‘The psychological damage & impact on my self esteem was devastating’

We received these #MeToo stories of the sex trade through our Share Your Story feature. This provides a space for women to tell their stories in their own words.

“They’ve even managed to get me to think that because I found prostitution and pornography traumatic that I was just one of the ones who ‘weren’t cut out for it,’ or was lacking in character and resilience somehow. I hate this so much.”

The wife

I had been in three physically or emotionally abusive relationships before I met and fell in love with the most amazing man. He was a gentleman, loved my family, my children, he treated me like a queen. We travelled together, he was home every night, didn’t play games, made a commitment and kept to it – or so I thought. When I thought it was too good to be true, my friends and family said I felt that way because of my past, they loved him, my children adored him and he adored them.

Everything was great except we weren’t having very much sex. When I queried it he said it was because of his diabetes and I had a higher sex drive than him.

He asked me to marry him and I said yes.

Two years into our relationship I found out that he had been paying for sex with strangers.

At first he said – “It was just a couple of times after my divorce.” (His wife had left him for another woman.) So I thought, “OK, I get that, it’s not about me and it was before he met me”. He promised that it was over long before I met him.

Then it came out that it had happened once or twice after he met me but once he realised he loved me it had stopped. He even convinced me that I should seek help as I was unable to trust him.

Then I found out that it had been going on for seven years, during his marriage and not just every now and again but at least once a week. He was also masturbating almost daily to porn.

He was a sex addict and he was stimulated by variety and illicit encounters.

The psychological damage and impact on my self esteem as a woman was devastating.

I started researching the industry and it was even more devastating to know that he had so little regard for women, that it never even occurred to him that what he was doing was abuse – to the working girls as well as to me his partner.

I also found out that at least 50% of his acquaintances and friends are actively paying for sex.

Misogyny is a systemic problem in the world, many men absolutely believe that they have the right.

He would say things like “they make so much money” or “ don’t forget the gifts they get” or “it was consensual” and I think to myself – Oh my God, you are so self absorbed in your own needs.

The mental and physical devastation of prostitution on women on both sides of the story is unacceptable.

The activist

I’ve only just discovered your website. Thank you so much for what you’re doing. I’m a former prostitute but I can’t really even get away with liking your page because I’m involved in social activism and pretty much everyone around me is immersed in liberal feminism and will drop me as a ‘swerf’ if they get the idea I oppose the industry.

I’m thinking about adopting an alternative online persona to talk about this stuff. I run a couple of online spaces related to feminism but even my own spaces are pretty much full of liberal feminists.

I’m trying to figure out a strategic approach to changing minds on this using what little platform I have but it’s so tricky. I’ve talked about my own experiences a couple of times and been accused of being a ‘moral purist’ and being responsible for driving violence against women somehow. It’s disgusting the way people who claim to support sex workers will treat former prostitutes.

They’ve even managed to get me to think that because I found prostitution and pornography traumatic that I was just one of the ones who ‘weren’t cut out for it,’ or was lacking in character and resilience somehow. I hate this so much.

I’ve binged on the articles on your website in the last couple of hours and I feel less crazy now. Thank you so much and please don’t ever be discouraged!

She So Brave

I was born into incest – how horrible to be mauled and molested from the very earliest memory. My small body licked and rubbed while I was groomed for oral sex/intercourse. How my small mouth choked on that big penis – hair held so I could not escape – choking – crying – breathing if I could. Told I’d be killed if I talked. Then as I was such a sexualized child – stranger danger men started finding me – I didn’t know up from down. They gave me money to bring home – cum in my hair – crying – no one asked what was wrong.

The elephant had lived in my house much too long. So I started to be told whose house to go ‘visit.’ Bringing back considerable money – no one questioned the money. I was told to ask for that money. I was told and I believe my parents knew quite well and enjoyed the perks that came with trafficking me out. I was sexually assaulted at least 50 times before age 10.

Then moving into teens I was raped/beaten/stalked. You cannot imagine how bullied I became from ordinary folks. They called me tramp/slut/weird. I could not find a safe place anywhere.

I married young and had children before I even knew what I was doing. My husband was very cruel and beat me – raped me – taunted me about my past. I left him and asked the government for help. They took my children from me – even though I had a police file and documents to show I needed counselling and home support. I think they would take ‘this’ woman’s children again even today – rather than surround her with support and help her figure out a healthy chance at life.

They tried to adopt my children out – I managed to stop that process but was punished for that and given such small access time that I felt like a criminal. They moved my children over 18 times in their ‘care’ and in the process my children were sexually molested as well. I became a drug addict after I lost court – six years of heroin and crack cocaine.

I have 15 years clear now of drugs – I still struggle so much – I am different than others – I have no answer to family origins – I moved so many times, I know no one from childhood.

I live in a rape culture – we slap wrists of violent offenders – we harass those who speak out – I think of my inner child – Her strength to survive such horrors at every age and to keep going.

Writing helped me so much – I’d journal so it was safe somewhere – names/dates/places etc. I read a book a day – every day. If I didn’t read – I cried. I was unmercifully teased for crying so much. I left school in Grade 7, never to return.

I am 57 now – still struggling – still isolated – I work to lift my neighbourhood – build a foundation for my adult struggling children/for my community. I think of suicide almost every day. I wish for peace and to find balance but the world is still so shhh about rape and childhood sexual assault. So many say, ‘I must have done something really bad in my last life to deserve this.’ No matter how we slice it, victim blaming is most common. Even among women – so little support.

I feel we need global laws and global education on preventing childhood sexual abuse/trafficking. I hear it is on the rise! 57 now – a life of struggle/poverty/social isolation. I work hard to find friends and communicate but find so few who relate.

Anyway – Just wanted to add my 2 cents to the file. Real truths matter. Time for authentic is NOW! I really thought – so naive I now see that people would lift and support and welcome me if only they knew what hell I endured to get ‘here’ but tumbleweeds drift by and not a soul cares. Move on – forget – live in the now they tell me. If only it was that easy. I wish it was all that easy!

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 anonymously, we’d love to hear from you.

2 thoughts on “‘The psychological damage & impact on my self esteem was devastating’

  1. To “The Activist”,

    I can relate so much. I’m a prostitute who hasn’t gotten out of the business yet, due to my financial problems and my mental health issues, which have put me into prostitution in the first place, since I was underage (I am in my mid-30s now). My plan is to get out in a few years if I can, when I have saved up enough for the rest of my life. I lack emotional support, and I’d need it the most now. The society failed to help me out, so I can’t get out yet. I tried all I could. Went to the doctors, the welfare, got disability for a couple of months, then back to prostitution again. Most of my clients would never even guess how trapped I am in this, I’ve been able to put on the great act for them, mostly. Not always though. Sometimes I just lose it and lash out on them. I really try not to. To keep my business, my basic income. To survive.

    I have to hide most of my true emotions whenever I talk to other prostitutes – I mean the ones that actually (as they claim) chose this job out of many options, because they love it. The ones that had an actual choice, as they say. The ones not being fully dependent on the sex industry just for that basic income. I’m in this for survival, they don’t understand it at all. The ones that were never addicts, didn’t have crippling mental health issues, and those that were adults when they decided to start in prostitution. Or at least this is what they’ve told me (I try to believe them, but I’d like them to listen to my voice too!) And they have put me down in similar manner as you said:
    “They’ve even managed to get me to think that because I found prostitution and pornography traumatic that I was just one of the ones who ‘weren’t cut out for it,’ or was lacking in character and resilience somehow. I hate this so much.”
    This sounds painfully familiar!

    If they chose it, if they really love it, then sure I’m happy for them. If it is genuine, that’s great for them. But they should know they are the privileged and loud minority. Prostitutes like us are silenced and humiliated by them, they want to sweep us under the rug so we couldn’t ruin the great fantasy they are marketing to the clientele. What I would ask them: “If this was not your ‘free choice’, but one that you had to make when you had no other options, would you still feel like you’re the better, the stronger, the more resilient one? Would you still be immune to trauma and PTSD? Would you still feel like you are very well suited for prostitution, better than those you see as weaklings? If this was all just ‘survival sex’ for you, without any other actual choices, would you still feel empowered by it, and not violated at all? Not broken? Are you a robot?”

    There seems to be a huge difference between me and them, if it’s really true that they can choose what they do and when they do it, and the clients they work for, and for what rates, everything. Really. If they can quit anytime, if they can refuse to take any and all clients that they don’t want see, then we live in different worlds. I can’t do all that, or only rarely I have that power. Clients have the power, because I’m dependent on their money. And the more privileged prostitutes belittle me for it. I’m weak, I’m miserable, I’m trash. I should quit and get another job. But that’s the problem, I can’t, practically. They are the ones who can, if what they say is true. It’s like we live in two different realities, and I wish they’d wake up and stop looking down on the less privileged prostitutes. As much as I hate to say it, it’s just true in my situation – the way out is not easy for me in my situation. The way in was not a ‘free choice’ either.

    The sex industry is oppression. I see it as work too, sure, that’s how I survive financially, so it is work to me. But it is very oppressive and dehumanizing work.

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