Invisible visible women

By Michelle Mara

Red lipstick is stand out, it says sex! It also makes a welcome mess all over your face. Gaudy lacy lingerie is a must, memorable… but the wearer forgotten. Even the red light above your district says “Stop! Notice me!” and many do – stop for an hour or maybe two and they remember the red light’s existence but the lives and souls within? Probably not.

The whore is invisible to society unless she is an insult or the lesser half of a moral comparison which reveres the mother (Madonna) in womanhood: pure, gentle, quiet, nurturing, submissive, silent and also invisible.

We women live invisibly and powerlessly at both ends of the patriarchal spectrum. Women exist avoiding either end and tear at each other within this tense and exhausting spectrum. They are jostling and searching for ways to be heard and seen by society to better their lives, yet they will be criticised and blamed for everything that is normal and natural about them, like a career, like motherhood, like child-rearing, childlessness, driving, walking alone, arguing, clothing, sexuality, lack of sexuality, being too loud, too quiet, too old, too young, too fat, too thin, too alive. The ideal woman is silent and invisible in the home or the whorehouse because society wants her so.

A whore goes into battle and her armour is her lewd and cajoling tone of voice, her well-practiced seductive manner, her porn-like dress and the thick makeup, her warpaint. My father used to call my mother’s makeup her warpaint. I wonder how much men realise the reality of this flippant term.

For all her trappings, the whore is ‘seen’ as a mere visual stimulation for the john’s erection (a living porno) and her function as a body to masturbate inside of (a living sex-doll) and this is exactly how she is unseen after ejaculation. The john knows his minutes are as used up as her body and any eye contact is hurried as he dresses and leaves quickly wishing he was already home. She is invisible because he wants her so.

A violent john enjoys hurting the whore, he wants to see and hear her pain. His pleasure heightens as her discomfort shows on her face despite her determination not to let him see. He sees it, but he does not see her. If he did, (and he de-objectified her), the pleasure would cease to exist… but that is her function, that is what he paid for. He will not see her humanity because he paid not to.

Entitled men want what they paid for, their satisfaction makes them orgasm and leave, so she will tolerate pain and humiliation beyond anything imagined by any politician anywhere who writes the laws which make her a ‘worker’ not a prostituted woman. She tolerates, and she collaborates, because it will more quickly end, and begin again but perhaps not for a few hours.

At the road side, in semi-darkness she is not seen – her availability is. Her posture, her location, her high heels and her walk. What colour eyes did she have? how old was she? what was her expression? Did you see her? She was obvious, colourful, confident, available, sexual… right? Would you recognise her face if she sat near you in a coffee shop? Beside you on the bus? She is invisible because you want her so.

Michelle Mara started in prostitution in New Zealand in the 1990s and remained in it for some years after the Prostitution Reform Act 2003 decriminalised all aspects of the sex industry there. She now campaigns for the introduction of the Nordic Model in New Zealand.

Read her story: Michelle Mara

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