Recovery from Sex Industry?(71 Posts)
I was advised by a couple of people on a thread I had in Relationships section a while back to perhaps come on here, so here I am!
I have always had some sort of (rudimentary) feminist principles - I remember even when I was a child family members would comment on it! I have read Living Dolls, the Beauty Myth, and Female Chauvinist Pigs, although I do have mixed up not-quite-formed opinions. I have looked at Object, UKFeminista and also read A LOT of varied literature on the sex industry because I was a prostitute for 4 years and exited last year in 2010.
I have a job now in the "real world" and am a single parent to my 2 children, but I'm still trying to recover from my experiences and view of the world from the sex industry. I sometimes feel ashamed, can't look people in the eye, fear bumping into a previous punter, have nightmares and flashbacks as a result of violence which happened to me regularly - even in the indoor side of the industry - the violence only got a chance to actually properly injure me when I worked alone inside (the first half of my 'time') but still punters would regularly try violence even when there was security on the premises (the second half of my 'time'). I feel much more 'alive' now, however sometimes I feel detached and totally dissociated especially in large crowds. I have a skewed view of males which I am really trying hard to overcome (the idea of the thread in relationships) and have had one short-lived relationship with a man since I left the industry - he was not perfect, but certainly showed no big red flags (I'm well trained to spot them as I had to before for my survival). The relationship was marred by me having extreme 'freezing' and flashbacks and numbness during any kind of intimacy or sex, and extreme outbursts of anger from me afterwards. He was very understanding, but I feel I still need more time to rediscover my own sexuality.
A few things which I have found myself becoming interested in since are -
Objectification and sexualization of women and even children
Obviously the sex industry itself, particularly the elements of control which I know to be true in the industry (ie the men who buy sex are MOSTLY ALWAYS better off economically in the first place than the women whose bodies they buy and the vast majority enjoy the control and choice that permits - I know it, seen it first hand). Also, I know for a fact that the industry is changing and it is now very hard to get clients to agree to a condom for oral sex. 95% of workers - my educated estimate- now do Oral Without a Condom. And 'services' like come in mouth etc are becoming more and more 'expected' too. A large number of these punters have an unknowing partner whom they may very well pass on these infections to. I used to be so angry that I was expected to risk my own health in a big way so someone else could get maximum pleasure. Haggling over the price of a woman's body, rape, assault and requests for young teenagers were sadly quite common.
Porn, and it's effects on people's sexuality in general.
Employment rights - Although i had some support in finding a job it was EXTREMELY hard for me to find employment to fit around my responsibilities for the children, and took me a long time of applying for everything going. Women simply do not get the same opportunities as men because they are deemed to be responsible for not half of, but ALL of childcare and often housework too. I can only work 9-5 so that limits jobs I can take and advancements I could make, career-wise. I could live frugally on minimum wage full time work (I am very very NMW is in existence!) if I had no children, but if I had no other financial help like tax credits and CB I would not be able to feed my children.
Beauty and Cosmetic Surgery Industries - Whilst I do actually wear make up as I am self-concious of my eyes and acne scarring, and I actually prefer dresses and comfy wedge heels because it's easier dressing and also I am 5ft and like to reach things , I really feel my heart sink when a colleague goes to get botox in our lunch hour, takes me along with her to wait, and the staff offer me botox and fillers there and then (I'm 24!!!!) and also a tummy tuck when I mention I have kids! There are posters on the wall reading "Who wants to look their age?" showing a worried looking woman clutching her face and numerous newspaper and magazine clippings of 'success' stories.
Anyway, that was an extremely long introduction! >sorry!<
Basically I'm just looking to maybe (tentatively) join in, and if anyone has any other tips or resources on healing from the sex industry I'd welcome them.
I feel so angry that prostitution (especially stripping and 'high-end escorting', and porn) are being billed as "harmless" "empowering" and "fun". When every single woman I knew in the sex industry who remained longer than a few weeks (bar none, and I knew a LOT) had a history of either substance abuse, big childhood family issues coming from a very painful upbringing (me) , child sex abuse, or a mixture of all 3! I swear, every single one. I know that's just anecdotal evidence, but I did know a lot of sex workers personally. I cannot believe it is taking me so long to recover, I feel like I should be "over it" and living life to the full by now, but I'm not. I'm left with nightmares, panic attacks, feelings of worthlessness etc 18 months on, and the guilt that I feel I sort of 'brought it on myself' because I became entrenched stayed far longer after the initial extreme financial dire straits and debts which made me start were cleared.
Anyhow, must be longest thread in history x better go now x
Hello alias, it's good to see you here
Have you read Rebecca Mott's blog?
Thanks I haven't read it all, but I have read large chunks and all the recent entries. I think she is a very brave and strong woman to keep fighting the lies perpetrated whilst she still battles with her own problems. I think most women who get out just tend to disappear and not want anything to do with remembering (although that's OK and valid too I'd say, to want to get away from it altogether) I'm still trying to forge an identity of sorts because I started prostitution at 18 and whatever identity I had of myself was eaten up gradually til I was like a walking zombie. I'm very glad RMott is providing an antidote to all the "happy hooker" books and articles out there.
Hello. It's nice to have you here.
I am so sorry to read your story. I don't have anything helpful to say except that I'm glad you're out of it as it sounds awful. The only thing that did strike me is that you say you're feeling bad because you're not 'over it' yet, but it's been such a short time - I think it is healthy you are still very much thinking about it and feeling it all, because you deserve to get the best possible recovery and that takes time. You deserve to take your time.
I don't believe for one moment you 'brought it on yourself' either.
Hope you are feeling better perhaps for writing it all down - take care of yourself.
Hi op, I was also thinking of Rebecca Mott for a wider contextualisation.
Also thinking of you, have you had any counselling? 18 months seems to me a really short amount of time to 'get over it'. And to try and do so without any help. I recognise some of your reactions to things myself, and that is from something that happened years and years ago.
And you did not bring it on yourself or have anything to be ashamed of.
Welcome and hope you find something to help.
There's this blog too.
You have nothing to be ashamed of and if I have any words of advice it's to be kinder to yourself with regard to your recovery process. I understand that for obvious reasons that you'd like to be 'over it' by now but (boring and frustrating but true) it takes time and the journey won't be made easier buy you being hard on yourself for not moving faster.
Hope you stick around and find the help you're looking for.
I want to say a big hello and send you lots of love and hugs.
You are suffering from PTSD and 18 months is not long at all to get over 4 years of sexual abuse. Its also even worse to feel not believed when you have been through so much suffering, but unfortunately, because male sexual entitlement at the expense of women is so tightly woven in to the status quo, the whole of mainstream culture will be at odds with your personal experience.
On the intimacy front I think you should really lower your expectations of what you are able to do right now, to make sure you are in complete control of all physical contact you have with men for the rest of your life(which is your birth right).
HiAlias just wanted to hop on and say hi! I remember the other thread, its excellent that you are here now because some posters are a wealth of information so I'm signing up for this to get an education too!
Some people on your last thread were beyond contempt by the way so I really hope people who choose to post here have manners and courtesy.
Message withdrawn at poster's request.
Good to see you, alias, hope you're doing OK. Agree with others, counselling will help. Give yourself as much time and space as you need.
hi alias - good to see you here. what area are you in? There are agencies and projects who offer support to women who have exited. It is no easy thing t do and i am really glad you are asking for support.
Thanks LRD , I know that is not a helpful attitude to take, that I should be over it, but I'm sort of frustrated that I'm not really, although I do feel much safer.
AlwaysWild I did have counselling from the local Sex Work project, but I understand that the funding is low and there are (unsurprisingly) new cases through the doors or referred by Social Work, NHS etc, suffering from the aftereffects of an industry which seems to churn out women, use them up, and replace them with fresh meat. The counselling is limited to 12 sessions, which did help a bit but probably not long enough to make a difference. he counsellor did mention PTSD. MY GP has 8 free sessions available, so may try that.
Thanks for that link Josephine I will take a look
FoodUnit I think that's right - I think some men have become used to, and feel entitled to, sex on tap - from always happy, always sexy and made-up, and above all always willing and ego-stroking women of their choosing. I feel guilty a bit that I did play that part for a living and help to fuel that culture. The punters don't feel used and guilty (except maybe the odd first-timer who afterwards is ashamed and chalks it up to "misadventure"), but the prostitutes carry all the shame and pain, sadly.
Thanks Pam I'm sort of used to the attitudes of the few on the other thread as I encountered them every day when I was involved in the prostitution.
Thanks Julia and Weeonion x From your name , Weeonion I think I may be near you - I'm in Scotland.
ButterflyEffect The counselling I had was person-centred although she did mention long-term PTSD from the sex work and also from previous events when I was a young teenager. Thanks, I will go to GP and ask about Cognitive Therapy. From what I can gather, in this area there are huge wait lists, but might as well get my name down x
I feel guilty a bit that I did play that part for a living and help to fuel that culture.
Please don't feel guilty. You bore the brunt of that culture.
I think it is important to remember that when you have been damaged by things that were beyond your control (such as a chaotic upbringing) you will behave in damaged ways. Just as the damaging things you had no control over are not your fault, neither are the things you went on to do as a consequence (such as entering prostitution) - you simply would not have ended up there if it hadn't been for those things you had no control over.
The whole sex industry relies on the ongoing damage and consequent vulnerability of further women and girls in order satisfy the ongoing demand for punters to abuse and pimps to exploit them- like some ghastly combine harvester.
In that sense, anyone who gets off on porn or prostitution are benefiting from the 'priming damage' done to girls and women.
I hope it doesn't come across that I'm 'labelling' some people as damaged, but I think it is important to recognise where we have been hurt in ways that alter us, in order that we don't spiral into endless, circular self-blame.
alias - you're right on that! i am indeed in scotland. x
alias I just saw this on another thread and thought you may be interested in it, maybe you are not but here it is anyway Reclaim
Thanks I am looking at it now x Never been on any kind of march before
alias - FoodUnit is spot on about guilt feelings.
Remember this, though, also: many (if not most) people who are earning money are fuelling some kind of damaging lie: retailers selling goods made by child labourers, secondary school teachers channelling youg people towards useless university degrees, GPs in the pay of big pharma - and don't get me started on politicians, bankers, etc. (and I fully expect to get flamed for having said that, but I stand by it).
What you went through was terrible for you, and because sex work is attacked from all sides: from punters to feminists, you're made to feel as if you are somehow to blame, and as if you have more to feel shitty about than other people do. But you don't. It's just that it's easier for people with more 'regular' backgrounds to close their eyes to the reality of the effects of what they do do survive.
I understand that, but their work is not so personal I guess.
What makes me most angry is that prostitutes are not treated with any kind of decency or respect by the majority of punters. There may be a 'veneer' of it, but it's never far from the surface their contempt if we didn't do exactly what they wanted.
I was stalked by a 'regular' which was a terrifying experience. He caused me all sorts of problems without giving a hoot about what he was putting me through. He wanted to see me and I refused to see him as he was getting too obsessive. Thought I'd nipped it in the bud. In the end police were involved. He was the picture of charming until I stopped seeing him. There were many other incidents regularly but this was the worst. I have a friend who still works - I know some people say I should cut everyone off from that life but I can't. She was a victim of sexual abuse as a child (common in sex industry), has no fixed home she lives in hotels (also common), and is currently being stalked by a punter who has sent her vile emails calling her all sorts of abusive names, using her real full name which she has never given out and is a HIGHLY unusual name (he says he got an IT friend to find her). He is telling her she will have to get out of town as he has great influence and will "ruin" her. . He has been reported to the police via sex work project (I went along with her) but not heard anything yet.
You get guys trying to rob you all the time or steal back your fee.
Often punters try to pull off condoms when they think you are not looking and I was raped (ie they forced sex without protection) a good few times and had to go for testing after each one feeling horribly dirty.
Weekly or even more you get guys coming in and trying to touch you before they pay then say decisively "no, you are too old" or "too fat love" or whatever.
Daily on the phone you get insults.
You get 'reviewed' on disgusting sites which openly condone rape and violence towards women, and are chock-full of terms like "fat illiterate slag" "another know-it-all hooker" "a quick cheap, try before you buy shag" "I wouldn't if IT paid me" "send them to prison and cut their ovaries out" "Only the bad ones stink. The good ones serve a purpose as cum receptacles"
You would think these things are posted by teenagers in jest - but no ladies and gents - grown men being absolutely serious. Bragging about desperation saying "poverty is good for prostitution". This being the second most common punting site in UK. I'd make it my life's work to shut these sites down,but I fear I'd get drowned in negativity. I'd surely try though. My friend cries every day because of a bad "review" she had written about her on there.
You get hardly any work unless you agree to offer Oral Without and Cum-in-mouth therefore actually risking disease to earn any money. So they can get better pleasure. It's even worse if someone clearly has an addiction - a lot of the women I worked with did and the punters would smell the desperation and call their bluff saying they wouldn't stay and pay without everything being unprotected.
It's no 'ordinary job' like any other. x
I hear you op. And agree. Other jobs are not comparable.
Sorry - that was bit of rant! .
I feel myself calmer when I don't think about any of this stuff. But it must be a PTSD trait - I get tired of reliving things over and over in my mind. It's like my mind is a broken record stuck on "repeat" and lots of stuff comes into my head uninvited no matter how much I say I won't let it. grr. It doesn't help when I'm still in contact with a few women I used to work with, who are still trapped by money, the past, or feeling worthless. I remember feeling that, and still do now,so I can't just cut ties. That would feel like the wrong thing to do.
Bad day today. Have ear infection and gum infection resulting in 5 different medications from GP - 2 types antibiotics making me have cramps and nausea, spray, vile mouthwash, something called phenidrine (think decongestant). Not a good combo for the stomach lining! Eldest DD want-want-wanting with huge lists for Christmas she has copied from friends and I can't get her most of it now and feeling guilty for that too. - but I think to myself - at least her mummy will be mentally much happier and not being damaged anymore and stronger mentally to look after her and have fun with her. When I first left prostitution, even a cuddle from the kids triggered me - I wanted so much to hug them and feel something good again, but couldn't bear to be touched at all. Obviously that is a terrible thing for a mother to think, I never let on to them and did cuddle anyway, but after a few months I became fine with cuddles from people I know . So I must have come some way at least!
You don't need to apologise for anything. Rant away
I'm lacking anything useful to say but you've nothing to apologise for.
Alias your posts just brought a tear to my eye. I am so glad you can cuddle your kids again without being reminded. I never even thought about that side of the damage to the ability to be intimate being caused by sex industry
I've seen the hideous review sites. They are absolute pits of misogyny. Even the 'official' reviews on actual agencies are absolutely repugnant - a load of whining, self-important, deluded self-defined 'nice-guys'.
Its so heartening to hear you're healing as a mum!
I am so so impressed by your strength. Your story has me close to tears tonight. I wish you all the luck in the world and I seriously think your children are lucky to have such an amazing mother.
Your writing is strong, clear and passionate. And heartbreaking. I have absolutely no idea where to start with all this but want you to know you are not alone. You will find your way, you can't fail to. Have a massive FeMNisty hug from me x
If you ever feel strong enough, and it is what you'd want to do, your testimony would be powerful in helping to smash the myths about the sex industry.
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