Thursday, 1 March 2012
You're a heroine for taking the strain of being a prostitute and punching bag...
I guarantee, that as soon as you read the first word of this blog post, many of you uttered words like 'slut', 'tart', or 'skank' in your head. After all, when a woman has made a conscious choice to sell sex, it is extremely hard not to judge their lifestyle, and not to assume that these women are undignified, worthless human beings with a disgustingly low level of self respect. While I hate to describe a fellow woman in such derogatory terms, I will hold my hands up and say that I have done this in the past, and I have stood under a halo of socially-manufactured snobbery and looked down on these women, and I am certain that I am not alone in this confession.
In a fight against my own ignorance towards this issue, I have spent the past couple of weeks investigating, and at times talking to women working in this industry. I will admit first and foremost that I was absolutely wrong to make such hasty judgements, and I cannot help but feel ashamed of my own misconceptions.
I have discovered that there are two main 'types' of prostitutes. There are, of course, the small minority who prostitute themselves to earn extra money fast. Some women take on an evening job, some sell half of their life on EBay, and some, beneath a 'full-coverage foundation and a killer lipstick', accept cash-in-hand for sexual favours. They live, according to their morality, as a consenting adult woman selling a service to a consenting adult man. These are women that do not see this industry as being seedy and corruptive, but instead treat their nightly pursuits in the same way that they do their day jobs.
Dr Brooke Magnanti, who wrote one of the most successful blogs of all time under the pseudonym 'Belle de Jour', documented tales of stockings, stilettos, and sexual adventures throughout her life as a London call girl, and had the whole literary nation hooked on the mystery shrouding her true identity.
Brooke has often come under criticism for her glamorisation of being a sex worker, and having publicly revealed all in late 2009, she stated in interview that she is not a woman who regrets her choice. She describes it simply as a way of earning money fast as a young professional at risk of drowning under university debts. I do not agree with Brooke's decision, however having read almost every interview with her I could find, and finding myself lost in one of her many international bestsellers, it is hard not to understand why she did what she did, and it is even harder to bestow my previous judgements on her.
Brooke, in her own words, was 'unbelievably fortunate' and did not have any terrible experiences whilst working as a call girl. I'm not entirely sure that spending 14 months of her life pretending to enjoy sex with incredibly sleazy men makes Brooke a fortunate woman, however on furthering my investigation, I couldn't help but agree that she is one of the 'luckier' ones.
In the grand scheme of things, it isn't hard for a 21st century man to have sex, and by sex, I mean adult, consensual, nice sex that doesn't involve a wad of £20 notes and a time limit. Here folks, lays the problem. Some adult men aren't looking for nice sex. Some men seek satisfaction in taking a dangerous level of control over a woman's body, and some men, when given the appropriate opportunity, will submit a woman to obscene acts of physical and psychological abuse.
The sex trafficking industry is one of the fastest growing in the world, and it is so, so important to remember that many prostitutes are prostitutes because they have in fact been forced under threats of violence. If this is not the case, prostitutes have often resorted to using their bodies as a never-ending stream of cash to fund an debilitating addiction, a way to keep them from becoming homeless, or simply due to the sad and unrealistic belief that there are no other opportunities available to them.
Marissa*, a 29 year old sex worker from Brighton, who agreed to talk to me on the phone, told me that she started working as a prostitute in June last year, having almost suffered bankruptcy when her business collapsed. Marissa told me that she earns anything between £300 and £1200 a night, and that she now has enough money to keep her financially secure over the next few years while she tries to rebuild her life. When I asked her why she is still working as a prostitute, she said that she would email me a photo.
It was her face. And I could barely make out her eyes amongst the bruises.
The world of prostitution is far from glamorous, and I will never again assume that a woman has willingly involved herself in this industry. It is a psychological and physical minefield which thrives on desperation, violence and sex abuse, and while the reasons women sell sex in the first place are awful enough, it's apparent that the biggest struggle is escaping the vicious trap that encrusts itself on a woman's life after that oh-so-fateful first night.
I ask, that next time prostitution comes up in conversation, you think twice before you write these women off as a bunch of money-hungry whores/sluts/tarts, because opposite the troubled face wearing the killer lipstick, there may just be a killer.
And no amount of money is worth the sacrifice of a woman's life.