When you have been treated from a painfully young age into adulthood, as an object in existence for men’s pleasure and enjoyment (nonconsensually), people do not realise how the lessons you internalise from this stay with you. Always.
Yes, you can heal. You can identify the mistruths. You can rewire and re-write your story. But for some of us, how we have been treated in abuse will inform our view of ourselves for the rest of our lives. This is something we have to accept and acknowledge. To stare square in the eye in order to challenge it and start to treat ourselves differently and expect others to treat us differently too. To get what we should have always had but were denied.
I entered the world of sex work – or pre contemplation – when I was struggling for money. I was struggling for money because, after years of very successful repression of my sexual abuse, it finally caught up with me. Lockdown number one. Night terrors. Not being able to sleep. Constant flashbacks of what I had been through. This trauma finally found space to enter the forefront of my mind. That space, previously occupied by day to day anxieties I had to navigate (getting on the tube, talking to colleagues, working out how to travel between all my appointments that day) was suddenly empty. There was new space in my mind to be filled with the actual traumas and memories triggering this daily anxiety and depression. I was home all day every day, alone with my memories. Being someone always looking to fix things through actions, I decided to report one of my childhood abusers to the police. The investigation, as can be expected, went terribly. I was left with nothing but re-traumatisation, CPTSD and an inability to function the way I had for so many years. I left my job and for the first time in my life struggled for money. I say the first time because, contrary to what people expect of survivors, I had been extremely successful in my career so far in my life.
So I find myself , October 2021, wondering what on earth I have left that can earn me money. I felt broken and worthless. My mind, glitching and hard wired to the thought that my body and fuckability was all I had that was worth anything, led me to think of sex work. For some reason I entertained these thoughts and found them somewhat empowering. Could I really use this part of me, a part of me I’m told is broken, to support me right now? I didn’t feel capable of going back to the previous line of work that had supported me for so long. Something drew me to explore sex work despite my closest confidants and supporters advising me against this. I was told “this will be detrimental to your recovery” and “you’re actively shitting on progress you’ve made”.
My gut and deepest intuition disagreed.
This I have shared with some, although none yet have understood.
Sex work helped me heal.
I am always going to have, hard wired into my brain, the feeling I am capable of little more than being used and fucked by men. This part of me is ingrained. No amount of therapy is going to remove it. It was chiseled into place when I was 6…7… all the way up to 18. And many others reinforced this engraving with their non-consensual ways for years after. I refuse to feel ashamed that this is part of me, it is not my fault these things happened. My work in my recovery is to learn that this is just one part of me. One part that I choose to no longer hold power over me or my life. One part of me I can make smaller than other parts shouting that I am worthy. Worthy of love, of care, and consent.
I discovered that sex work was one way I could make this part of me smaller. This part of me, that I no longer need, that is outdated and objectively untrue and unreflective of my worth, could be chained into a tiny little box I call ‘some income.’ This part of me I could – in my power – consent to coming out and being used.
This time, by me.
The word of virtual sex work provided an incredible platform for me to use my voice in ways I never knew I could. I spoke to many, many men who clearly thought they could demand and get anything from me as a commodity they were paying for.
Not being with them in person, not being exposed to risks their physical capabilities could pose, I navigated conversations with a power and aptitude I’d never felt capable of before. I’ve said no to many things, and yes to many things. My ‘Yesses’ were backed by time and space I needed to ensure I was fully consenting. My ‘nos’ I felt empowered to speak as no physical or impending threats loomed literally over me. Being given that power, when you’ve learnt that in sex with men power doesn’t exist, is healing!
I have not ventured into in person sex work, but virtual sex work has enabled to me use some parts of me (parts of me I wish I didn’t have, but have none the less) to get myself something I need – Income.
This income has come from the gender that abused me, and this is tasty.
I have found, in doing this work, that the part of me that screams ‘you are here to be used by men’ is brought out by choice to service a few hours work purpose. When that work is done, that voice gets packed back away. I go about my day with the parts of me I welcome and want to nurture. I engage in relationships healthily, with the part of me expecting to be treated like trash already taken care of and satisfied. It is compartmentalised into a small part of my world. It has served me and my survival in getting money I need, but is not needed outside of this.
With this part satisfied, I can take other parts of me out more often. I can go for dinner with my new match, say no when I feel it’s too soon to have sex, establish boundaries I need to feel safe, know how I deserve to be treated, expect to be treated this way, and walk away if behaviours fall short of my new expectations.
Sex work can be healing. People who are not survivors need to stop telling us what will and won’t be good for us. We need to learn to trust our gut and our instincts. Let us do this.