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I wish that you could raise the dead. That is what I’d like to see. One of the reasons that the Right reaches so many women is that the Right has a transcendent god who says I will heal all your hurt and all your pain and all your wounds: “I died for you. I will heal you.” Feminists do not have a transcendent god who can heal that way. We have ideas about fairness and justice and equality. And we have to find ways to make them real. We don’t have magic. We don’t have supernatural powers. And we can’t keep sticking together women who have been broken into little pieces. Fighting back is as close to healing as we are going to come. It is important to understand that we will live with a fair amount of pain for most of our lives. If your first priority is to live a painless life, you will not be able to help yourself or other women. What matters is to be a warrior. Having a sense of honor about political power is healing. Discipline is necessary. Actions against men who hurt women must be real. We need to win. We are in a war. We need a political resistance. We need it above ground. We need it with our lawmakers. with our government officials. We need it with our professional women. We need it above ground. We need it underground too.

— Andrea Dworkin, Life and Death


My understanding of masculinity is that it refers to behaviour that is constructed by and serves to maintain male dominance.  Masculinity is not just that which pertains to men, since men can be seen, and consider themselves, to be insufficiently masculine… Masculinity is not, then, a biological fact, something connected with particular hormones or genes.  Masculine behaviour or appearance or artifacts, and design, signify ‘manhood’ as a political, not a biological, category.  In this understanding masculinity cannot exist without its supposed opposite, femininity, which pertains to female subordination. Neither masculinity nor femininity make sense or can exist without the other as a reference point.

–Sheila Jeffreys, Unpacking Queer Politics


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


How would the criminalization of sex buyers help women?

People always ask me how the criminalisation of buyers would have helped me while I was in prostitution. My answer is this: If it had been a crime to buy women for sexual pleasure then I would have known that what these men were doing was wrong. For a long time I blamed myself, thinking that it was my own fault. I chose to be a prostitute. I gave them the opportunity to buy me. I took their money. How could I blame them? How could I blame anyone else but myself? But I am sure I would have left prostitution much earlier if the law had been on my side. Because then I would have known that what these men were doing was wrong. I took the blame for their numerous attacks. I felt that I had set up myself in this situation and therefore couldn’t blame them. There was no support or help to get out. I’m absolutely sure that a ban on buying sex would have helped me by sending a clear signal that the buyer’s actions were wrong. It is no use thinking liberally about prostitution if we want to help women out of prostitution. Because how are prostitutes ever able to open their eyes to the violent structure of prostitution when there is no social or political support for recognising prostitution as being violent and harmful?

–Tanja Rahm, Prostitution Narratives page 81-82


Deep Green Resistance supports the Nordic model regarding prostitution.

Prostitution Is Violence

When you are in prostitution you internalise the violence. You hear the same repulsive things over and over when you are being called a slut, a whore, stupid or disgusting. But still, you defend your ‘free choice’ and say that prostitution is just ordinary work, because realising the truth is so depleting. You dissociate yourself from the men and their actions, because no one has the psyche to be present in the acts of violence in prostitution.

–Tanja Rahm, Prostitution Narratives page 80-81

But the men who buy sex are all the same no matter where they find you. They are men whose needs are more important than the safety of women. They are men who may seem like good men in other aspects of their lives but who let go of all respect and empathy when they buy access to women’s bodies. They don’t feel any responsibility for their actions, and show as little respect as they wish. They feel entitled to belittle and humiliate the women they have paid to satisfy their sexual needs. They violate them physically, psychologically, sexually, financially and materialistically. There are so many aspects of violence in this industry. And that is what you have to understand, that the violence in prostitution is complex. It’s not just being hit, kicked and raped. The violence is so much more.

–Tanja Rahm, Prostitution Narratives



Prostitution Narratives: Stories of Survival in the Sex Trade will strengthen and support the global campaign to abolish prostitution, provide solidarity and solace to those who bear its scars and hopefully help women and girls exit this dehumanising industry.

Order your copy of Prostitution Narratives here.

I’m not telling my story in search of pity; none of us want your pity. I tell it as testimony to the bare truth of what prostitution is, the truth that every day is drenched in lies. I’m telling this truth not for myself but for all the women who are still suffering and all those yet to suffer in this climate of denial. That truth is this: women cannot be afforded human status in a world where prostitution exists; women cannot be afforded human status in a world where prostitution can even be imagined.

–Rhiannon, Prostitution Narratives


For too long the global sex industry and its vested interests have dominated the prostitution debate repeating the same old line that sex work is just like any job. In large sections of the media, academia, public policy, Government and the law, the sex industry has had its way. Little is said of the damage, violation, suffering, and torment of prostitution on the body and the mind, nor of the deaths, suicides and murders that are routine in the sex industry.

Prostitution Narratives: Stories of Survival in the Sex Trade refutes the lies and debunks the myths spread by the industry through the lived experiences of women who have survived prostitution. These disturbing stories give voice to formerly prostituted women who explain why they entered the sex trade. They bravely and courageously recount their intimate experiences of harm and humiliation at the hands of sex buyers, pimps and traffickers and reveal their escape and emergence as survivors.

Edited by Caroline Norma and Melinda Tankard Reist, Prostitution Narratives documents the reality of prostitution revealing the cost to the lives of women and girls.

Prostitution Narratives: Stories of Survival in the Sex Trade will strengthen and support the global campaign to abolish prostitution, provide solidarity and solace to those who bear its scars and hopefully help women and girls exit this dehumanising industry.

Order your copy of Prostitution Narratives here.

Lierre Keith on Feminism

People sometimes say that we will know feminism has done its job when half the CEOs are women. That’s not feminism; to quote Catharine MacKinnon, it’s liberalism applied to women. Feminism will have won not when a few women get an equal piece of the oppression pie, served up in our sisters’ sweat, but when all dominating hierarchies – including economic ones – are dismantled.

–Lierre Keith