On Hiding

I have been reading Women’s Space, and found this amazing quote by Andrea Dworkin.

“I can hide my prostituting because I went to college and no one ever looks for a woman’s real life anyhow. I thought I was a real tough-ass and I was: tough-calloused; tough-numb; tough-desperate;tough-scared; tough-hungry; tough-beaten-by-men-often; tough-done-it-every-which-way-including-up …”

I read this several days ago, and it has allowed grief to enter my heart.

In Andrea Dworkin’s, I see how my soul was hidden when I was prostituted.

I hid in hardness. I hid in toughness. I hid hoping I would be invisible.

And as a prostituted woman and girl I was invisible. My reality could not exist.

I was brought up upper middle-class.
It was impossible that someone of my background could be prostituted.

That became my truth. I was not a prostitute.

I was just mad to imagine I could be one.

I hid all evidence of prostitution from my family . I hid it when I did volunteer work.

But mostly I hid it from myself.

I would see the money, and refuse to connect. I would see injuries on my body and refuse to connect. I would know I had been with loads of men, and refuse to connect.

I could not be what I was.

So I fall into living with toughness.

I got tough-drunk. As it made me stay awake without thinking. It dampen some of the pain when I too often had violent sex.

I was tough-thin as I refuse to eat healthy food. I would eat as little as I could, usually just grazing. I could not eat with the constant sickness in my stomach. I would never eat in front of men.

I was a tough-liar. I lied that it did not hurt. I lied that I cared about some of the men. I lied to myself that I could stop it any time. I lied that it was unimportant.

I was tough-I-do-rough-sex. I know nothing else. I did not know I could say “no” and be heard.

I was tough-I-am-your-porn-doll. I went silent as my limbs were posed like a photo from “Hustler”. I went silent as men spoke over me, what to do to me. I went silent when photos were taken as souvenirs. 

I was tough-can’t-remember-won’t-remember. I refused to know what was done to me. I refused to remember how I got injuries. I refused to say how I got pregnant.  I refused to be what I was.

Now I say it loud.

I was prostituted. I was beaten up . I was raped. I was forced to play porn games. I was brought close to death.

That reality is mine.

But worst than that that reality is the lives of the majority of prostituted women and girls. To quote Andrea Dworkin –

“It is the bottom. Prostituted women are the bottom…. prostitution comes from male dominance, not from female nature.”

By viewing all prostituted women and girls as the “lowest of the low”, men can hide the rapes . the beatings and the murders.

It is hidden in no “real” harm done. It is hidden in rough sex gone wrong. It is hidden that is what she wanted, so I had no choice.

And it is hidden that I paid for that prostitute, so I can do what the hell I like.

No wonder that most prostituted women and girls hide the violence they have to live through. For who will would care enough to make real changes.

I hope by speaking out. By not hiding, I will lose most of my toughness.

This post is quite rambling, but this is a very deep place for me.

6 responses to “On Hiding

  1. No problem about the rambling, Rebecca. You always write so well about your painful experience of prostitution. 🙂

    Thanks for quoting Dworkin. She’s my favorite writer.

    Apologists for prostitution believe it just come from “female nature”, that women “choose” to do it. What a rotten argument!

    By viewing all prostituted women and girls as the “lowest of the low”, men can hide the rapes . the beatings and the murders.

    It is hidden in no “real” harm done. It is hidden in rough sex gone wrong. It is hidden that is what she wanted, so I had no choice

    True. We rad fems know that prostitution is caused by patriarchy. The “choice” excuse is a smokescreen to protect the violence perpetrated against prostituted women. Prostitution exists because men want it to exist. They want the sexual degradation of women. And this is unfair and has to change.

    Big hugs to you X


  2. Hugs to you. Your writing is so powerful.

    And I feel I owe you an apology: I have recently spoken disparagingly of someone else as ‘upper middle class’, referring to selfish and spoilt-child behaviour. I did not think how my use of the term in such a way could contribute to the image of women in the middle classes as not having problems, or as never being abused. I will be much more careful with my use of language in future. I’m sorry.

    I second Maggie, thanks for quoting Dworkin. She always seems the voice of true humanity to me, and the world is a poorer place for having lost her.

    love and hugs xxx


  3. Rebecca, this post is as moving and heartfelt as always. I have been reading the writing of quite a few prostituted women lately and this seems to be a common theme throughout. That they were proud, tough, bad-ass. And that helped them to understand and live through their abuse. But it also confused because then they couldn’t see the abuse.


  4. Thanks everyone for interesting comments.

    Laurelin – I sure it was fine what you said, especially if the person was acting like a twit.
    I must admit I find the stereotyping of middle-class women often very offensive. For it assumes that having money or privilege means that you cannot be raped, battered or mentally abused. If you are abused, I have been told I should brought my way out of it.
    It always hard to say that you are an ex-prostitute, but my “class” refuses to believe that any of it’s “women” would go that low.

    Allecto – Thanks so much. I would very interested in the testimonies that you had been reading.


  5. I have nearly finished The Prostitution Trap by Sarah Priesley. She is a survivor of prostitution in Australia and her account was published about eight years ago. She is not a feminist. And she doesn’t understand herself as a survivor, but she writes openly and honestly about her experiences and what those experiences did to her.

    Also I have been watching and reading the interviews with Anne Bissell on her website. I would like to read her book Memoirs of a Sex Industry Survivor too. She seems very strong and intelligent.


  6. Pingback: The 17th Carnival of Radical Feminists « Spinning Spinsters

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