By Huschke Mau
Yesterday I spoke at the ‘Breaking the Cycle – Exposing the links between pornography and prostitution’ conference. My talk focused on how legalising prostitution changes societies. It leads people to see women as objects and as a result society fails to respond appropriately to sexual violence against women and girls. This happens everywhere legislation and policy make women and girls a consumable commodity.
After the conference, I went to Chinatown. It was beautiful. So many people out and about. So many lights and lamps and music from all over. People were dancing in the street and I was happy. It was light and colourful and fun. It was just what I needed after the conference on such a difficult topic.
And then suddenly I saw her.
In the midst of this colourful commotion, between all the party goers, the lights, music and dancing, and the open restaurants and bars. She stood in a doorway under a sign saying, “Massage”. She was terribly young. She stood there in a mini skirt; her nose red; her eyes red. From the cold or was she crying?
I saw her and the world stopped. I stood still while everything around me was moving. I was shocked.
I stand there, the stream of people flows past, and we look in each other’s eyes. All I see is pain and a kind of recognition – I see you, I see what’s happening.
And the world stands still and my heart breaks.
At some point I moved on. I cried, “But she’s still very small.” Maybe she was of age – but she didn’t look like it.
People partying around a girl who has to wait for the next rape. Colourful lights. The tip of her red nose. How unhappy she looked.
And then there is another reaction: you see this girl and immediately have a heart pulse: she freezes. She is scared. Go to the police? Or give her money? Who is that man in the front door? You feel pain and despair and helplessness and deep, deep sadness.
What you don’t feel is the “I want to fuck her; that’s clearly what she needs” impulse – unless of course, pornography and prostitution have already damaged your brain and you’ve conditioned yourself so that violence, humiliation, and contempt for women make you so horny that you shouldn’t be allowed out among others; shouldn’t be allowed to socialise.
I thought about that girl all night. I know I can’t help her. If I gave her money, her pimp would just take it. I don’t know her situation. Attempting to talk to her is likely to make things even more dangerous for her. The reality is that I can’t do anything concrete for her. And she won’t gain anything from the pain that seeing her causes me.
I don’t even know what I want to say exactly. After all these years of meeting women and girls from prostitution, it still hurts me. And I think that’s what separates us from punters. Their hearts don’t ache when they see this. All they see is an opportunity to exploit someone with impunity.
Frankly, I think punters should be excluded from society on principle. Coexistence with them is not reasonable.
But girls like that in Chinatown do belong to us, in society, under our protection. They belong next to our heart. But punters belong out of the circle of those who deserve our compassion and understanding, away from the decent members of society.
And not the other way around.
Not in the way it is now
That look yesterday, that look and what was inside it, what I read in it, “I know your pain, I see you”, reminded me again why I do this work.
It has to be different.
It HAS to be different.
It has to be DIFFERENT.
She was still very small.
About Huscke Mau
Huschke was, with interruptions, in prostitution in Germany for about ten years, having been introduced to it as a sexually traumatised girl living through an economic emergency by a German police officer, her first pimp. She is now a passionate activist against the sex trade, a published author and is writing a PhD. She is the founder of Network Ella, Germany’s advocacy organisation for women in and out of prostitution who want the Nordic Model for Germany.
You can read more of Huschke’s exquisite writing on her website.
Breaking the cycle conference
Huschke Mau spoke on the afternoon panel. You can watch it here (starting at 27:59):