Why I Still Love Men

I was sitting in the passenger seat of my friend’s parked car recently while she ran into the shop to buy a few things. She was gone a good while and I sat there, watching the moving scene through the windscreen.

A man walked by with his little girl, who looked to be about three. She wanted to walk on a slightly raised area of cement beside some steps and a look of distress crossed his features before he steadied her with one hand and held her with the other one more tightly. He kept a firm grip of her as he carefully navigated her along the area of cement, not breaking his concentration for anything, until she was back down (about one foot lower than she had been) on solid ground beside him. Then he was able to relax again and she said something to him that I could not hear. That caused his face to break into the most beaming and adoring smile, as if he’d heard the most profoundly endearing comment ever uttered. The look on his face made my eyes fill with tears.

I’m not talking about the sort of misty barely-there tears we feel when we’ve just witnessed something moving. I’m talking about the sort of stormy tears that threaten to spill down your face immediately if you don’t choke them back; the sort of tears that signal a full-on emotional onslaught. It was so sudden, it shocked me.

I had to get myself together because, as my much as I love and trust the woman I was with that day (who is one of my closest friends) I just didn’t feel comfortable with the idea of her arriving back at the car with her diet coke and tea cakes and finding me a blubbering emotional mess. I think, more so, I didn’t feel comfortable with how I would explain myself, with how I would communicate what was wrong.

What was wrong had nothing to do with a man loving his little girl; what was wrong was what it, by contrast, called up for me, and that was just too big a conversation for that time and place.

Apart from being embarrassing it makes you feel very vulnerable, to have to explain the enormity of the distinction that is so often and so easily called to your mind; this understanding of the gentle pure love males have for the females close to them, their daughters, sisters, mothers, girlfriends and wives, juxtaposed with the contempt so often expressed for the females not close to them – the woman walking alone in public, or unaccompanied in a bar, or most potently of all, the malignant and abundant contempt for the woman in a brothel.

So when I see an example of male love for women and girls, along with uplifting me and moving me emotionally, and making me think how this is the way it should be, it also calls to mind that contrast, and it hurts me. It hurts me dreadfully.

I’ve had the same emotional response many times. Any time I see a man put his arm protectively around his girlfriend, or hand her a tissue for her snotty nose, or kiss the top of her head without giving a shite who’s looking, I feel the same way. I smile, and feel a warm gush of inner contentment. It provokes a feeling of love, this evidence of male love that exists in the world; but it is quickly and violently followed by a hammer in my heart. It is the brutal thud of its opposite – the understanding of male hatred.

Let me be clear about this: prostitution has to do with killing. It has to do with killing the human spirit, and beyond that, it has to do with getting off on it. It is evil, and when we see evil, when we live evil, I believe it is very important to name it. Evil can obscure itself very easily when we do not assign it its true name.

The evil of prostitution has been so thoroughly obscured that it is even taught in universities as a ‘sex positive’ autonomous choice. What a load of bollocks. I could put a gun in my mouth tomorrow and blow my own brains out; that is surely an autonomous choice – it doesn’t mean there’s anything positive about it. But I will leave the lies and the stupidities of ‘sex positive feminism’ to another day and get back to the subject at hand:

I was invited to attend the conference that launched the Turn Off The Red Light campaign in Buswell’s Hotel in Dublin last year. I had just been told that it was a conference, it hadn’t been mentioned that the press would be there, so I got a very big shock when I arrived to the scene of cameras rolling and flashing lights. It was a shock because something in me told me that I was supposed to speak, but how was I supposed to do that with every newspaper and TV station in the country present?

I was a little late and there was only one seat left in the back row. I sat down and felt a bit bad about grabbing the last seat when people, some much older than me, started filling up the standing room all the way out to the hall, but I was wearing ankle boots with a five inch heel so I decided I’d have to live with my own conscience.

The first thing I noticed about the panel was that they were all men. That kind of knocked the stuffing out of me. I was really surprised and listened very intently to hear what they’d say. As they introduced themselves it became clear that they were all men who were high-profile in one sense or another in Irish life; a poet and prose writer (Theo Dorgan), a playwright and theatre director (Peter Sheridan), the chair of the Board of Directors at the Immigrant Council of Ireland (John Cunningham), chairperson of Ruhama (Diarmaid O’Corrbui), CEO of Bernardos (Fergus Finlay), General Secretary of the largest craft union in Ireland, the TEEU (Eamon Devoy) and General Secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (David Begg).

Something happened which thoroughly moved me. They spoke, one after another, about why prostitution and trafficking should have no place in this country. Men, seven of them, high-profile men at that, talking one after another about what I’ve always thought, what I’ve always known. Probably because some of them were a good bit older than me I was reminded of the protective presence I used to feel when I was with my Dad, who died not long before I went on the game. More tears to struggle with. Another lump in the throat.

When they’d all done speaking the meeting was opened to questions and discussion and around a dozen people spoke. A woman stood near me with a microphone on a long extendable arm that she held up to anyone who’d talk, and when anyone did, the cameras pointed right at them.

The standing area behind me was filled with people, with politicians among them, all the way out and halfway down the hall and I had noticed that when anyone behind me spoke several people in front of me would turn around to look at them.

When the man chairing the meeting asked if there were any more questions before he wrapped the meeting up my heart gave a violent thump, but there was no way I could walk out of there if I didn’t do what needed to be done, which was to provide the voice of prostituted women, which was about the only relevant voice that was missing from the room.

I stood up and said I had something to say but asked the reporters to not photograph me and to point their cameras away. The first thing I said after that was that I was a former prostitute; it was at that point that every head in front of me, about a hundred of them, turned to look. I don’t know how I didn’t keel-over with the sense of vulnerability and exposure, and I was told afterwards that my voice shook audibly when I first spoke.

I went on to say I was glad that prostitution and trafficking were being dealt with together, and that I felt they should continue to be addressed together, as the routes into prostitution and trafficking are only two different routes that bring women to exactly the same place. I then explained that it had been family dysfunction followed by homelessness that had brought me to prostitution at fifteen years of age, and that there was no difference to be found in two groups of women selling their bodies because of sets of circumstances that were beyond their control, just because those circumstances were different. I felt a very great weight of relief when I sat back down, that I’d done what I had to do and that it was over.

Immediately after I sat down one male politician behind me seemed moved, frustrated, and there was angst in his voice when he said “we need to do something about this situation – now!” I was approached by another politician afterwards, and by the chairperson of the conference, who told me that I had made “the most significant contribution to the meeting”. Both were encouraging, both were respectful, and both were men.

After I left Buswell’s I walked to nearby Stephen’s Green and sat on a bench looking at the flowerbeds and popped the Xanax a friend had offered me the night before “for the sake of your nerves”. I was glad I had it, because my nerves were in shreds, although my anxiety was strangely mixed with a feeling of peace that day. I was anxious because of the deeply traumatic part of my past I had just visited so publicly, and I was at peace in another sense because I had been exposed to something I find wonderfully comforting: the gentle and sincere humanity of men.

When you have spent seven years being exposed to the worst of what men have to offer it will leave you dreadfully traumatised, and consequently hurt, embittered and angry. But we are multifaceted beings, thank God, and no one feeling remains constant and ever-present in our minds. A person might reasonably ask: why do you still love men? Because I can still see their humanity shining out of them, and I still draw comfort from it. That’s why.


27 thoughts on “Why I Still Love Men

  1. BRILLIANT !!! You just had me blubbering ! I thought to myself for a brief second this can’t be true , that someone would stand up with no calling and say what you did ….. But I can’t be negative and I do believe this is true and I shall read more of your bloggs and blubber more I guess ….. So true what you said about trafficking and prostitution leading to the same place , ……. I can’t believe you had the courage to stand up ! …… You must have felt the thousand women standing beside needing you to talk for them …… Fantastic …… You remind me of the courage of Sophie Hayes who’s talking today in the Vatican in Rome telling her story of trafficking ….
    I am a man by the way and truely care about this and we need to get more men aware because there lies the problem !

    • Thank you for your response Kerry. It’s lovely to get male support, for all the reasons I outlined in this post.

      There may be people who’ll think this blog is made up, but it’d be very silly of me to fabricate a story like that when there were over a hundred witnesses to what went on at the launch of the Turn Off The Red Light campaign.

      Thanks again for your support.

  2. Thanks for that little glimpse. This is perfect: ‘I could put a gun in my mouth tomorrow and blow my own brains out; that is surely an autonomous choice – it doesn’t mean there’s anything positive about it.’

  3. Thanks FreeIrishWoman for this powerful and inspirational article. I don’t know exactly how to reply to your article but I feel that it must not stay silent so here goes!

    I admire your courage, your determination to speak out and the clarity with which you do so. I admire your ability to be able to still see the good side of us men after all you have experienced. You must be sickened by us and yet you somehow manage to give us the benefit of the doubt and still highlight our value.

    There are two specific parts of the article that really stood out to me. The first was where you name the source of this behavior as evil. You are right there. Abusing people and getting a kick out of it – that is evil. Abusing vulnerable people and getting a kick out of it – that is evil. Furthermore, allowing our friends to abuse other people and get a kick out of it unchallenged – that is evil too. They might never understand unless we tell them it is abuse and that it is evil. And if we get a slagging for standing up for someone then we should still be proud of ourselves. Conscious ignorance by everyday people is a necessary ingredient for evil and abuse to fester and flourish in. I guess this is why I had to respond to your article. I don’t want to do nothing, to be silently shocked and angry and to do nothing about this!

    The second thing that really stood out to me was the very last line in your article. You described powerfully and concisely what the world really needs from us men. You described how you take comfort from us when you see the ‘humanity shining out of us’. That line gave my heart a lift and reminded me where the ‘goal posts’ of masculinity really should be.

    Us men are very simple, we need to know exactly where the ‘goal posts’ are and what needs to happen for us to ‘save the day’. Every little girl wants to be walked along the wall and to twirl around in her new dress and to be told how fabulous she is. Every little boy wants to feel like a little legend, a hero that can somehow shine through and save the day!

    Your article comes as a reminder that the goalposts of masculinity are to provide comfort and shelter to others. That we are to allow our humanity to shine out of us; to remind each other and our children that all women, that all humans have unsurpassable worth. Henry David Thoreau wrote that ‘The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.’ The quietness is learned. Stay quiet and then you can’t get it wrong, then you can’t fail, then nobody will pick on you.

    We need men to say something, to do something, to ensure that abusing other humans for kicks is something that provokes outrage in our family, in our team, in our peer group. A few years ago it was completely socially acceptable to light a cigarette in a busy pub. These days you’d be removed from the said pub in a matter of seconds if you dared to light a cigarette. This issue needs to be tackled at it’s source – in the minds and hearts of us men. The only way to tackle the minds and hearts of men is through real leadership like you mentioned in the meeting in Buswells from the guys who showed up and like you demonstrated in your article and that meeting.

    I’m watching the cursor flicker and wondering what the next step is for me. What can I do? What can I suggest? My hope is that, as a man, I can be an example of someone who brings comfort and hope to strangers and close ones alike, that I can inspire those men in my sphere of influence by being a compassionate and courageous example. The only way I can imagine doing all the above and ensuring that I don’t become a part of the problem is to tell my male friends exactly where I stand on this issue and what I want them to expect from me.

    Thanks again for your courage, insight and wisdom.


    • Wow Michael – just wow! Little did I think when I hit ‘post’ on this article that I’d receive a response that was an exact expression of the male humanity I was writing about.

      Thank you for that. Thank you so, so much.


  4. You made me cry, FreeIrishGirl! Thank you for writing this piece. I think that you are really ‘free’ in the broedest sense of this word and I congratulate you for your power of spirit and power of pen.

  5. Thank you all, I don’t know what else to say, it’s really lovely to be getting all this support! x

  6. Pingback: Why I Still Love Men « Survivors Connect Network

  7. Thank you for that amazing piece of writing. it reminded me very powerfully of one of my all time favourite speeches (you can read the whole thing here: http://www.nostatusquo.com/ACLU/dworkin/WarZoneChaptIIIE.html) but it was this bit especially that your post reminded me of:

    I came here today because I don’t believe that rape is inevitable or natural. If I did, I would have no reason to be here. If I did, my political practice would be different than it is. Have you ever wondered why we are not just in armed combat against you? It’s not because there’s a shortage of kitchen knives in this country. It is because we believe in your humanity, against all the evidence.’

  8. Hi FreeIrishWoman

    Was directed to your page through a N.Irish abolitionist I follow on twitter. Want to commend you for what you’re doing and your courage in humility.
    I recently found this picture which encourages me a lot and seems like the perfect one to go with this post:

    Once again, thanks so much for being a voice to the voiceless.
    I will be reposting this with a link to here as well.

    Servaas, South Africa

  9. Thanks a lot for creating this blog and for sharing your life experience with us. I never realized how damaging can prostitution be to a woman. I never paid for sex, but I never discarded the idea of doing it in the future, since I thought that prostitution was just a self-chosen profession like any other. Now, after reading your blog, I have understand how destructive it is for a woman, and why we, men, must avoid becoming consumers of prostitution. Thanks again. I wish you the best!

    • Thank you so much for your response Pin8, it is truly appreciated because opening peoples eyes is exactly why us survivors of prostitution and trafficking blog and write and speak publicly. There is great personal cost involved in this and responses like yours assure us that we are making a difference in doing what we do. Thank you.

  10. Hi Free,
    I’m finding it difficult to know where to start this reply. I suppose it resonated with me on many levels, as a father i implicitly understood what you so beautifully conveyed in your re-telling of the moment in time where you witnessed the love of a father for his child. I still feel like that today, 27 years after the birth of my son I love and want to hold him in exactly the same way since he was born. The need to protect my child has never gone. I cannot understand or maybe better to say I cannot relate to men who abuse,denigrate,hurt,control,manipulate any other human being, I cannot accept that using men or women for paid sex is a need. We are all capable of having respectful relationships with each other, we are all capable of having meaningful physical relationships with each other if we are treated with respect and love. I will stand on the side of the abused time and time again, I will open my door and offer safe haven, I refuse to allow those that called themselves men to be representative of who I am. My son knows how to respect other people , he knows how to love and be loved, he understands himself and his flaws, his mother is his template and i am his example. He will read this and it will be passed on to the young men he works with in the military, he will explain why I have sent it on to him, and it wont cost him a thought, why? because he loves women, he treats them as equals and has learnt respect. I am now going to try and compose myself although I am happy to sit here crying like a baby. thanks again Free.

    xxx Ado

    • Thank you so much for your support Ado, and thanks so much for sending this message on to your son in the military. That means more to me than I can say. Thank you.

  11. I had 4 unwanted experiences with this ( I know how that sounds). Nobody would guess and I had for long time difficult to understand why myself. The shame and guilt have for long time been all consuming and always on my mind. Luckily no other long term consequences. All I can say is sometimes several things lead us to certain events and first in the aftermath we are able to deal with it properly.

    I am deeply impressed and sincerely glad to read your posts even if I never met you!

    I have spoken with professionals and with family members about my experiences. But after I read your posts, especially the one on “happy” prostitutes, I have for the first time in almost 10 years (seriously) felt peace about this issue. It unlocked something in my mind.

    The are no circumstances where we should give acceptance to trafficking or where we should let prostitution become an accepted fantasy. We should instead fight this with all means so we could give all women (and men) the ability to have a worthy life and delete prostitution as an alternative.

    Thank you very much, you just saved another troubled soul! Stay strong and brave!!

  12. I really love your website and all of your wonderful writings. I am a former drug addicted prostitute from a dysfunctional family. I started “escorting” at age 19-32. I, myself then went to a psychiatrist at age 24 when I had quit using drugs. My drugs of choice were cocaine and ketamine. I started with marijuana, then went on to psychedelics like ecstacy and LSD. I swore I’d never snort drugs, but there was nothing I loved better than to be anesthesized before, during, and after my “job.” I also worked as an independent “escort” later in my “career.” Anyways, you say you still “love men.” I have always been bisexual, but have had periods in my life where I have exclusively only dated women. I NEVER hated men until I started prostituting!! NEVER! I had the displeasure of seeing men at THEIR WORST from being in the sex for money trade. I was raped once, guys always begged me to not use condoms, to have anal sex (which really sickened me), to pay me “later” (heh), while being penetrated “doggy style,” some guys would try and slip the condom off, and more. I worked for SO MANY married men, men with girlfriends, boyfriends (!), children in another room, etc. I saw things that people should never see. Sometimes, I get flashbacks of the “sessions” I have had in the past, I hear their voices, see their faces, see them naked…etc. I look at different men on the train and imagine them naked and it sickens me. I hear them talking about women in a derogatory manner, There are parts in films that I will not and cannot watch. Prostitution is glamourized on t.v. It disgusts me. Being penetrated by any “john” that has the amount of money you are asking for is NOT empowering. Laying on your back several times a day with your legs open, and most private parts spread for every Tom, Dick, and Harry will NOT help a woman’s self esteem. Not-one-bit. Being told to get on your knees and give some asshole a blowjob as he looks down at you and begs me to remove the condom from his been-around-the-block cock does not feel very spiritual. Yes, the money is addictive. I would buy expensive things that I do not even own today. I spent a large portion of my had earned money on DRUGS to deal with my “job,” and get more money to buy drugs-to deal with my job ad nauseum. I was a hamster in a cage…until I quit and ended up being diagnosed with bpd, bipolar, and depression. I ended up homeless. Today, I have a nice place to live, eat well, am clean and sober, have real love in my life, a wonderful dog, education, and best of all—SELF ESTEEM. Do I miss the money? Yes, but at least I don”t have to worry about catching HIV @ “work!” Oh, I also caught a BAD strain of HPV, and almost had cancer. Cryotherapy helped kill the infected cells in my cervix. HPV is a nasty STD that a woman can catch EVEN IF she uses condoms with someone. Incredible. Well, thanks for reading this. I will definitely continue to read your website. Thanks alot!!

  13. This blog is breathtakingly beautiful. It’s out of the world. It’s amazing to know you. I wish I’d do something for this blog one day.

  14. Prostitution is a sad affair but so is sitting in a cubical all day pushing papers and getting screamed at by customers. And if being a prostitute is sad, so is being a john. It is humiliating to have to ‘pay for it’, to not be wanted, to feel another’s disgust during what is supposed to be an emotionally intimate, loving act.

    Nevertheless, sometimes, this is what people need to do. Now, I’m talking about voluntary prostitution, never forced. That is always a crime. The men who go to prostitutes certainly should figure out how to get in a normal relationship. Same applies to the prostitutes. They are pretty similar. If you are going to judge one you have to judge the other.

    Both have a desperate need: sex for the men, money for the women. I know women are always struggling to figure out why men can’t control themselves. If you had a penis, you’d understand.

    So I think you need to chill out with all the anger and the demonization. Some johns are pigs. Some are sad, lonely, horny guys who, when stroking the hooker’s hair, often do so because they feel bad about the whole thing, bad for her and bad for himself.

    Life isn’t supposed to be this way. If the schools actually taught us how to earn a living rather than how to worship Thomas Jefferson, there’d be a lot less prostitution. But that’s not the only cause. There are so many. It’s so complicated. And you have simplified it too much.

    But your writing is superb.

  15. I don’t know what to say. I’m moved by a real human being.

    I wish I’d read this post first, as I think it would have put the others in perspective. Really.

    Your spirit is a beautiful thing. I admire you greatly, even if I have yet to agree with all your perspectives. I can see you’ve suffered horribly, and to still be able to see the human spirit through it. You have the soul of an Angel come to Earth. May whatever you find peace in, find peace in you as well. God Bless, you moved me to tears tonight.

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