A joint statement by Ella, the action group for women in and from Prostitution.
Unfortunately our allies, that is people who get involved for us, the prostitutes, and who speak up against prostitution, occasionally hurt us inadvertently.
Our wishes are ….
*That the fact that we speak up and talk about our psycholgical and emotional damage or our post-traumatic stress disorder is not taken as a reason not to take us seriously any more or that we get thrown phrases like “do a therapy first“ or “this is your distorted perception, you’re imagining this“.
That that which we say about our deep emotional wounds is turned against as soon as we say something other people don’t like, is really bad faith. And just in passing: Every women in patriarchy has sustained traumata of her own. This does not make her certifiable or of unsound mind.
*That we are not being called “emotionally unstable“ when we say under which circumstances we would return into prostitution or if we engage such thoughts.
It’s better to listen to us when we relate the reasons that would make us (re)turn to prostitution – because that shows what is needed to abolish prostitution!
We do not wish to be oggled as oddities; to be counted as “the victim“ and suddenly everybody looks concerned and becomes silent when we speak about the job.
We are victims, but we are also women who went into prostitution for a reason. But we can still think straight, we have aims and take responsibility like everybody else does. Above and especially if we have a family we need to feed.
We do not wish to sink in absolute poverty and for our children not to have proper shoes for winter. No, we want to be okay financially and often prostitution is the only way for mothers!
Because otherwise they earn too little and working hours would never fit childcare hours.
Or because we took over some men’s debts in good faith before they left us, and now nobody will help us solve the problem.
All of this fosters prostitution. Our allies should include dealing with such matters.
We are trying to survive.
We have fought for survival for a long time.
Fought to get therapy and to be recognized as victims.
Fought to get out of prostitution on our own, because there was no one there to help.
So we are traumatized and victims of violence – and it is that precisely which gives us immense knowledge, experience and resources, that are to be taken seriously and deserve respect, also from those who prefer to look away.
It does not do us justice to be heard just in passing and still not be taken seriously.
*That we are not only taken seriously (and used and displayed) when we say what we are expected to say (“everything was always terrible/ I would never do it again“ etc.) This should not be, as is currently happening sometimes, about what we are supposed to say and what other people want to hear – and otherwise we’re not taken seriously or become “the enemy“.
This is about listening to us. This is also a matter of respect. We aren’t here to say what others want to hear or to be used as evidence for the horrors of prostitution, while we are simultaneously silenced as soon as we say things many don’t like to hear:
e.g. that prostitution is the only option and that it should not be taken away from us without offering us alternatives.
e.g. that we would return to it under certain circumstances
e.g. that there were SOME good things in prostitution, too, like the chatter with our colleagues in the brothel, the money, the double life
– even though of course the bad side definitely outweighs then.
It would be beautiful if the things we tell each other as women, in the common room of a brothel, could also be said and would also be admitted in public!
Because there it is evident why the women do what they are doing.
*That we are not split into voluntary and involuntary prostitutes,
into full time whore and hobby whore
into German and foreign prostitutes.
– that we do not have statements thrown into our teeth like: “You as a German woman/ student/ intelligent woman must have had alternatives“
or “I feel no pity for German women, they can always apply for Hartz IV (welfare)“
or the tired old clichee of the student earning herself some extra pocket money.
Because nobody can look inside of us, and we do not owe it to anybody to have them look into us – the reasons for prostitution are known: Poverty, prior violence, third parties helping enter prostitution.
Splitting us into “poor, coerced, foreign prostitutes“ and “voluntary, independent German prostitutes“ needs to stop, because it doesn’t conform to reality, it insults us and it is an implicit reproach, as well as a “only got yourself to blame“.
*That we are not looked down upon like “You did it because of poverty, I MYSELF would rather go hungry than spread my legs for money“ – viewing prostitutes as morally inferior is disgusting.
If you’ve never had to prostitute yourself, thank your lucky stars.
*That prostitutes who hold political views that differ from ours (i.e. that prostitution isn’t harmful and should be legalized) are debated, but that this is done factually and objectively and WITHOUT their being reproached for their prostitution as “they like doing it“, they’re in it “voluntarily“, they’re quasi perpetrators as it is their fault that our society minimises the harms of prostitution etc.
Women in prostitution are vulnerable and often have few recourses and options.
It has to be clear that the responsibilty for the existence of prostitution does not lie with the women in it, but with those without any need who decide to abuse this situation.
NO woman must be shamed for her prostitution.
NO woman must be accused.
None of you can look inside us, we do not owe you any explanation for our prostitution, so refrain from judging us. All that aside: especially women still in prostitution cannot afford to (publicly) say that they don’t enjoy it!
*And that there’s a stop to the statements that this is not about the “voluntary sex workers“ in the debate, but about the “poor, foreign forced prostitutes“
– for this is about ALL OF US in prostitution.
*That we are not being limited to our prostitution.
It is really ghastly to be announced as “the prostitute“ at events, who is permitted to briefly tell her victim’s story and after that the “experts“, as psychologists, social workers etc., will discuss the “truly important questions and facts“.
We’re not pretty decoration.
We are experts, too!
And to be made to feel the undertone of “you as a prostitute can’t really see through this or abstract from your situation or think this through, you’re just a dumb whore“ also shows that some opponents to prostitution should do some rethinking.
We can think, we are indeed politically active and aware, and quite a few of us have studied at universities.
There is no reason to feel smarter than us.
That aside: We’re not at a circus here with exhibitions of oh-very-exciting scandals for the ladies and gents from the bourgeoisie who want to shudder a bit at looking into the abyss and then will return to their business-as-usual homes.
True allies see us at eye-level.
*That our time in prostitution is not used to reproach us. Statements like:
“Just look at yourself!!!“
“But you look good!!!“
“But you speak German!!! – There are ALWAYS alternatives for you!!!“
“It can’t have been all that bad!!! – or else you wouldn’t have done/ survived/ borne this for so long“
“You could have looked for help much sooner!!!“
“Show some effort, will you!!“
“Why didn’t you just go for some proper job training?“
are less than helpful and change nothing.
We aren’t dumb, we do not need lectures by people who think they’re the experts on OUR lives.
At each moment in our lives we did our best and did what was possible for us within the options open to us. If the result was only prostitution this says more about our circumstances in life and our options; and about other people’s looking away,
– than it does about us as persons.
*That our boundaries are accepted.
We expect from our allies that they do not pressure us to be the fuel in the political struggle. We expect our boundaries to be accepted, for us not be exposed or knowingly left to the risk of being outed in our identities, that we are not pressurized into doing things we do not (yet) wish to do.
*That we are not lectured about what our prostitution was like, what kind of experiences we had and how to sort them.
You cannot see with our eyes and feel with our souls. Were you there?
We know many allies, women and men, who see us at eye level, who accept us, respect our boundaries, listen to us and who fight jointly with us for prostitutes and against the system of prostitution.
We want more of them! <3
translation: Inge Kleine