Because of the timeline I worked in prostitution (I’m well over a decade out of it now) I was, thankfully, never subjected to the creepy and debasing practice of punters online reviews.* Formerly prostituted women tell me about their experiences of seeing what fat, heaving, physically repulsive strangers have had to say about their bodies and their sexual performance online. Often they complain that a woman ‘didn’t seem into it’ and other such inanities.
I am not a conventionally trained actress, but I doubt if I were I could pull-off the performance in a manner that would satisfy these men’s fantasies. It is beyond my capacity to understand why, if they want to experience a woman who is ‘into it’, they don’t work at fostering genuine relationships with the women in their lives. Or if they want to treat a woman as a piece of sub-human scum, as so many of them do, why they do not go for some form of psychological help.
The same men who sit, keyboard-warrior style, debasing electronically the women they’ve already paid to debase physically, are debasing another party here. They are debasing themselves.
If there is one thing more repulsive than the bully it is the bully who gloats, who sits around with his friends making entertainment out of the damage he’s done, talking about how much fun it was, to his joy, or how much fun it was not, to his intense displeasure and disappointment. In all cases, no matter what a man has had to say about a woman whose body he has paid to use, the act of writing a review in itself casts the woman as subhuman.
‘But nobody says restaurant reviews treat waitresses as subhuman’ I can hear the pro-prostitution lobby bleat. That’s because they don’t. To do that, the restaurant reviewer would need to strip the same waitress of her clothes, lay her spread-eagled on the table, shove his penis and fingers into every orifice of her body and then do a write-up on how good or bad a job she did of pretending to like it.
That is what a ‘review’ is, in this context. It is a secondary, supplementary ‘top up’ to the original degradation that characterises the prostitution experience.
Putting aside the sheer nastiness of reviewing women in this way, the fact of the matter is that a woman in prostitution can never get it right. She can never adhere to one set of rules and expect that all the men she meets will be satisfied by them. Just as we all like our steak cooked to suit our own preferences, the women in prostitution, regarded as living meat themselves, must conform to the preferences of those who consume them. But what are those preferences? And how is she to know what they are?
Some men get off on the thrill of a willing woman, a woman who seems to love every moment of the sex-for-money exchange. Others feel very differently, as expressed by this direct quote – “I’d feel cheated if she enjoyed it”.**
In other words, some men are so inhumane (and I met PLENTY of these) that they need to understand that the woman they are paying is experiencing sexual abuse. They need to feel her shrinking from his touch. They need for her to turn her face away from his kisses. They need for her to shudder with disgust as her nipples are pulled, sucked, twisted and chewed, and they need to feel her deaden herself like a doll as he shoves his penis into her. Why? Because they enjoy it. Because it is necessary for their orgasm.
These men accounted for a disturbingly sizable minority of the men I met in prostitution, and I could always sense them. I always knew when I was dealing with a big-time misogynist, often before he’d even open his mouth. There was something in their eyes that gave them away. When you’ve seen that look enough times, you will recognise it forever. It sucks the air out of your lungs, to know what’s coming; to know that here, now, again, you’re going to experience what it is to be treated as less than nothing.
Lone Lindholt, of the Danish Institute for Human Rights, amongst a plethora of other prostitution-related research, discovered a disproportionately high suicide rate amongst prostitutes. I know why.
There is a way out of being treated as less than nothing. It is to be nothing at all.
How much more compounded, I wonder, is the mental and emotional torment for the women who’ve been subjected to these reviews? How many of them have read reviews of themselves and thought about being nothing at all?
*For a dissection of how it actually feels to be reviewed, see DCG’s excellent post ‘How it Feels to Get Reviewed’ on her blog ‘secretdiaryofadublincallgirl’.
**from the American research study ‘Comparing sex buyers with men who don’t buy sex’