Last Saturday, I was on the London Reclaim the Night March. I try to do it every year, and every year it marches through tourist areas.
These parts of London are places I have a love-hate relationship with, places that have reflected my life since I can remember.
I consider myself to be a Londoner, but I am never sure if I could fully belong there again.
When thinking of the deep harms of prostitution, the loss of place is a terrible one.
The good memories and feelings of London can be suffocated by the violence, strangled by the degradation – leaving being a body that wants to numb out reality.
In the daytime, I close out the past – seeing the beauty of London, enjoying tinkering about, being lazy in restaurants, going to matinees, being a London creature.
In the daytime, I choose to pretend to ignore all the bad. In the daytime, I am building walls round myself.
Sure, I was brought and sold many times in the daytime.
Prostitution is hidden away into flats, cheap hotels, film studios and saunas in the daytime.
In the daytime, the pain, the degradation and the murders are meant not to exist.
As we reclaim the night, we forgot the closed doors of indoors prostitution.
Sure, like many women and girls in the sex trade I was made into hard-core porn in the daytime.
The light was better for filming gang-rapes, filming could last longer when renting studios in the day, filming in the day meant the men could pretend it was a normal job.
As we reclaim the night, we walked past closed studios, studios looking innocent enough – studios were women are sick and then made carry on filming, studios where households goods are made into porn weapons.
But, in the daytime I make the choice to forget, and to only think of now and the fight for some future.
But on Reclaim the Night, I want the reclaiming of the indoors hell of all women and girls in the sex trade.
I want those closed doors to forced open.
I speak of the building we walked past – not the obvious sex shops and lap-dancing clubs.
No, when I know London, I know how lovely places are poisoned by the sex trade, how the profiteers and their consumers enjoy wrecking my great city.
I speak of smart hotels that turn a blind eye to rich visitors having a whore for a few hours. A “Do Not Disturb” sign makes all the rapes, all the beatings, all the torturing disappear.
Just make sure there are no stains of the clean-cut room – and make sure the whore is out before the other guests notice.
I have done that 3 in the morning walk-out, when all the staff stare with contempt, some have a grope or two. I have walked out into posh London, ignoring any agony in my body and mind, and turning back into a zombie.
I speak of the cheap hotels, where you are brought and sold by the hour. Hotels where there is the illusion of being in student-land or cheap places for new citizens to London.
If everyone ignores that these rooms have many men going in and out, ignores it nothing but a bed with some porn pictures, ignores noises of violence, ignores seeing money exchange – then we can all pretend it is just some slut, not a full-blown brothel.
As I march in student-ville in London at night, I always have to go dead inside else I will puke.
I was tortured in those beautiful buildings, and I survived – but I will never forgot.
I love Reclaim the Night – but for the sake of all women and girls in the sex trade – we must know the vast majority of their tortures are indoors at any time of the night and day.
We must reclaim their buildings.
We must reclaim the photo studios or flats where porn is made on the cheap. We must reclaim flats where men pay to rape. We must reclaim saunas that allow any sexual torture to be made invisible. We must reclaim posh hotels from pimps and rich johns. We must reclaim clubs to be free from selling women’s bodies. We must reclaim cinemas from showing sexual torturing as entertainment. We must hound out any man who thinks it is ok to own another human and torture her behind closed doors. We must destroy the sex trade enough, that the profiteers give it up.
That to me would not just reclaiming the night – but reclaiming the basis human rights of all women and girls in the sex trade.