I’m sitting alone in a run down diner. The perfect place for me, I think. I’m wondering if I’m the only person who feels completely alienated from the rest of humanity. My social worker side says these feelings are the result of a lifetime of abuse, rape and exploitation from other people. How does one trust after that? My natural inclination is to move through the world alone. While some people may be terrified of being alone- I’m terrified of connecting to and being vulnerable with other human beings. I find no “use” for social attachment and based on the decades worth of abuse and isolation I’ve endured I know that being alone is something I can tolerate. So why try to change? Well, I’ve found through having countless mind numbing jobs that relationships are really what matters in life. At least for me. Relationships (not just romantic) give me a feeling of being grounded in the world in ways that my job, my apartment, my “status” in the world don’t. So I’ve been trying to challenge myself to be more social and engage in “normal” 30 something year old social activities. Because the beatings, chokings, rapes and gang rapes I’ve endured took that natural ability away from me. And you know what? It’s ok that I prefer to be alone than with people. Because it totally makes sense. So I guess the answer-for me- is to just start doing. Start engaging, start being vulnerable, start trusting. And if you are an abuse survivor like me, then I truly believe these are some of the bravest things we can do on the road to healing.
I have severe bipolar disorder. Bipolar with psychotic features, to be exact. And I’d like to tell you that I have it all together and that I’m at peace with my mental illness. I’m not. I go in and out of real, legitimate psychosis on a regular basis. I have been curled in an empty bathtub in the fetal position because I heard FBI helicopters, I have thought Nazi spies were after me, last weekend I was convinced bugs were living in my stomach. But I also have a bachelors degree, I have had my writing published internationally by the European Union and WHO. I don’t like to admit it, but I hide my mental illness from people as much as I can because for anything I have accomplished, it all means jack shit when they see me talking gibberish to myself, not having bathed in weeks and noticing me skinnier from not eating. I am ashamed. I’m not like other people. I know that my mind is different, I can tell. And I’m embarrassed. I just want to fit in with everyone else. I was a social worker for four years and in that time working with others who had chronic mental illness and speaking for myself, we just someone to see us- not be spooked by the external manifestations of the illness, and just bear witness to our humanity. It’s so hard to be vulnerable as someone living with a disability but at the same time there is nothing I crave more than the connection that comes from allowing oneself to be seen. And isn’t that the real challenge as someone with a disability, the real rebellion: being seen in a society that tells you every day to make yourself invisible.
Running… Feet smacking the midnight pavement on the stroll… looking for crack, shards, a trick, anything to take me away from myself.
My 1 year “birthday” is coming up in a little over a week. It has been almost a year to the day that I have been able to remove alcohol and drugs from my life, and let the healing begin.
Maybe the term “crackwhore” is offensive to your middle class, ivory tower sensibilities. That’s a nice luxury to have. I’ve had to take cow manure and turn into a bed of roses. I have been a whore for many things in my life: to keep my job, to get through school, to get people to accept me, to get someone to love me, to get someone to take care of me. Before society came up with this thing called money, all we had was our ability to barter and exchange. I just look at my exchange of crack or meth for sex as just another spectrum on that barter trajectory.
And yes, there are still times when I am ashamed. But they are fortunately rare. “Crackwhore” Me was the wild, primal me and is the primal self that is in all of us. My crackwhore essence at its very core needs to be respected like the ocean and it’s methodical pounding waves. A force that has much potential to be destructive and yet also must be respected for its rightful place and purpose.
What I’ve been learning this year is that I will never be “normal.” I’m a crackwhore (gasps of shock). And that the things that actually make me a weirdo truly are my biggest asset. This summer, some fellow Sex Workers and I started a project to provide outreach services to other Sex Workers working on that same stroll I was running down looking for crack and tricks. I could never be of help to other people today if I hadn’t been a crackwhore. And for that alone, I am so thankful.
How do I find power in being a woman? How can I find power in roles that are inherently female. Designed to corral, to bind, to deconstruct and then tape back together. For me, it came from fucking. Not making love to a man who I called my husband, or my boyfriend- but fucking another human being, using him, dumping him like used toilet paper I just wiped my ass with.
Maybe two years ago, I started on a lark of my own. A sort of spiritual journey generated by my own FUCKING power. I started fucking as many guys as I could, with the least amount of emotion I had to invest in that other person. I would message guys on Tinder, POF, OKC, and and ask, “I’m horny I wanna fuck.” The responses were usually pathetic and hilarious. Most guys insisted I had some kind of ulterior motive- I’m an escort, I’m an adult model who wants to sell my website- or maybe I have some other terrible societal black mark to make me a pariah and worthy of suspicion. Because why would a “normal” attractive looking young woman just blurt out she wants to fuck? Pffff. Eye roll.
So when a woman attempts to switch into male role play – i.e. just wants to fuck and use someone and doesn’t care about feelings or love, then it’s not acceptable to men because where does that leave their gender identity? Ahhhhh the crux of the problem, the social disease of of women finding power from fucking.
This is where sex work becomes the toxic sewage dumping grounds of our society. A woman being willing- even WANTING to engage in the labor economy (a male domain as any Marxist will tell you) by using her BODY- historically the archaeological ruins of male needs, weaknesses,fears and inadequacies- Is a cold water enema to the patriarchy. It is the highest of high art of gender role play. It is utter ballet, and a thing of beauty. Like a rose flourishing in the Kalahari.
As my favorite lady, Cardi B, once said, “ever since I started using guys I feel so much better about myself. I feel so god damn powerful.” A first or second wave feminist would look at this and think oh no we’re behaving just as badly as men. But the BEHAVIOR of fucking itself is not bad. It is not good. It is just a neutral act in and of itself. Theoretically, with no gender assigned to it’s category. People give actions meaning. Which of course are going to vary.One could look at fucking like a human experience. Something that we might all innately share the inclination for, yet certain identities are penalized for acting on those impulses more than others. Or it could be looked at like fucking is a manifestation of power. One of many ways that power manifests itself in humans. Since male bodied individuals typically have a higher degree of recognized social power than say female bodied people, maybe we’re just all copying each other in the ways we are clamoring for power among each other.
All I know is Cardi B is right. There’s something so god damn powerful about fucking.
My first memory is of me sitting in a pitch black, dank, concrete crawlspace at three years old. I was barricaded in there. All day long. Every day.
You may think- “oh, well, THAT’s why she gravitated to sex work as an adult.” And in fact, I’m sure the abuse I endured as a child did leave me more vulnerable to further instances of abuse via the lifelong effects that trauma has on the brain; as any social worker (like myself) or therapist could tell you.
I’m not into pandering to the pressure of my sex working community OR that of people who support the criminalization and further stigmatization of sex work. Being a sex worker- and the trajectory by which people come to this work- is neither a panacea nor purgatory, but through a diverse set of complex experiences and choices that cannot simply be polarized into “good” and “bad.”
Though I believe – in my case- I came into the industry through a myriad of constrained choices, and have been at one time both a “trafficking victim” and a sex worker of my own designation, I fully believe that the act of sex work is very much like the life force itself. Yin and yang, good and bad, the shamanistic upper world, lower world and the underworld.
After coming out of a situation in which I was forced into prostitution by my boyfriend and pimp, I deeply desired a way in which to re-write what had been done to me. To turn the negative, exploitative side of the sex industry and reincarnate that energy into healing.
As a sex worker, working only for myself, being my own boss I got to harness my own goddess power. My feminine sexual energy. And I learned how to have a relationship with my own sexuality- my needs and desires, my fetishes and fantasies, and my own naked body. This was truly a revelation for someone whose body had only previously been used for others, and whose sexual desires were made irrelevant.
With all my intimate relationships with boyfriends or pseudo-boyfriends I had learned that my body wasn’t okay. From having a butt that was too big, or being too fat, or having to tailor whether or not I had pubic hair and whether I would do a full Brazilian or a landing strip depending upon what that specific boyfriend liked. To be able to dress how I wanted for clients and do my makeup how I wanted and be like- this is my pussy, this is my ass, these are my tits. If you don’t like it, don’t call me again. This was the catharsis I needed from patriarchal American culture. And nobody I worked with ever complained about my body or my looks. men would come see me just to give me pleasure. I would get gifts of perfume, clothes, dinners, help with bills… Everything I would wait for with baited breath from my lineage of douche bag boyfriends. Guys worshipped at the altar of my body. I was “beautiful, gorgeous” I had amazing tits, beautiful curves, and a bomb ass pussy.
I saw a meme recently. It said “sex work: like dating only more honest.” There was a simplicity I found in sex work, an honesty, that was so healing for me. Truly I have had a dynamic relationship to sex work throughout my life. I believe that it is a neutral entity at it’s core, that can take on a trajectory of earthly manifestations- from the hellish and horrible, to the amazingly healing. This complexity of sex work is not often enough acknowledged in both sex workers’ rights and anti-sex work circles alike. Which consequently, keeps us in a battle of locked horns against those who oppose us and stalemates our ability to talk in a real way about the lived complexities of our work both with others and amongst ourselves.
To men, I’m always a whore. Once they find out about my sex work past one of two things will happen: either the guy will think, “bingo! Green light! Free sex!” And descend on me like a bird of prey orrrrr the man in question will run screaming in the other direction.
so why tell the guy? You may think, well just don’t bring it up then. No. I can’t do that. I AM A SEX WORKER. Whether it makes said male uncomfortable or not, it’s an incredibly important part of who I am. I’m currently retired, but when I was actively sex working my life was not the life of a normie. Just like my struggle with addiction and my identification as a drug addict and alcoholic is a pivotal part of who I am, and my bipolar is a crucial part of who I am- because these things have UNIQUELY shaped my life- so too does my history of participation in the alternative sexual economy. It’s who I am. And I’m not going to hide it or adjust who I am for anyone’s fucking comfort.
So this brings me to how do I date as a Sex Worker, knowing my status as one will either alienate and repel OR it will turn me into a sexual commodity. Which is funny because the clients I worked with always treated me with respect. Even though I was technically turning myself into a commodity through the exchange of money for an erotic service- I never felt commodified. I never felt like my humanity was being steamrolled for the purposes of hyper sexualization, like it does so often when I disclose.
Im pan sexual. I fall in love and become attracted based on the person. But in my dealings with males, I have come to learn that the claiming of my own sexuality for MYSELF- not for that man- is highly taboo. To be strong, assertive, go after a guy when you want to fuck him or date him- that is not ok. So I am not ok. My “brand” of sexuality is not ok. Because the reality is I have fucked more people than most of the men I talk to, and disclosing my status as a SW relays that fact.
I don’t know how to date authentically as a SW. I don’t have an answer. I want to stay true to who I am, but I don’t want to be alone. I am a weirdo. An addict. A mentally I’ll person. A Sex Worker. I’m a wild stallion. I can’t be tamed or reeled in. And hasn’t that ALWAYS been problematic for women?
It’s been awhile since I’ve lived in New York City. But I still remember it: “I wanna fuck you in the ass mmmm ….. Oh yeah well you were ugly anyway!”
“hey baby you’ve got a phat ass… Yeah well FUCK YOU!”
“I’m gonna rape you, bitch.”
“SMILE! Why do you look so mean, baby?”
ahhh the big apple. Or hang out in any major city and your bound to hear it. If you present as female-bodied, that is. Even in my humble little town of Seattle, WA I hear it.
And why?????? Because our female bodies are an extension of masculinity. Being nice, sweet and positively raddddddddiating femininity is what allows the hetero man-ophiles to be men. The more feminine I appear, the more of a man you are. It’s a disheartening trap. Because if I respond with “thank you,” I am seemingly condoning further harassment. If I say, “go fuck yourself,” I inevitably invite a curb stomping upon me.
I came out if a club one night awhile back and a big tall burly man grabbed my arm and said “come home with me.” I told him to fuck off. I leaned back and decked him. Then cut to me running for my life down a dark city street as he calls after me, “I’m gonna rape you then kill you, bitch.”
Patriarchy is upholded when individual men attempt to establish ownership over female-bodied persons. A simple “smile, baby” not only implies ownership, it exerts power over another individual and a group of people. It is essentially pissing on my leg as I walk by.
So I tried doing the same thing as if I were a man. I walked behind a group of young men and said, yeah baby SHAKE that ass!” Hmm. Somehow it didn’t have the same effect as if I had been a man approaching a group of women. The guys looked back at me like I was a psychopath or a stalker. Hmm. Another set if female stereotypes.
I won’t posit to say that I have a solution to street harassment. But what I can say is if another man tries to grab my arm again, he’s gonna get his fucking ass decked. I am not anyone’s territory. Go pee on someone else’s leg.
What I see is all normal people.
Me on the outside.
I have a deficit.
I have only one arm. And one leg.
I am blind. With little hearing.
Not Like you.
I sit in the corner.
I hang my head. And make myself small.
i take call after call.
From nobodies. And I am powerful.
i have no sentences for you.
So I speak in broken word.
I sit in the crawlspace on cold cement.
blinding darkness. spiders and rats. my friends.
Just a child.
Just a woman.
dead to the world.
What it means to me to be a trafficking victim may not be what you think. I do not consider myself a victim. Was I victimized??? Yes. Most absolutely. But I do not choose to wear that as my identity.
In 2004 I was 18 and just moved to the upper west side of New York City. All through high school I participated in the running start program which meant I got to take college classes instead of high school. This meant I got to get a job- an under the table probably not very legal job- as a secretary working 40-50 hours per week. I saved up enough to be able to move to New York sight unseen- no family, friends, nothing- right after high school.
Not even a month after I was there in New York, I met a guy. He told me he was going to be my boyfriend and we would live together but he just needed to get more money first. Then he would show up with a group of drug dealers in a black escalade -like a movie- and we would ride up to industrial nowheres land up in the Bronx (back then there wasn’t much gentrification in the BX or the Heights .) I would be locked in a room and drug dealers- big fat drug dealers, old drug dealers- who obviously got whatever the fuck they wanted. No one told me what would happen whenever I got in that black SUV and every time my so called “boyfriend” would promise “that’s the last time I swear.” Even after I saw the men slipping money in his hand, even after my “boyfriend” offered me up to a homeless wino in the park for $5, I never thought I was being abused or victimized. Even after the multiple rapes and gang rapes, many under weapons other in public, completely humiliating me, the only way I knew to cope was to return to drugs and alcohol and to distance myself from my body.
It doesn’t help when the Sex Workers’ rights community and the anti-trafficking community (very often at odds with each other,) has discussions about “what” a “trafficking victim” is without including us in that discussion. Let me tell you- I AM A SEX WORKER. I have had sex by force and I have participated in the industry by choice. Even those who would say they have never been trafficked may have experienced some degree of force, abuse or coercion – even if it’s just the force and coercion of having no money that puts that person into the sexual economy. So don’t fucking tell me who I am please- sex workers’ rights activists or any “activist” for that matter. We need to have a way more complex, inclusive and dynamic conversation about what sex work really looks like because it isn’t just one thing OR the other. Sex work is like sexuality- a complex trajectory of being. And I know I am not the only sex worker who has both chosen the industry and then been abused by that same industry. Because I am a Sex Worker. By force at times and by choice others. Period.
I really need to get something off my chest. And the timing is quite apropos given that International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers is only a few days away. Violence. ugh. sigh. I’ve always found this topic a contentious one within sex workering circles- forget the anti-trafficking, right wing-Falwell-y-religious kooks. We have issues within the sex working community. Let’s be real. And we’re very defensive about our issues in an attempt to distance ourselves from the religious anti-prostitution/anti-traffickers, which isn’t helping those Sex Workers who are/have endured violence inside the industry. I am not just a retired Sex Worker, but a researcher and Sex Worker rights activist as well. As a researcher and rights activist who has mostly worked on issues related to violence in the industry, one of the biggest and at first most surprising push backs I have experienced is that of Sex Workers and Sex Worker activists. We don’t want to admit that sex work- consensual adult sex work- may at times get violent (nonconsensual) or have a risk for violence. My experience has been that nonprofits working with Sex Workers don’t prioritize making counseling and/or case management available for Sex Workers so they may process (at very least) the unique work stress that comes with being a Sex Worker. Because we Sex Workers feel like everyone around us (i.e. society) is judging this work, we feel like we don’t want to expose the real, raw, nasty bits that come along with sex work and further fan the nay-sayers’ flames of hatred. Yes, we want the non-sex working, average joe shmoes out there to not have an antiquated, primitive notions of sex work. Of course. Yes, we want our culture and our laws to shift to reflect a more diverse and complex understanding of economics, race, gender and human sexuality.But we should not be silencing those voices whom we do not think are fitting into our mold of what a “liberated Sex Worker” looks or sounds like. People are diverse. Their experiences with sex work are diverse and thusly their relationship to sex work is going to be diverse as well. I think there is so much for us to discuss when we think about violence in sex work. But for me, as a Sex Worker, a researcher and an activist it must start firstly at our front door.