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Abusive Men Make the Choice for Prostituted Women

Excerpt from Prostitution Narratives pages 82 to 83:

I was a prostitute for three years. No one actually forced me physically into prostitution, but I also didn’t choose to grow up in a family with a drunken and violent stepfather. I didn’t choose to be sexually molested when I was 10 years old by a man in his fifties, touching my body, putting his hands under my skirt and between my legs. Neither did I choose, when I was 11, for a man to follow me up an apartment stairway and put his hands up my skirt, touching me between my legs. I didn’t choose to be raped by a boyfriend two years older than me when I was 12 years old. I didn’t choose to be sexually molested when I was 13 by a man on a train or in a public toilet, I didn’t choose it when I was 14, or when I was 17 years old. All those choices were made by different abusive men.

Growing up in a world where, as a girl or a young woman, you can’t feel secure, because so many men think they have the right to abuse children and young women, degrades you as a human being. You are brainwashed into thinking that you don’t have the right to say no, that you don’t have the right to your own sexuality, that your sexuality belongs to men whenever they feel the need for it. My ‘free choice’ in going into prostitution was actually not that free, because I didn’t feel like I owned myself or my own sexuality. Abusive men made that choice for me, leading me to think that I was just an object for their satisfaction.

Every time a man came into the brothel, paying me to satisfy him, I felt that I was worth something. Not because of him, not because of what was going on, but because of the money. The money seduced me for a long time. Feeling that I was actually worth something.

My story is not unique. In Denmark we have a lot of former prostitutes who have been telling stories just like mine. Most of them ‘chose’ to go into prostitution because of sexual abuse in their childhood. Other women in Denmark were sold by their fathers or stepfathers as children.

When you are a child, you have dreams, lots of dreams. You want to be an actress, a singer, you want to work in a candy shop, you want to work in a zoo, in a toy store or maybe you want to be an astronaut and go into space, maybe you want to work in a circus, or be a writer, a dancer or a policewoman. None of those dreams include sexual behaviour. Growing up in a careful, loving and reliable family gives you healthy opportunities. It gives you self-esteem; it teaches you that you have the right to say no, and that you can choose to be whatever you want to be. No healthy family teaches their children to give away their sexuality unless it is equal and pleasurable.

No one wants to be a prostitute because of the prostitution. When people choose prostitution it’s either because of the fact of no other opportunities to choose from, because of low self-esteem, an inability to say no, poverty, abuse or because of different psychiatric disorders. When people see prostitution as a choice, or as sexual liberation, or think that women actually like being prostitutes, they see prostitution through a lens of fake illusions.

For decades, the discussion about prostitution has been about the prostitutes. But the only reason why prostitution exists is because men are buying them. Men are the ones who are sneaking around brothels. Men are the ones harming and violating the prostitutes. Men’s demands are fueling trafficking. But it is never about these men. Only rarely does a man admit that he is one of those who buy sex. But a report from Denmark shows that 15.5 per cent of Danish men aged 18-65 years have bought sex. A high number of these didn’t care if the woman they bought had been forced into prostitution.

–Tanja Rahm, Prostitution Narratives page 84

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