‘Men circling the streets, looking at the women like meat and yelling at them like dogs’

In this article women who have not been in the sex trade themselves share how it has nevertheless affected their lives in various ways. We received these #MeToo accounts through our Share Your Story page. This provides a space for women to tell their stories in their own words.

Lisa

My best friend used to live near a red light district, and we would often pass prostituted women on the streets. I will never forget the sadness in their eyes and faces. The obvious hopelessness and disparity.

And the Johns. Disgusting men circling the streets, both on foot and by car. Looking at the women like meat and yelling at them like dogs. We would see the women get in and out of their cars and it always made me sick to my stomach, the way that one human buys another. To use her as his toilet and dump her back in the street after – only for another man to pick her up.

On a more personal note, it always felt like a very scary and unsafe neighbourhood. Men would harass, catcall and approach us all the time, even when we were dressed in sports wear or professional work clothes. It was awful. You could sense the misogyny miles away; how these men genuinely felt that women were their inferior and only put on this earth to serve and please.

A message to my father, who loved porn

I found your collection in the bathroom when I was maybe 10. This was why you couldn’t be disturbed at bath time. Is this it? All that women can ever be in your eyes? You always taught me to be pretty and smart.

Did your generation of men know what would come next?

Mandatory anal, sexts, slut shaming, a rape conviction rate lower than it was when I was born? Audio recording of rape, not enough to convict, 50+ men using violent sex as an excuse for murder, THIS YEAR?

You had three daughters, me, with severe mental illness, raped at least three times. Middle child was a school avoider, did nobody ask why? The youngest was drawing porn at primary school. Again, why was this hushed up? We can’t talk about it.

Perhaps you didn’t anticipate how things would turn out for women of my generation, I certainly hope not. I struggle to reconcile this with the man I know, sometimes the mask slips, your real thoughts about women show. ‘It’s just sex, adults can consent.’ Yes they can, but you didn’t grow up knowing that every ‘slip’ would be used against you, proof that you ‘invited it’ and you’ll ‘get what you deserve.’

I’m not a Madonna, nor am I a whore. Neither were those girls you beat off to, in our shared bathroom, before I’d even began to bleed.

Your generation started this, I’m angry and I have every right to be. When I tell you about how men my age behave online you express incredulity. Your generation made women’s bodies internet commodities, little wonder young men treat us as if we are disposable. Your generation made the bed, your daughters have to lie in it.

Claire

I’d been shopping in town with my friend when I was about 12 or 13 and we were waiting for my dad to pick us up. My friend popped into the newsagent to get some sweets so I was on my own on the pavement. Two men approached me for sex, I think they thought I was a prostitute. I didn’t really realise what was going on at first when they said hello, I was just polite saying hello back because I’d been brought up to smile and be polite. I couldn’t understand how grown men could accidentally approach a child for sex.

As I’ve grown up I now realise that many men prefer children. It makes me sick.

Anonymous wife

I am sharing my story here as there is very little heard from women like me.

I knew that my husband of 40 years was a liar and a cheat, but I had decided that I could live with that as there was too much to lose if we separated and I could not bear my daughters knowing the truth about their father. However, as soon as I found out he was using adult sites to rent women’s bodies, I left him. It was so hard, but not nearly as hard as finding out he is an abuser of women.

Screwing around with willing women is one thing; being a predator, a serial abuser and a sexual exploiter of women is totally different. I am so ashamed that I have spent so much of my life with a man who could do this and am still in shock from realising he is one of those.

I have still not worked out a way to break the news to my daughters. I need help with this and have booked to see a counsellor. I hope I have chosen wisely as I have seen stories online about some counsellors buying the line that the husband is a victim – presumably of his wife’s unsatisfactory behaviour…

I have looked and looked on the internet to try to find support groups for women in my position or who have a similar story, but whatever search term I use, the results list articles that say ridiculous things like ‘How to keep your husband happy so he doesn’t visit prostitutes’, or sickening things like ‘I love my wife, but need prostitutes’. I’ve also seen ‘advice for wives’ from alleged ‘happy hookers’ and agony aunts explaining to betrayed wives that ‘at least there was no emotional involvement with the women’ – WTF?

I am not responsible for my husband’s actions or the choices he has made, but all the same I wish I could apologise to the women for the fact that he has abused them.

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.

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