I was quite privileged, a 20-year-old girl, deciding to go into prostitution, you know, no one forced me, I didn’t have a pimp, I didn’t do drugs and the choice was mine, and mine alone.
I’m not going to talk about free choices today, but if I was, I would have told you my story, the story of my childhood, and then asked you afterwards, if you still believe in free choices. But that’s not what I’m going to talk about today.
What I want to talk about is violence in prostitution. I believed, that I was some kind of high-class whore, not standing in the streets, not doing drugs but instead I was working in high-class brothels and as an escort. Because of these circumstances, I didn’t see myself as a victim. Not until I had depression, anxiety and was afraid to go outside, and then, began to do drugs, anything to help me to endure being a prostitute. I had never been depressed or had any kind of anxiety, before I went into prostitution. Instead, depression, anxiety and the cocaine-addiction came because of the experiences in prostitution.
Today, I don’t believe that there is any difference between street prostitution and working in high-class brothels. What you do and what you experience is exactly the same whether you are picked up in the streets or if you are sitting in a brothel with a spa, silk sheets and drinking champagne with the buyers. You can find drug- and alcohol addicts both in brothels and in street prostitution.
Actually, I might think that it’s easier to figure out the depressing situation when working on the streets, than when you are wearing luxurious lingerie, expensive gold and lots of Gucci. Because wasn’t that one of the reasons to go into prostitution in the first place, to get all these things? Now you have it, so why are you depressed?
Let me tell you why. The men who buy sex are all the same, no matter if they go to a high-class brothel or if they pick up women from the streets. It’s men who find their needs more important than the safety of women. It is men who may be great husbands and fathers to their children, who let go of all respect and empathy, when they buy access to women’s bodies. It is men who can be totally anonymous, which is why they don’t feel any responsibility whatsoever for their actions. In fact, they feel this gives them the right to show as little respect as possible. They feel entitled to belittle and humiliate women they have paid to satisfy their sexual needs. They violate in different ways both physically, psychologically, sexually, financially and materialistically.
It can be expressed through name-calling, insults, humiliation, intimidation, threatening behavior, threatening body language, and an unpleasant alternation between being sweet and caring to being rude and threatening. It can also be in threatening to reveal your identity.
It can be by pushing or pulling, spitting on you, throwing things at you, striking or kicking you, pulling your hair or putting a stranglehold on you.
It can be by biting your ear, your lip, your cheek or your nipple. It can be by kissing you, licking your face, trying to pull of the condom, putting fingers inside of you, doing more than what was agreed on in advance, it can be by thrusting himself so hard into you, that it hurts physically, that you’re not able to walk, dry yourself after using the toilet, or even to wear pants.
It can be by ripping your underwear in pieces, ripping off your stockings, or breaking your necklace on purpose.
Or maybe he doesn’t want to pay the price, and systematically manipulates you to do tings, you don’t want to, or manipulates you into giving him a discount. You know, for him, this is not a human being. This is an object. And as you know, if you can get a discount, you will of course try and get it.
When you are in prostitution, you internalize the violence. You hear the same repulsive things over and over again, when you are being called a slut, a whore, or you are being called stupid or disgusting. But still, you defend your “free choice” and say that prostitution is just an ordinary work like any other, because realizing the truth is so depleting. But 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.
When you understand the complexity of violence, then you will understand that prostitution can never be recognized as a profession, but that the only thing to do is to criminalize those who organize, maintain and exploit people in prostitution. This obviously includes those who pay for the sexual violence, which the buying of sex is.
Prostitution and the damage caused by prostitution, is the same all over the world. The men, who buy sex, are also the same. When people travelled to Denmark, from Norway, Sweden, Finland, Germany, England, Scotland, The United States, or from China, Japan or any other country, and bought sex, I had exactly the same experiences with them, as with Danish men, who bought sex. There is no difference between one country and another. Buying sex means, that you buy access to masturbate in another person, who is only there, because she needs the money. And that action in itself is violent.
What I learned from prostitution was, I couldn’t trust men. They had hidden personalities, and the worst of them, were shown to me as a prostitute, all their violent fantasies, their pedophile fantasies, their anger, their disrespect, their condescending view of me being a prostitute. The way, they didn’t even try to hide what they thought of me, which many of them actually did to my face.
They made constant attempts to exceed my limits, just because they could. Just to show me, how little respect they had.
People always ask me, how a criminalization of the buyers would have helped me while I was in prostitution.
And let me tell you, if it had been a crime to buy women for sexual pleasure, then I would have known, that what these men where doing, was wrong. For a long time, I was blaming myself, thinking that it was my own fault. I chose to be a prostitute. I gave them the opportunity to buy me. I took their money. – How could I blame them? How could I blame anyone else but myself?
I am sure that I would have left prostitution much earlier if I have had the law on my side. Because then I would have known, that what these men were doing, was wrong. I took the blame for the numerous attacks. I felt that I had set myself in this situation and therefore couldn’t blame them. There was no support or help, in terms of getting out, so I’m absolutely sure that a ban on buying sex would have helped me and sent a clear signal that the buyer’s actions were wrong. It is no use thinking liberally about prostitution, if we, at the same time, want to help women out of prostitution. Because how are prostitutes ever able to open their eyes to the violent structure of prostitution, when there is no social or political support in the recognition of prostitution being violent and harmful?