Saturday, 29 October 2011

Freak Show

Pretty woman starred Richard Gere. Sadly, dear Richard is not representative of the men who buy women, either looks-wise or behaviour-wise.

There's a reason that the men who buy women have to buy women.

Let me paint you a more accurate, if less pretty, picture. The johns are there for a reason, and if you think that reason has anything to do with loving women or entering into a simple financial contract, you'd be wrong. Let's have a closer look at the johns.

The woman hater. This man has a personal history which has led him to hate women. It may go something like this: his mother abused him as a kid. Or he feels a girlfriend / female work colleague humiliated him. Or he has a female boss which he can't bear. Or he can't get women like he deserves. The history may differ but the result is the same: he wants to teach women a lesson. He wants to make women, that woman, any woman, this woman he pays for, feel pain as he believes the women in his life have made him feel pain. No matter that this is a different woman. The point is, the prostitute is available to him as a means of expressing his hatred and aggression in a way that the woman or women he wants to even a score with are not. He can't get a relationship with a woman because of how he treats them. The thing is, and he knows this only too well, with a prostitute, there are no consequences. If he beats her, if he rapes her, half strangles her, threatens to kill her, nothing will happen to him. No blue siren will arrive to take him away. That's what she's there for isn't it? An outlet for the rage. He gives her money, or maybe he withholds payment and just uses her and leaves her bleeding on the street as a final snub to her (she should be grateful to be alive. Bitch).

Then there's the conventionally unattractive man. He can't get a relationship with a woman because of his looks or his personal hygiene. For him, the prostitute is the woman who can't say no. An attractive prospect? Maybe not. Was it good for me? NO! But I'll fake it because I have to.

Next up is the porn addict. He might or might not be in a relationship with a woman. He may even be married. Point is, he wants to try out some of the more extreme sex acts he's witnessed in porn, which his partner won't do or he's afraid to ask to try maybe because somewhere deep down he knows it's not something women who can choose will choose. This might be anal sex, taking pornographic photos on his 'phone, two girl shows, DPs, fisting, watersports... you get the point. Driven by his porn fascination, he divides women into two groups: madonnas and whores. He dates madonnas, but he sees it as his right to explore other sex acts brought to his attention by porn and he knows that for the more unpleasant stuff, prostitutes are the only option.

Finally there is the john who just can. He likes to pay for women to have sex just because he can - it's a power trip to him. He can get women for himself, he might not be physically unattractive, but he also gets off on knowing that if he offers cash to a prostitute, she can't say no. He can do whatever he likes with the prostitute and then pick up his current girlfriend and whisk her off to an expensive dinner, smiling even as he does about where he's just been. To him it's a thrill, a buzz.

In short, the johns are a group of men who are accountable to no one. They demand to use and abuse in whatever way they wish to get their orgasm, with not a humane thought towards the woman they have used. The prostitute is at the bottom of the heap, the subject of hatred and fear, the stuff of fable and folklore. She is fucked, discarded and laughed at. The john holds all the power and he knows it. That she is desperate for his cash is self-evident: it is her reason for being there. If he rapes her and beats her and leaves her half dead, the law won't come for him because as a prostitute, she has no recourse to the law. He is safe in the knowledge that even should she try to speak out, her voice will be dismissed as unbelievable, hysterical, extreme. In fact, the worse he hurts her, the less chance she has of being believed. It can't have been that bad.

I write this from my experience of johns during my time as an escort and in the brothel. The men varied but their reasons didn't, their behaviour didn't. Being pimped was even worse.

Richard Gere? Not a hope in hell.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

On Morons and Oxymorons

A quick thought on another article I found this month on the Guardian online. This particular article referred to Anna Arrowsmith as a 'feminist' pornographer. I'm sorry, but there is no such thing as a feminist pornographer. Let's rephrase it: a feminist woman-abuser. See what I mean? It doesn't work. It's like saying an atheistic believer, or a round square.

It's an oxymoron.

Pornography naturalises the subjugation of women - it treats them as less than human, and as demanding to be treated as such. The men are aggressors - they take, fuck, dominate and cum on or in as a statement of possession, as a cat would piss to mark its territory. Feminism's efforts to advance sexual equality, with both men and women treated humanely as human beings, sets it at odds with such abuses.

Feminist pornographer? We're in the domain of the moronic there.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Anna Arrowsmith: So Open Minded My Brain Just Fell Out

My attention was drawn to an article in the Guardian online stating that porn is good for society. In it, the (female) writer argues that there is no evidence that porn causes any damage. I've just left my two pen'orth in the comments section for what it's worth, a little apprehensively (defenders of porn may claim to be in favour of free speech but in my experience they're never backward in coming forward to tell anyone who disagrees with their perspective to shut the fuck up - prude! conservative! do-gooder! frigid cow... you get my point) . I'm prepared for a backlash.

That the author, Anna Arrowsmith - a porn director - is likely to be a tad biased in favour of porn is hard to dispute. That she makes sweeping statements, as if of fact, as to the harmlessness of porn, is a little harder to swallow. And as a survivor of prostitution and pornography, I've had to swallow a good deal!

Of course, reading through the comments, her view is a popular one. Men and women who get off on using porn, without too much thought as to any consequences beyond their own orgasm are unlikely to thank anyone who draws attention to the damages caused by porn. Hell, it might take the edge off things or even make them feel a bit bad, and porn's all about feeling good after all, isn't it? Having a laugh, getting your rocks off, not too serious, no harm done.

As if.

Porn damages. Fact. In it, women are sex objects, a set of orifices to be bought, wanked over and discarded. Men who object to this view are seen as unmanly, women who object as prudish or jealous. Or anti sex. God, that makes me laugh, yeah, of course, I object to women being sold and abused to make vast sums of money for an industry that then discards them with their mental health problems and physical damage, so I must be an enemy of sexual empowerment and sex.


The arguments put forward by the sex industry are thin and reedy, when they are seen for what they are. Once we discard the fear of being called names for not supporting an industry that destroys women, we can begin to speak. But more than that, we can point out a few facts that unlike Anna Arrowsmith's wishful thinking are harder to dispute. The argument put forward by the industry is little more than hot air, a huge spin machine there to protect maximum profits for the business men behind it. The sex industry doesn't care about promoting a healthy varied view of sex, it cares about money! It is profit driven. The pimps don't care about the women's bodies, they care about new, ever more extreme niche markets. Double penetration? Double anal? Fisting? They all hurt. But they make money, push the boundaries, have an edge. Porn isn't free speech: since when did a vagina or anus have a voice? It's the very opposite, a muting of the voices of the women it uses and hurts. They can't say: this hurts! They have to say: I love it, I choose to be here, it feels so good, fuck me harder, or else not be paid or be hurt by the unseen pimps and coercers hidden in pornography at the other end of the lens.

I know: I've been there. The words I said weren't my words, they were the words of my ex, of the man who beat me and raped me and sold me for other men to photograph and film and beat and rape. Being forced to say I enjoyed being abused, wanted more of it, nearly killed me, and I'm not speaking figuratively. I've wanted to die even since I exited.

Women don't get into the sex industry because they're happy and sorted and well adjusted. We end up there through mental health issues, substance abuse issues, violence, past abuse... desperation. And once you get in there, it's all down hill from there on in. The trauma of being sold, of being used as pure entertainment, of being abused, being laughed at and hurt and fucked and told you deserve it, stays with you. If you're lucky enough to get out alive, and not everyone does, you are left so damaged, so scarred, that you feel you no longer fit in, no longer belong. You feel you belong back there, although you hate it, are terrified of it. It's the only place they'll welcome a fuck up like you. Everywhere you go for help they tell you that prostitution's just a job, that porn's harmless, they invalidate you, they judge you (you've got bad mental health now after all, you're easily dismissed, and a 'history' of substance abuse issues, of self harm) and they send you away. Even the so-called mental health professionals don't want to hear your story.

Mute then, and mute now. Disposable then, disposable now.

Because, as Anna Arrowsmith's article, and the majority of comments beneath it show, most people don't want to listen, don't want to hear the unpalatable truth. Society demands that the individual be able to use a woman, buy a woman, wank over a woman and then fold her back into the bedside drawer, with a box of tissues and a spotless conscience. This state of affairs will continue for as long as there is fear in speaking out. No one likes being called names. As for me, though, when I hear defenders of porn saying that people who are anti porn are closed minded, I say: it's ok to say that somethings are damaging. Porn damages. We have to draw a line somewhere. Otherwise we will continue to live in the situation in which we are so open minded, our brains have fallen out.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Waving Not Drowning

Where the anger ends there is a whole ocean of sadness. In truth, I have put a good deal of effort into avoiding this sadness: I don't watch sad films or read sad books, if I sense an ending I'll flip the channel, I don't listen to classical music. I don't even like last seasons of programmes: it'll be over soon! The rawness of the sadness, my sadness, the depth and the width is immense.

I'm scared I'll drown out there.

It feels uncontainable, unmanageable, and that terrifies me. Much better, much safer, to be angry instead. Of course the problem is that in order to stay clean and sober, and to try to move on, this sadness is going to need to be looked at, experienced and talked and cried out. How to release it slowly, rather than sinking in a deluge, is a tricky one.

Everything interlinks. One thing triggers another: the death of my parents; the horror of addiction and active alcoholism; the insidious slide into domestic violence; being pimped; the violence of being pimped; the trauma and escape and fall into prostituting myself and the violence I met there.

In order to survive, just to get through, I told myself I don't matter, what's happening here doesn't matter, nothing touches me, these people and this situation doesn't matter and neither do I. Now here in recovery I have to resist that thinking. In truth, when I got sober, it was because there was a part of me, a tiny fire which was strong enough to say at my lowest point - enough! I am worth saving. I have to stop or die here, alone and terrified, just another addict prostitute gone, just another statistic.

But following this magical new outlook on me through to its logical conclusion continues to be painful. If I matter, then what was done to me matters, I can no longer snarl and say these fuckers can't get to me, they'll never hurt me. The fact of the matter is they did get to me. And they have hurt me, immeasurably. I survived through stuff as best I could by denying my feelings but those feelings are lining up to be heard, to be felt and acknowledged and accepted.

I guess that when you've pushed so much under the rug that it's become a mountain with a rug perched on top it's time to lift it up and clear some stuff out!

Scary but necessary. Anger, channelled positively, is a great driver in my life, and I'm not about to ditch that. But I'm at that jumping off point with the sadness, with being honest enough I guess to admit that I hurt, and to let some of it out. To be vulnerable. No human being can walk through all that shit and be unscathed. I'm just human. It fucking hurts. But I don't want to drink or use again, and I want to find some peace. Whatever it takes, I'm moving forward because going backwards just isn't an option.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Unwatchable? Or Voyeurism Run Amok?

I heard about the storm the film 'Unwatchable' has caused when my therapist mentioned it to me. Suffice it to say I have no wish to watch the re-enactment of a woman being gang raped and hideous violence meted out to her family to put across a point about abuses which occur through the mobile 'phones industry in the Congo.

This is in no way because I think this stuff shouldn't be given publicity, and be denounced and taken action against. I believe passionately that wherever there is violence and injustice that the truth must be told and brought to people's attention, no matter how unpalatable. Here in the West we too often sit all too comfortably on our complacent arses and think that as long as life is good for me, then I'm not too bothered about anyone else. We live in a 'me' culture. Even when things that bring us pleasure cause other people pain (pornography being the main example I have drawn upon here in my blogs) we prefer a good old ostrich approach. We need to be made uncomfortable! Only if I am uncomfortable will I move from my armchair and take action.

But to draw attention to rape and torture doesn't necessitate a re-enactment. It just seems to me to be part of the same old same old pattern: people get desensitised to pain and violence, so rather than finding more creative means of expressing the destructivity of rape and violence we simply show it in ever more graphic ways. And so the shock factor barrier gets pushed further and further and the images on our screens become more and more sordid.

The truth is that rape is sordid. It is damaging, it is scarring, it is the fundamental loss of something irretrievable: yourself. As a survivor of rape, and of gang rape, I felt lost even to myself, disconnected, other than my body, betrayed by it. Unable to stop what was happening to it, I removed myself mentally, I split off. My body remained but I didn't: I was there but not there, present but not present. The rapes and the violence remain a part of me, even now: they were my reality, that was my life as a pimped woman, addicted to drink and drugs. And there's no moving on fast from that. Everybody likes a happy ending, boy how we love them! She got away from him, got clean and sober and now lives a happy life. The end! We can move onto something else conscience clear.

Not likely. Not in my experience, anyway. Healing from trauma takes time and help, and healing from severe trauma takes a lot of time and help.

What has been produced is a quick, sensationalist video of graphic sexual violence (likely to trigger survivors of rape), another piece in the ever growing pile of more sexually graphic material that's already coming out of our ears. This has triggered off a flash shock-horror-this-is-what-gang-rape-looks-like kind of response which seems likely to fizzle out soon (we'll see if the hype it's created moves beyond talking about the actual video into actual longterm action and pressure groups). Isn't that the pattern with shocking images? Shocked, then less shocked, then just forgotten as something more shocking comes along. I've watched a video and been outraged and talked about it, maybe even signed a petition so now I can wash my hands and forget... Wouldn't it have been more effective perhaps to draw attention to the psychological damage of rape? Wouldn't a broader conversation rather than a visual shock tactic have had more of a lasting impact, getting people thinking, triggering whole areas of helpful frank discussion and action rather than a routine response?

Why are we still obsessed with watching a woman being raped rather than talking to a rape victim and hearing her voice? Why is the emphasis still on a naked helpless woman's body rather than the whole woman?

Wouldn't it be a refreshing change for us not to be the voyeur?

In a society saturated with hardcore pornography in which women are routinely subject to violence, where lapdancing clubs where women are objectified and bought every day are thought of as harmless fun, where stripping and pornography are seen as empowering for women, in truth nothing is unwatchable. A more helpful and unusual approach given our society's obsession with objectifying women's bodies would have been to actually hear the woman's voice, not linger on her with the camera, frozen in time, as she is raped. If people are uneasy about this film (and they should be: I'm arguing here that there was a better way of raising awareness of this issue, not that this issue shouldn't be raised), maybe we need to ask them not so much why they are distressed by the realities of what's happening in the Congo as why they aren't distressed by the realities of what's happening here and now in our own country.

1 on 4 women will experience domestic violence.

Every week, 2 women in the UK are killed by their partner or former partner.

The incidence of rape still makes it a threat for every woman.

The conviction rate for rape remains at 13%.

Polls continue to show that most people, male and female, believe that the rape victim has some degree of responsibility for being raped.

Our culture is a rape culture, that is, one in which women remain unequal, where pornographic material of an ever more hardcore nature is becoming more and more mainstream, and where this is deemed as a good thing, not at odds with promoting sexual equality. The makers of 'unwatchable' aren't the only ones who realise that more shocking tactics than ever are required to pull in an audience. Pornographers are entering more and more extreme territory to pull in johns to buy it. We are desensitised. The price pornographers are willing to pay is the damage done to a woman's body as she undergoes more and more brutal acts for the punter's kicks. Strikes me, if the people who made the video were really bothered about women, they shouldn't be taking a leaf from the pornographer's books and focussing on more extreme graphically depicted sexual violence. Being a voyeur is not enough. Instead, it would be more helpful if people stood alongside survivors of rape and heard our voices.

I can't speak for every rape victim, but for me? I'm tired of people standing by watching, be it shocked or unshocked, as women are raped and beaten. We need access to help, and beyond that, we need a voice, we need understanding, we need to live in a society where we are not blamed for being raped because of what we wore / said / how we acted, where people stop simply seeing us frozen in time as the woman being raped and see the whole us: our history, how we came to be here, our hopes and dreams. In short, we need change, which can only mean one thing. Action!