This is another selection of the #MeToo stories of the sex trade that we’ve received through our Share Your Story page. Profound thanks to everyone who has shared their story. Every single one is powerful, moving and courageous, and shines a much-needed light on what the sex trade is really like.
“I was prostituted not by choice, but by circumstance. It is the men who have the choice, and since money is power, the men have the power. They act like we women suddenly decide to solicit sex to men, and as if we have the power of sex, when the payment is really a bribe to pay us for being hurt. They think women withhold sex and owe them sex in order to justify their use of force to take it with violence, blackmail/persistence, drugs/alcohol, and money.” – Cammy
I have been supporting women involved in the sex industry for some years now and it’s so isolating to know the truth about the real experiences of the women in a society where the neoliberal pro-sex work agenda dominates.
There is so much suffering which people don’t want to see because it suits their narrative that women ‘choose’ their situation and it takes the spotlight off those who drive demand. The women have almost always had significant trauma, and are being controlled or forced into prostitution by pimps or poverty. And even if they didn’t get forced into it, it becomes almost impossible to get out due to so so many barriers including immigration, debt, substance use, homelessness, fear, incredibly low self esteem, mental health issues, the list could go on and on and on…
And not only are the women involved in prostitution affected. It affects all women when some of our sisters are being bought, gang raped and filmed for the Internet, beaten by punters who want more for their money etc etc..
When meeting women in so called red light districts in my work I feel unsafe and have had derogatory comments made to me etc in broad daylight, as that is the culture and attitude to women in those areas. And so many of the men we share our communities with are consuming porn, filmed prostitution, all the time inevitably having an impact on how we are treated in society.
Having been raised in a household where my label was slag, slut, whore, prostitute by my older brother and my mother’s husband it now makes sense to me why I became a sex worker.
My brother whom I now know displaced his hatred of women onto me would regularly beat me up and use these words to define who I was whilst my mother’s husband sexually abused me. My brother who was older than me I have vague recollections of also sexually abusing me but this is a fragment of my memory.
Sadly, I have not been able to piece the scattered memories together which has left me with little coherent memory for the first 24 years of my life, many of those spent in prostitution. People ask me if I was ever hurt. Sadly, the punters, who you could say were sexually abusing me, most of them treated me fairly well. I never knew that I was beautiful until punters told me although I still did not believe this. How could I, given the names applied to me growing up?
I remember that my mother supported my profession as a sex worker. She even spent a weekend away with her partner and a punter I saw regularly. Play acting happy couples. You’re having a laugh aren’t you? Happy couples. I was dissociated, empty, being sexually abused by older men but it was the only life I knew. No one ever told me that I was intelligent and could achieve anything I put my mind to.
Now 20 years on and I am a successful psychotherapist, mother and educated in spite of leaving school aged 13. Entering the sex industry at the ripe age of 15. Within this sub-culture of villains, pimps and prostitutes my sense of self or empty self went through life alone, in pain and believed I could never belong to the world I now inhabit. Educated people were good. I was bad and dirty and a slag, slut, whore and prostitute. I felt too ashamed to enter the other side….
Entering the other side however is just exactly what I’ve done. My journey of healing has not been an easy one and at times especially as a mother has been and is a struggle. There is still that part of me that at times wants to die but that is shrinking. I have had to leave my past life my family, my friends in the sex industry and create a new life for myself often going it alone. However, I’ve done it and I am proud that I have achieved beyond the unbelievable.
Thank you for reading my story.
No name please
I was 15 and had just started at a public High School in Cleveland [US]. I was targeted early on because I would talk to and befriend black people. A girlfriend wanted me to meet her boyfriend, at a park after school. I tried marijuana with him and his friends although I was surprised at how much older they were (20s).
I was pushed into car and abducted by them, then taken to an inner city apartment, drugged and taken upstairs and raped. I remember one of them saying “She’s too young”, but that didn’t stop him. During the rape I asked him why he was doing this to me. He said “Cause I love you baby”.
Then after he told me that I belonged to him, that I was now a whore, and that he was a pimp. He told me to go and clean myself up. I was bleeding. I had been a virgin. I blacked out in the bathroom screaming. I heard them saying “If she doesn’t shut up we’ll have to get rid of her”. I shut up.
They showed me a gun and said they knew where I lived and would kill my family if I told anyone.
That was the start of me being sold for sex. First I was offered to his “cousins” one after another. My parents never knew that I’d be picked up at school and sold for sex downtown. It was drummed into me that they were protecting me, that I caused the abuse, that I was worthless and a whore forever.
I realised my girlfriend was my “wife-in-law” who had basically recruited me. I became known as a whore at school, Bobby’s “girl”. They called me “Snow White”, cause I was his only white girl.
Bobby was a hardened criminal who was covered with knife scars and had been to jail. One day he cried when he remembered jail, and I had to go to work to get money so he could pay some debt and not go back there.
I don’t remember the rapes aside from the first one; something in me died then. I never had an orgasm or enjoyed it. I didn’t feel sexual at all. I felt dirty and ashamed and like I wanted to die. I couldn’t tell my parents or anyone and one day I took pills to end it. They found that I had had sexual trauma at the hospital but I refused to discuss it with anyone, so it went on.
It didn’t stop until my entire family moved overseas. That saved my life. I have PTSD to this day and spinal injuries due to that time. By some miracle I didn’t get AIDS or diseased. I have managed to have a life despite my mental health challenges.
I blanked out most of this history and it came flooding back to me when a boyfriend started physically abusing me after I had my first child. I couldn’t even believe that these memories were real they were so horrific; often just of random things like blood, wallpaper, pain, confusion, cockroaches. Terrible dissociation and memory issues.
I’m in my 50s now and have had two children, a career, but have always had relationship issues. I’m only at peace with it now, but still on psychiatric medication and constant monitoring. I have tried to kill myself five times in my life.
If I hadn’t moved overseas I’d still be in that life, or dead. That’s the way it goes. I thank god for the good, the love that I have known, and have been an activist and feminist for over 30 years, and a teacher of disadvantaged children. I see terrible things like this happening and can see the signs of abuse that others miss. The withdrawal from life. Please don’t be fooled. No young person goes knowingly into this hideous life. It’s rape and trafficking, not conscious choice, for any of the women I knew. Please make this stop.
I’ve been emotionally abused up through adulthood by my narcissistic mother, who enabled men to hurt me and blamed me for being molested as a child. I ran away 3 times before I was 18 and moved out twice as an adult, the last time for good being over 2 years ago.
Before I moved out, I did webcamming. It was degrading and I had to use DMCA to get non-consensual screenshots taken down from Google. There was also a man I used to be friends and lovers with who used revenge porn on me by sending a topless photo he took of me (without my consent) to 30+ people over email. And it was all because I disagreed with him about prostitution, since he admitted he was a punter and then used the photo to libel me.
In the cam rooms, I witnessed women and girls being trafficked and on drugs. Many of us used drugs or drank to get through sessions.
During this time I also met a man from OkCupid who later admitted he was married, and claimed his wife wasn’t giving him enough sex. While we had sex he stuck his finger into my anus, and kept doing it after I told him to stop. He also hurt me during sex. Afterwards, he gave me money like it was compensation for what he did. It was to make himself feel better. I tried to give it back to him, and he insisted on my keeping it. But since I was lonely and did need the money, I ended up taking it home with me.
Another man was rough with me during sex, and claimed that some women enjoy rough sex. I told him I didn’t, that I wasn’t like them, and if someone liked painful sex (whether giving or receiving) they had issues. He gave me money, too.
The last man who prostituted me gave me drugs and guilt-tripped me. I was prostituted not by choice, but by circumstance. It is the men who have the choice, and since money is power, the men have the power. They act like we women suddenly decide to solicit sex to men, and as if we have the power of sex, when the payment is really a bribe to pay us for being hurt. They think women withhold sex and owe them sex in order to justify their use of force to take it with violence, blackmail/persistence, drugs/alcohol, and money.
I was 2 years old when my grandfather and uncle and their male friends gang raped me. I was 3-4 years old when my grandfather took me to his club and I stood in my first line up. By the time I was 5 I had witnessed people dealing drugs, death, overdose, and a suicide that was filmed and turned into a snuff film. My grandfather died when I was 6 but my uncle carried on his tradition. I detoxed from alcohol when I was 7 and the major violence and trafficking ended when my family moved out of state when I was 10. That was same year my grandmother died and my uncle sanitized the house and put all of my mother’s childhood pictures as well as my cousins and mine on the internet.
I got roped in by woke tumblr happy hooker culture, first into the sugar daddy thing then flat out prostitution. Painful, degrading and scary, but I blocked it all out since I would use the money to further turn against my body with unnecessary surgery.
I was an exotic dancer/stripper between the ages of 19 an 21. I worked at one of seven clubs within a city with a population of barely 100,000; right in the middle of the Bible belt.
My decision to dance came from trauma.
The trauma of a perverted father and sexual abuse, covert and otherwise. The whole family knows how he is, but never have addressed it; I’m the problem. I haven’t seen or spoken to them in over ten years now.
The trauma of a physically and emotionally abusive narcissistic mother. When I decided to work at the strip club, I was 19, and she had kicked me out of the house and refused to speak to me for coming home seven minutes late after my 12 am curfew. I was in college before this but I had to make money to eat and live, the minimum wage jobs available were not cutting it.
To be honest, I was treated so horribly by men, my father, his friends, and male customers from the time I hit puberty that I said: “fuck it.” Standing there at the register in a fast food restaurant as I was being screamed at and called a stupid slut by an old man because I could not explain why his usual order was two cents more that day.
I went to the club to check it out, the only one that was 21 and under that is, and at first, they would not let me in because they thought I was a prostitute there to pick up new customers. Eventually, they decided I was a closeted lesbian because I blushed and let me in.
I started working there and my very first night another old man, greasy with long hair, bought a shower dance from me and tried to convince me to just sit naked on all fours “dancing” as he held his nose in my ass. Claiming another girl lets him do it all the time. Telling me I was not going to last there because I said no and didn’t give him back his money.
The club had a thing called “Showtime” where all the dancers would have to get on stage and walk across it, so the customers could eye us all up and decide which girl they would buy a dance. I mentioned it to a fellow dancer or two then and recently I shared the experience, but it felt like being an animal put up for sale.
Men trying to buy sex in the private dances was common as I came to learn. The dancers knew who would and wouldn’t do tricks and it was never really spoken of unless the girls were fighting or something. The managers turned a blind eye, as they were having sex with them too. The club was regularly raided for prostitution and would switch owners to stay out of too much legal trouble, but it was all the same people just a different name for the club.
One of my former high school teachers would come in regularly and buy dances from the girls that used to attend the school he taught at. He was awful and seemed to enjoy telling stories of him having sex with strangers he met at the casino to make me uncomfortable, weaving in facts about school or his daughter that I knew, like it was nothing unusual. He bought a private dance from me and propositioned me for $20, to “taste me.”
The joke around the club by my manager was that I was a “warm-up girl.” Meaning, the customers would buy lap dances or a private dance or two from me and then buy private dances from another dancer that would do sex work to “finish off.” As I said, it was all known about.
Even the off-duty [cops] said they were off duty but weren’t cops that were meant to be security were awful. One buying a dance and telling me to ignore his uniform and do what I do with other customers, clearly meaning sex. He was also known to bring in women he had arrested to the club (I assume for drugs based off appearances and things he said) and take them to one of the dance rooms and leave 15-20 minutes later with her, no words said. He was married to a beautiful woman too. He was mad that I didn’t turn tricks so he would find ways to pinch me, pop the straps of my underwear and bras to leave welts, as a waitress after I stopped dancing he still did it and would unzip my top on the floor as I carried drinks. He would just laugh and I was flat told there was nothing I can do.
The only time someone got in trouble for asking for tricks was this little old Japanese man who grabbed my arm and demanded sex during his private dance. As sad as it sounds, he was actually tame and I told him no and ended the dance. The same cop overheard me telling the DJ and decided to arrest the man. They never arrested anyone ever, just kicked them out. So, it was obviously because the man was foreign. Later that night the cop told me if I “was ever short on cash I could beat up an illegal Mexican and rob them because they never call the cops.” He wasn’t the only cop that was awful either.
Another man tried to buy me as a mistress. Offered to pay all my bills if I would sleep with him when he was in town on business. He would use Canadian strip clubs as examples to try to pressure me to let him touch me during dances. He only bought couch dances because I did not turn tricks so he was trying to convince me to let him do this to me in front of everyone in the couch dance area which was also open to the club.
I confided in my father about an older man offering me money to sleep with him when he was in town. At that point, I was still naive and speaking with him. He was upset with me and told me I was stupid for not taking the deal. He’s diagnosed with anti-social personality disorder now, which explains so fucking much about him and how evil he is. I have a daughter of my own who will never know him.
I found out that I was working with a girl that used to live in my neighborhood and that I had slumber parties with when I was younger. It took us 6 months to recognize each other because that is how different we looked working. My mother and her aunt, who still lived in the neighborhood, would fight and say dumb shit like “at least mine is a waitress now, yours is a nasty stripper!” or “yours is a whore, mine isn’t.” Stupid and petty shit, as they both pretty much ignored us. My friend told me her aunt had shared what my mom said about me. Lovely. Now that I have some contact with my mom she will still say the same tired lines, trying to put them down. I wasn’t using the word narcissistic to describe her just because it is popular now.
My friend ended up being on the news for being arrested for prostitution and drugs. They do that a lot here. There is a local magazine that posts the “Ladies of Lockup” each week and the especially dramatic stories like her gets extra coverage. She has lost her four kids and lives in a halfway house struggling to stay sober. People in town still talk poorly of her. Small town gossip never dies, especially on sites like Topix.
Topix here is like Backpage in the sense that punters are looking for sex, but they also review, spread rumors, shares who will have unprotected sex, who is on drugs, and who is a “snitch.” A website for the less pleasant aspects of our town.
It has been almost fifteen years since I danced, and males who knew or have found out through knowing me, a majority of them try to proposition me for dances or sex. Literally trying to buy me because even still stripper equals whore and whore equals sex for money.
Men will still fetishize me for being a stripper. Many trying to date or sleep with me because it is like they get something to brag about if they do. I have no name then, it’s just “a stripper.” I have exes that I have caught bragging to their friends about it, again even ten years later, as though it bumps their social standing. Of course, when they are mad at me I am a whore, stupid, dirty, dirty pussy, and the list goes on. I am married and that does not matter to these men at all. Me saying no does not matter. Being offended does not matter to them. And they will never get in trouble for it.
I have even had a former college professor contact me years later on Facebook trying to buy a dance. This man is married to a friend of mine too. They don’t fucking care.
It is like the Madonna/Whore complex on steroids. Because now I am more conservative and have a degree so they say things and act like I am easy, I don’t mind if they speak pervertedly around me, comment about the size of my breasts, or that it is OK to “fake” proposition me for dances. And if I speak up or complain they all deny it as a joke. I have found I cannot really have any male friends because it always comes back around to the same thing, them expecting sex from “the stripper.” The few men I did date would accuse me of being “attention starved with daddy issues” and blamed the harassment on me.
…almost fifteen years later.
They try to make “the stripper” my identity then and they still try now.
Share your story
If you’ve been in the sex trade, or have been affected by it in other less direct ways, and would like to share your story, we’d love to hear from you.