We are honoured that sex trade survivor activist, Rebecca Mott, has been a member of Nordic Model Now! from the very beginning. Many times her insight and wisdom have helped us to keep our focus. Here she talks about blogging, sex trade activists, what being an abolitionist means to her, and advice to other women who want to speak out about their experiences in the sex trade.
I understand you were one of the first women, perhaps the first, in the UK to blog about your experiences in prostitution. You published your first blog in January, 2008. Can you tell me a bit about how that came about?
I started to write my blog in January 2008. I began it several months after the murders of prostituted women in Ipswich. I was saddened by the stereotypes that were and are common about prostituted women. I also was moved to do action, because my trauma was affecting almost everything around me.
I wanted to explore that trauma, and that started me on the road to becoming an Abolitionist, not just a reformer.
Your blog has been incredibly successful, attracting readers from all over the world, and clearly changing attitudes. What has been the best thing about doing it?
The best thing about blogging is that it is international and instant, though that can be a terrible thing too. For me, I have made friendships and contacts with many exited women internationally. This has strengthened me, especially when my self-hatred or lack of seeing any positive future kicks in.
I find I say and write things to exited women that cut through the rubbish said about prostituted women. We speak to the silence and to our traumas – I call that speaking from the middle without having to constantly explain or look after others. I feel I have found a family.
I tend to write with exited women first and foremost in my mind. This means I care deeply about their views on my work. I find it makes me more outspoken in my writing, for I do not write to shelter others from the realities of being an exited woman and the conditions of the sex trade.
I believe for real change, we must speak truth to power. To bring about the destruction of the sex trade, we must speak to that male violence and hate that are its foundation, not a rare event.
What has been the worst thing?
The worst thing about blogging is the constant hate and undermining from the sex work lobby. The moment an exited women has a public and popular voice, the sex work lobby will attack viciously.
They tend to use any mental violence to silence our multiple voices. The main tactic of the sex work lobby is to portray exited women as too mentally damaged to understand their own realities. This is ironic, for they also state that the sex trade does little or no real harms to the prostituted – but somehow also say that it has mentally damaged those who dare to exit and speak out.
What have you learnt about dealing with the attacks from those who benefit from the sex trade and want to see it flourishing?
I have learnt a lot about the tactics of the sex work lobby and their allies. I have learnt that many of them have no or very litte empathy for the sufferings of exited women – that they see us as sub-human. This is because most of the sex work lobby have the mentality of sex trade profiteers and the interests of punters. Many may be sex trade profiteers and/or punters.
From that world viewpoint, the prostituted and those who have be able to exit are not seen as human, but sexual goods to be consumed or sold. We are not meant to be alive or well enough to speak our truths – the sex trade thrives on destruction of the prostituted, so no outsider can hear about the normal torturing, deaths and serial raping that encompasses all of that world.
Did you ever have any direct contact with them? How was that?
I have had several experiences with the sex trade lobby, which help to explain how they can dehumanise exited women.
When I first sought help with remembering what it was to be prostituted, I met up with an organisation that purports to represent prostitutes. It was horrific, for they ignored my severe trauma, and just bullied me with propaganda and refused to believe that it was real.
Instead they kept saying I was never in violent situations if I had been prostituted. They said that I was too middle-class to have been prostituted – basically I was either a liar or deluded.
Since then, I have been on several speaking tours where I have been on panels with the sex work lobby. They tend to shout over exited women, which is usually rather silly for it makes them look like bullies.
Another place where I constantly encountered the sex work lobby is on Twitter, though I tend to block them, for it is not a conversation just another attempt to mentally violate my space.
What advice would you give other women who also want to speak out about their experiences in the sex trade?
I think if you choose to speak out about your experiences of being inside the sex trade, that you need to build a network of friendships with other exited women, and maybe other abolitionists.
It is quite a harsh environment to tell our truths, when the sex work lobby dominate the public arena.
I also would advise that you make a life where speaking to your experiences is only part of many other interests or ways of beings.
I see my blog as work. Therefore it is just a small part of who I am. It is vital to build a life round interests that give you pleasure and an intellectual boost.
For me, that is walking, birdwatching, love of popular music, love of movies and being a sports fan.
If you can, try not to let the past dominate your life, for the further we are from the sex trade, the more traumatic it becomes. I think the most important thing about being an exited woman is to rebuild our lives, and get joy back into our lives. Then we are able to speak out for we have strength and a deep sense of direction.
You are clear that first and foremost, you are an abolitionist. Can you tell me about what that means to you?
I come from a family on my father’s side who had American roots – my paternal grandmother was from Denver. My American family were involved with the abolitionist movement before, during and after the Civil War, and over many generations, they were interested in, or involved with, civil and human rights for all, especially the most oppressed, such as native Americans, African-Americans, and those escaping the Nazi regime in Europe.
This was spoken about when I was very young, so I feel much of my abolitionist spirit was just part of my blood. As I became a teenager and an adult, I educated myself by reading, by watching factual and fictional accounts of surviving oppressions and living inside trauma.
This grew to an understanding that without full human rights, without justice, without the right to speak our truths – trauma can never be stopped.
That is my building block to being an abolitionist not a reformer. I want the sex trade to be erased root and branch.
What are your thoughts about the abolitionist movement – in the UK and internationally? What are the strengths? What needs to change?
I feel there is very little done for abolition in the UK, mostly it is reformist or too often harm-reduction-led. Abolition is seen as foreign and not relevant to the UK, especially as the public image is that prostitution in the UK is controllable, so why rock the boat.
Abolition is attacked as being right-wing and religious. This is done as a silencing tool, for it hides all talk of human rights. I feel a major flaw in the abolitionist movement internationally, is the loudest voices are often feeding this stereotypical image, and giving the sex work lobby a free pass. Abolition of course has spiritual roots, but in modern times it has become revolutionary and radical.
Abolition is always rooted in giving back human rights and voices to the silenced and oppressed. This means attacking those in power – therefore it is always anti-capitalism and anti-patriarchy. The faults comes when voices of the oppressed are made to be tokens or silenced. This is common in large and often influential abolitionist groups, where exited women are used and thrown away, treated as sub-human showpieces, not as full humans. Abolitionist groups should be led by exited women, our voices should show the routes to radical change.
I understand you moved to Devon from Manchester a few years ago. How’s that working out for you?
Moving to Devon is really good, especially for my mental welfare. I moved to be near my sister, and that has been amazing to find that I’m part of a loving family.
I have slowed down, and become more at ease with facing my trauma. I do find working has lessened, but it is building. A bad thing, is my computer broke a few months ago, so I had to start again. This meant I lost my blog or lost how to write on it. I need help to restart my blog, for it feels so strange without it. I needed to leave Manchester for I was losing my self- respect and ability to live. I was close to death, and Devon has brought me into life.