I am a sex worker. It is hard to admit, even now, and I have written this piece anonymously for fear of backlash, but I feel it is time to speak out. I am a sex worker, but I shouldn’t have to be.
It started during my time in college, during which I became estranged from my family. I had to work full-time just to afford basic payments; food, rent, bills and everything else that crops up in an adult’s life, but it wasn’t enough. I had to fill in the gap or be homeless.
The only option available to me was becoming a sex worker. When your other options are possible starvation and eviction, selling yourself to someone else isn’t much of a choice – if you can even call it a choice.
The first time I did it I was absolutely terrified. The fear of being killed or abused was huge, but I had no option left. I remember trembling all over when I picked up the client, the sense of foreboding was over whelming. I approached a complete stranger’s car, not knowing what was about to happen. He asked where was secluded for us to ‘begin’ and my vocal cords tied up, but the aching in my stomach protested and I suggested an area that was barely habited. Once it was over, I felt so much shame, more shame than I have ever felt before. I hated myself, I hated the cards life had dealt me, but more than anything I hated what I had become.
However it becomes easier and that is probably the worst thing about it – you numb yourself to it. You start to view yourself as a product, to be bought and sold at people’s whim. You have no control. Whoever is paying you is the person who is in charge; you are merely an object to be used.
I am sure there are people who do it for empowerment. As someone who deems themselves a strong feminist, I can understand where they are coming from. However, I have personally never felt that way. I have never felt empowerment, only subjugation. I have never felt strong, only weak. I wish it were the other way around – if I felt empowered, I wouldn’t feel this crippling shame that looms over me day by day.
And that’s the thing, it never leaves you. You wake up knowing that you have had people buy you. They not only buy your body, but it feels as if they are buying your soul. I can never feel like what I did was right and part of me has been missing ever since.
What is more terrifying than the fear of being hurt is the social stigma that exists. There have only ever been a few people in my life who know about this, whereas I am otherwise quite open with my life and other experiences. Society tells us that being a sex worker is so absolutely wrong, that it’s the worst profession to get into, but I never did this out of want, only need and it’s hard to convey that to people. It makes my life easier to just bottle it up and not tell anyone, for fear of persecution.
Gone are the days that you hang around street corners and hope for the best (although I bet there are still people who do that). With the internet, it has never been easier to be a prostitute. Websites like Craigslist or mobile apps like Grindr and Tinder make picking people up to pay for sex easier than ever.
In today’s modern, connected world, we need to have a serious conversation about sex work. Laws need to be changed and society needs a shift in how it views sex work. However, that is just the start of the problem; we need to fix the many underlying issues that cause people to go into sex work. Homelessness is the biggest and most evident reason, but it is also bigger than that. From the living wage, mental health support and practices in place to help those with drug problems, to just plain old discrimination, all of these feed into the problem. I for one wish these systems were in place before I became estranged. Maybe then my life would have been different.
If you have been affected by any of the issues in this article, there are services available to help you.
Nightline: on the back of your Library Card
Samaritans: 01225 460888