Survival Mechanisms and Trauma Bonding in Prostitution

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Was she forced or did she choose it?

 “We’ve been broken. We’ve been torn apart. We’ve been from $20 to $5,000 and it feels the same. It feels like $2. There’s no difference: high-class, low-class. I’ve done it all and it still feels the same.” – Ne’cole Daniels

“I was a high-class escort, and we used to tell ourselves that what we were doing was so much better than what prostitutes did in the streets and in seedy brothels. But the fact is we did exactly the same thing: having fake sex for fake money. It didn’t make a difference that the sheets were clean.” – Tanja Rahm

In debates around prostitution, the women are often divided into two groups: Those who were forced into prostitution and those who ‘chose’ it. The definition of ‘force’ or ‘coercion’ may vary, but the logic is always the same. There are women who are forced into prostitution through violence or economic coercion and they deserve our compassion. And then there are those who ‘freely’ choose it, even though they have alternatives – for example, if they’re native to a country like Germany and have access to social services and unemployment benefits – unlike the poor Romanian woman, who does not receive any state support and lives in a slum in her home country. Or they have a university degree or learned a ‘decent’ trade of some kind. In the eyes of some, these women are at fault for their situation and do not deserve our sympathy.

“The reality is that Radical Feminists are on the right side of history here, and they are the only feminists who get the full picture, and the reasons why it [prostitution] exists. Socialist Feminists have my respect, but they don’t have the whole picture here. Prostitution does not exist as a consequence of women’s economic disenfranchisement. Poverty is a supporting factor. Not a reason. Supporting factors are not reasons. They are simply supporting factors. Prostitution exists for only one reason; that reason is male demand. No amount of poverty would be capable of creating prostitution if it were not for male demand” – Rachel Moran

Debating this issue, we overlook the fact that even white women, who study at universities can live in poverty. They, too, can come from dysfunctional families, have experienced sexual, physical or emotional violence and may be re-enacting that trauma inside prostitution. As Rachel Moran shows us – looking at prostitution purely from an economic perspective makes us miss vital corroborating factors.

“Andrea Dworkin once said that incest is the boot camp for prostitution. Deep in my bones, I know this to be true. […] Turning my first trick was no different from being raped by [my stepfather].” – Jacqueline Lynne

“Traumatic situations can be addictive because they cause a massive release of adrenaline – and that is addictive. Additionally, a violent situation is something well-known to people who have experienced as much violence as that in prostitution. I learned from early childhood on: The place where I am afraid, where I am hurt, where I am degraded, is the place where I belong. That is home. This is why even today I still have to struggle in situations that endanger me and to decide against the danger and to walk away. The situations are shite, but familiar; I know them. Situations in which people are nice to me, do not shout, do not batter, do not abuse me, feel creepy. I promptly feel inferior. My soul signals: ‘Something is wrong here. This is alien.’ Prostitution is like self-harm. No, prostitution IS self-harm.” – Huschke Mau

According to sociologist Pierre Bourdieu the body serves as a memory aid for any given social order: “What the body has learned, one does not own like knowledge that can be reflected upon, but it becomes the literal self.” It follows from this, that structures of social inequality or sex hierarchies do not necessarily need to be enforced through violence or physical force, but that they are individually and collectively unconsciously internalized.

“Every time a man came into the brothel, paying me to satisfy him, I felt that I was worth something. Not because of him, not because of what was going on, but because of the money. The money seduced me for a long time. Feeling that I was actually worth something.” – Tanja Rahm

“You can imagine how addictive the money is and how a normal job like a cleaner, nurse or even being a receptionist would be unappealing to someone trying to leave the industry but cannot adjust to a comparatively low income. Also some women are addicted to the attention. I know I was. I loved being picked over everyone else when I was young and post surgery.” – Linda

“I left the room with money in my hand. I thought that was ‘easy’ money. I felt free, unencumbered. I had a sense of pseudo-sexual empowerment. At least I didn’t have to pretend I was in love. I was not trapped in an ongoing abusive relationship, or so I thought.” – Jacqueline Lynne

To a person who has not experienced abuse, this may initially seem strange, but it’s a reoccurring motive for female survivors of violence to get a feeling of empowerment out of prostitution – with the mentality of ‘since men take what they want from me anyway, I’m going to exercise some degree of power and at least make them pay for it.’

It is true that impoverished women make up a larger percentage of those in prostitution, than women from wealthy homes. However, not every poor woman is equally likely to end up in prostitution. Studies have shown that even the women trafficked from the slums of Eastern Europe are likely to come from a dysfunctional family background.

Today the German prostitution market is saturated with poor and foreign women. But it wasn’t always like that. In the 1990s most prostituted women were German. But foreign women, who face oppression due to both race and class, are far easier to blackmail and thus the range of ethnicities on offer in brothels has expanded over the past years – undoubtedly aided by the impact of racist themes in porn on the sexual demands of johns. Since German women in comparison have more options for making a living (although unemployment benefits don’t necessarily guarantee that), they no longer make up the majority of those in prostitution.

Prostitution as re-enactment of earlier trauma

If we start to recognise prostitution as self-harming behaviour and re-enactment of trauma experienced by prostituted women, we also need to ask whether middle-class German women don’t also experience abuse in areas of society (e.g. promiscuity via dating websites; without monetary compensation within BDSM; when looking for validation on Reality-TV or social media, etc.).

“It’s hard to value yourself when you’ve been sold for as little as a pack of cigarettes.” – Jade

“At the time I didn’t understand the damage the men were doing to me, to my sexuality, my trust, my self-esteem and ultimately my soul. […] The heavy consequence of being prostituted and sexually abused meant that I couldn’t trust people and I couldn’t exercise a healthy form of intimacy.” – Kat

The feeling of empowerment or agency is however an illusion. An illusion, which needs to be kept alive against all odds, in order to survive the everyday reality of prostitution.

“When you are in prostitution you internalize the violence. You hear the same repulsive things over and over when you are being called a slut, a whore, stupid or disgusting. But still you defend your ‘free choice’ and say that prostitution is just ordinary work, because realizing the truth is so depleting. You dissociate yourself from the men and their actions, because no one has the psyche to be present in the acts of violence in prostitution.” – Tanja Rahm

In the long run her self-worth gets destroyed and her self-perception morphs gradually into what the punters are projecting onto her.

“The word ‘prostitute’ does not imply a ‘deeper identity’: it’s the absence of an identity: the theft and subsequent abandonment of self.” – Evelina Giobbe

The prostituted person – through the punters – is turned into a ‘non-person.’ Her personality is irrelevant, she is objectified and made into his masturbation aid, into (or onto) which he empties himself. It does not matter whether he pays with a pack of cigarettes or €5,000 for the night. It also does not matter whether she is on the street or a ‘high class’ escort. The nature of the act remains unchanged.

“Each girl has a working name. […] These names are alter egos, not an alias to protect their identity as I first thought. They were like stage names to help them slip into character and escape themselves.” – Jacqueline Gwynne

“In the rooms, you have to pretend to like the sex. […] To get clients to return, every girl has not just to have sex, but to really pretend to like the whole experience. […] I knew how to pretend, since I felt numb and dead sexually around men. […] I learnt how to do sex through watching porn. […] I knew that women in porn were acting because penetration had always been painful for me.” – Linda

“I do think our views are legitimized by the fact that we no longer have any emotional need to defend the industry. I had a lot of cognitive dissonance when I was in the business.” – Rae Story

Prostituted women have to play pretend in order to protect themselves. Punters expect her to make them feel as though she likes it. The female orgasm is part of the male power-trip or as Bourdieu put it: “Male pleasure is, in part, the power to give pleasure.” Additionally it can be assumed that johns need this in order to calm any qualms about their own actions, so they can delude themselves, that their opposite desires the sexual interaction just as much as they do – and that they’re not instead committing rape. As studies (e.g. Farley et al.) show: Johns know exactly what they’re really doing to prostituted women when they buy access to them.

“[Prostitution] is the use of a women’s body for sex by a man, he pays money, he does what he wants. The minute you move away from what it really is, you move away from prostitution into the world of ideas. You will feel better; you will have a better time; it is more fun; there is plenty to discuss, but you will discuss ideas, not prostitution. Prostitution is not an idea. It is the use of a woman’s body for sex by a man, he pays money, he does what he wants … It is the mouth, the vagina, the rectum, penetrated usually by a penis, sometimes hands, sometimes objects, by one man and then another and then another and then another and then another. That’s what it is.” – Andrea Dworkin

Turning the spotlight on the punter

In the debate over how much ‘choice’ or ‘agency’ prostituted women really have, it is always overlooked how the nature of prostitution does not change from the position of the john – irrespective of the real or perceived degree of consent on the part of the prostituted person: The purchase of sexual acts that would not take place in 99.9% of cases without material (or other kinds of) compensation. That is why prostitution is always the enactment of sexual acts that are not truly wanted and need to be classified as sexual violence. The buying of sexual acts are entirely centred on the desire of the purchasing person to which the prostituted person has to submit (even if she is a dominatrix).

Why do we even agree to this debate about choice or force and the degrees to which either of them may apply to the prostituted person? Why don’t we instead point to the fact that 100% of johns freely choose to purchase sexual access to prostituted people?

“When we talk about prostitution, it is mainly girls and women who are put in the spotlight, and expected to justify why we ended up in prostitution. Men are not asked to explain why they do harm to girls and why they use the bodies of girls and women in prostitution. […] Now I know I do not need any justification for the way men treated me. They preyed on me, they sexually harassed me, it was not my responsibility and I do not need to explain why they prostituted and sexually hurt a girl. It is never the fault of the girl and it is never the circumstances a girl that led to her being prostituted. […] We should never judge or shame women in the sex trade, whatever their analysis of the industry and its impact.” – Kat

Instead we put the prostituted woman in a situation, where we expect her to explain to us why she is prostituting. We expect her to reveal her life story, so that we may judge whether she is deserving of our compassion and solidarity or not. So that we may judge, whether she had other options.

Who benefits when we shame women (who’ve been conditioned since childhood to submit to men’s sexual entitlements) and say “I have all this self-respect and I would never prostitute myself”? What are we communicating to her, when we claim that we would rather heroically starve, than give men sexual access to our bodies when in a state of desperation? Is it not understandable that women, who are stigmatized socially in this way, develop a defiant stance and attempt to create a self-image of the ‘strong, empowered whore,’ who ‘doesn’t spread her legs for free’ in order to protect her self-worth?

It is not women in prostitution who debase themselves, but men who buy women and do not view them as full and complete human beings of equal worth.

Dissociation and PTSD

“I had to tell myself lots of lies, in order to keep my brain from splitting into a million pieces and me going crazy by the continual abuse that was happening over and over and over, and the violence and everything else that goes along with prostitution.” – Autumn Burris

“Mentally, your identity is messed with, you get another name, you become another person in prostitution. You shift from real to fake you. I was disassociated from reality. I had PTSD, I walked around as if in a dream” – Jade

“The first thing we humans do in any intolerable, inescapable situation is erase our subjective reality. We evade and avoid accepting the nature of the situation itself. […] With the advent of this new [sex work] ideology, women have been handed a whole new set of tools with which to deceive themselves and others.” – Rachel Moran

When you see no escape, the only strategy is to play down what’s happening to you. As previously mentioned, this forced positive outlook on prostitution does not by itself lead to any material graspable self-empowerment, but rather furthers the destruction of the self.

“I feel as though I have so little of ‘me’ left because I spent so much of my life pretending to be someone else. I still feel like an escort on the inside years later, one that hasn’t turned a trick in a while. […] The real world doesn’t feel real. I feel any moment I could all crumble and I will be back in a brothel with man after man lining up to further scar me.” – Kendra Chase

“The problem with dissociation is that once you exit a life of sexual exploitation you don’t just go back to normal. Dissociation becomes a part of how you operate in daily life.” – Autumn Burris

This leads to a connection to the system of prostitution, which persists even after one has managed to see through the psychological mechanisms (usually with the help of therapy) and has reflected on one’s time within prostitution.

“I felt welcomed by the sex industry, at home among a sisterhood of misfits. Everyone had a back-story akin to mine. I was no longer the odd one out. […] The longer I stayed, the more socially isolated I became. The mainstream world became frightening: a place where I could be exposed and shamed […] My heart cried out for leaving, but like women from violent relationships who feel lost and broken inside, I´d return again and again. I often went back out of sheer loneliness. I felt closer to clients and to the women like me whose real names I rarely knew than to anyone else in the world. Walking away was to lose that connection. Going back was like the homecoming I longed for and never got from my family. Within days or hours, I´d be planning my next escape.” – Christie

“Merely walking through the area around Frankfurt’s Central Station where brothels stand wall to wall gives me a strange feeling of being in the wrong place. Looking up along the ‘whorehouses’ and their rows and rows of windows, I feel an irresistible need to go back: There at least I’d know how to act, there I know the procedure, the programme, what I need to say, but like this as a spectator in the red-light district… Weird. To be here is like returning to your ex who hits you: It is like arriving home, everything is familiar and yet it feels all wrong.” – Huschke Mau

The challenges of exiting prostitution

Prostitution gives prostituted women a feeling of ‘being amongst their own.’ Women find women with similar life stories, both before and inside prostitution. Although the social division of Madonna and whore plays its part. As strange as it might sound, abusive punters may sometimes be the only routine social interaction.

“My family had heard of me having worked in a brothel and I got a reputation of being a ‘hooker’ even though I was at university studying. That first experience tarnished me in the eyes of others.” – Linda

“When I cry today it’s from healing, it’s from overcoming, it’s the victim that’s crying, it’s the survivor that’s crying. I am thinking, ‘Really? Me? I’m out? And I’m here? And I’m supporting 150 people who are getting out?’ I never would have thought to be here.” – Ne’cole Daniels

Exiting prostitution isn’t just hard because of the loss of one’s social circle, but also because exited women, too, still live with the risk of being outed publically and branded as ‘whores.’ Former punters, who aren’t stigmatized by society, brag publically of ‘having had a go at that one before.’ There’s also always a risk of video recordings of a woman’s prostitution being publicized at any point after her exit.

It’s not enough to satisfy the purely material needs, like giving her a roof over her head or a job. Exiting prostitution successfully also involves a complicated psychological process of cutting the cord from the sex trade life.

“Disordered self-perception and extremely low self-esteem isolate most prostitutes from their non-prostituted surroundings. After years spent in this environment, most women simply only know others from this life. It is like a parallel world. And sometimes, it just feels like ‘the true world’ to you. Because you don’t feel any trust in your fellow human beings, and above all none in men. You now know and have experienced what they are capable of on your own body, and therefore you know what to think of the bourgeois façade ‘out there.’ For punters do not only parade around in the ‘underworld,’ but also ‘out there,’ in the ‘normal world.’ Only there what happens is that you are being shamed as the (former) prostitute not merely by them, but by others, while the punters are indeed not shamed or held accountable. So you can just as well remain in prostitution: by comparison this place appears sort of honest at least, violence against money, everybody knows what you’re doing, does the same, the rules are known, as are the mechanisms.” – Huschke Mau

The average age of entering prostitution is 14 years. When a young girl enters the sex trade world and grows up inside it, she has little chance of orientating herself outside that milieu. The same goes for women, who have spent the majority of their adult life inside prostitution.

This means that a woman who exits prostitution after many years not only has to find a new way of securing a steady income, but she also has to adapt to the everyday life and challenges outside the sex trade. She may have to rebuild her social network from the bottom.

“When we exit prostitution, that is just beginning of a long struggle back to personhood, back to dignity, back to self-respect and back to a life that can be made safe. It is a rebirth, and like a new-born we do not know or understand the rules of the ‘real’ world. I remember not knowing how to shop, for punters brought so much. I had no idea how to pay bills, how to look for somewhere safe, to look for work. I had no idea how to be an adult, as I still carried my damaged child and teenager in me. I was drowning, but I received no help, no support – I had to fight every inch of the way to get back some kind of real life.” – Rebecca Mott

“Someone whose boundaries are being violated daily and hourly may not be able to stay among others, because their inner alarm system will keep on going on alert: ‘This is a man, danger!’ I do not even want to begin to talk here about what it means to be outside and being triggered, having flashbacks. Nightmares and sleep disorders are exhausting. It is almost impossible to keep up appearances and to move over into a ‘normal life.’ And you feel ‘different’ from the others, inferior, more hurt. Broken. People seem creepy, the ‘normal ones’ more than anybody, because they make you see what you yourself aren’t any longer: without cares, without injuries, without fears. Whole. Nice. In a good mood.

“In order to endure prostitution, you have to split your awareness away from your body, to dissociate. The problem is that you cannot just slip back into it later. The body remains without contact to your soul, your psyche. You just do not feel yourself any more. It took me several years to learn that what I sometimes feel is hunger. And that this means you should eat something. Or that what I experience means that I am cold. And that you should put on something warm.

“It is exhausting to learn or to relearn that one’s body has its needs, to feel it, and it is even more exhausting to practice ‘self-care.’ Not to treat yourself like shit any longer. To sleep, when you are tired – because you’re not sitting in a 24-hour brothel and have to take the next punter. That you don’t have to feel cold any longer because you’re in street prostitution when it’s below freezing. That you can change situations that cause pain instead of eliminating the pain through dissociation, drugs or alcohol.

“But trauma won’t let go of you so easily: You get used to it. This phenomenon is called ‘trauma bonding,’ and it is the reason why women who are battered by their husbands keep going back.” – Huschke Mau

What’s normal to other people needs to be relearned, like a child who learns to walk. That challenge must be faced – on top of the daily struggle to survive and process the trauma.

“To be exited, is to daily have the courage to know where you came from, and use that knowledge to refuse the self-harm that makes it seem easier to be back in the deadness of prostitution. I am daily stunned and amazed at the exited women who made this journey without specialist therapy, without help with housing, without knowing whether they can keep their children or not, without a job to go to, and usually with physical and mental health issues as their norm. Exited women are the bravest people that I know – for the world gives them little or nothing, but they have the dignity and self-respect to want to educate for real freedom and change for all the prostituted.” – Rebecca Mott

Exiting the system of prostitution is a long process and accomplishing this is not at all a given and deserves our utmost respect. When an organization like Talita in Sweden can offer one-year-long exit and rehabilitation programs – it is something to celebrate. However in most countries those support programs do not exist.

Considering this, it shouldn’t surprise us, that many women do not find their way out of prostitution. Or that it often takes several attempts and many set-backs to get to the end of the road.

That is something we have to seriously consider when looking at women who switch to the side of the pimps – the prostituters.

Becoming a madam

Women, who are trafficked abroad and live under debt bondage, can sometimes free themselves by recruiting ‘the next generation’ from their home country. Some are actually discharged from their debts, but others are not and are forced to continue prostituting.

“I built a brothel on my own. I saw it as a means of escaping the control and direction of other madams and as a way to provide a safe and happy place for women to conduct their business. I tried to convince myself that my brothel would be different. I learned early that it was no different.” – Kendra Chase

“I remained in the sex industry for another five years. During this time I even became a madam myself. This came naturally as I had been in the game long enough to know well the tricks of the trade on both sides of the desk. I managed to convince young women to start careers as prostitutes. […] I hate myself for that. It didn’t take long before I was working again, the lure of money for drugs was too much.” – Jade

The field of prostitution is an autonomous one with its own rules and laws. This ‘milieu’ is a parallel society in which the usual institutions are not the ones ‘calling the shots.’ Women pay for certain spots on the street, brothels and brothel apartments are run with the goal of making a profit. Studies definitely show that those making the big bucks are not the prostituted women, the majority of whom are dependent on some form of welfare even during their active time in prostitution.

Women who have (partially or completely) switched to the side of the pimps and start making money off the prostitution of others may be able to limit or give up prostituting themselves. In the hierarchy of the trade however they haven’t substantially moved up in the ranks. They’re the lowest caste of pimps – they don’t earn nearly as much as the ‘big players.’

The advantage of becoming a pimp – compared to exiting – is of course that the woman’s identity, which is tied to the trade, is not in itself threatened. She doesn’t have to give up the idea of prostitution as ‘a job like any other’ and she stays in her familiar surroundings, without having to learn to navigate an entirely new social order.

Jacqueline Gwynne came from outside and began working as a receptionist in a brothel, as the normalization of prostitution in society had made her have no qualms about ‘sex work’ and participating in the trade. Only with time did she realize that she had been a de facto pimp. She had to first reflect on what had happened, in order to understand her own role in the sex industry.

The importance of respecting prostituted women who disagree with us

“She stood on a chair, towering over an audience who wanted to hear me; booing, interrupting and bellowing. I didn’t feel anger or even annoyance. I strangely identified with her. [I thought] she’s scared. I can see it because I’ve felt this defensiveness. ‘Don’t take my livelihood. I got nothing else. I’ve got nowhere else to turn.’” – Sabrinna Valisce

Women who are currently in prostitution, often react strongly to women who speak the truth about prostitution, because it threatens their painfully acquired self-defence mechanisms and identity.

That is why it’s import to always remember: Prostituted women do not owe us anything. They can call themselves what they want and interpret their living situation any way they want. They don’t have to be subjected to our take on prostitution and they deserve our respect irrespective of whether they share our political stance. To tell a prostituted woman as an outsider to the trade that she isn’t realizing the dire state of her situation and that she is downplaying and sanitizing it, does not help her deal with it – quite the opposite: Instead she is being shamed in a truly patronizing manner.

All prostituted women have a right to participate in the public debate about prostitution and their voices are relevant, even if we do not necessarily agree with them – again irrespective of whether she is prostituted on the streets or in a dominatrix studio. Even those who do not share our political views, we can learn from about the reality and the system of prostitution.

“Every legal milestone myself and the many other women globally who are fighting for this legislation achieve, we must pay for by becoming victims of an organized campaign of abuse and intimidation. Those campaigning against the laws I’m fighting for have got hold of my home address, bank details and personal email. Now the abuse lands straight in my inbox as well as my blog and I have had portions of my home address tweeted at me in a ‘we know where to find you’ – style threat […] The people actively engaged in this behaviour describe themselves as ‘sex workers’ rights activists. Most are women and many have never been in prostitution themselves.” – Rachel Moran

But a person, who shames prostituted women, who do not share her view that prostitution is exploitation, who insults or threatens them or suggests that what men do to them is their own fault, deserves our harshest criticism – naturally even if that person is currently or formerly prostituted.

A woman, who advances to the position of a madam (not against her expressed will), should of course face legal consequences like any third party profiteer of prostitution. To strip her of all responsibility would be unfair to all those who decide against going down this path. She is however not to be put on a level with men, who have never been prostituted themselves.

Prostitution’s role in maintaining the second class status of all women

When prostitution fulfils its social function – namely to continue the second class citizen status of women within the hierarchy of sexes – no woman profits from it socially, not even when she is taking part in the economic profit.

“Prostitution doesn’t stand apart from society, but is brought forward and required, to cement the traditional role [of women and men] over and over again.” – Huschke Mau

Prostitution isn’t just a problem, because of the exploitation of marginalized women, disadvantaged by sex, race and class. It is also a problem, because it has an adverse effects on ALL women, those prostituted and those not prostituted. Not just on an individual level (infection with sexually transmitted diseases, extortion for sexual favours, etc.), but also on a social one. In 1981 Kate Millet labelled prostitution as “the example for the social situation of women, as it fundamentally still exists.”

Social rituals take up the function of separating women and men from one another. Through these rituals men fight out symbolic battles, which serve the ‘defeminisation’ or coming of age process of men. The male habitus is formed within spaces reserved for men, where they prove their manliness to one another and reassure each other they belong in the class of ‘true men.’ The female body is an object, which is circulated among men, serving to increase their own symbolic capital [of manliness]. Prostitution is thus a collective, as well as an individual practice, which ensures male supremacy and privileges (for both johns and non-johns).

The sociologist Michael Meuser summarized this with the following words: “Homosociality describes the reservation of certain spaces for male-only spheres, thereby the creation of spaces which women are excluded from. Homosocial men’s societies are places, which exist for men to assure themselves of the normalcy and appropriateness of their social dynamics. […] In an era, where male supremacy is increasingly being questioned, these spaces become even more significant, than they were before, to securing male hegemony.”

“First she has to prove that she has the correct views – only then is she allowed to speak – in the magazine, on TV, in political groups.” – Andrea Dworkin

When we ask ourselves why more airtime is given to those [prostituted women], who argue for the preservation of prostitution, the simple reason is that it serves the continuance of the status quo. To make [these women] responsible for the existence of prostitution means to shift the blame from those with actual social power and cultural prominence, to those who are barely taken seriously and are mere puppets to those in power.

Of course, not all women are affected by prostitution to the same degrees, because it naturally makes a difference, whether a woman’s body is or isn’t sexually used by men.

Nonetheless it is important to note, that the existence of prostitution has adverse effects for all women and that because of that all women are (primarily or secondarily) affected. The male collective can through prostitution get unlimited access to the female body. We have to understand, that prostituted women are not ‘another kind of woman,’ but that ANY ONE of us could be in her place.

Instead of patronizing prostituted women, expecting them to justify their situation and shaming them – our focus should be squarely on those who are the reason why prostitution exists: Johns and all the men who do not openly stand against them, because they, too, are beneficiaries of the system of prostitution – unlike women.

Translation by Elisabeth Lauer

Except where a link indicates otherwise, all survivor quotes are from ‘Prostitution Narratives: Stories of Survival in the Sex Trade,’ edited by Caroline Norma and Melinda Tankard Reist, Spinifex Press: 2017

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