Not for Sale

I have been reading “Not for Sale”, and I found this quote –

“not all women are prostituted, and that is a good thing. Not all women, that is, turn tricks for money, five times a day, thirty-five times a week, with two thousand men a year, while suffering at least the usual incidence of incest, rapes, beatings, and sexual harassment that other other women do. The prostitution is on top of that. Many women have to endure only pieces of prostitution, Many women are subjected to unwanted sex from men who objectify us, but not typically from two thousand men a year. Many women suffer serial battery from husbands or lovers, but not typically also at the hands of hundreds of relative strangers. Many women recieve money from a harassing boss in the form of a paycheck, but not typically in a context where the harassment is the job. Each of these transactions shares something in common with prostitution, but none of them is prostitution…. Rape is one thing, domestic battery another thing, sexual harassment another, prostitution another. All of these, nevertheless, involve some expression or manifestation of sexual ownership.”

Margaret A. Baldwin, “Strategies of Connection: Prostitution and Feminist Politics”.

This means a lot to me, for it makes sense of why the language of prostitution makes sense of my teenage years and early adulthood.

I call it incest, and it did not fit my life.

I call it rape, and it still would not fit.

I call it battery, and it still refuse to fit.

Then out of exhaustion, I named it prostitution, and my life made a horrible sense.

I knew I live through all the rapes, child sexual abuse and battery. They are deeply connected to being prostituted, but there are differences, and those differences need expression.


Incest is deeply connected with becoming a prostitute. I know that being treated as a sexual possession by my stepdad, planted many views in me that created me as his “whore”.

Incest teaches you to not care how your body is treated.

As a child or young person, you cannot control when your abuser decide he will abuse you. You cannot control how he abusing you.

Without any control, it is easier to fall into self-hatred, rather than seeing the reality the man who abuses you, does it because he thinks it is a non-crime.

I feel that the mental abuse that is often wrap up in incest, can and does lead to a mind-set that makes prostitution appears a logical next step.

This can means many girls who enter the sex trade who are survivors of incest, will feel it is their choice.

I felt all I was worth was to be a sex object. Incest destroy my belief that my mind mattered. Incest destroy that I could want to have happiness.

Incest taught me that all I could be was a male fantasy, my dreams were of no importance.

For me the main difference between incest and prostitution is how others react to survivors.

When I speak out about incest, I will be listen to. I am allowed to speak in my words.

Incest will make the listener sad. It may make the listener angry.

Incest is often believed, often viewed as a crime. Many people see incest as an act of violence.

Prostitution is different.

When I speak out about being an ex-prostitution, I am often spoken over.

Many people do not listen or hear what ex-prostitute, instead they place their views on prostitution above the words of the woman who is trying to speak.

I am constantly amazed about how insenitive people are when they know someone is an ex-prostitute. I am bored of hearing politics around prostitution, when often all I wish to say is how I feel about that time in my life.

I believe when I speak out about prostitution, it should have the same respect I get when I speak out about incest.

But as long as prostitution is viewed as a choice, many people will speak over survivors who try to say it is more complicated than that.

The ugly side of prostitution cannot be heard too much, for that might undermine the easy option of viewing prostitution as a “free choice”.


Most prostituted women and girls live with rape on a regular basis.

This makes it very hard to name it as rape.

Instead it place as “part of the job”. It is endured, but never dealt with. For many prostituted women and girls there is no space for having trauma after being raped.

I have lived many rapes. I was raped by my stepdad. I have been through “date rapes”. I have once been raped by a stranger in a subway.

I know that the way I view rapes by men who were “friends” or family is very different to how I view rapes as a prostituted girl or woman.

They were all terrible, but the differences have to be expressed.

Date rape is a complete betrayal of trust, especially when the man “pretends” to be a friend. Being raped by a man who felt you could trust and may respect is devasting.

But it is not the same being raped as a prostitute.

Being raped on one-night stands is confusing and can lead to self-hatred. But one-night stands are not prostitution.

I know as I have been through all those rapes. My body carry the betrayal, carries the self-hate. But when I see those rapes, I see men’s faces. I can remember some of their names.

I also see that I had shock. That I know it was wrong.

That is the real difference between rape in a “relationship” and prostitution rape.

When I was raped as a prostituted girl or woman, I could not allow myself to view it as rape, however violent it was.

No, I know I had “choosen” to take their money, drinks or bed in exchange for sex. That was my purpose, nothing else.

In that framework, it is easy to believe that man has entitlement to do any sexual fantasy he want. You are the goods after all.

I was raped sadistically over and over when I was prostituted.

My dignity was toss out the window. None of men notice my safety.

I had lost all my rights to be a person. I was just to be f-ked over and over.

I had no time or space to feel trauma or pain about those rapes. All I could do was to blank out all feeling.

So it appeared like I did not care.

But, how can you recover from rape, when another man is waiting to rape you.

When I think of that time, I see no faces of the men. I do not know how many men raped me as a prostituted girl or woman, for my mind closes down for the numbers is too high to handle.

I want justice, but I cannot get it with those invisible rapists.


Like rape, many prostituted women and girls are battered on a regular basis. It viewed as “part of the job”.

I have volunteered in a women’s shelter, and can see the similarities and differences between domestic battery and the battery of prostituted women and girls.

One thing, I notice was that is very hard to speak out about violence to prostituted women and girls when domestic violence is discussed.

This may be because many women who have been the receiving end of domestic violence cannot hear a woman who they has “chosen” to be a prostitute speaking that have been viciously beaten up. It is too much to hear.

I totally understand that, and I personally do not speak out when I am with women who lived through domestic violence. I don’t want to hurt them.

But I find it hard to understand why the battery of prostituted women and girls is seen a collateral damage, and not as a crime.

Prostituted women and girls are not punching bags.

I was treated as if I had no ability to feel pain. My body was tortured all over.

I had no safe space on my body.

But I was being paid, so I did know I had the right to say no.

When I was battered, I had many near-death experiences.

When I work in the shelter, hearing the voices of other battered women show me that I was battered.

I heard how they blamed themselves. I heard how they could not imagine an escape.  I heard how they had lost who they were.

This resonated. In the long-term it was those voices of those women that made me turn my back on prostitution.


For me saying that Iwas prostituted has made sense of many of the blanks in my memory.

I see now that I can allow the reality in .

I can say I used by many men who I had no name for, who never look me in the eye. Men who never talk to me, only at me. 

I could not call that prostitution, so I called it one-night stands.

I can see how I was raped and battered, and how deadened I was to the pain of that reality.

That could not be prostitution, it must of be my choice, or that I was self-harming.

Prostitution was my world, not all the time, but long enough to poison my mind.

Prostitution made me believe that I was worthless, whilst brainwashing me to think I was “controlling” the men.

My “control” was a joke. But the world of prostitution gains power by letting the women and girls think they are empowered, they are less likely to complain then.

I see now how I survived by deadening myself. I lived because I refused to see my own reality.

I did know women and girls who saw the reality of prostitution when in the life, some kill themselves. Most had to self-medicate to stop the reality coming through.

Now, I can and will see that reality. It is a bloody hard to do, but that part of my life was important. So I will say it.

I will it loud.       



11 responses to “Not for Sale

  1. Brilliant writing again Rebecca. I must get myself a copy of “Not For Sale” pronto!

    This piece is so powerful and truthful, it’s really impressive. Promise me you’ll never stop writing. xx


  2. Every time you post I try to leave a comment and simply cannot form the words to say how much I value what you say. So today I decided to come right out and say how much I value your voice. Thank you.


  3. I remember Margaret Baldwin’s quote. It’s a powerful one!

    Excellent analysis, Rebecca!

    Incest, rape, battery, etc. It is true that prostitution encompasses all those forms of abuse.

    However, while most people will listen a survivor of rape, etc., they will not listen to a survivor of prostitution. We live in a world where prostituted women or former ones are generally not viewed as human beings. This is unfair.

    Also, as Andrea Dworkin once said: “incest is bootcamp for prostitution.”

    “The ugly side of prostitution cannot be heard too much, for that might undermine the easy option of viewing prostitution as a “free choice”.”

    I agree. While some “sex work” advocates pretend to care about women who want out of prostitution, they claim there are not many who want out (which is false), they do nothing to help women and they would have us believe that the “happy hookers” stories matter more.

    No wonder that many prostituted women cannot see the abuse. For them, it happens on a daily basis. They are somehow made to believe they have really “chosen” prostitution, while most of them are child abuse survivors. Indeed, I’m thinking that, for the prostituting woman, numbing herself, blanking out the huge amount of abuse and imagining she’s somehow “empowered” instead can help her survive the brutal commodification of her body, the (otherwise) painful daily reality of prostitution.

    This is so sad that most people do not know that most of prostitutes are child abuse survivors and thus view prostitution as a choice. Unfair. Johns and pimps have got the real choice, not prostituted women.

    “I personally do not speak out when I am with women who lived through domestic violence. I don’t want to hurt them.

    But I find it hard to understand why the battery of prostituted women and girls is seen a collateral damage, and not as a crime.”

    Many women share a common condition of being abused by men, prostituted or not. But prostituted women obviously bear the brunt of the damage. When will prostitution ever be recognized as violence against women? When will there be justice?

    Some pro-prostitution folks use the excuse that “women are paid for it”. As if the money could wipe out the awful damage of prostitution! Sickening!


  4. Pingback: Not For Sale: Rebecca Speaks Out Against Prostitution « Gorgon Poisons

  5. I strongly believe one of the reasons why women involved in prostitution are not seen as human beings and therefore ‘worthy’ of being treated with respect is because men have defined women as either ‘madonnas or whores.’ Therefore any woman who works in prostitution is a ‘whore’ and it is acceptable for men to rape and commit acts of sexual degradation on her body. After all she is not ‘human.’ This view also serves to divide women and maintain male power and dominance over women.

    I refuse to divide women into either ‘madonnas or whores’ because to me the real whores are the men who buy women’s bodies. No woman is a ‘whore’ this is a male construct which literally eradicates a woman’s humanity. No wonder the stigmatisation of ‘whore’ is so powerful because it puts men on a pedastal with women cast down under men’s feet.

    To me this explains why incest and men who commit violence against their female partners is beginning to be viewed as men’s violence against women but not of course prostitution.

    So many myths abound around prostitution and to me one of the core issues is challenging men’s belief they are entitled to dehumanise certain women because these women and girls are men’s sexual commodities.

    I agree with Andrea Dworkin’s definition – incest is bootcamp for prostitution, because the men who commit this act are teaching girls their sole purpose in life is to be men’s sexualised toys nothing else. It is about the utter dehumanisation of women and girls.

    It’s taken me a while to totally understand how prostitution operates but I always knew the definition of ‘madonna/whore’ was wrong because men are not divided into ‘whores/virgins’!!! No, no, men as a group have sexual rights and privileges. They unlike women are human!!

    I believe Sheila Jeffreys too has written something about this dichotomy but I can’t recall at present where. Still, we need to shout it loud and clear – women are not ‘madonnas/whores’ they are human beings – men you are not superior – live with it!!


  6. Rebecca, I can’t find much to say except many of your words really resonate with me, especially this:

    “But, how can you recover from rape, when another man is waiting to rape you.”

    Our world is a horror show and torture chamber for so many women and girls. I am grateful you are strong enough to speak the truth.


  7. Thanks all for your really thoughtful posts. I very moved and honoured by that put so time into your replies.
    Deb, you really ought to do your homework, coz I know that have so much free time.
    Thebewilderness, thanks so much, it means a lot to me that you find a connection in my words.
    Maggie thanks for really thoughtful response, and for promoting me on your blog.
    Jennifer, as usual you write brilliantly. What I have found hard as a many aspects of male violence – how there good and bad “victims”. As a survivor of childhood sexual violence, I can be protrayed as the “good victim”. But, when I say I am an ex-prostitute I become the “bad victim”.
    Allecto, thanks so much.
    Delphyne, thanks for your moving comment, I am proud about having made some connection.
    Stormy, thanks for the article. I won’t hold my breath for a flood of men being found guilty of raping prostituted girls and women.


  8. Pingback: Fourth Carnival Against Pornography and Prostitution « The Burning Times

  9. I felt shaken by your work. as some some level
    we all have felt used and prosituted by boyfriends who force themselves on you and peeping tom fathers. I remmeber being sexually assulted by a client as a youth worker and being told by my boss to expect it as a part of the job.
    I now see incest and sexual assult as selfish sexuality. where the person just uses the other
    for there own needs, without care or concern how this will cause untold ramaification on the persons life now and in the future.
    our body and sexuality is a integral part of our
    experience of ourselves but abuse claims steals this beauty from the person and leaves them disconnected to their own self soul and worth.
    reclaiming my body is something I sometimes feel
    when I dance, reconnecting to the innocence joy of movement and beauty and the sences.
    thank you for your words I have much to think about


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