The following is a translation of an article published on the German feminist website Emma. The article was originally meant to be published elsewhere but was censored, as the introductory paragraph explains. You can find the original here (without introduction, which was on the main Emma page).
On Monday, the ‘taz’ paper published a harsh polemic in favor of prostitution and against Alice Schwarzer, signed by Doña Carmen, Juanita Henning’s Frankfurt “whore’s association”. She was last in the spotlight in June 2009 when she demanded the right to flat rates in brothels on behalf of “77 whores.” She bought large ad space in several daily newspapers (which costs 25,000 euros in the SZ paper alone). Now Doña Carmen claims in taz that speaking of “poverty prostitution” is “xenophobic” and “racism in disguise.” To Henning, migrant prostitution is a kind of “entente cordiale from below” (verbatim; orig. “Völkerverständigung von unten”). After the text was published, taz editor Heide Oestreich asked Sabine Constabel whether she would be prepared to write a response. The social worker has been working to help prostitutes in Stuttgart for 22 years. Approximately 90 percent of those she works with are in forced prostitution or poverty prostitution and come from Eastern Europe, while the “self-determined whore” that Doña Carmen likes to speak of is a rare sight. Constabel wrote the demanded response to Doña Carmen for taz. But taz did not like the text. Editor Ines Kappert rejected its publication – and editor-in-chief Ines Pohl, who was also informed, did not react at all. She probably has other things to worry about: she has to explain why she removed a piece by a taz editor that criticized the relationship of the Green Party (die Grünen) with pedophilia. So here is the piece by Sabine Constabel that was supposed to be published in taz.
Where is the conscience switched off?
The first time I encountered Juanita Henning of Doña Carmen was in 2009, after she had organized a panel discussion in Stuttgart. She criticized the raid of the ‘PussyClub’, the closure of the flat rate brothel and the arrest of the owners. And she lamented a “conservative, fundamentalist coalition with xenophobic resentment.” She was mainly talking about the police and public prosecution. Her reaction to outrage over a flat rate in the brothel: “The women arrived at an hourly pay of 10 euros; that’s completely okay.”
That sentence is still ringing in my ears. Henning thought ten euros per hour were adequate payment for the prostitutes. Two of the women were only sixteen years old! Ten euros for lying on a bed, enduring one john after the other. Johns who were waiting in line behind the curtain that was used for a door, waiting until the man in front of them was finally done and it was their turn.
The tone is the same now as it was then. Still the former social worker only sees the independent autonomous prostitute who has freely chosen this, free from any coercive force. Age, where they are from, education, experiences of violence, none of it counts, none of it means anything.
But what about Ancuta, the 24-year-old who just called in tears because her abdomen hurts so badly and she can’t work anymore? She still owes rent for the last three days. That’s 240 euros or 7 johns. Letting yourself be penetrated seven times and seven times oral. Seven times too many for Ancuta. But if she loses her room now and has to return to the brothel, she will have to pay twice that.
Or Angela, who so badly wants to learn to read and write. Because she doesn’t want to be a “slut girl” anymore. Or Donka, who is pregnant again and now needs money for her third abortion. She is only 19 and really wants to go back home, to her 4-year-old son. She shows pictures of him all the time and says she thinks only of him day and night. She says he is the only reason she endures this “horrible work.”
And Rajna? She has been walking the street for three days now. Because it’s cheaper. Before that she worked in a sauna club and paid 70 euros every day as an entrance fee, 40 euros for staying the night, 25 euros in tax and 30 euros for the accommodation of her husband, who was there to protect her. And that’s without her having eaten anything and without money for the husband to spend in cafes and arcades. And without having sent anything home yet. Then there was trouble, her husband used his fists and now she has a black eye. Yet again.
And Noémi? Does she count for Doña Carmen? Noémi has a sore throat and is terribly afraid she may have syphilis again. Many have that here. Because the johns don’t want to use condoms. Especially not for ‘French’. Noémi gets tested every couple of months, brushes her teeth all the time and has a sore throat anyway.
Noémi says it took her a whole year to get used to this work. For the first year, she was so disgusted she vomited after every john. Now she doesn’t cry every day anymore. Only sometimes, when she thinks about everyone at home waiting for her to send money. At least 500 euros every month. She has two unemployed brothers and a mother who all demand support. “What should I do? Everyone is counting on me.” Intercourse without a condom, including oral? Everyone has to decide that for themselves, says Henning in an interview with Stern.
And Monica, Ruska, Veronica, and all the others? One story is much like the other. They are everywhere: in the brothels, the clubs, the apartments, on the street, in escorting – wherever you look, you find women like them. And they are not the pitiable exceptions. The percentage of foreigners of the newly registered prostitutes in Stuttgart is at 90. And Eastern Europe is leading the top ten.
Alice Schwarzer says, prostitution is about power. Yes! It’s down to the existing power relations that many men think they have a right to buy women. And to do with them whatever they feel like. The younger the better, why not from an Eastern European ghetto and who cares if she speaks German. What good would that do, after all?
And there are quite a few among the johns who buy fair trade products. Their breakfast eggs don’t come from chickens in battery farms and they avoid factory-farmed meat. This they owe themselves; for this they have enough of a conscience.
Where does that get deactivated while your own cock ravages the body of the woman? The conscience. While interpreting the prostitute’s efforts as ‘taking joy in her work’? Where is the conscience placed in temporary storage when you overlook the cosmetic fault of a discolored eye or badly covered-up burn marks on the skin–you’ve paid for it, after all?
And who stands for these women? Who is still at their side?
Certainly not Frau Henning with her Doña Carmen – which seems to be a one-woman operation. These people negate the experiences of prostitutes, deny their reality, oppose every help and every protection these women so urgently need.
Because it is very convenient for them that the police cannot enter the brothels and rented apartments, since law enforcement authorities took away all right of access and all right to intervene with the reform of 2002. Now Doña Carmen, which calls itself a “whore project”, is demanding that the following sections be dropped from the German criminal code: Section 180a, which criminalizes “the exploitation of prostitutes”, Section 181a against procurement, and even Section 233a against “the facilitation of human trafficking”!
Obviously it still isn’t enough for the lobbyists that the reform of 2002 made criminal proceedings dependent on the testimony of victims. Far too often meaning young women would have to testify against parents, husbands, brothers, neighbors. It’s no surprise that dedicated police offers have been calling the reform the “Pimp Protection Act” for a long time.
Henning presents herself as Doña Carmen, “Association for the Protection of the Social and Political Rights of Prostitutes”. Wouldn’t “Brothel Owners’ Lobby” be a whole lot more honest?
In 1988, a woman could say the following in the Hydra publication “Beruf Hure” (Occupation: Whore): “However, I find that exiting prostitution, getting out of the milieu, is the most important thing in the life of a prostitute.” A sentence like that would get you blacklisted in today’s circles. Just like this one: “I had a certain measure of inherent pressure, after all, namely my revulsion for any kind of john […] and my ever-diminishing identity and the loss of my self-assurance.”
Between all these lobbyists, the only thing I can do is trust in the tenacity of Alice Schwarzer. Trust that she won’t stop fighting against the trivialization of prostitution, and against the slave market that is spreading among us and which is a disgrace. It affects all of us.
Sabine Constabel, EMMAonline, 21.8.2013
[emphasis the author's]
Here is another very insightful text on prostitution in Germany by Sabine Constabel, translated by Ulla Wojciechowski.
This poem was inspired by a recent influx of tweets from men saying, “Don’t tar us all with the same brush, only SOME men are like that” when women were discussing the prevalence of violent pornography or the rape threats feminists receive on a daily basis. These men consistently fail to see that there is a difference between saying ‘men’ and ‘all men’, and their complaints about women’s language tend to be their only contribution. As I said on Twitter earlier, the average male reaction to women discussing our violent oppression at the hands of men is to get angry about the talking and not about the violence. They have nothing to say about the harm men inflict on women every day. They would tolerate our discussing our oppression if only we could be more polite about it and promise that we love men and believe in their basic goodness with every other sentence we said — that is to say that no free discussion of the topic is tolerated at all.
Thankfully, some men don’t feel the need to make every discussion of male violence about how they themselves are innocent of said violence. So this poem is dedicated to the few men who get it and who confront their fellow men instead of harassing and guilt-tripping women.
Some men are not all men
Not all men are like that
Not all men rape and pillage
But they are not all men
Some men are not all men
And some men are like that
Some men rape and pillage
And they weigh more than all men
Because they do it to all women
While all some men have to say is
Not all men are like that
…Men are like that
I took some pictures while in London for Radfem2013. No, not of the Eye or the Shard or Westminster. Of disgusting things, of blatant misogyny being peddled in the street. Because I am a fun person like that. There are also some pictures from locations that aren’t London towards the bottom of the post.
This concludes my little trip around Camden Market (where I was also subjected to some horrible dancehall-like music about ‘tight pussy’). Now check out these disgusting magazines they try to sell you at Sainsbury’s:
Hey-hey! Women being tortured, mutilated, raped and slaughtered…it’s fun for the whole family!
Then, on my further travels through this world, I encountered these disgusting things.
These are pen holders, I think. Quite suggestive of prostitution. At least they scream power imbalance, and the cigar-smoking man is shown basically consuming an unwilling/passive woman.
There is misogyny and pornification wherever you turn, and men tell women to just look away, to turn the page, to ignore, block, rise above it and laugh.
Fuck that. That’s what we have been doing and it’s not working. At least I don’t see how ignoring these things will make me happy or safe. If you too are sick of these things, take a first step by showing your disgust as openly as possible. Being opposed to pornification and indeed porn itself needs to become normal for girls and women.
People say prostitution is necessary. Some even go as far as saying it’s a necessary evil, but even those people still insist it is necessary.
If men can’t buy access to women’s bodies, these people say, whatever will they do?
Yes, I would like to ask them, what exactly is it you think men will do? Rape women?
What that means is that either men get to rape for money or they will rape for free. Or in other words: “rape is inevitable, let’s outsource the victim role to someone who has no options.”
If you think these men are rapists who by definition don’t care whether the woman or girl they are fucking wants any part of them (which is what you’re saying if you think they will rape unless they can ‘buy sex’), then why do you support their right to throw down a few bills and take that attitude out on an actual woman’s or girl’s body?
If men couldn’t buy access to women’s bodies, what would they do? Spontaneously combust?
Of course not. They’d do what women are doing: live their lives without buying access to people’s bodies to sate their sexual greed. Sex is not a need. It’s a want. Financial transactions are not a natural part of reproduction either, so arguments about how this sort of behavior is natural ‘because men’s hormones’ (or the ominous-sounding ‘men have needs’) are completely idiotic anyway, save your breath. Prostitution also hasn’t existed in every culture there ever was, even if pro-pornstitution liars try to make it look that way.
If we can admit that prostitution isn’t actually necessary, it’s just something men WANT, and if we then look at the unspeakable harm that we KNOW is being inflicted upon millions of girls and women worldwide, to the tune of billions upon billions of dollars, who can justify any of it? Who can say, but that’s integral to our society, let’s keep this up? Only a total sociopath, or someone who is so deeply in denial about the horrors being committed on women’s bodies and souls that their view has little to do with reality.
All this said, let’s look at a few statements from johns/punters that I read on photographer Bettina Flitner’s website and that I’ve translated into English.
I encourage you to click on the link and look at the photographs as you read the statement of each man on his prostituting. I have added some comments of my own for each of them.
Please beware that these statements are dehumanizing and misogynistic and what follows is upsetting if you care about women at all.
Christian, 23, freight forwarding agent, single
“Why do I pay for sex? Women often get on my tits. They nag you if you don’t spend enough time with them. That’s why I come here when I just feel like I fuck – and then I leave again. That’s it. It quickly gets boring to me with a girlfriend. And anyways: paying for it gives it that special something. Then you own the woman. You can do whatever you want with her. That’s power when you think about it. My last time? I come here about every six weeks. Sometimes I do it with one I already know, sometimes with a different one. I like it a little harder, no vanilla sex.”
This man is a rapist and he knows it. He wants to own a woman who has no rights, no power, no way out in the face of his ‘a little harder’ (really rough, sadistic, degrading) treatment. He undoubtedly watches rape porn when he’s not acting out his sadism on a woman directly.
Dung, 28, works in parental restaurant, single
“My first time in a brothel was four years ago. A date is always stressful and costs a lot of time. In a brothel, everything is much more open. There are no lies and no illusions there. I can freely admit it — I am single after all and I’m not hurting anyone. My type are women with black hair and brown eyes. But definitely no Asians. Don’t like them at all. There has to be good chemistry, then the woman enjoys it too. But sometimes they look at the time already when you enter the room. You don’t really feel like it anymore when they do that.”
He believes the brothel to be the most honest place because it’s the only place where he himself is honest. Those two things are very different. Does he really believe there are women who enjoy him using their bodies? He does it anyway even when he knows they don’t want to — evidence that he doesn’t see the women as actual people at all (he isn’t hurting anyone, after all, even when women show clear signs of just wanting it over with and him gone). Why can’t this Asian man stand Asian women? Internalized racism meets misogyny.
Günther, 55, bar owner, divorced, 1 son
„I just need a lot of sex. It excites me to always have new women. I also go to swingers clubs. But there are often old and ugly ones there. Sometimes I book an escort service. My type? Black or very light skin. So mulatto or from Latvia. No silicone breasts and pumped-up lips. I also don’t like them too professional, I prefer those who just do their job normally and only do this now and then. My last time was one week ago. She said it was the most beautiful sex of her life. The usual 50 euros. The price/performance ratio is simply right here.”
No, you do not need, you want. Such ugly words from an ugly man who believes himself entitled to an unlimited number of women’s bodies, picked for their hues and shapes like fruit in a shop. Look at him. Look at the contempt he has for the women who do what he makes them do — as evidenced by the fact that an actual ‘professional’ is not good enough for him, he needs the illusion that women with regular jobs moonlight at brothels for fun and have ‘beautiful sex’ with disgusting, unfeeling rapists like him.
Ingo, 43, tax accountant assistant, single
“Outside I’m too shy to talk to anyone. I work from home and hardly get out. But of course this is a fantasy world. The men here are chasing after an illusion, and so am I. Sometimes the women say, ‘I love you’ afterwards. That’s pure customer retention. Twice I fell in love with a woman from the brothel. There is this Samaritan Effect, where you want to take them out of the mire. That’s over for me, I don’t fall in love anymore. Now I only come here because of one of them. Everything is the way it should be. At least inside the room. I don’t know anything else about her.”
He knows that he is only a customer and not a ‘loved one’. He also knows the women in the brothel are suffering, to the point of feeling like a ‘Samaritan’ for wanting to keep them to himself and get them away from the brothel. Selfishness is the main motivator and always was; the Samaritanism is just in his head, since obviously there was no desire to free the women he didn’t fall in love with…and he has now successfully desensitized himself even beyond the point of imagining he has romantic feelings at all. Just fucking a stranger who you know doesn’t want to be there. Rapist.
Iwan, 65, auto mechanic, single
“One does it once. One does it twice. And then at some point one is just in there. One gets used to it. Normally I have to take a pretty woman out to dinner twice, costs 100 euros. And then maybe it doesn’t go anywhere. Here it works immediately. I like southern women – Spaniards, Italians, those from the Dominican Republic. I also had a Colombian here for a few months, a Bella, nicely built. She was really into it. Or she was a good actress. But she was suddenly gone. Pity.“
Note the impersonal, generalizing language. This way of expressing things is a common pattern in German, especially used by men when trying to disguise their emotional investment in something or their responsibility for something negative. He switches from that to ‘Normally I have to…’, i.e. a more personal tone, when trying to get sympathy for the plight of having to buy pretty women dinner in hopes of getting them to spit out sex like a slot machine showing three pineapples…or some other exotic fruit. Racist rapist. (Who knows what happened to the woman who was suddenly gone, but don’t expect him to have any worry beyond his loss of purchase options.)
Joachim, 58, engineer, separated, 1 daughter
“Ten years ago I woke up one night and couldn’t get up anymore. I had bad pain in my heart, the emergency doctor came, they took me to the ER. And back then I thought: my life could be over tomorrow. I come here about once a week. For three months now I have booked the same one. I spent two hours in the room with her today. It’s true: when you go to a club, you are no longer satisfied with normal women. The figures! They wear a size 6 or 8 here. [US; UK 8/10, Germany 34/36]“
I’m currently reading a book about resuscitation medicine and death experiences (Erasing Death by Sam Parnia, MD, PhD) and while there are many people who come close to death and change their lives after the experience, this is the very lowest life-change I have ever read of. His life could be over soon, so he better stick his dick into as many women size 6 or 8 as possible before he croaks (hurry up, for goodness’ sake). For “you are no longer satisfied with normal women”, read, “you lose the last of your ability to empathize with or care about women”. Rapist.
Kai, 49, bank employee, divorced, 2 children
“Why do I come here? I would normally never get women like the ones here. And I can also cross boundaries here. Anal for instance, I would probably not dare to ask a woman outside for that. Costs 100 euros more. I’m not for the really young ones or the skinny-bones. It’s fine if they have completely normal breasts, even a little tummy. You know, a womanly figure. I’ve been going to the same one for three years now, twice a month. My last time? A week ago.”
Women are a collection of body parts. A personality or emotions do not even figure into it when this guy thinks about women. He pays to cross boundaries and to do things to women that he actually instinctively knows women don’t want. So the women he pays for are a different class of (not-)humans to him, absolving him of the need to respect their boundaries and feelings. He feels like a really generous and humane punter for not going after the “really young ones” and ‘allowing’ the women to have ‘normal breasts’.
Ralf, 28, computer scientist, single
„I went to a brothel for the first time when I was 17, with my very first paycheck. Going to a club like this is deep relaxation to me. There’s no chitchat, the girls are clever and adjust to your preferences. That can become addictive. I had a relationship for four years, but at some point it always comes out. And then the shutters go down. Now I’m also here for professional reasons. I am developing an online platform together with a friend where men can buy punter alibis: traffic accident, hospital – we can do anything.”
I struggle to find words for this specimen because the personality he presents in one short paragraph is so hideous. He believes men have a right to use as many women’s bodies as they want, while keeping girlfriends and wives as deceived domestic servants. He has obviously understood there is money in facilitating rape, so now he wants in on it.
For all these men, note how utterly self-/man-centered their entire concept of reality is, how they have fetishized power imbalance including racism, and how the things they tell us about themselves clearly show that women in general and prostituted women in particular are less-than-human, not real people, to them. To them we are animated body parts for men’s use. If you can’t see that in their words, I suggest you look a little harder and take off the rose-colored porn glasses. These eight men are rapists and should be criminalized.
There have been some terrible things in the media lately in relation to a British case where a teacher raped and abducted one of his students, from saying teacher and student are ‘lovers’ who ‘ran away together’ to calling 15-year-old girls ‘scheming temptresses’ in a headline. It isn’t the first wave of “I was a teenage seductress” confessional stories and similar rapist-enabling shit in the media. It’s just same shit, different day. My rage at this has been simmering for a long while, but now it’s at boiling point.
Only a few days ago I saw a man calling himself Jed Jones argue on Twitter that the abducted girl who had been groomed by her teacher since age 14 and who has been given a media platform, using the name Gemma, to insist on the consensual nature of their relationship (which, I repeat, involved rape and abduction) was a young woman who should be free to explore her sexuality and all that jazz. This man, I later found out, has written a novel for young adults (meaning age 13+) about the ‘hysteria’ that supposedly exists around protecting children not only from seeing sexually explicit (i.e. pornographic) material but also from participating in it. In other words, he calls society’s rejection of child porn hysterical and promotes the participation of children in what he euphemizes as ‘child web modeling’.
Predators like Jed Jones try to frame the abuse and violence men commit against children, and female children in particular, as consensual because it serves their agenda.
Girls are raised in an environment that makes it very clear that sexual availability is an expected part of womanhood, and almost every teenager badly wants to be an adult. Of course girls are going to say, ‘But wait, I wanted this,’ if that’s what they have been raised to want because it is the only source of validation that exists for them. And don’t try to tell me the world is so full of possibilities for girls nowadays that they aren’t raised believing they must be sexually available to men and HOT above all else, no matter what they may aspire to in addition. Turn on the TV and look at what kind of representations of females you see and then tell me again that we grow up seeing a range of options.
I’m not a teenager, but I remember relatively well quite a few of the things I did and thought when I was one, and I am sick and fucking tired of seeing the media subtly and not-so-subtly tell the story that female children bring their own rape upon themselves, pointing to examples of their successful sexual grooming as proof. Girls grow up believing that getting a man to desire or want us is a form of power (depending on who you ask, this is in fact the ONLY power female humans have in a social context). Of course girls are not going to be inclined to see themselves as the hapless victim of male perversion when in fact that male desire for their bodies is their only current source of validation, of self-esteem. Identifying the adult man’s behavior as wrong means to let go of even the last vestige of flattery one may have felt at his attention. It really isn’t rocket science: by telling a teenage victim of social and personal grooming and subsequent sexual abuse/rape that she is a victim and nothing else, you are threatening their self-image which was shaped through this grooming. The victim’s whole reality needs to be reframed for her to be able to see what happened as entirely the perpetrator’s fault and as entirely wrong. I know because I have been that teenage victim and it took me years to understand it all.
There are such things as wrong and right. And it isn’t fucking ‘hysteria’ to be absolutely adamant about the point that someone who is definitely an adult should have no business sticking his genitals anywhere near someone who isn’t. It isn’t hysteria, it’s plain fucking common sense. We live in a world completely choc-a-bloc with male sexual predators. Sorry if this was news to you. They damage people, and they don’t care. That’s where they get their kicks all too often. And these predators are doing their best to frame their predation as loving, caring, consensual interpersonal relations with an equal. They are liars and manipulators at worst and delusional at best, because nothing could be further from the truth.
And this is why, although I don’t like speaking in prose about my own life in all that many words, I am now letting my rage at this bullshit pour out in verbal form. I am sick of it, and here’s why. Here’s MY story.
When I was 15 years old, I had sex with a 25-year-old man. I thought I had wanted to do that. I thought he was very attractive. But what had started as me eyeing him from afar and whispering and giggling about his sexiness with one of my friends progressed to him approaching me, buying me a drink, and finally taking me out on a date where he bought me more drinks. I may have been quite used to drinking alcohol at this point, but the point is that he knew very well that I was no older than 15.
And I ended up in his home with him, and ended up having drunk ‘sex’.
But nowadays, I’d have to describe this experience as an adult man plying a child, me, with alcohol before raping her. It wasn’t sex. It was statutory rape. And by the way, I was so drunk that when I woke up several hours after falling asleep, my legs gave out on the way to the bathroom and I ended up lying on the tiled floor with little idea where I was. But when I went home the next day, I figured I had gone out on a date and had a good time, even if it left me feeling kind of hollow and wrong. I had no real concept of this wrongness at the time.
Now, let’s get you some reluctant background on who I was at the time.
I had had penis-in-vagina sex for the first time when I was 14, almost 15. That was with a 17-year-old boyfriend of some months. It was utterly boring and a bit painful. I had another boyfriend after that, and it was a bit less boring and no longer painful.
But at that point, I had already been sexually abused several times.
I was sexually abused by someone I knew well over a period of time at age 12 (also not realizing it wasn’t my own fault, by the way, and not thinking of it as abuse at the time). I was abused by another person at roughly the same age (actually I had only just turned 12) who had plied me with alcohol and started groping and kissing me while I was barely conscious (I resented him a lot the next day, so I knew that what he did was wrong, but I still also blamed myself and felt ashamed. That was my first ‘kiss’). And I had also been abused in the form of being exposed to pornography, both against my will at age 10 and as a result of my own curiosity as to the pornographic materials that could be found in the house I lived in when I was merely a year older.
So between the ages of 10 and almost 13, I was exposed to a number of very harmful sex-related experiences.
And one, two years later, I’m out drinking cocktails with an adult man who has the singular objective of having sex with a child.
One would have to be willfully blind to think that I was an empowered, mature young woman expressing her liberating, somehow innate sexuality (though I was undoubtedly quite mature in various ways, mentally speaking) – I was a girl who had been groomed in different ways, both directly and by the culture surrounding me, and damaged in various ways, seeking validation and attention and reassurance and yes, trying to develop something like a sexuality of my own, even if it was filtered through the pornified, phallocentric culture I grew up in.
But I was a child.
No 15-year-old likes to think of herself as a child. And it’s understandable. At 15, you aren’t that far away from a stage that can be seen as adult, and you are at a point where life does start getting more complicated, demanding more from you, bringing with it more responsibility. You can clearly tell that your life is no longer the same as when you thought of yourself as a child without problem (perhaps compounding the issue in my case: I was always the youngest person in my family and social circle. Everyone I had contact with was at least one or two years older). So at 15, if you’re not an adult yet, I guess that makes you a very mature child.
But that doesn’t mean it’s okay for an adult man to give you drugs and stick his penis in you. It just isn’t okay.
And this man, by the way, I quickly cut off all contact with him. You wanna know why? After that date, he quickly escalated by sending sexually explicit texts all the time about the things he wanted to do to me. And he turned out to want me to pee on him. I was frightened and grossed out and stopped responding.
Not much later, I saw him hitting on a girl from my class. I was full of something like hate for him at seeing that – possibly even from before – because I realized I wasn’t attractive to him because of who I was. That girl was almost my polar opposite but he was interested anyway, and the common denominator was that we were both very young. I was part of a predatory pattern. My gut instinct knew this even if my brain didn’t want to know it, and so it was only ever with a snarl that I thought of this man again.
At the time of dating him, I had no idea that what he was doing was utterly wrong in every way. I felt flattered and validated. But in the meantime, I have gone through years of depression and troubled behavior, including drug abuse. I don’t think these things can be separated from my experiences of abuse in childhood and adolescence; do you?
Harsh as it may sound, the victim just doesn’t always know best. Children certainly don’t know best, even if they don’t think of themselves as children.
Fuck all the rapist-enabling media outlets who have reported on stories of child sexual abuse, grooming and rape as if these things were the innermost desires of girl children. They have blood on their hands. It’s normal for a 15-year-old girl to develop her own sexuality, but not with an adult man and a bunch of intoxicants. Don’t listen to anyone who tries to tell you otherwise, because he is either a rapist or she is a sister who still has a lot to realize.
The following is my translation of an article published on the Danish website Politiken.dk on March 9, 2013
Selling yourself is disgraceful, violent and unfree
Tanja Rahm, sexologist and author
Alice Viola, mentor and therapist
Christina Christensen, educator
Lita Malmberg, unemployed social educator
Pia Christensen, cand.mag. (BA in Denmark)
Odile Poulsen, author and psychotherapist
All authors are formerly prostituted women
We are six women who have been in prostitution. In many ways we are similar to the women Politiken described in the series of articles ‘The Brothel – A Workplace in Denmark’. Their words were our words when we were in prostitution.
Five of us told ourselves and the world around us that we were choosing to do it. That we enjoyed sex, earned good money and received lots of recognition. That we were completely in control of what we did.
The media often describes women in prostitution as strong and free and as having a healthy, hungry relation with sex, most recently so in ‘The Brothel’. The story of the sex-loving woman who liberates her sexuality in prostitution is also the story most people want to hear. Especially men who buy sex.
Those like us are the complete opposite. When we take part in the public debate about prostitution and point out the destructive forces and consequences of prostitution, we are told that something else must be wrong with us.
For it cannot be the years in prostitution that have given us insomnia, depression, memory loss, suicidal thoughts, self-hate, pain, arthritis, anxiety, problems with intimacy and so on.
Even though hundreds of women in our situation speak of the same painful consequences of prostitution, this knowledge does not count in the current debate. ‘The Brothel’ conveys the dominant narrative: prostitution is liberating and harmless.
But what is not made clear at the same time is that it can look very different when one has exited the trade. This can contribute to the normalization of prostitution and lure young women into thinking that it is a danger-free way of earning money. It is not.
Many are we who have had to realize that prostitution is not a free or liberating choice, but boundary-crossing, violent, unfree. We lost touch with ourselves. So that we would be able to take it.
‘Satisfied sex workers’ are treated with a rare, uncritical political correctness by the media.
The journalist in ‘The Brothel’ accepted all the contradictions unquestioningly. But women in prostitution aren’t made of glass. So why shouldn’t they answer critical questions? How, for instance, are they going to avoid being exploited by pimps with the help of a telephone operator and a security guard? How are they going to get men to stop buying the foreign women who have no access to the famous ‘rights’—they are cheaper, after all? How does being a member of a union protect you from being assaulted by the buyers? How can you be an unemployed prostitute?
After all, you could just stand out on the street. ‘The Brothel’ gives the impression that the stigma lies in the fact that some people disagree that prostitution is an okay profession. The degrading view of women that sex buyers have is described by the interviewed women as them being sweet men who long for a little closeness and intimacy.
There is much discussion about freedom of choice. But this seems meaningless to us, for prostitution eats your dignity, free choice or not. When society does not want to give up on the notion that some women should be for sale, the stigma remains. And our pain is brushed aside by saying we chose it ourselves.
Below we have each listed our experiences and our views on being in prostitution:
Tanja: “I was superior, strong. But the façade was crumbling. I became addicted to cocaine so that I could go on. Was I too weak, a spineless victim? No. I survived and built a worthy life for myself. But I see how women in my situation constantly have to fight psychological problems, go to the hospital, get operations.” (…) «Women who exit prostitution tell a different story than that of orgasms and sweet men. Our experiences are the most stigmatizing. Because other women don’t want to realize that their men are possibly sex buyers and cheaters. Men don’t want to lose their illusions of constantly horny women who love to have sex for money. And society fears being seen as judgmental and frigid if we don’t embrace all sexual excesses with wide open arms. The cost of saying what no one wants to hear is condemnation.”
Alice: “As a mentor in ‘Swan Groups’ I meet many who find the media’s generally one-sided idealization of prostitution hard to deal with. In a Swan Group, you gain a better perspective of the issue. For who among us wasn’t happy, right up until we discovered something different? Very many of the Swan Women only discovered the painful reality afterward. Almost all of them have problems with closeness, intimacy, trust and sex. This has serious consequences for relationships with partners, children and others. Freedom in prostitution is an illusion, a quick fix of power and a lie that keeps both the sex buyer and the woman going around the ring.”
Christina: “I went talking to the media, praising the joys of prostitution when I was in prostitution. It was a huge self-deception that I used to survive. Many times I have since wondered about the question of rights. Would I have avoided PTSD, memory loss, depression, sleep disorders and general anxiety if I had had the right to be seen by a health professional every other week or been a member in the union and had the right sick pay? No. Sex buyers differ from other men in only one respect: they can justify to themselves that it is okay to buy sex. They were pitiful when they thought they were entitled to use me because they paid for it. They justified their actions by saying, “Wow, it’s so cool that you are so strong; I could never have sex with one of the weak ones.” I could not possibly be one of those who were being hurt. How wrong they were. Pretending that you’re strong is just the way you sell the goods. “
Lita: “The rights should be the right to get out of prostitution. Help for the treatment of the problems that women in prostitution typically get, help with education or work. People should have the right not to have to sell themselves. And make no mistake: It is selling yourself. It’s not just a performance. You are alone and naked with a stranger who lies on top of you and groans and sweats, who sucks on your breasts and finally empties himself into you. That’s what it is to be a prostitute. Yes, there was always one who said, ‘I’ll be quick so it’s not so bad for you’. But if he thought it was so bad for me, why did he do it? That lack of self-control repelled me. The only thing they were really interested in was the size of our body parts–and what it cost. We were described and sold as if we were sandwiches.”
Pia: “I was violently forced to prostitute myself. That Danish women can also be forced into prostitution is never spoken about, but I am far from alone. My situation resembles that of foreign prostitutes, who also often have pimps—yes, even the ‘willing’ Danish prostitutes sometimes have those. Many women are ashamed, even if they’ve chosen to prostitute themselves, and would very much like to quit. So why are some politicians so busy trying to make the sex industry so that as many as possible can remain in prostitution for as long as possible? A lot more should be done to get women out of prostitution.”
Odile: “It’s not acceptable to talk about the damage we take away from prostitution—that destroys the common notion of prostitution as mutual, free-spirited sex. Women who haven’t been in prostitution and who don’t think that prostitution is good for society, for the prostitutes or the sex buyers, are called frigid, sexually repressed, moralizing spinsters. So how is it possible to discuss?”
French version of this article, translated from English by Martin Dufresne.