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.
“The hardest ‘adjustment’ for me mentally was that prostitution wasn’t just about providing sex for a man paying you, it was about making them think you’ve orgasmed too and you really want to have sex with them for horny reasons, not cash reasons.”
I was 17 when I ‘chose’ to get a job at a what they called a massage parlour but what was in reality a known brothel.
I had issues from being sexually abused as a child so I had low/no boundaries regarding my body, low confidence and few friends.
I started frequenting bars/clubs etc. aged 16 and would go home with guys, and was used as a, how would you say, a bit like a blow up doll, for one purpose only. I never had any sexual pleasure from my encounters. I just got a confidence boost of a sort, and liked the excitement. I wanted these guys to like me, to call me, to love me, really. But that never happened. I acted like the party girl but was quite broken.
I basically ended up thinking I might as well get paid for this (having sex with strangers).
At the brothel men were generally nice to me, kind, some would hurt accidently but that’s just sex for you.
I was quite surprised when I quickly realised the clients actually expect you to orgasm, or at least give a good enough impression of it. I truly thought the men would see it as a transaction, that they would realise your ‘heart’ wasn’t in it, but you’d do the job, you’d have sex with them and that would be enough. But they actually expect you to be overcome with passion and desire for them! They’ll give you oral for like 10 minutes and stay there until you fake it, even though they know you’ve just been with a different man 5 minutes before them!
The hardest ‘adjustment’ for me mentally was that prostitution wasn’t just about providing sex for a man paying you, it was about making them think you’ve orgasmed too and you really want to have sex with them for horny reasons, not cash reasons.
There was a client who asked to do it without a condom. There was only one. I’d only been there a few months, but he decided to pressure me into removing the condom.
Anyway I did it for a while, came out basically unscathed but it’s an experience I will never be able to put behind me completely. I was involved in the 90s. Before the porn epidemic. I dread to think what young girls are expected to do now.
I am a passionate supporter of the Nordic Model, because I think men really need to check themselves, think twice, when they’re putting their orgasms before the wellbeing of women and girls. I am now involved in feminism and have a loving family around me, children of my own who will never know about this, but so many women who enter prostitution will not be so lucky.
The most memorable experience that stands out for me, involved a man in his (at least) 80s. He had crosses all around his house. He openly admitted his family were church members. Every part of visiting his home was memorable for the wrong reasons.
He opened the door in blood circulation socks and slippers. He looked like a more overweight version of my late grandad. I instantly felt uncomfortable but my job was to ‘act’ like I was OK.
This man didn’t want penetrative sex. His intentions were different. He told me he used to be a doctor and asked if I was open minded. Wanting to please my customer, I of course said yes. What came next will stay with me for life.
He sat me down at his computer, he and I both naked, and through the hour the pornography we watched got more and more paedophilic in nature and that’s when he asked me, “Do you like watching children have sex?”
Before I could answer, he went on to tell me his deepest fantasies and how he believed that children enjoyed their abuse. He then asked me to pretend to be a child.
He could tell I was uncomfortable so he asked me about my own child… He said he could tell from my breasts that I had breastfed (I wasn’t sure whether or not to be offended). At this, I left the property, luckily his hour was coming to a close anyway. I got into my pimp’s car and informed him of the visit and he laughed and took his half of the money.
Fearful of my position as the prostitute, it took me two days to report this man to the police. I asked to remain anonymous, I couldn’t tell you what happened next. The realities of prostitution means that you can become a part of situations whereby you meet men who willingly admit to accessing and distributing child pornography. The reality of prostitution is that you are used to ignite, legitimise and encourage paedophilic behaviour.
This was a long time ago in Canada. In our family we were four girls from an upper tier of the middle class. It was the 1990s and most of the parents we knew were drunk and getting divorced. All the younger people we knew were taking drugs. It was cool to be a party girl.
Two of my sisters got involved in that world. My older sister, K, was just a libertine. She did everything and it seemed like nothing affected her. She had a motorcycle. She went to parties. She slept with boys.
But my younger sister, let’s call her Melissa, who was in her mid teens, showed signs of stress. She started changing in ways that worried me. She was moody and wouldn’t talk to me. She dropped out of school. She kept pushing me away. She had this funny very cynical attitude to everything — laughing wryly and telling everyone to f-off. Her face was always smiling, but not in the usual way. It was a smile meant to deflect. Her real emotions were inaccessible.
One day, I noticed she was cutting herself. A row of cuts like a railroad track on her wrists. I was a kid too, though older, so I took Melissa aside and told her that with suicide, once you die, it’s the other people who suffer, because the dead person is dead. I wanted her to know that she was causing pain, that we would miss her if she died. She didn’t respond well to that.
Since my parents were getting divorced, I was meeting occasionally with my dad in restaurants. He had had a problem with alcoholism, but was recently sober. He would ask about how we all were. It was in that context that I told him about Melissa who was distant and troubled. He said to invite her to brunch the next day. And that’s how she ended up in detox.
Through counselling it came out that she had been molested. It also turned out that her high school friend’s father was selling drugs out of his home. Melissa said she was taking handfuls of pills. She didn’t even know which ones they were. She said she couldn’t pay for them so Jane’s father told her she could offer her body to strange men who he would invite over. She’s now long past all of that. She has a happy life. I’m very glad she got out.
At the time, there were many girls all around with similar problems. Quite a few of them committed suicide. The thing that’s amazing to me now is that any man would buy a teen, especially one who seemed so mixed up. It could only be that they didn’t really see her as a person.
Since then I have also been propositioned by men. When I turned down one tech guy (I barely knew him, he was 35, I was 18), he suggested that he could pay me to have sex with him – as though I would ever do that. I mean it’s not like we really knew each other, or he’d even asked me out. It was as though actually knowing me was irrelevant. I was just a vessel.
Then there were the many times when I was walking that men drove by offering ‘a ride.’ I didn’t realize, at first, that they were trying to buy me for sex. I was just looking normal. I didn’t wear makeup. I always wore pants. In fact, it took a long time to figure it out. It was a different approach than the men who yelled at me angrily from cars. It was less aggressive, more hopeful.
Still, we shouldn’t live in a society where men think they can bypass a woman or girl’s decision not to sleep with them, where they think women are there to serve them sexually. That their presence is a provocation.
I always thought growing up that I was a person, like anyone else. But many of the men I knew treated me as though every interaction was a transaction. They didn’t treat me like the men my age who were often their friends and to whom they could be quite kind and generous. That is, the sex was always in the foreground and so they treat you like you’re a Pez (candy) dispenser. If they just push the right button sex will be dispensed because it will be owed.
These men count every favour they do (stuff they freely did for their male friends) and expect a result (if they offer you a lift somewhere, if you ask them for help with some mundane task). There’s no emotional content to the relationship and your whole purpose is sexual. And it’s not that they’re driven by sexual desire either. It’s something else. It’s cultural. It’s about control, status and bragging rights. Women always owe them. Women are there to serve. It’s like the way white people always called black men ‘boy’ and used to always assume they were there to carry their luggage.
[Names have been changed]
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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.