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.