By Jacqueline Gwynne
I got to see the inside of the sex industry when I worked as a receptionist in a legal brothel in Melbourne, in the Australian state of Victoria, where prostitution has been legal since 1994. If prostitution was really about healing, we’d expect to see a drop in the numbers over the years, as men got better.
But on the contrary, in the years since legalisation was introduced here, there has been a huge increase in men’s demand for prostitution and there are now an estimated 700 illegal brothels in the state, in addition to the many legal ones. To give some perspective, there are only 262 McDonald’s restaurants in Victoria.
I did that job for two years and I can tell you straight that men don’t turn to prostitution for healing. If they were really seeking healing they would pursue a spiritual program or look for a holistic healer – they wouldn’t seek out women in this corrupt industry that thrives on exploitation and human trafficking.
Almost without exception, the men I saw in the brothel were appallingly sexist and lacked respect for women.
It was absolutely obvious to me that they came to the brothel to take out their frustrations on the women, and dump their load. It was almost as if they wanted to punish the women. On every shift there were incidents of abuse – physical or verbal, or both. The johns seemed to get off on the degradation of the women. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say they treated the women like animals.
Prostitution is becoming increasingly risky for the women in the industry because pornography is getting ever more extreme and violent. In the brothel there was pornography playing on large screens in every room and none of us could avoid it. The men wanted to do exactly what they saw in that porn – and more. They wanted anal sex, to wear no condom. Slapping, choking, biting and spitting were common.
Friday and Saturday nights were our busiest nights, and the men, particularly the Australian ones, were invariably drunk. Do men who are really looking for healing, get drunk and demand sex with no condom from a disadvantaged woman? I don’t think so.
The men I saw in the brothel showed no sign of caring for intimacy or tenderness, and to be honest they didn’t look like they were even capable of it most of the time. They’d pay by the hour and demand their money’s worth. They’d use the women any which way they wanted, often treating them like a sexual punching bag in order to ‘let off steam.’
The rebranding of prostitution as ‘sex work’ and the introduction of other euphemisms – like sex therapist, tantric healer, escort or the ‘girlfriend experience’ – do nothing to change its real nature or to make it ‘healing.’
Statistically punters are most commonly married or in long-term relationships, and are often porn addicts. Their selfishness and narcissism was exhausting for me as the receptionist. I cannot imagine how bad it is for women being shut in a room with them, where no holds are barred.
Most of the women were from disadvantaged backgrounds – many had suffered terrible poverty, and also physical and sexual abuse, as children. They were just trying to survive each day and were really not in a position to heal themselves, let alone anyone else.
Men who are truly seeking healing would be better off quitting porn. Pornography is addictive and causes depression, anxiety and erectile dysfunction. It’s not good for men who are interested in healthy relationships. From porn they learn to view women as objects for sexual gratification.
If they’re serious about healing, men with these problems should seek treatment for porn addiction, and consider getting involved in things like community activities out in nature.
Porn and the sex trade have led to the fracturing of relationships between men and women.
We desperately need a change of culture so men no longer view women as objects for their sexual pleasure. It’s hard to see how this would be possible while porn and the entire sexual exploitation industry have free reign. We need to work to abolish them. The first step would be to implement the Nordic Model and to work to end men’s impunity for violence towards women and anyone with less power. We must insist that men respect women as equal human beings.