I was listening to the radio the other day and there was a piece about soldier who shot two of his comrades as a result of his post traumatic stress disorder after they’d been drinking. They were talking about how PTSD can make the sufferer re-experience past traumas. Their messing about had apparently triggered off for him the experience of being under attack in a warzone. So he killed them.
I have been diagnosed with PTSD some years back as a result of the abuse I suffered as a prostitute and battered woman. I remember my therapist saying to me that soldiers often suffer with it, and that people who experience severe trauma may develop it. Symptoms include flashbacks, nightmares, and triggers.
I have all of these.
But what the expert on the radio said which really caught my attention was that soldiers who’ve been in conflict find it hard to adjust to civilian life afterwards, left with all those horrific images of the atrocities they’ve witnessed emblazoned on their minds. And so they may wish to return to active duty and a combat setting, because there they will be around other men who are experiencing what they are experiencing and who understand.
And there in that one sentence which I caught by chance on the radio I found an answer to 4 years of guilt and shame and confusion. Since exiting prostitution I have at times felt a pull back towards it, in particular when people have refused to help me, or have told me that I chose it ergo I must have enjoyed it. There’s nothing worse than having someone explain to you that you’re wrong about how you feel, about how things were, that you somehow misunderstood. I could never understand why I would feel pulled back towards something which I found so horrific, and had come to the conclusion that it must be my self destructive urge, which is strong at times.
But what was said about the soldiers made perfect sense to me. Since exiting prostitution, I have found my experiences invalidated at every level, dismissed or denied. I still find, 4 years on, that almost without exception (and there have been very few exceptions, even amongst so called mental health professionals), I have not found anyone who understood what it is to prostitute oneself. Most don’t even try.
So the only place I have ever felt truly understood was amongst other prostitutes.
There is not other situation which parallels prostitution, none that attract so little understanding, so much judgment and hatred and scorn. If you’re beaten as a prostitute, you deserve it. And if you’re raped… can you even rape a prostitute? Surely that just means not paying, and she obviously likes sex well enough or she wouldn’t choose to be there. I’ve been told I chose all this. Well, Angel, what did you get out of that? Take responsibility for what happened to you! I don’t fear taking responsibility for past wrongs but I draw the line at being told I wanted this stuff. Nobody chooses rape.
The prostitute stands condemned, both by those who despise her for what she does and by those who argue so generously (on her behalf - they wouldn’t dream of doing it themselves) for her right to be an abused woman, to be a prostitute.
It’s a desperate place to find yourself.
There was no suggestion by the expert or indeed anyone on Radio 4 that a soldier might try to get back to active service because he enjoyed witnessing the atrocities that had triggered his PTSD and so disconnected him from the general civilian population. Where is this compassion and understanding for the prostituted woman? Why does she among all people get blamed again for being hurt, and told once again that she chooses this because she likes it? There is a complete lack of understanding of choicelessness, addiction, hopelessness, and the trauma that results from being fucked and used and abused and treated as less than human. As a prostitute I was a human fuck doll, the only difference being that I was expected to enthuse over the abuse and take pleasure in it. A blow up doll would’ve been treated more gently.
It’s not so surprising there’s a pull to go back, looked at like that. A woman who has been prostituted is a woman who does not belong. Damaged as she is by the experience, she is, simply Unacceptable, a truth too dangerous to handle. If women used in the sex industry don’t actually like it, it casts a harsh shadow of doubt across every person’s ‘right’ to wank over women in lapdancing clubs, magazines, videos and on tv, and society isn’t prepared for that to happen. So we are used and then discarded, an inconvenience, the human waste generated by a system of perpetual inequalities and abuses.
Being human garbage? Now that’s rubbish.