Where were all the Happy-Hookers when I was on The Game?

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.


What is a Representative Prostitute?

The question of what is a representative prostitute is an important one.  I will answer it based on my own lived experience of prostitution and what I saw to be representative of the women I worked with, both indoors and outdoors and at the upper, middle and lower ends of prostitutions social spectrum.  I do so because there were certain commonalities between the lives and the attitudes of the women in all these areas of prostitution.  They were distinct and unmistakeable.

A representative prostitute is somebody who’s lived experience of prostitution and consequential attitudes towards it are those experienced by and held by the majority.  So of course in discerning what a representative prostitute is we need to look at what are the most commonly held attitudes among prostitutes, what are the most common opinions towards prostitution expressed by those who’ve lived it.  If we are to truly discern what the defining features of a representative prostitute is, then we need to know what are the most common reasons for their entry into prostitution and what are their feelings about those reasons, and about where those reasons led them.

We also need to know (and it is very important to know) what are the majority experiences and opinions of the formerly prostituted, because it has been charted that the opinions of women undertake a significant shift depending on whether they currently are or have ever been prostituted.  This has been noted, for example, in the Swedish Independent Evaluation of 2011.  Its findings make sense to me; in fact I don’t see how it could be any other way.  My own expressed opinions in prostitution were always constructed in the effort to protect myself.  I berated myself over that for quite a long while afterwards, but to the best of my ability, I don’t do that anymore, because it was only natural that I would protect myself anyway I could and I need to be understanding and gentle with myself about that.

A detailed analysis of the interior experiences of the prostituted class has yet, in my awareness, to be undertaken.  There have been many studies done that focus on prostitution, but not of the sort I am imagining: I would like to see a study that shaped the inner experience of prostitution for the publics understanding.  I wonder how possible that would be, given my memories of my own closed-off ‘this-far-and-no-further’ responses to questioning during prostitution.  I not only experienced that myself, but witnessed it constantly among at the attitudes of my peers to questioning by outsiders; so perhaps that is not even possible, or at least would not be possible in the absence of lie detector tests.  I know that’s what it would have taken to have gotten the truth out of me in those times.

So I think it is safe to assume we will be operating in the absence of such a study, and in its absence, cursory glances at other studies, even just here in Ireland, give us the strongest possible hints as to the reality of prostitution as a lived experience.  For example, the findings of the Haughey and Bacik analysis ‘A Study of Prostitution in Dublin’ (conducted with funding from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Trinity College, June 2000) were very telling.  In this study, twenty-nine out of thirty prostituted women stated that they ‘would accept an alternative job with equal pay.’

Now this may not tell us the whole story, but it gives us an unmistakably clear signal that the vast majority of the women polled here, would not, if they could make the same money elsewhere, choose to experience another moment of prostitution ever again.

There are no surprises for me in what this study reveals.  In seven years of prostitution, I never met a woman who wouldn’t have accepted an alternative job with equal pay.  And yes, we did discuss these things, and many other aspects of prostitution besides.  We discussed them with each other, because we felt safe discussing them with each other; it was only under the scrutiny of strangers that our sense of safety evaporated, and our openness evaporated with it.

When we ask the question ‘What is a representative prostitute?’ we are asking (or ought to be asking) what is a representative prostitute globally.  When prostitution is the last resort for women in developed countries – when it is the last resort for women in countries with social welfare systems that are the envy of the rest of the world – then it is reasonable to assume that fiscal coercion is very much more the norm in countries that do not enjoy these supports.  Therefore, whatever we see of coercion in Europe or North America is nothing compared to what is experienced in numerous nations in Africa, Asia and South America.  We know that children in these nations are more liable to be prostituted than the children of western nations by many many times.  Are we to assume that the women and children of under-developed nations have a higher propensity to assert their ‘personal agency’ to prostitute themselves, as the pro-prostitution alliance would have us believe, or are we to assume that their extreme financial constraints – might – just – possibly – have something to do with that?

It is clearly unreasonable to assume that there is even a possibility that a globally representative prostitute could be characterised by the minority of western women earning two hundred pounds/euros/dollars an hour.  These women are not even representative prostitutes in the western world, never mind anywhere else.  Yet there are those who’ve never spent a moment being prostituted who like to play around with statistics so as to present the prostituted as a class who are, or at least may be, represented by the happy hooker mythology – those women who supposedly do nothing they don’t want to do, and what they do want to do, they do for up to, and in excess of, a thousand euros per night.  It is hard not to hate the non-prostituted hypocrites who peddle these myths, especially when they are women.  Where is their experienced-based evidence?  They have none.  Here is mine:

This is a short roll-call of some of the prostituted adolescents (it would not be accurate to call them women) that I have personally known and worked alongside.  I have changed their names out of respect for their privacy.

Lisa was a representative prostitute.  She left home at fifteen and was prostituted at seventeen.  She didn’t want to do it, but she couldn’t even consider going home, and there was nothing else she could do.

Anna was a representative prostitute.  She left home at fourteen because her stepfather had been sexually molesting her for years.  She was prostituted at seventeen, and found prostitution nothing very new.  The only difference was money changing hands, instead of sweets, clothes and gifts.  Most importantly for her, she could walk away at the end of the encounter, instead of having to sleep with her abuser all night in the same house.

Tori was a representative prostitute.  She left home at eighteen and was working as a stripper within six months – that was the gateway for her, and she was prostituted before she was twenty.  She was gang raped at twenty-one.  She was supposed to see them all one by one.  She would never have the right to say what was done to her, because they paid her before it happened.

Lillianne was a representative prostitute.  She left home at seventeen and was working the streets within the year.  I will remember her vulnerability and her first-night frightened face forever.  “Do you think he’ll be okay?” she asked before she got into the car.  I gave her arm a quick squeeze and offered the useless guidance “Keep your wits about you”.

Marie was a representative prostitute.  She left home at fifteen and was prostituted at seventeen.  Marie, who didn’t even know how to roll a joint when she first started in prostitution, was hopelessly addicted to narcotics for years while we worked together, and was still strung-out the last time I saw her.  I remember her childlike embarrassment at not being able to roll a joint, but she got good at that in no time.  There are so many other things I wish she’d never learned.

I was a representative prostitute.  I left home at fourteen and was prostituted at fifteen.  I am still here, I am still alive, and thankfully I am no longer narcotic addicted.  The voices I echo are not only my own; for my sake and for all our sakes, I will never ever be silenced.

So yes, the question of what is a representative prostitute is an important one; it is just unfortunate that it is sometimes posed by those who go on to answer it dishonestly, in the effort to obscure what a representative prostitute truly is.  A good hint as to the intentions of anyone posing this question is in how they will construct it.  Members of the pro-prostitution alliance will far more likely use the sanitising/normalising language of ‘sex work’; therefore will most likely ask ‘What is a representative sex-worker?’

This is an exercise in misrepresentation and concealment; obscurest language here is such a commonplace theme.  The profile of a representative prostitute needs obscuring for anyone of the pro-prostitution lobby, because the profile of a representative prostitute lays bare the immeasurably ugly profile of prostitution itself.


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.


Denial of Authenticity and the Ongoing Struggle to Impose Silence

Just two days ago I penned a piece concerning the enforced silence of prostitution survivors and now, true to form, I have been given a most accurate example of what I had written about.  The spurious claim has been circulated that I am inauthentic, that I am not legitimate; in other words that my experiences never happened.  I am trying to imagine which would have been the easier road, which would have been better for me: if I’d lived exactly as I’d lived or if I were sick enough to fantasise that sort of existence into being.  I’d certainly have had an easier time of it in many senses if I were that sort of nutcase, but I am a realist, which was probably part of what made prostitution so painful for me.  I was never very adept at lying to myself.

In the summer of 1992, in June I think, the now long-defunct Evening Press ran a front page story concerning prostitutions impact on my life.  ‘Sixteen Year Old Taken from Brothel’ screamed the headline.  Any woman who worked in prostitution in the early nineties will remember this.  It was a major talking point and considered quite a scandal at the time.

It was only a scandal because I was arrested.  There were many girls my age and younger who were never arrested, who never made those headlines, and who, consequently, were never were held up to the scrutiny of the public view.  That does not mean they were not there.  They were there, and I know they were there because I was among them.

Sometimes we worked the streets (as I did, from 1991 to 1993) and sometimes we were prey to the rackets of pimps who moved under-aged girls around in the early nineties.  Sometimes we had both experiences simultaneously, as I did.  When we were pimped-out indoors it happened far from the sight of the street-walking adult women, some of whom now have the nerve and the audacity and the ignorance to deny our experiences, just because they weren’t there to see it.

I remember having coffee once in the Health Centre on Baggot Street where they handed out coffee and condoms.  I was seventeen at the time.  The sixteen-year-old-girl who’d been arrested from a brothel the year before came up in conversation and I was bemused by this, and stated casually “That was me”.  “That was you?!” one woman shot back, eyes agog.  I had been sitting in these women’s company since I’d made the switch from the northside red-light district (Benburb Street) to the part of the southside red-light district where I’d been working (Burlington and Waterloo Road’s) two years before, but you’d think to listen to this woman that I was a creature who’d just landed there from some other planet.  She didn’t know what age I was, and she obviously assumed I was at least a few years older than I was.  She hadn’t any idea I could be that girl, and it had obviously never occurred to her.

The southside red-light district of Dublin is not one defined place.  It is a scattering of streets, squares and canal-sides that covers probably almost a square mile, and what I am discovering in my post-prostitution life is that some former prostitutes are actually ignorant enough to think that what was happening on their own street was the sum-total of prostitution in Dublin at that time.  This is strange to me, because I worked in so many areas of prostitution during my time – and by areas I mean not only geographical locations, but the full length of prostitutions social spectrum – so I do not relate to the idea of prostitution as being confined to any one of the streets I worked on, or the brothels I worked in, or the God-knows-how-many homes and hotels I visited.  They were all just pit-stops on the journey of my prostitution life, and it takes a deliberate attempt at understanding on my part to grasp why any woman would think that if she didn’t see it, it didn’t happen.

I suppose the world of prostitution was just very narrowed down for some women, and I certainly hold nothing against them for that.  What I do hold resentment and animosity about is that because someone wasn’t there to see it, they are ready to assert it never happened; to erase the authenticity of my experience – of all the experiences of the under-aged prostitutes in Dublin at that time.  And there are women out there ready to assert that, because there are women out there who claim, bizarrely, that we did not exist at all!

The truth of my experience was plastered all over the front page of one of our national newspapers at that time.  To these women I would say: oh we existed, we existed alright, though there were many times we wished we did not.

As for my legitimacy and authenticity; these claims need to be seen for what they are: just another mode of silencing women – just another tactic in the ongoing struggle to impose silence on us survivors.  These tactics will never, ever, work on me.



I logged in here earlier today and was surprised, happy, and a little bit bemused to see the amount of countries my blog has been read in since the last time I’d logged in.  Places as far away as Albania, Latvia and Peru!  It is strange to think that I can be here, writing in North Dublin, and within moments people can be reading in lands I’ve never visited but often thought about.  Places as beautiful and exotic as Peru.

I have an image of Peru in my mind.  I may have seen it on a poster or a postcard; it is of blue mist swirling around an impossibly high and rugged mountain range.  Something in that image is so freeing.  That is one of the places I would will my mind to take me when I got home from the streets, or, later in my prostitution ‘career’, from brothels or hotels.

There was something in the way I always wanted to be somewhere that was spiritually purifying that reminds me of how I so desperately wanted to get away from a reality that was spiritually polluting.  That was just a little memory that was jogged by seeing ‘Peru’ pop up on the list of ‘Views by Country’ in my WordPress blog, and it is symptomatic of the way prostitution never really leaves you, and how you don’t have the option to leave it either, not all the way.

I will post this now and then post the follow up (originally written two days later) to ‘The Evil of an Enforced Silence’, which I posted earlier today.  I should warn any new readers that they might find the timeline of these postings confusing unless they know what’s going on, and they’ll be able to figure that out by reading ‘An Open Letter and an Apology’, which explains matters.

Thank you for reading.


An Open Letter and an Apology

I first set up this blog in early February of this year and within days it had been visited over three hundred times.  That would probably gratify some people, but it frightened the hell out of me.  I felt hugely exposed, very public, very vulnerable, and I did something in response to those feelings that I think now I ought not to have done: I put it on private so it couldn’t be accessed.  I went on to blog elsewhere on the web, on survivorsconnect.wordpress.com – an online leaderless network of prostitution and trafficking survivors, which publishes contributions from women all over the world.

I will always contribute to survivorsconnect; it is one of the most worthwhile endeavours I have ever come across on the internet, and it is evidence that the internet can be and is used for worthy reasons.  I would encourage everyone reading this to visit that group-blog.  However, in the ten or more weeks since I put this blog on private, I have come to realise that I did so purely out of fear – fear of exposure, fear of bullying, fear of having no control over who would contact me and what they would say when they did.  That, in short, is cowardice, and I am more than a bit ashamed of caving in to it.  Fleeing in fear never serves anyone, unless you’re outnumbered in a violent altercation where it is the only commonsense thing to do!

I have resolved that the right thing to do here is to put this blog on public again, write from my thoughts and from my heart, and let the cards fall where they may.

I would like also to explain some of the reasoning behind my fearful reaction: I have been writing a book about my experience of prostitution and everything I witnessed and observed during that time.  That book took me over ten years to write and I finished it in January of this year.  When I finally finished the book I felt like a woman standing on the top of Mount Everest, just looking around.  It was a wonderfully uplifting feeling, but it didn’t last more than a couple of days.  In no time at all I began to feel bereft, directionless, and at a loss as to what to be doing with myself or how to express my thoughts and feelings, hence the decision to begin the blog.

I think that I was not ready for the interactive nature of an independent web-log.  I had never considered myself a blogger; I had never thought about the immediacy of the internet or about how the gap between writer and reader is closed so much more tightly in this context.  After ten years of my writing just being between me and my computer, now all of a sudden it was between me, my computer, and whoever else happened along!  It felt something like walking down O’Connell Street buck-naked – it was a frightening level of exposure and I shied away from it.

That was the wrong thing to do by the cause to which I am committed, which is to tell the truth about the injurious nature of prostitution.  You cannot shed light on the abusive nature of prostitution from a position of fear.

Fear is a natural human emotion, but I don’t think we should allow it to exert its restrictive power in negative ways, so I won’t be doing that again; and so this blog is back for good, regardless of its outcome or what feelings it might provoke in me.

If any of the original readers from back in early-Feb are reading this I hope they will accept my apology and explanation for what was most likely experienced as my rudeness.  I resolve never to give in to fear in that way again, and I will upload the articles I’ve written since in the coming days.  My book is currently being considered by a number of publishers and I will update on that as soon as I have any news.

Thank you so much for reading; some feedback would be nice.


‘Prostitution’s fine – but not for me!’

I have been thinking this morning about how ardently some women argue that prostitution is an acceptable way to earn a living… for other women.

The attitude that prostitution is alright and okay and tolerable and acceptable – and every other form of adequate you can think of – is passionately and enthusiastically expressed by some non-prostituted women.  It is an attitude which contrasts wildly with their own life choices, which convey, very revealingly, that prostitution may well be all these things for other women, but certainly not for themselves.

Of course this begs the question, why is that?  Why would any woman argue the acceptability of prostitution for other women while clearly regarding it unacceptable for herself?

One woman I know of, who spends an extraordinary amount of time online arguing the acceptability of prostitution for other women, is herself unemployed.  She types relentlessly about her perceived notions of prostitutions acceptability for other women, while quite possibly entertaining fears about how long her internet connection and electricity supply are going to hold out.

Why would any woman put so much energy into arguing the acceptability of something that, obviously, she does not consider acceptable for herself?  I cannot answer that, though I would be very interested in knowing the answer.  If a woman’s attitude is that prostitution is empowering and liberating and as acceptable as it gets, well then why on earth would she be unprepared to use this self-espoused wonderfully affirmative mechanism to keep the wolf from her own door?

Prostitution apologists do not gel well with such bald common sense.  In fact, it enrages them.  Time and again I have witnessed questions like these provoke furious anger and seething resentment, and I have come to understand that these reactions are both defensive and offensive, and are composed so because of a powerful rejection of anything that exposes the nonsensical nucleus of their position.

The thing, I think, that most dishonours the position of these women is their treatment of formerly prostituted women who have made the painful decision to speak out about the shape of prostitution as they have lived it.  Women who express these negative interpretations of prostitution based on their own real life experience are shouted down in a particularly devious and derogatory manner by those who just don’t want to hear it.  They are told, in language that is designed to be alienating, that their experiences are irrelevant.  That they are told this by women who have no experiences of their own to draw on is only one bizarre aspect of the situation.  What is perhaps more telling is that these non-prostituted pro-prostitution women are clearly determined to refute, by any means possible, the evidence of prostitution presented by the women who’ve lived it.

It is important to see that and to know that, and so instead of becoming enraged ourselves, as would be so easy to do, we may as well take stock here and as calmly as possible take a look at the revealing nature of these non-prostituted women’s positions.  Since they are willing to affirm any opinion that does not challenge their own, and to reject any position that does, then they are clearly invested in believing the version of prostitution they would prefer to believe.  Their investment is most clearly evidenced by their dogged determination to silence prostituted women, regardless the inevitable cruelty that is inescapably involved in doing that.

This enthusiastic willingness to resort to a psychologically abusive form of silencing speaks of a need to refute that runs very deep, and we women who have been abused in systems of prostitution would do better to dissect and deconstruct and really examine the reasons behind this inhumane way that we are treated.

Of course, this is difficult to do.  It is difficult, when you are wounded sexually, spiritually, emotionally and mentally, to maintain your composure while you are further wounded by the attitudes of others who say this wounding is not relevant, or, at best, is just specific to you, when you know damn well you saw it everywhere you looked.  And it is galling, by God is it galling, that those who espouse this theory are not only women, but women who’ve never spent a moment being abused in the system they maintain you need not have experienced as abusive!  And so the reality of our abuse is dismissed and ignored and rejected, and by this system of determined ignorance, we are abused all over again.

So – what to do with our sense of appal?  I would advise that we pour the cooling waters of common sense on it, because just as much as common sense is offensively inconvenient for those who refute the reality of our lived experiences, it is a sincerely calming comfort for ourselves.  Common sense tells us here, for example, that if a woman sincerely believes prostitution to be an unobjectionable way of earning a living, the same woman, when faced with impoverishment, should not find taking a position in a brothel objectionable herself.

A woman who says that prostitution is fine, yet accepts unemployment over prostitution in her own life, may say what she likes – what she has demonstrated is that it is not fine.

Let us remember that actions speak louder than words, and that the insincerity of such women is clearly expressed when they shape their lives so as to communicate ‘prostitution is fine… but not for me’.


The Evil of an Enforced Silence

Rebecca Mott, in her recent article ‘Your Kindness is Killing Us’, spoke out about the illogic that permeates the reasoning behind placing prostitution indoors for safety reasons.  I can affirm every word of her article, having worked outdoors and indoors, and at all the places on prostitutions spectrum, be they dark street corners, no-frills knocking-shops, massage parlours, or high-end escort agencies.  I’ve worked them all, and I’ve been subjected to the same thing in them all: that thing was the most extreme form of degradation – the experience of being treated, as Rebecca says, as “sub-human”.  That was distinct to nowhere: it was universal.

There is no safety to be acquired by placing the prostituted indoors; quite the opposite.  As a street-walking prostitute at least I had the opportunity to size the punters up.  At least I had the chance to look in their eyes before I got into that car, and to lean in the window to check if they had alcohol on their breath.  I had no such opportunities indoors.  Indoors I was trying to protect myself with one of my senses, or maybe two, instead of all five.  I paid a price for that, as did every other prostitute I knew who got run indoors in the wake of the notorious Irish legislative change of 1993, which made it illegal to loiter publicly for the purposes of prostitution.

What struck me most though, on having read Rebecca’s article, was the vicious vitriol it elicited; the wrath and the anger and the fury it drew forth.  The posts that made up that attack have since been removed, but the responses to them are there, and they  make clear that Rebecca was absolutely vilified for having an opinion; an opinion that was and is rooted in the most profoundly painful personal experience.

Her treatment constitutes the evil of an enforced silence.  This is very important – it is very important to see this for what it is, to see why it is done, and to see what is to be achieved by those who are trying to do it.  Anywhere in history where we’ve seen oppression we’ve seen efforts to oppress the voices that speak out against it.  This enforced silence is just another facet of the original oppression.  The existence of any oppression depends upon this silence, and so it will be enforced rigidly, relentlessly, and with great ruthlessness.

The deliberate enforcement of silence has accompanied every oppressive regime since humans began recording their own history, and the present-day silencing of prostitution survivors is just our most recent historical example of this.

The tactics employed to silence formerly prostituted women are aggressive, intimidating and extremely hostile.  This attempt at enforcing silence is delivered with a dearth of compassion that is sickening to observe and deeply painful to be on the receiving end of, just as it is designed to be.

The intention behind it is to frighten us into submission.  The intention is nasty, cruel and utterly futile – and it is futile precisely because it is directed at women who have already overcome the worst form of oppression the world has to offer women, and they have not submitted to that.

To the pro-prostitution oppressors who continue to try to silence us I will say this: we are not fools who do not know what you are doing.  We know exactly what you are doing; we know why you are doing it, and we also know that you are wasting your time.  We have lived the demeaning, degrading violence that is prostitution – the same violence you tell the world is just ‘harmless consenting-adult fun’.  You know that you can get away with telling much of the world that, because much of the world has not lived prostitution – but we have, and you know that we are engaged in accurately interpreting it and putting the truth of this oppression before the public, and that is exactly why you are so frightened of our voices.  Every time you attack us you only put your own fear on display, and your enforced silence will never work on us; our days of being intimidated, coerced and compelled are over.

So here is my message to those who attacked one of my survivor sisters last weekend: you are not going to get away with that.  I am not – and we are not – going to stand idly by while any one of us is viciously verbally assaulted for expressing an opinion that she has damn-well earned the right to express.  So you can take your enforced silence and shove it exactly where so many punters would like to shove their dicks if you yourself were prostituted – that is to say, you can take your enforced silence and shove it straight up your arse.


A personal refutation of the concept of ‘choice’

Many people think of choice as I might have done, had I never worked as a prostitute.  For many, choice is something perceived akin to standing in front of a deli-counter.  Choose this, choose that, pick out your preferred option.  The men who choose which woman they’d like to fuck as they stare at those lined up for their consumption understand choice in just this way.  Their concept of choice is rooted in the privilege of a genuine alternative.  Their concept of choice itself is limited.

Choice does not always present as balanced; it does not always offer a different-but-equal alternative.  When I think of my choices there were simply these: have men on and inside you, or continue to suffer homelessness and hunger.  Take your pick.  Make your ‘choice’.

People will never understand the concept of choice as it operates in prostitution until they understand the concept of constraint so active within it.  As long as the constrained nature of this choice is ignored it will be impossible to understand the pitiful role of ‘choice’ for women within prostitution.

I’m going to reveal something very personal now, and I’m going to do that simply to illustrate how warped the concept of choice was in my circumstances.  I had a conversation recently with my sixty-something aunt who is currently spending a few months visiting Ireland, after having lived forty years in America.  She reiterated something I’d heard many years ago in our family.  It was a conversation my paternal grandmother had with the psychiatrist treating my parents in the local mental hospital.  My grandmother (and this was before I was ever born) had made an appointment with the doctor, very upset as she was that my manic-depressive father and his schizophrenic girlfriend had just announced their intention to marry.

She wanted to know what could be done.  How could this marriage be stopped?  How could these two very unwell people be allowed to go ahead and marry?  The doctor told her that mental illness could not be used as a reason to curtail a persons civil liberties and that was his view of the matter.  But what, my grandmother wanted to know, would happen to any children born into that union?

I wish I could go back in time and give my grandmother a hug for having the compassion and the foresight to think of where that situation would leave us.  She was right to worry.  It left us in state care, one after the other.  And as a young teenager it left me homeless, hungry, and prostituted, in that order.

The constraints of my own choices began even before I did.  And if we were to shift this situation into the deli-counter analogy, there is no young girl standing there deliberating on what choice to make.  There is only a young girl standing waiting for what’s already been selected and pre-wrapped for her, and she can take it or leave it.  Those are her options.  That is her ‘choice’.


The mindless cruelty of toxic ignorance

One of my fellow exited women has raised an interesting point on her blog (secretdiaryofadubincallgirl) when she mentioned the ‘cruelty and callousness’ of non-prostituted women who advocate prostitution as suitable and agreeable ‘work’ for other women.

This view is expressed with great vigour by some women who are not prostituted, never were prostituted, and never will be.  To hear commercialised sexual abuse sanctioned as acceptable is a painful, insulting slap in the face to prostitution survivors, but to hear it sanctioned by women who know NOTHING of prostitution from personal experience is worse than painful and insulting – it is the deepest stab in the back a non-prostituted woman can give to a woman with a history like mine.  There is no question that the position these women have taken is rooted in their own ignorance.

Ignorance is just a natural consequence of never having experienced a situation, but it is not ignorance alone here that causes emotional and practical suffering.  It is, in this case, ignorance paired with baseless convictions.  This is what I call ‘toxic ignorance’.

But why do people convince themselves that they understand the shape of an experience better than the vast majority who’ve ever lived it?  Where does it come from, this great arrogance?

I believe it is fanned into flame, in part, because of that unsavoury human proclivity to be a know-it-all.  There are non-prostituted pro-prostitution women who I have come across online who readily state they have zero experience of prostitution – yet we survivors of prostitution are expected to listen as they tell us that a world without prostitution is an unattainable, unachievable, even undesirable thing!  The kindest thing I can say about these women is that, by way of their ignorance, the arrogance of their position is beyond their comprehension also.

Why does any woman assume, because she has followed her comfortable and privileged middle-class trajectory into college (as was her lucky non-prostituted birthright) that her education somehow equips her to decode and deconstruct the prostitution experience better than the women who earned their understanding with their legs open on a brothels bed?

They feel they are better equipped to explain to us the nature of what happened to us because of a depth of arrogance so staggering as to be beyond reason.  To these women, I have this to say:

“YOU HAVE NO RIGHT to speak for us, or to formulate the shape of our experience, or to attempt to educate the world about something you know nothing about.  When you warp and distort the reality of our lived experiences you abuse us as thoroughly as the punters ever did.  Yours is the purest expression of the mindless cruelty of ignorance – belligerent, arrogant, and potent in its toxicity.  I am ashamed your brand of ‘feminism’ even exists, and I am ashamed of that part of my heart that wants to see you eat your words in a brothels bedroom, because I would not wish that hell on any woman – not even you.”