybe you’ve underestimated the numbers of people who know prostitution to be wrong on a very deep level.
As for the happy hookers you’re holding up as some sort of evidence that’s supposed to make me question everything I lived, saw and heard over a span of seven years, I will refer you to the title of this article.
If you’re so honest why have you edited my original comment and claimed it was offensive? It simply pointed out (possibly rather robustly) that the comment to which I referred made unsubstantiated and sweeping generalisations of a sort which are so often used by abolitionists.
I do not question your personal experiences, I do question that you are extrapolating from them to reach the general conclusion which you so clearly have. There are a number of highly visible public organisations such as the IUSW which are working to improve the lot of prostitues and which include amongst their activists ladies which you so slightingly refer to as ‘happy hookers’. Perhaps these did not exist when you worked, which would possibly explain why you do not seem to be aware of them. If that is the case then the title of your post would have some validity, but it would have made your article more balanced if you had acknowledged that such organisations now exist and that the situation has changed since the time about which you are writing.
Fred, I will respond to your comment tomorrow when I won’t be as busy as I am today. In the meantime please be aware that directing comments at other posters will not be tolerated here. You are welcome to make the same points as long as they are not directed at individuals and as long as they are not similarly “robustly” delivered. Your remarks were offensive in my view and I have no doubt you’d be of the same opinion were they directed at you.
Working in a brothel or a massage parlour is the equivalent of working on an assembly line. There are plenty of people who would hate their job if doing it on an assembly line but would enjoy doing the same work done as self-employed.
That’s a view that can only be taken if prostitution is likened to ordinary work. The problem with that theory is that prostitution is not ordinary work.
@freeirishwoman prostitution is just oneexample of the commodification of human beings that is one of the defining features of capitalism…just an extreme one, although many other extreme examples do exist so prostitution is not unique even in this respect
And(although this should be obvious by my username) I dont say that prostitution is not fundamentally different to other work to say that it is ok but to say that it is inherently exploitative
@kimjongun but even self employed work cannot be understood in isolation to the whole of class society, and commodity exchange in the market. when a worker or a group of workers take on the role of both the owner and worker (capital and labour) they havent ended theyre exploitation, just began to self manage it.
Fred, here is the response I’d promised:
It is my experience that it is usually the pro-prostitution lobby which makes unsubstantiated remarks, many of which are grossly offensive in their content and intentions, beginning with the lie that most prostitutes are happy to be in prostitution. They are not. The women you describe are in no way, shape or form representative of the majority of women in prostitution.
As to the International Union of Sex Workers; it is a very strange structure of a union that admits both employees and employers among its ranks! James Larkin would be spinning in his grave…
I have been working with women in Prostitution in Europe for 6 years now. Being in a network of different organisations, we have access to all kinds of brothels, clubs and “streets”. None of us has ever met a happy woman, who loves to be in prostitution. In my experience all of them suffer severe emotional damage.
Thank you for sharing your experiences and shedding light into this misconception.
I’m sorry that your experience wasn’t so great in the profession, and I’m glad that you have now moved on to a profession more suitable to your temperament.
Not everyone is cut out for sex work, and it seems that the colleagues that you worked with were not cut out for this type of work either, and my hope is that they found work more suited to their temperament as well.
Lol, I published this one for the laugh factor.
first off, let me say that I’m very sorry about the experiences you had to endure. While I understand that as someone you’d probably classify as a “happy hooker” I’m not really welcome here, I have to respond to this post even though I assume your questions are rhetoric…
Of course there’s no shift in reality as you call it, but I think there are very different social circles that rarely overlap. As I understand it, you had a pimp while being in prostitution. Pimps control where you work, so I don’t think a pimp would send their victim to a place where the abuse would not be tolerated. On the other hand, the places where I’ve worked during my 5 years as a prostitute would not let somebody work there who is underage and/or seems miserable. That is not to say that everything is perfect in sex work- please don’t paint sex workers who like their job as fools who think there is no exploitation going on or who can’t reflect on their emotions and experiences. As prostitutes carry an extreme stigma, nobody wants to be associated with us, so people who supply premises can charge way too much rent. Also, some managers (in this case, they start being pimps) threaten to expose our jobs on the internet if we don’t pay the part that was agreed to or even more, instead of using the legal system. This is the kind of exploitation I have seen. However, I haven’t met women who fit the world you describe while working. Some have been like me, genuinely liking the job, and for some it has been just about the money and free-time, but none of them were desperate. I don’t think that prostitution is a job just like hair-dressing, but there are many parallels to other jobs. Only about half of my friends like their (“normal”) jobs, the others want to change it or even hate it.
I have experience as a social worker, in that sector I naturally came into contact with prostitutes who were miserable, after all that’s the people who do need help. That was the first and only time until now. I understand that it’s very hard or even impossible for someone who has gone through your torture to believe people who say they don’t mind having sex for money or even enjoy it, but it does exist. The ones who like it (and not just see it as a way to make money) are probably a minority, but I have met enough to believe that we’re certainly not just a tiny minority.
As a young adult growing up around the belle de jour bumf ect. I foolishly bough into the “happy hooker” concept.
This idea crumbled with my first ever experience of any type of sex work.
As highly sexualised young woman with no money, who enjoyed the power trip of “cam to cam” I thought accepting someones offer of money for a “cam show” would be easy.
It was horrific, having to do something because someone had paid, having to pretend to enjoy it because they were giving me money… I don’t know how anyone could claim that it was an “empowering extension of my own sexuality”. That wasn’t even prostitution, this was just acting out instructions miles away from someone, this was so much of a nothing thing, but even that was dehumanising.
A happy hooker?
I’m not sure how they can exist.
I think you’d describe me as a happy hooker, for I was a sex worker who took pleasure, but also meaning, from this job. I have experienced both sides: as a minor, in very bad conditions and being exploited, and as an adult, young woman, independent and with a free choice. Ofcourse, I had bad days, like any job, and I had safety issues (like a builder has on a yard). I’m sure that the first experience scarred me for life, and it wasn’t the only trauma I have to deal with. But the second time around, I was happy with my ‘regulars’ who were dear to me, I was proud that I could teach a few things about how women ‘function’, and I realized how much of a social worker I was. That is not withstanding that abuse, poverty, agression and violence are systemic to our society and our economic realm. And we know for a fact that poor women are overly represented in the profession. What you see, the stories you know are true, ofcourse, but on an anecdotic level. With that comes some personal responsibility. But there’s also the mechanisms behind those observations, on a systemic level. And that has to do with how we organise society, with politics and with deep believes (paradigms) on the ‘human condition’. The latter teaches us more about the what and why, then any testimonial ever will. But telling your story is important in a personal process of coming to terms with traumatic events…
Reading this shook me to my soul. Having been in “The Life” for 15 years, and then taking 5 years to just get out of it, I am still recovering. I NEVER met any happy hookers. I am still gathering the shattered parts of my soul and psyche and gluing them back together.
I know what that feels like Diane. I hope we’ll get there in the end.
yes we will get there in the end. I look at it as a journey. We who have been in the life and survived it are warriors, strong, fierce, survivors. I work with women getting out of prostitution and sex trafficking and understand ow hard it is but it can be done. We all need a sisterhood, survivor-led voices to light the way. So glad I found this site.
I’m glad you found it too, and even gladder to hear you’re working with women getting out of the life. What part of the world are you in? I’m guessing America, as a lot of the American survivors I know use the term ‘The Life’. Would you coinsider joining our global network I wonder? Check us out on http://www.spaceinternational.us We’d be very glad to have you.
I have worked in San Francisco and now work in Los Angles, with both adult and juvenile women/girls. All in non-profit, non-religious programs; both residential and harm reduction at a drop-in center. I’ve been out 13 years, not even as long as I was in it, but I’m getting there!
I believe in trauma focused care, survivor-led voices, individualized treatment, and a culturally sensitive and diverse team.
Yes, will check out the site.
I read with interest, some horror and real sadness your blog here and also your open letter to the Irish punter.
I have met with escorts in the past, thinking they were at least choosing to do something they wanted to do and were neither disgusted nor hurt by it. Over time – with very limited exposure to escorts I say in my own weak defence – I began to feel revulsion at myself for my actions and to question my motives for what I did. It wasn’t about sex for me, it wasn’t about power but it was about loneliness and perhaps a sense of low self-esteem. ironically the self-esteem issue became ever more apparent when I realised these women would ONLY have sex with me if I paid them. I have spoken to counsellors – some of whom urged me not to be so harsh on myself – but both because of and in spite of the counselling I have received I know that what I did was hurtful on so many levels.
I apologize to all those women and by extension to all women who find themselves in such a vulnerable position; I cannot correct what I did but I can NOT do it again.
When I worked,back in the nineties, I would have described myself as a happy hooker. I thought I liked the work, the men and was fully in control of it all. I remember saying at the time that I felt ‘empowered’ by it. I left after two and a half years a cocaine and heroin addict.
Fifteen years on I don’t feel very empowered at all. I don’t look back with fond memories but with disgust and loathing for myself and for those men. My experiences in those two and a half years have shaped my life and my relationships in a very negative way. I guess that comes from a time of being all ego and no self esteem.
During my time working, I met one happy hooker. She used her real name at work, abd went public. When I met her she was in her 50′s and had begun in prostitution in ger 30′s. I still know her and this year she turns 75. She still does the odd regular client at home.
I know this is hard to believe. I thought she was in denial. For me now, Ive had flashbacks that have left me feeling intense nausea (and shame). Since leaving, Ive met many ex pristitutes who claim ‘happy hooker’ status. I know it is possible but I dont believe it is common or anywhere near as common as some would have us believe. During my time in the insustry I met 1000s of unhappy hookers and 1 happy hooker.
So, I think it is a defense mechanism, a survival strategy. The whole ‘Im fine, no problem, all good’ mentality to lessen the burden of deep feelings of pain.
I agree that the happy hooker thing is some sort of pathology or survival strategy. I think it has to be! I worked as a drink hostess in Honolulu when I was nineteen, and although we didn’t have to touch the customers, the misogyny, verbal, abuse, and attempts of the men to push the girls into prostitution was so relentless that it has done permanent damage. What that experience taught me is that the whole scene around prostitution and the avenues leading to it (which my bar was) is all about men asserting their supremacy until the women are just so worn down and exhausted having to prop all of those egos and that fallacy up. Also, although they weren’t supposed to touch, they DID touch. They stole gropes all the time, and their hands always went into your private places. You could get up and refuse to serve them, but then again they were the paying customers and you had to sit with them or not make money. I learned to dissociate and to see it as a game, but I still locked myself in the bathroom every night to cry, then fixed my makeup and went back out into the war zone.
There was one super obese sadistic guy who would sit at the bar every night. He didn’t take a table so you wouldn’t sit with him. But when it was slow, he was sometimes the only guy who could buy you a drink, but he really made you pay for it. He would stare you up and down with contempt, and then talk about how he killed his wife for being unfaithful and got away with it because he had friends on the police force. He would describe the murder in detail, then he would watch your reaction and laugh. He wanted you to know he was a killer, and to know what he thought of women. What was interesting is that nearly every conversation I had with any customer involved them telling stories about their glory days with prostitutes during the war (mostly these were old men). The whole setup seemed like it was just a way for men to teach women their place. And their place was only to serve men. Death, poverty, and social rejection were the implied punishment for transgression againstthe patriarchal law.
As drink hostesses, it was as if we could never measure up to the “special” girls who made themselves totally available to men – as if we were only half-women because it was “not that kind of bar.” But then their underlying contempt for THOSE women was bottomless. After a few months working there I had lost my “freshness,” and some of the men started getting more mean and treating me like a used-up whore. It seems that learning to get used to my job made them despise me. I can only extrapolate to how much worse it is when you have to actually have sex with them; not just the horror of the interactions, but the horror of the increased misogyny. Nearly every night some guy would try to see how much money he could pay to get me to sleep with him. They thought, every girl has a price. They were always trying to break new girls in. It seemed they would have offered almost any price to turn an honest girl into a whore.
It was physically very hard too because I had to drink disgusting cheap white wine all night with the customers (when they weren’t looking we poured it into plants, but they often made sure you drank it all). And I went to school full time in the day and was always hungover, not to mention the evil rivalry such a job stirs up between the girls. I got my sister a job there (she was a single mother supporting a kid) and our relationship has never been the same since. She hated me because the bar owners were always screaming my age at everyone – I was the youngest girl, and that was a big selling point, so they said it every time anyone walked in, and I got the most tables. They also paraded me around to other bars after hours (from 2:00 to 4:00 a.m.) to advertise the bar. I would sing and flirt and give away business cards. I did get sort of addicted to the fast cash, but nothing was worth the feeling of being subhuman, singled out to be despised and psychically pissed on every night.
I had actually applied to every menial job I could for two months before settling on this job. I even applied at McDonald’s, and as a fry cook as a drive-in, but I never got any interviews, because unemployment in Hawaii was so ghastly. So I really did feel this was the only job I could get. Later when I moved back to Los Angeles I was thrilled to get a job cleaning trays at the school cafeteria for minimum wage. So in my view, the only way someone could be happy in that sort of work is if they’re not really living in reality. They identify with the victors – that is, with the men – and their values are the men’s values, and they see themselves only through men’s eyes. And since men want to make whores out of all women, they see themselves as the most successful and most loved women on earth. I can actually see how one could fall into that trap, at least for a short time. My coping strategy was to see myself as if I was conducting a research experiment, or as if I was playing a role in a movie. But one day I looked at myself and thought, this is not a movie, this is not an experiment, this is your LIFE. And I got really, really depressed. I still have nightmares about that job. About being pinched, pushed, violated, laughed at, derided, demeaned, by scary old men. And to this day just the smell of white wine makes me want to puke.
Not all men are like that.
The reason for the “worse as you get more experience” is that these bastards are trying to hurt you. Until you show pain that they recognize, they won’t let off. The more “experience” you have is actually the more jaded you become to their jibes. So they “up it a notch”. These weren’t human beings you were dealing with. These are the rejects from society. They have their issues, and you were their dumping ground.
And I’m not saying that was a great position. Just recognize it for what it was.
This is what happens to men when they become and feel rejected by society (and usually their mothers). I hope you find a real man someday.
Sorry to double post…
Its just I was thinking and I want to make it clear…
Many of these men are acting out their own angst against women. Mothers abuse their sons, or other “protectors” hurt the children in ways that are just as incomprehensible as what happens to girls. The difference is that society tends to blow off male sexual abuse. In most cases it acts as though “Well, good for you then ol’ boy! You’re a man early!” while COMPLETELY failing to acknowledge the horrible conflict and torment experienced by it. The complete lack of consent. These “men” then exact their revenge through sublimation. That is, they find a socially acceptable way to release their anger and hatred. Understand…I’m not justifying them, only explaining.
Wow, what a great post. Incredibly great blog in general. You are so strong, so articulate, and so funny. Also, your work is so fiercely political and deeply considered and humane. It is like being hooked up to an oxygen mask when trapped in the airless room that is internet misogyny.
I have always had a hard time imagining that women could enjoy being prostitutes, partly because of my own experiences, so this new influx of happy hookers on the internet has really puzzled and mystified me.
But what I wonder is if there really has been a cultural shift so large that it has enabled certain women in prostitution to conceptualize themselves as happy; that is, if the pornification of culture, the loss of female role models, and the rampant culture of misogyny really has led some women to feel they are “happy’ with their “choice.” In other words, a culture in which women feel so powerless, controlled, and hyper-sexualized by men that selling themselves sexually seems like a privilege -like being “chosen” and “wanted.” We know for instance that war veterans return from war with horrible levels of trauma, but that since they consider themselves lucky to have served their country and sacrificed themselves for a cause, the self can justify the trauma as having been willingly suffered. I think that perhaps part of the shift in the culture is that certain prostitutes today have developed some of the strategies that war veterans use for warding off trauma.
So I don’t think that the horribleness of the experience is any less; it’s more that women and girls have been better trained to see their trauma as a service somehow which benefits humanity. (Yes, HUMANITY. There are many statements by “escorts” out there about how they are working to heal men from their inability to love a woman or to give them the gift of experiencing real touch, etc. ) In a world where men demand that women put men first, these women in their own way feel “successful” because they have learned how to behave properly (that is, to consider a man’s needs always and their own needs never). I think prostitution and pornography are comforting to many men because they enforce this power dichotomy and the supremacy of the male in a way that nothing else can.
There is this interview on YouTube with Max Hardcore where he talks about how he doesn’t think the age of consent for acting in porn should be raised, because “these girls are ready to go” and because he remembers how when he was 18 he was eager to start his own business, and that girls too should be thinking about starting their “careers.” But then he goes on to say that he prefers to hire first-time girls for his sadistic videos who haven’t learned to say no and don’t know what their legal rights are on the set. He is also by hiring inexperienced girls clearly trying to capture real trauma on the screen, the violation of real innocence, real tears streaming down a girl’s face. (This is what you describe in your other article about the fetish for youth. What these men are after is a violation. This fact flies ini the face of everything that pro-prostitution people are always shouting about – that prostitution is sex between consenting adults). The pornographers train these girls to think they are entrepreneurs and that they are feminists who are expressing their sexuality. So these girls have been well-trained. And they might even have an extra level of trauma in that they are so mind-controlled that they believe they are happy. You should see the look of listless despair on this girl’s face during this interview as she is standing next to Max Hardcore, his “number one girl,” when she has not remembered to smile for the camera.
People can blog anything they want, but if you see actual videotaped interviews with prostitutes you only see two things: 1) women who are miserable in prostitution 2) women who are advertising their sexual services., often while being monitored or recorded by a pornographer or pimp. The latter are always very stiff, awkward, and unconvincing at being happy. The girls can never really think of what to say except “I love sex!” Or “I have such a tight pussy!” Or “I am really good at deep-throating!”
Brilliant! I’m a little late for this discussion, but I was so moved by this essay, I just had to stop in and comment. I, too, used to be a prostitute – out on the streets for three years – and while I started out thinking I was a happy hooker, I came to realise there’s nothing happy about it. Initially, I have to admit I did enjoy the excitement and quick cash resulting from street prostitution, but then reality hit me – literally: beatings from a pimp, from some of the customers. Having to jump out of a moving car, because the trick was driving down a side street, away from the motel I had indicated. The humiliation of arrest and the local jail. The loneliness, and the drinking and cocaine use that resulted from the loneliness. No, it was not happy.
I will never understand some of these ladies who are activists claiming that prostitution is such a blissfully happy pursuit, acting like high school cheerleaders shouting “Rah, rah!” while shaking pom-poms at a football game. These are the activists who claim sexual trafficking is either non-existent or rare, hurling wave after wave of meaningless “statistics” in order to prove this bizarre – and false – claim. For some odd reason, they also deny the correlation between childhood sexual abuse, the dysfunctional family, and subsequent participation in prostitution, weirdly stating that most hookers had happy childhoods, while denying the truth – that most prostitutes had experienced parental abuse, including sexual abuse, when they were kids. (That was certainly true with my childhood, and while I certainly don’t claim to speak for other women in the life, it’s also true with many other prostitutes I had known.)
With the help of a sympathetic friend, I left prostitution. Although I’m not ashamed of my involvement in the life, I’m relieved that I left it behind. It’s taken many years for me to heal. I’m still healing.
Interesting perspective. I will state before continuing that I’ve been following your blog for about a month and I hope my comments (if you check the dates and times on them) reflect a growing understanding of the situation. I admit to a degree of ignorance in my first comments. That being said, I will proceed with some things I’d like your thoughts on, though I’ve read some of the responses and perhaps these next few questions are unnecessary. But I must make my points because I’m still in doubt. I’m sorry, but that’s where I am right now.
About the “Happy Hooker” and asking where they were. My first thought is that people tend to surround themselves with like-minded people. Go anywhere in the world and you will find “pocket communities” within even each other. The smaller the community of people, the more alike they think, until you basically get to a circle of close friends. Furthermore, it is human nature to view the world through bias. So, in one thought I have it is
A) highly likely that you repeatedly surrounded yourself with people who were likewise miserable with what they were doing, people who affirmed your experience and (for lack of a better word) justified your feelings about it
B) that because of your experience you automatically placed bias on how you viewed others in the prostitution situation, regardless of how or what they may actually be saying. I will explain it in this way: A female friend of mine became infatuated with a male friend of mine. Shortly afterwards, everything he said and did was an affirmation of her affections. Truth was, he had no such interest in her at all, and despite telling her so, very directly, she took this as a “Oh, he’s just shy” and continued to pursue him. Is it possible that you have done something similar to this with some of the prostitutes/former prostitutes you’ve met? Removing bias and looking at things objectively, especially when you have a personal stake in it is an extremely difficult task. Especially difficult when you cannot fathom how the opposite of your experience could be true for someone else.
People tend to remember the negative and talk about negative experiences with more energy, vigor and passion than they do about positive ones. A statistic from a college business textbook said that the average customer with a good experience will ultimately share that positive experience with a total of 12 people, whereas a bad customer experience will easily reach 300 people. There point was in providing customer service, mine is in about the passion with which people discuss things.
Since most people are not vehemently passionate about what they do, and even if they were I can give you more reasons why they wouldn’t stand up to defend it, it stands to reason that the people who will speak out the most will be the ones who had the negative experience with it. You make a point that every “retired” prostitute hates it and recants the same stories while in nearly the same breath ask “Where were you Happy Hookers”? … That is an intrinsic contradiction that if all these retired prostitutes are saying the same thing , because the reasoning is that there would be no “Happy Hooker”.
And while Marie in her post seems to convey a growth “out” of this idea, she stated that:
” and while I started out thinking I was a happy hooker, I came to realise there’s nothing happy about it”
The statement is telling in one aspect…there are women that choose this lifestyle, even if they later regret that choice.
My own experience in trying to get to know a prostitute as a real person also turned rather sour. Before I get the “Man-bashing Union” on me for this comment, I want to state for the record that I did NOT approach her as a prostitute. I was in a bar, she approached me and propositioned me, to which I essentially responded I’d rather know someone than buy them, but if she’s interested I’d be happy to take her to dinner for a real date without the sex. During that “date” she walked out on me when it became clear that I indeed was NOT going to buy her and really wanted to know her. I never felt like such a chump and asshole in my life. Guess she was looking for a paying punter, not a real person either.
With all that said, the fact that it does seem the vast majority of woman who enjoy the sex trade end up as adult film stars rather than on the street. As there are a great number of men who can enjoy sex without commitment, I am inclined to believe that there are likewise a number of woman who do as well. My own experiences and observations tell me this is true.
Nonetheless the voices of these women need to and must be heard. The horrible experiences they’ve been through must be stopped.
The final question is really open to anyone:
As a human being, knowing that in the vast majority of cases of prostitution you’d actually be hurting rather than helping them, would it be worth the risk that you’ve found one that really does want to and is happy with that decision? If one in two woman were happy with it, is it worth the chance that you’d pick the one that doesn’t want to be there? Why not pull the trigger in Russian Roulette, after all…five chambers are empty…its that one that isn’t that’s the problem isn’t it? Is it worth doing that to one life for what reward?
Regarding the following portion of your September 21st 2013 post “I was in a bar, she approached me and propositioned me, to which I essentially responded I’d rather know someone than buy them, but if she’s interested I’d be happy to take her to dinner for a real date without the sex. During that “date” she walked out on me when it became clear that I indeed was NOT going to buy her and really wanted to know her. I never felt like such a chump and asshole in my life. Guess she was looking for a paying punter, not a real person either.” …
Speaking from my experience, and therefore not attempting to assume this stance for all female prostitutes/former prostitutes, I’d like to offer my thoughts:
I would have done the same thing had I chosen to go on that “date” with you. You may have very well been a nice guy, but during my 6 years as a prostitute, I would have been very resistant to that type of relationship/interaction. Every hour of my day and every day of my week required me being treated as a purchasable/rentable object, existing to serve the sexual and psychological needs of men. During those years, I unknowingly employed a number of “survival strategies.” One of those strategies would have been illustrated in the way I would have walked out on our “date” upon realizing you weren’t going to be a paying customer. You see, during those years, I was a prostitute, not a person. I’d essentially “put to sleep” the human being within me. I was unwilling to have relationships that were real, genuine, and involved caring (caring about the other person OR allowing the other person to care about me). I needed to put my real self to sleep because it would have been impossible to alternate back and forth from the real me, to my role as a prostitute.
So, from your perspective, I would have been rude to have walked out on you like that. But from my perspective, it would have been an act of survival. I simply was not strong enough to be both me and a prostitute in the same day.
Just two quick points. First you didn’t respond to the two extensive posts by women stating they were “happy hookers.” Second, there are some very prominent sex workers here in Canada that state they enjoyed their profession. A few of them have phd’s and represent sex workers rights.