‘Jo’ sent us this #MeToo account of her experiences of the sex trade through our Share Your Story page. This provides a space for women to tell their stories in their own words.
I do not mean to offend anyone with my raw testimony. I feel like I need to shout it out to the world in order to heal one day, so get ready to feel the anxiety, the critique. I’m writing this in the midst of chaos – the chaos is my own mind. C-PTSD. I am writing this to make my thoughts clear to myself, and to someone else like me who feels completely alone in this.
I am a prostitute. I have been a prostitute since I was underage. I’m in my mid-30s now. I am not one of those “This is my calling!”, “I can quit anytime I want to!”, or “I can choose my clients and I would never work with the unpleasant ones!” Not at all. I do not want to belittle their experiences, part of it may be true for them, but after many years of hearing from them – hearing how my negative experiences in prostitution are all my own fault and should not be spoken of, I have started to question their truth as well, not just my own truth.
I was also one of those who told all the clients how lovely it is to see them, how happy I am to work with them, how they are my favourite clients. I really tried to make myself believe it too.
The truth is, of course, I was very happy to see their money, and I was also very happy to see them leave me alone after our sessions. Cheerfully shouting at them as they left: “Thanks! I had a great time! Welcome back!”
Which in fact meant: “Thanks for the money so I can survive another day, I’m so happy that it’s over for today. But I will never get out of this miserable job, so I must try to keep my regulars happy to avoid the risks that come with meeting new clients.”
And I was often told by clients that my “Girlfriend Experience” was awesome, almost perfect. “Just an illusion or was it real, Jo?” This was asked sometimes. I was often told that I was wholeheartedly involved with my clients in our sessions. That my pleasure was not fake, that I really seemed to love sex.
What sex? I have no memories of the sex part at all, they are all supressed under the well-practiced performance. The performance that helped me survive in this world since I was a kid.
The clients wondered if there were actually some real, hot feelings between us. Many messages from them, thanking me for the experience. And I never even remembered what had happened. I felt like a robot every day. But seems that I really was a good actress.
The clients of course wouldn’t know better, because I was always on drugs (which none of them even noticed, I hid it all so well), very addicted to painkillers and benzodiazepines to handle the inhumane working conditions, and I had blocked my mind from remembering too much, to protect my inner self, like most of us do in prostitution.
I would just sit on my bed afterwards, looking at the money, focusing on it, counting my savings every day to keep myself motivated, and counting how much more I would have to save to retire. To never return, to leave and to forget all that had happened in prostitution. Ever. To erase every single detail of my past.
I was one of those who never had many choices. At times I tried to get disability, but the bureaucracy failed me over and over again – my mental health had been extremely shattered all my life, I couldn’t even go to a grocery store alone anymore. But I also had no one to help me, no actual safety net.
My self-esteem was very low, starting from the childhood abuse, continuing well into adulthood, a never ending cycle. No education whatsoever. No work experience in any other industry than the sex industry, not even a day.
I had given up my beloved child, simply not to ruin her life as I was slowly ruining mine – I knew as a fact I would have ruined her life just by being me, even if it was the last thing I wanted to happen no matter how I would have tried to protect her, I felt like I ruined everything I touched.
All I could focus on every minute of my life, was to get the motivation to go on living at all, to breathe, and to go on serving my self-centred, demanding, wife-cheating, clinging, stalking, haggling, disrespectful clientele. I saw no escape.
I still see no escape before I have saved up enough for the rest of my life, but I have thought about all this through and through. No more lies! I have tried everything to get out, but I keep falling back.
I have started to treat my clients with as much disrespect as they have for me to begin with, involuntarily. Out of tiredness to serve them. I never saw any respect from them. I was always happy for the small things they did or didn’t do. Such as, if a client actually showed up to our appointment – I was “in heaven”! If a client actually paid the full price, I was so thankful for his extra kindness for the needy! If a client didn’t verbally or physically assault me too badly, I saw him as a keeper!
There is so much disrespect in the world of prostitution that relatively normal human behaviour from clients felt like a gift from God. This is how it is for those of us, who didn’t choose this job out of pleasure. Whose choices were extremely limited ever since we were children. The children who were always told we are not worth anything.
As for the prostitutes that chose this job out of many, and are happy with it. I am genuinely happy for your pleasant experience in prostitution, and the fact that you don’t suffer from PTSD caused by it. I’m happy that you had the actual choice to do or not to do this. You are the lucky ones, “the upper class” indeed. But please do not continue to sweep us under the rug out of convenience. We are human beings too. We feel and think, too. And we are silent because of you.
We are lonely, we are ashamed, and we feel like this is all our own fault. Our traumas, our negative feelings, the flashbacks – all our own fault. Because there’s absolutely nothing wrong with prostitution itself, you keep saying.
We, the more marginalized, are often too scared to speak out. Whenever we tell you about our struggles in the sex industry, you keep telling us: “Oh well, you’re just not suited for the job! Get a new one!” But what you fail to see when you say this, is that it was never the dream career choice for us – “the lower class of prostitutes.” It’s not a matter of choice for us, so we cannot simply just “get another job”, like most of you say you can. It’s you who can do that, or at least that is what you tell us.
Please recognize that anywhere and everywhere, all around the world, we exist too. We, the prostitutes who are just trying to survive from day to day, with our disabling health issues, our addictions, our daily struggles, our C-PTSD. Quietly, often silenced by the more privileged prostitutes, as well as the clients who take their pleasure out of our oppression.
With respect to all,
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.