People view prostitution and trafficking as distinct because they want to, because they need to, or because they’ve been taught to – or perhaps a combination of all of the above. But women like myself understand, though our personal lived experience, that these are not two different individualised experiences. They are not distinct and separate and wholly apart at all, and the only real difference of note is that a woman prostituted through destitution or the fear of it can never say ‘I was forced’. She can never say that because the world will never accept that, and she, consequently, must deal with a far greater weight of shame than the woman who can say she was physically forced.Their cuties dressed up in these uniforms and pantyhose go and check

People view prostitution and trafficking as distinct because they want to, because they need to, or because they’ve been taught to – or perhaps a combination of all of the above. But women like myself understand, though our personal lived experience, that these are not two different individualised experiences. They are not distinct and separate and wholly apart at all, and the only real difference of note is that a woman prostituted through destitution or the fear of it can never say ‘I was forced’. She can never say that because the world will never accept that, and she, consequently, must deal with a far greater weight of shame than the woman who can say she was physically forced.

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People view prostitution and trafficking as distinct because they want to, because they need to, or because they’ve been taught to – or perhaps a combination of all of the above. But women like myself understand, though our personal lived experience, that these are not two different individualised experiences. They are not distinct and separate and wholly apart at all, and the only real difference of note is that a woman prostituted through destitution or the fear of it can never say ‘I was forced’. She can never say that because the world will never accept that, and she, consequently, must deal with a far greater weight of shame than the woman who can say she was physically forced.
I think we need to really examine, as a people, what we understand about the concepts of choice and force, and I think that until we do, we will never be able to decipher that murky hinterland with which the vast majority of prostituted women are intimately familiar; that place that bridges the gap between wanting to and having to; that place where so many women must occupy before they make a decision that is not a decision, a choice that is not a choice. It is a place that is imbued with a certain heaviness; the weight of an oppressive and secret force.
It is currently largely unrecognised – but it needs to be recognised. It needs to be unmasked. It needs to be understood for what it is. Because, as I have written in my memoir ‘It is a very human foolishness to insist on the presence of a knife or a gun or a fist in order to recognise the existence of force, when often the most compelling forces on this earth present intangibly, in coercive situations’.
(The preceding piece was originally commissioned for the website prostitutionresearch.com and was first published there on 31st May 2012)
Prostitution and the Commercial Value of Youth.
People who argue that prostitution would be free of coercion, trafficking, the exploitation of minors – and everything else that prevents it from being some kind of all-above-board consenting-adults-only autonomy party – are people who ignore one vital aspect of prostitutions reality. It is the commercial value of youth.
Just as in some actual industries, like modelling or professional dance, youth is highly prized among attributes. Unlike modelling or dance though, youth in prostitution is prized far above beauty and the fluidity of movement. In order to be most highly in demand in prostitution, you don’t need to be the prettiest flower in the field; you just need to be among the youngest. And what you can or cannot do with your body is irrelevant; it just matters that it hasn’t been on the planet for very long.
One of the commonest questions that comes through on any brothels phone line is ‘What age is the youngest girl you have?’ I could not count the times I have been asked that question, and I defy anybody who has answered a brothels phone to tell the blatant lie that it is not the commonest question they’ve been asked too.
The commercial value of youth is so profoundly built-in to prostitution that women routinely lie about their age in order to generate more business. The clients know this, of course, and even as women are shaving a few years off clients are adding a few on. ‘I’m twenty-six – I’ll tell him I’m twenty-three’ / ‘She’s twenty-three? – that means she’s twenty-six’.
Nobody’s fooling anybody here, and the only thing the whole pathetic charade is any good for is the revealing nature of what’s going on behind the pretence. What it reveals, of course, is that men who buy bodies for sex usually want to buy the youngest body they can find.
Last year it was reported to the BBC that prostitutes as young as thirteen were working the streets in Swindon, in the English county of Wiltshire. “Come here at the weekend and you’ll get 13-year-old girls to 19-year-old girls out here”, one prostitute told reporters.
When I read reports like these I just sigh. It tires me to pre-empt the shock people will express. It tires me to imagine that shock, whether it is genuine or not, because if it is genuine then that proves we have a long way to go in educating people about the reality of prostitution, and if it is not, well then, here is yet more in a tsunami of evidence that there are those who do not want the reality of prostitution understood.
Whenever any evidence of teenaged prostitution is revealed the pro-prostitution lobby move immediately to put forth the preposterous assertion that this town is somehow different or unique. The attitude is always either ‘thirteen-year-olds, good Lord, who ever heard of such a thing?’ – or ‘thirteen-year-olds, good Lord, we could clear up this situation if we legalised prostitution!’ – as if somehow the demand for adolescent bodies would vanish if only we’d make the sale of adult bodies okay!
Usually, however, they will simply deny that adolescent prostitution is widespread, or that adolescents are much in demand in the first place.
‘How do we know this is true?’ will come the query from the pro-prostitution lobby. It is not a query in the genuine sense of the word. A real query seeks an answer. This query seeks to obscure the same answer it purports to be seeking.

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