Archive | February, 2012

Terrible Beauty: Prostitution & the Inadequacy of Language

23 Feb
nelson mandela, hero, angel k, prostitution, human trafficking, sex work, sex industry, sex worker, trauma, torture, ptsd

My Hero

Survivor Angel K’s writing is searing and fearless.  In a recent post up at her blog Surviving Prostitution and Addiction she describes the after-effects of prostitution — the flashbacks, the startle response, the sleepless due to the terrible dreams.  Researchers have found the women in prostitution suffer from the same levels of trauma symptoms as the victims of state-sponsored torture.  It  forever changes how we face the world.  After going through something like state-sponsored torture or trafficking/prostitution everything you do is an act of will — you must continually summon a new being  from your fragments. Yet as the survivors of torture or trafficking/prostitution rebuild their lives, their selves, their voices  — they can develop extraordinary abilities to connect with, inspire, and understand others.  Nelson Mandela exemplifies this type of rebirth.

Most everyone understands that Mandela’s experiences of being held 27 years in a prison infamous for torture make him unique.  When he was finally released few denied the vast injustice done to him.  No one expected him to act like everyone else.  Instead South Africa and the world stepped back, and waited to see how this extraordinary man would transform the terrible wrongs he’d been through — they gave him a chance to bring something new into being.

It’s my hope that the public will start seeing us trafficking and prostitution survivors as people society has wronged in a similar manner.  I hope they’ll understand we’ve been changed by the pain and harshness we’ve experienced.  Public denial of the violence we experience and whore-blaming forces many of us into hiding.  If this stopped, we survivors would be empowered to bring something new and beautiful into being.

With exquisite precision, Angel K writes of  how it feels to live inside this trauma and form a new self and voice from the fragments.  Here’s an excerpt:

 The images remain, technicolour, replaying when I sleep or sometimes anyway. Something triggers me and I’m gone, magically transported back there, no tardis required.
I sleep with the light on, and barely even then. Scared of dreaming, but scared of my thoughts lying awake hour after hour. The night looms, interminable, the fragile grip on sanity of the day stretched to a mere thread, at breaking point. The body, that is to say my body – the splitting I did to survive what they did to me continues – doesn’t help. Muscles tense and tire, old injuries ache, and now the exhaustion from night after night of broken sleep has taken it to the point of fainting, of collapse. Both body and mind work against me, telling me I am in danger now, making me re-experience what happened then now.
Many thanks to Rebecca Mott  for our conversations on Mandela which inspired this post.

Sung

20 Feb
stella marr, human trafficking, sex trafficking, sex work, prostitution, sung, new york city, manhattan, manhattan call girl, prostitution

Sung's kindness gave me a momentary home

Sung’s kindness gave me a momentary home

This is the prologue to my memoir My Body the City:  The Secret Life of a Manhattan Callgirl. 

You don’t know me but I love you. I’m the irresistible force and the immovable object. I’m stubborn, so I’ll always be here. They tore out my tongue, but I learned to re-grow it. Now I will always speak.

It is 3:00 in the morning, my lunch hour, and I’ve just stepped out of a cab at 10th Street and 6th Avenue. A black velvet rain is smothering the city, icy gleams threading the air. I walk toward a fruit stand that seems to float above the sidewalk in a cloud of light. When I blink there’s a stabbing pain behind my eye, and I can feel his fist pound my cheekbone like it’s happening again.

The plastic curtains protecting the produce out front are steamed from the cold. I glance up to the bulbous security mirror which distorts my face. My eye and neck are swollen red and turning greenish-yellow. I feel my hair sticking to my forehead and pull my fingers through the dripping tangles that hang to my waist. But I’m used to going around the city beaten up.

Inside there are so many bins of flowers it makes an indoor garden. I bend into the freesia to breathe their thick fragrance, and in the same motion grab a smooth green apple from a wood crate on the floor. I head back to the coolers. Opening the cool glass door, I exhale with a long sigh so I can watch my breath make a cloud as it hits the chilled air. I gather up a six pack of Diet Pepsi and a coffee yogurt, walk back and set it on the worn wood counter. I feel caved in with shame as I lift my bruised face to the tall man at the cash register. His eyes are deep and warm like licorice made with pepper. His plastic nametag says Sung. He hands me my bag and my change.

He reaches into a bin of red roses, selects the most lush, and hands it to me with a bow. When Sung bows he sends strength. I take the rose and it feels important, as if I’m accepting the folded flag at a military funeral. “

You’re a nice lady,” he says. “Your life should be nice.”

His voice makes me feel like a rug being shaken out in fresh air. Tears warm my eyes.

He grabs two expensive handmade caramels from a basket by the cash register and reaches across the counter to throw them in my bag. When I hold out a crumpled ten dollar bill to show I’ll pay for them he puts his hands behind his back, smiles slowly, and shakes his head ‘no.’ He sits on a plastic crate and starts marking bags of walnuts with a price gun. In the fluorescent light his wide cheekbones shine like they’re wet.

*****

Now a man with thick tufts of hair on his knuckles walks into the store, and I see—no feel—his cock and thighs projected into the space between us. I feel a stabbing, like knives, at my eyes, my throat, my gut. It happens when most men come near. I know the knives I feel aren’t real, but their stabbing hurts. I fight this by trying to fill my body with peace, so it rises from my skin like perfume.

The brutality I sense around me can seem like the strongest part of the city, a riptide always about to drag you under. I close my eyes and breathe in the thick scent of cabbage and orange rinds. I exhale. I want to purify my body so the stabbing disappears. But it never disappears, not completely, which is why I must tell you my story. How I got to this fruit stand in the middle of the night, reaching my wet, shaking hands to take a slightly bruised rose.

++++

After this every time I saw Sung at the fruit stand, he gave me a rose.

Survivor Rebecca Mott on the Terrifying Mundane

17 Feb

A terrifying "new normal"

Friend, colleague and fellow survivor Rebecca Mott has a bold and mesmerizing new post up.  She writes of the deadness so necessary to survival when one is prostituted — how violence and brutality feels so ordinary that, as she puts it, even hell is boring.  Here’s an excerpt:

The years that others framed as adult prostitution – in that framing it all become my own good or bad choices, it is framed that an adult prostitute must want it if she does not walk out, and of course it always framed that all prostitutes are just dirty whores who are addicted to nasty sex.

In that frame – all violence is made into glamour, all degradation is chosen, and all fear is said to be fake.

In that frame, truth is abandoned in case it drives the prostitutes into self-harm or suicide.

I want to attempt to reach into the middle of that time – as it was, not how others wanted it be, not with my own safe hindsight – but inside that middle.

My middle like the millions of the tortured was mainly full of deep boredom, endless repetitive ways of being sexually tortured, and long times of forcing my mind to block my reality.

My middle is full of short moments of finding I has some humanity left – moments connecting to as song in the background, moments walking back at night and enjoying the silence of a city, moments when my mind was saying “enough already” but still my body was being tortured.

They were the moments that were the force that made the person who now writes this blog. I could do nothing to save my young adult – but now in this writing all I can do is repay her intense courage and strength of will by writing as close to her truths as I can.

I do not write just for my self and my past – I write for the millions of adult prostituted women who are abandoned because it is decided they must have chosen their lifestyle. I write for those abandoned prostituted women closed behind wall in indoors prostitution.

I write to make the invisible visible – and to say just stop turning your heads and consciences away from these women. As you decide they must be alright – they are being routinely raped, they are made into living hard-core porn, they are mentally abused till their sense of self is destroyed, and they murdered on a scale that you choose not to imagined.

How a Call Girl Feels When She’s “Reviewed” Online

17 Feb

human trafficking prostitution dublin call girl sex work sex positive feminism

My friend and colleague Dublin Call Girl has a blazingly honest new post up on her blog.  It’s about how she felt when Johns/punters reviewed her online.  This is a revolting practice where online “escort” sites encourage the men to post reviews of each  girl after they’ve used her.  It’s not new.  Even before the internet there used to be creepy “adult entertainment” news sheets (kind of like today’s backpage) where men wrote these sorts of reviews.  But the internet has increased the impact of this dehumanizing practice on prostitutedwomen’s lives.  Here’s an excerpt:

This is another review, from someone else, that worries me. This is hardly unique, it took me two seconds to find, there are hundreds of this type (and worse) of review. This is the really sinister side of reviews. Men will visit a girl who clearly, and the men admit this quite openly, doesn’t want to be there, is unhappy, is reluctant. And they review her anyway. They review her in such a way that completely and cleverly avoids any consideration for her, or why she is ‘lifeless’ or why she is ‘mechanical’ or whatever else. Instead of wondering why and how the girl is in this position of unwillingly having sex for money, they are pissed off, indignant about their wasted money. This is what paying does; it takes the responsibility out of the punter’s hands. It takes the human out of both sides.

DURATION:

45 Minutes

COST:

€180

REVIEW:

First I chose Vicky based on her pics and Favourites. I fancied a bit of (A).   Location was easy to find and excellent directions given.When the door opened there stood a pretty young lady but not in my opinion the girl in the Photo’s.Smaller not as slim but nice none the less.Then It started to go down hill. Paid the €180 (20) for A.Guess what she diden’t want to do A. “i don’t like” was what i got.Got down to biz anyway but there was no life in this girl at all.  I’m more French than she is. East European at a guess.

Got a bit of OWO but she kept stopping to wipe yer man with a piece ofKitchen paper. Sex was like riding an ironing board.

Kissing was OK but she kept turning away most times i tried to kiss her.

This girl just was not into it no matter how hard i tried. Got more entertainment from the radio on in the backround.

Half way through round 2 she announced that time was up. Paid for an hour and was in and out in 45mins.

Waste of time and money which is a bummer when you save for ages for this and don’t get the chance to punt very often.

To look into another’s eyes and see yourself

17 Feb

“In the absolute meaning there are no whores. There are people in prostitution for a longer or shorter period of time. There are no ‘types’ of people, no characters. They are people who have ended up in a certain situation. … One puts themselves in another’s place and imagines themselves under different circumstances. It is to look into someone else’s eyes and see yourself. And with this insight comes also an insight into the cruelty of the system which has made her into a ‘type’.”

Kajsa Ekis Ekman

Choosing Love

16 Feb

The moment we choose to love, we begin to move against domination, against oppression. The moment we choose to love, we begin to move toward freedom, to act in ways that liberate ourselves and others.

–bell hooks

Trapped Indoors: Survivor Interview in the Irish Examiner

15 Feb

prostitution survivor trafficking interview irish examiner sex work feminism women rants

There’s an extremely important interview with a trafficking/prostitution survivor in the Irish Examiner.  So many of my experiences mirror what this eloquent, brave woman describes. Here’s an excerpt

“Under Irish law, the abusive nature of prostitution has been allowed to  flourish unhindered and it is a living hell for the women struggling to survive  within it. It is primarily for the sake of these women, but also for all of us  who want to live in a gender-equal society, that I am gladdened to see the Irish  Government finally pledge to tackle this issue.

“I only hope that they  go the right way about it, which is to criminalise the purchase of sex, because  nothing will change for prostituted women and girls until the commercialisation  of female bodies is dealt the hammer-blow it so richly deserves.

“To  those who would say legalisation would make prostitution safer: I think the same  thing any former prostitute I’ve ever spoken to thinks, which is that you may as  well legalise rape and battery to try to make them safer. You cannot legislate  away the dehumanising, degrading trauma of prostitution, and if you try to, you  are accepting a separate class of women should exist who have no access to the  human rights everyone else takes for granted.”

Read more.

15 Feb

Originally posted on Sex Trafficking Survivors United:

angel k sex industry prostitution feminism sex worker sex positive

Angel K has a great new post up on her blog discussing what what we survivors encounter when we dare to speak out.  Here’s an excerpt:

It’s important to me to give voice to the reality of the extreme violence meted out against women from the sex industry. When I was pimped that was physical. Now it is verbal, but painful nonetheless.
He doesn’t even know you but he hates you and he wants you to die. Too familiar to me, a scenario acted out daily with brutality against the prostituted. The fact that you continue to survive, that you continue to have some spirit, is a personal insult to these people. It enrages them.
Articulate? No. Well informed judgment? Maybe not. Verbal abuse and aggression to the extreme.
And me? Should I…

View original 47 more words

Looking for Unicorns: The Search for the “Happy Hooker” & the “Good Punter/John”

12 Feb

The brilliant Rebecca Mott’s clear, piercing voice feels like an oracle for prostituted women.  She has a new post up on her blog called “Looking for Unicorns” which takes on the ridiculousness of two ciphers the sex industry uses constantly in its attempt to silent survivors:  the “good punter (John/customer) “and the “happy hooker.”  Here’s an excerpt:

Looking for the unicorn of the good punter is not just wrong, it is also endangering for the prostituted.

If all you care about is finding that good punter – then you can live with ignoring the extreme violence and hate that nearly every single man who make the choice to buy the prostituted puts into her.

You will abandoned the prostituted, or they get in the way of your rose-tainted scenery. For that I will damned you to hell.

One myth of the good punter is the concept that punters will say (report) and even stop if there are prostituted women in danger, if he sees a prostituted woman may be trafficked, that the prostitute is under-aged, that the prostitution is run by crooks.

This is utter bullshit – but it is nice to believe such rubbish.

Punters know and don’t care that all those types of prostitutes are easy to access. Most punters see and hear the prostitutes being beaten, raped and mentally tortured – even if he make the choice to be “gentle”, he is in the environment where he has full permission to be sadistic.

I hate to burst your balloon – but if punters do report abuse or trafficking, it is usually to save his own skin in fear of being arrested or having his name known. He would have fucked the prostitute before he chooses to report it – he gets his money worth.

There is no such thing as the good punter – for if a man has “good” in him he would not even think to buy a prostitute for his selfish sexual wants.

Read more of Rebecca’s post here

How a Holocaust Survivor Can Help Prostitution Survivors

11 Feb
The amazing Primo Levi

My Hero

Primo Levi is amazing.  Many trafficking/prostitution survivors I know read him again and again.  We need him and somehow we find our way to him.

Primo (he will always be ‘first’ to me) has been necessary for my intellectual survival.  I’m not drawing any direct parallels between the concentration camp and what I experienced in prostitution (though in many ways it was an underground Gulag), but Primo defines the denial of evil and how evil molds and changes the people it preys upon better than anyone I’ve ever read.

I’m so thankful to him, for his amazing clarity, honesty and courage, for having the guts to write the truth, when it wasn’t what people wanted to hear.  For going beyond his outrage, pain, despair, to examine like the scientist he was what happens to people  when they’re subjected to unfathomable violence, fear, loss and pain.

From the Drowned and the Saved:

“The well-known euphemisms (‘final solution,’ ‘special treatment,’ the very term Einsatzkommando literally ‘prompt-employment unit, disguised a frightful reality) were used not only to deceive the victims and prevent a defensive reaction on their part, they were also meant, within the limits of the possible, to prevent public opinion, and those sections of the army not directly involved, from finding out what was happening in all the territories occupied by the Third Reich.” “The entire history of the brief “millennial Reich” can be read as a war against memory, an Orwellian falsification of memory, falsification of reality, negation of reality.

All Hitler’s biographers … agree on the flight from reality which marked his last years, especially beginning with the first Russian winter. He had forbidden and denied his subjects any access to the truth, contaminating their morality and their memory; but, to a degree which gradually increased, attaining complete paranoia in the Bunker, he barred the path of truth to himself as well. Like all gamblers, he erected around himself a stage set of superstitious lies and in which he ended up believing with the same fanatical faith that he demanded from every German. His collapse was not only a salvation for mankind but also a demonstration of the price to be paid when one dismembers the truth.”

The falsification Levi describes above reminds me a lot of the many lies and euphemisms society and the sex industry use to hide the degradation and violence of prostitution.  These untruths dehumanize the prostituted class.