Saturday, 25 January 2014

Sex worker versus survivor

As we sex workers struggle to get the media to address us as just that, as opposed to "prostitutes", there is one title which has been viciously claimed by the anti sex work brigade, and it is that of "survivor". If you think about it, the term "survivor" invokes a lot of immediate emotions. Anger, disgust, empathy, pity and admiration. So all in all, a pretty valuable tool. The emotions of the reader come full circle and it's taken as a given that whatever went before can be forgiven, once you declare yourself a "survivor".

Let me set this straight from the outset, I have no end of admiration for women who got into the sex industry through coercion, desperate circumstances or fear, and who got out again and made a new life. However, some women get into the sex industry and simply flourish in it. I know, because I'm one of them, and one of many I have met. So for me, hijacking the term "survivor" just seems wrong.

I'm a survivor too. I survived a man who beat me so badly, my left eyebrow droops. I'm a survivor of a multi million pound corporation who fought me through the courts for four years and cost me my life savings and a lot more besides. I'm a survivor of a small town which turned against me when the going got rough and ensured I had to take my daughter and leave. I'm a survivor of the newspapers who door stepped me and tried to make me tell my story in the middle of a court case. I'm a survivor of the man I fell in love with, who left me when things got heated in that small town and I'm also a survivor of the man who told me he didn't want to know that I was expecting my beautiful daughter, leaving me alone.

Why is it that we cannot forgive "sex workers" as we can "survivors" ? Maybe it's because as sex workers we don't seek your forgiveness, just acceptance. And that takes a lot longer to chew. But think about this, we don't rely on an emotive title. We are who we are, sex workers, nothing in that title envokes your sympathy and neither should it.

I reclaim the term "survivor" for every woman who has ever struggled in this recession, as a person and to support her children. I reclaim the word "survivor" for every woman who has been through domestic abuse, whether she has found the strength to leave or not. I reclaim the word "survivor" for every sex worker who has ever experienced scorn, hate or isolation. Because in the current debates around sex work, it is this innate sense of survival which is being ignored.

LL xx


  1. Thinking about it, we have done a feck of a lot of surviving, thee and me...nice broad spectrum of variety in there too.
    Wonder how far we would have got without sex work as a tool?
    Can you think of anything else you could have used in it's place?
    Nah, me neither. (Didn't realise about the eyebrow - just assumed you got cockier with age. Maybe it not as bad as you see it?)
    Can you IMAGINE the irreversible damage the likes of Ruhama would have done if they had "rescued" us? Let's be real when they stop being emotionally, malevolent (every Christmas Eve for 3 hours whether they are in a good mood or not as I hear it) THEY ARE CLUELESS about the real world and anything more sophisticated than a desperate need for welfare and a hostel.
    Anyway, more opinion of my own:


  2. cont'd

    Never met a sex worker who wasn't a multidisciplinary survivor actually, whatever they said.
    Now I am gonna make you squirm a bit by holding you up in the light as a specimen. :o)
    When you were young you always insisted you "just felt like" being a sex worker and followed it up with a glare that said "ask no more" ( will NEVER hit me with that shoe at this range, so why throw it? :o) ).
    I have never known the reason, no need to tell it now either, because what I am using you to demonstrate is that the majority of sex workers are, by nature, very self reliant people who see their problems as *THEIR* responsibility to get up and fix.
    Conversely the idea of explaining all their problems at all, let alone being defined in terms of them would mortify them.
    My problem may well not be my fault, but it is my life and that means it is my job to fix it. I am smart, I am motivated and the ignorant meddling of others only make things harder...the empty sympathetic platitudes of others make me need to projectile vomit, and I would rather not do that.
    I am uncomfortable with how much of me I have had to "hang out" through this campaign to counter my "Teflon effect". That old memoir once written in 2001 has been chucked out to everything from GPs to prospective partners as "a general idea of my life - and when you have finished can we talk about something else?".
    Sex workers tend to me very private people by nature who DO NOT WANT to share their personal life with the NGO sector in case they can score enough sympathy points to get some actual help.
    Having sex with a well behaved guy is a GREAT BIG NOTHING to me, but sharing parts of who I am with someone I do not know and do not trust who is only interested because they are paid to be is the worst kind of violation for me.
    When you tell someone about who you are inside without reciprocation you are handing them an unhealthy power over you that is usually abused to the hilt sooner or later. I learned that the hard way, and anyone who doesn't like it can take it up with the modern equivalents of those who taught me, who can be found, in abundance in "Turn Off the Red Light".
    On the flip side of the coin, when you look at the officially recognised "survivors" they are frantically laying off responsibility for every choice they ever made on everybody in range (I wish I knew how to get away with that! But every time I try the silly old conscience thing gets in the way :o) ).
    Apparently the only way make them feel safe from sex work is to stop clients forcing them to do it (Duh?). Even when, by their own account, the only thing compelling them to sell sex is a choice to fill their veins with junk, not something significant like their responsibility to their children, or even fulfilling legitimate financial obligations.
    Then you delve deeper into their copiously available, self pity saturated life stories and you find EVERYTHING in their lives has been someone else's fault or responsibility.
    A certain type of people LOVE that, it makes them feel superior (I prefer to get my feelings of superiority from closely monitoring my own behaviour, but hey, to each his own).


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.