If a prostitute isn’t being forced to sell herself, then it’s easy to assume she chose to sell herself. Indeed, individualistic societies assume that people have the freedom of choice in life (neoliberalism, the dominant economic ideology, masks its exploitative agenda by using the notion of ‘freedom’). Thus, when someone makes a mistake, the individual is blamed for causing his or her mishap. In Sociological terms, one’s own assertion of power is referred to as agency. Most sociologists argue that one’s agency is influenced by numerous societal factors/expectations. A prostitute choosing to sell herself is not solely her choice, but rather the outcome of her social circumstances.
Yet it is not surprising how people assume that ‘high-class’ prostitutes make the choice to sell themselves. This mentality judges everything on the surface, but it fails at discovering the experiences that preceded it. My ex, for instance, felt I had total agency (power) over my decisions. He didn’t realize I was severely addicted to selling myself, nor that my unique lifestyle had shaped me irreversibly. I didn’t realize it myself back then, as I thought the sex industry left me unscathed. Once the veil is stained.. the stain will remain forever.
At large, society ignores the factors that places stigmatized people in ‘dysfunctional,’ helpless positions. Did they choose to be neglected? Did they choose to be sexually or physically abused, or to have alcoholic parents? This mentality ignores the inequalities that exist in this ‘functional’ structure of society. How can we expect people with different experiences to all act, think and feel the same? It’s unrealistic.
I read a great article by an author named Nekome, read here , titled, “How Prostitution Chose Me.“ The woman gives a great example of how her personal agency was limited by her personal experiences. She was lured to the sex industry. “When real alternatives do not exist, it looks like people are making bad choices. What are the basic rights that all women and children should have so that they never have to make the “choice” to prostitute?” Again, what are the alternatives for a woman who has sold herself? Even if she stops she will still be haunted by her addiction. As well, she has to conceal her past in public settings, and may believe she is a’ bad’ person for her past, which causes emotional distress. When someone is so emotionally damaged inside, is it easy for that person to integrate back into ‘normal’ society and pretend everything is ‘normal?’ Not at all.
Our life circumstances greatly influence our emotions, and thus emotions influence the choices we make. This assumption bothers me: “Why can’t prostitutes work NORMAL jobs and work HARD like the rest of people in society?” I got into prostitution because I couldn’t function in ‘normal’ workplaces. Prior to entering prostitution, I had extreme depression. I tried to work a normal job, but my emotional problems lead to social phobia and anxiety, and thus I could not commit to the linear schedule. Financial strains and pressures from family to succeed increased my depression. Prostitution lured me in, because I could work when I want (at my own leisure).
In my personal experience, it’s so hard to go back to a normal job. I have tried a few times to quit the sex industry and work at a normal job. The problem was not just the adjustment of making less money, but it was lack of commonality with ‘normal’ people. I had to hide everything, all of my personal experiences that defined me. I feared of being rejected or condemned. Often, I avoided making friendships because I hated pretending to be ‘normal.’ So, I ended up being introverted, and I would get depressed as a result. The depression affected my ability to show up at the job, and thus I lost motivation. Then I reverted back into what I know best: selling myself. Prostitution allowed me to essentially survive while dealing with emotional issues. I could work when my mood was good, and of course retreat when I was feeling depressed. That was how I survived (on the surface).
Prostitutes become ‘poisoned’ once they know that plenty of men are willing to pay large amounts of money for sex. Now, it could be a positive thing, but sadly the modern sex industry is drowned in exploitation. My own experiences are blessed in comparison to the majority — most other escorts are doing this purely for money, and not deriving any pleasure. Thus, they become addicts, and the addiction dictates them. Now, for me, even though I can enjoy aspects, I still endure the pain of being condemned by wider society. It’s easy to assume that I, living in a ‘lavish’ lifestyle, feel content and complete. The reality is I often feel empty, lost and insignificant. It doesn’t help that I hide my emotional problems, and I portrayed myself as emotionally stable and confident. Once, I truly believed I was ‘normal’ too, but now I realize ‘normal’ women do not have the same experiences as I. In my own experience, I want to emphasize that having sex for money is not the problem, nor are clients the problem — rather, it’s the exploitative nature of state regulations and how that subsequently influences society to hate, degrade, silence and neglect prostitutes.
Another woman wrote her experience as being a high-class prostitute: “For a great part of 1992 I lived in a beautiful apartment on Capitol Hill. I drove my expensive car. I bought lovely clothes and traveled extensively out of the country. For the first time in my 20 years as an adult woman, I paid my own way. There was no need to worry about affording my rent, my phone bill, all the debts one accumulates simply by living month to month. I felt invincible. And I was miserable to the core. I hated myself because I hated my life All the things I came to possess meant nothing. I could not face myself in the mirror. Working in prostitution lost my soul.” Survivor interviewed by Debra Boyer, Lynn Chapman and Brent Marshall in Survival Sex in King County: Helping Women Out (1993), King County Women’s Advisory Board, Northwest Resource Associates, Seattle. (Taken from website: Here)
She depicts it well. ‘High-Class’ prostitutes are living a ‘lavish’ facade, but underneath there is a lot of pain (and if the pain isn’t shown, then it is likely being numbed). How can one explain that a woman, who essentially has ‘everything,’ can feel totally isolated and miserable? But what is everything? These ideal values (materials, beauty, wealth, and power) promoted by Western societies are a big MYTH, a LIE (it’s BS!). I acquired all these things that society told me will make me happy and wholesome (and more acceptable), but it did the exact opposite. It made me more individualistic, which pushed me further from happiness. And worse, it made me neglect the simple treasures of life (love).