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.

12 Responses to “Terrible Beauty: Prostitution & the Inadequacy of Language”

  1. Alexis February 23, 2012 at 8:50 am #

    I absolutely LOVE the idea of “rebirth” that you mentioned – the possibility of something beautiful emerging from the pain and harshness we experienced. This is so true.

    As traumatic and horrifying as it was, it does make us more compassionate and able to offer something beautiful to the world because of our unique insight and experience.

    I love that God is a God of restoration, and he says, “I AM MAKING EVERYTHING NEW!” (Rev 21:5)

    • stellamarr February 23, 2012 at 10:25 am #

      You inspire me so much, sister. Loads of love always, xoxo

  2. Brendan March 24, 2012 at 11:33 am #

    Wow, what a powerful story you’ve shared with the world.

  3. howanxious April 19, 2012 at 1:31 am #

    I never knew any of it just because of my sheer ignorance. But I know everyone deserves various chances in life to start their life a new- “reborn” and do what they consider right.

    • Julie M. Daniels June 5, 2012 at 12:56 pm #

      What Survivor Angel K’s writing so perfectly and unapologetically
      describes is Complex PTSD. It seems perfectly obvious to me that
      sex workers suffer from Complex PTSD, and it is a travesty of
      discrimination, sexism and classism for Sex Workers to be excluded
      from diagnosis and, therefore, treatment. Complex PTSD results from
      multiple, ongoing trauma- i.e., repeated rape and threat of life. This is
      the daily reality of the sexworker, the soldier, so many children in this
      obese, narcissistic country of ours. Survivor Angel K’s writing described
      far, far too many of my years. But, there is hope…speaking out is a brave,
      brave step. My power to you both. Keep on keeping on.

  4. raven's witch August 4, 2012 at 2:12 pm #

    Reblogged this on Raven's Witch and commented:
    so many great articles but i don’t want to reblog her whole bog :-)

  5. Vivien E. Zazzau November 30, 2012 at 11:24 am #

    I, too, have been mightily inspired and buoyed by Nelson Mandela in my own life. Thank you. Well done.

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