As a survivor of sexual exploitation in prostitution and porn I can definitively say that it is not a job like any other. Let me take you into that world and explain why.
The sex industry—prostitution, porn, and stripping—is an industry run primarily by men. Men are the exploiters and sex buyers. Women/girls are the exploited and the purchased commodities. The gender inequality is not hard to see once you get up close to it.
Men ran the brothel-type warehouse I was prostituted in. The only girls in the warehouse were those being sold. And though we knew who the bosses of the warehouse were we also knew that every man was our boss. The sex buyer’s every perverted wish was our command.
At the warehouse this was never more clear than the nights they lined us up for new buyers. A row of naked girls with numbers on their foreheads would stand in front of a room of men. They had the power to buy us. We had no power, no will—only subjectivity to the sex buyers’ will.
When I was 14 I was moved from the prostitution warehouse to the porn studio. My male director was the master of that universe and it was a universe run by men for men. The porn users, who are the hidden sex buyers, were mostly male, which was a reality I saw at the in-person premieres of the film.
We, the women/girls of hardcore porn, were there to be exposed, consumed, dominated, humiliated, tortured, and ultimately subjugated on film. That is what hardcore porn is about, and hardcore porn is the norm today. In 2017 Pornhub’s top 20 most searched categories included teen, anal, and gang bang.
The sex industry has no “jobs” like any other. Every “job” in the sex industry is sexual harassment from start to finish. And the daily “job hazards” encountered there are highly toxic.
Our emotions, reactions, and true voice were never allowed to be expressed with our buyers at the prostitution warehouse. As each sex buyer came through the door I cut off all emotion and put on my fakest smile. What I wanted to do was scream, push them hard enough to make them fall, and run out of the room. But I just smiled because, as any prostituted girl knows, the sexual violations are not just allowed, they must be welcomed.
Tolerating the sexual harassment and violation helps to hold the danger back, but not for long. I learned to sense when a sex buyer’s anger was rising. I incited these angry men to hit me because the hit I saw coming was better than the hit I could not see. Of course, provoking the hit did not stop the choking, body slamming, or BDSM punishments, but it was a moment of control.
The porn studio was like a cage fight between an amatuer featherweight 14-year-old girl and professional, heavyweight, adult, male, MMA fighters. They were skilled in their methods of inflicting pain, on taking an opponent down to the floor. There was no way I was getting out of that unharmed. I just tried to keep breathing—to keep believing that eventually each night would end.
My life was in danger every moment of my exploitation age 11-17 from sex buyers, bosses, and porn directors. There was no safe place. This was no “job like any other.”
And none of it ended the day I walked out those doors for the last time. The whole world of exploitation still lived within me like one of my films on continual repeat. PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) keeps the trauma going long after it has physically come to an end.
I exited trafficking at 17 and escaped from my father into physical safety at 19. That was the beginning of a new day for me, but all the days that came before remained alive within me. It could be a word, a feeling, a thought, or person that triggered me and suddenly brought up the past. The triggers were everywhere and so all of my past was always in my face.
I looked normal and people thought I was, but it took everything I had within me to pull off normal. I processed and edited myself constantly to keep my fear and reactions down and to keep myself moving forward. I could have hid in a hole inside and stayed safe, but I wanted to live and love again. So I fought through the war zone of triggers and my memories running like films on repeat through me.
And I did live and I have risen to trust and to love as much as I can in the face of what still lives within me. We can and do heal from the trauma of sexual exploitation. I am proof that there is hope of healing and recovery for those who have been sexually exploited.
And there is hope for ending this tragic story of our culture. It begins with seeing the truth that prostitution and all “jobs” in the sex industry are not “jobs like any other.”