PODCAST: Rachel Moran on her book: ‘Paid for: My Journey Through Prostitution’

paid for

In this episode, Meghan Murphy speaks with Rachel Moran, the author of “Paid For: My Journey Through Prostitution.” Rachel worked as a prostitute for 7 years in Ireland, finally managing to get out of the industry at 22. The book describes her experiences as well as breaks down myths and lies perpetuated by pop culture, the media, the sex industry, and even other feminists, about prostitution and is an incredibly powerful and brutally honest read.

Meghan Murphy
Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, I-D, Truthdig, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog.

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  • sporenda

    Strong stuff indeed, a number of the major myths about prostitution are literally eviscerated, thanks Meghan and Rachel for this no bs interview.

  • lizor

    I am so excited that this book is finally published. I was privileged to read Rachel’s blog and filled with hope when a publishing house expressed interest in her writing.

    This is clearly an extremely important book. I will be ordering my copy, recommending it, and requesting it at our local libraries.

    Rachel’s courage, wit and incredible spirit is an inspiration and this is greatly, deeply, appreciated.

    Thank you Meghan for this interview.

    • Meghan Murphy

      It’s really great. She doesn’t miss a thing. It’s a hard read, to be sure, but so worth it. I can’t recommend it enough.

  • Vouchsafer

    I loved the part where she talked about prostitution as being a power struggle between males and females. That’s what it’s really all about isn’t it? And that’s why it doesn’t make sense to penalize prostituted women, but rather, to penalize johns.

    You don’t penalize the ezploited for being exploited. you penalize the powerful for doing the conquering.

  • MLM

    Incredible interview. I just have so much respect for Rachel Moran. I used to read her “Free Irish Woman” blog as well. It is such a good thing that her book (and her name) are now out in the world to inject some well needed truth and insight into the conversation about prostitution. The powerful way she articulates her experiences just obliterates mythology.

  • Laur

    Is there a way to save this as an MP3? My laptop doesn’t have volume now. 🙁 Thanks.

    • stephen m

      @Laur: I am probably too late but this will work on Firefox and also should similarly on other browsers .

      Right click on posting’s “Download File”
      then choose “Save link as”

      • Laur

        Thanks, stephen. I am normally able to do this with podcasts on this site, but I can’t find a place to “download file” on this podcast.

        In any case, I am very grateful Megan takes the time and effort to interview such wonderful women.

  • polarcontrol

    Yea. Perhaps it’s not anymore a power struggle between the sexes the day women and men are equally well-off..


  • sporenda

    Based on the fact that Rachel’s experience of prostitution is at both ends of the scale, from escort to street prostitution and massage parlors, what she says about prefering street prostitution carries a lot of weight.

    From what I have read, the legalization of prostitution in the Netherlands and the creation of legal brothels where women are supposed to be safer because they work indoors has not reduced significantly the number of murdered prostitutes in this country.

    All the prostituted women I talked to told me they prefer to be independent, rather than being “incarcerated” in brothels where they have to accept all johns, follow rules and regulations and give up to 50% of their gains to the brothel owners.
    In Nevada, the legal brothels are not doing too well lately; there is a huge development of illegal prostitution because the prostitutes prefer to be independent, and the johns prefer independant prostitutes as well: cheaper, more discreet (no payment with Visa).

  • marv

    Rachel Moran implied there is a relationship between dysfunctional families (e.g. broken homes) and prostitution. Yes, but in a patriarchal world don’t all regularized families require psychologically unhealthy adaptation by its members? The standard definition of family is heterosexual pair bonding with or without children along with extended membership through kin and their heterosexual ties. It totally characterizes conventional thinking though not practice. The nuclear and extended family reinforce gender, privatizes women and excludes those who don’t measure up (misfits), even in egalitarian households. Pairing hegemony therefore is an effect and cause of gender. Thus whether you are well adjusted to this model or maladjusted within it , the family buttresses gender and patriarchy, making it not just messed up but oppressive to women and girls. As well, not questioning the functional/dysfunctional divide further stigmatizes social deviants and the mentally ill while affirming the compliant – in essence pychopathologizing and depoliticizing the institution of the family. Ultimately we are all sick within patriarchy though on different levels and to various degrees.

    Could it be that the ideological prevalence of twosome fusing actually fosters a social climate that is hospitable to the growth of prostitution because coupledom reproduces gender (aside from the fact that many women are treated as prostitutes in their unions with men)? Just as you can’t separate prostitution and patriarchy can we sever either from their interplay with family structures?

  • Toni B

    Another great interview Meghan! My only complaint is that I wish I’d gone on longer.

  • Laur

    I thought Rachel’s comment regarding the connection between men with more money feeling they have the “right” to do even more to a woman, because they are paying so much, really important. The idea that men who work respectable professions (doctors, lawyers), and can pay more, and therefore treat women well is so sickening. And so not true.

  • MLM

    Rachel has written the most amazing article called “The Prostitution Stops Rape Fallacy” and I just wanted to share it here:


    She has also co-founded an organisation called SPACE International (SPACE stands for ‘Survivors of Prostitution-Abuse Calling for Enlightenment’ and this is their Facebook page
    https://www.facebook.com/pages/SPACE-International/615655878462483?fref=ts if you want to “like” it).

  • Pingback: Féminicide : Rachel Moran dénonce le calvaire prostitutionnel. | Women's liberation without borders.()

  • L

    No offence, but this sucks.
    I’m a sex worker, and apparently one of the ones that isn’t “wired right. I think it is frankly awful that somehow I’m being positioned as a negative type deviant. I mean, we talk about solidarity, but the enemy here is me, just because I don’t hate being a sex worker.

    There is a reason it is preferable to talk about women’s agency, rather than making generalized announcements that regardless of any individual woman’s lived experience, that she is abused. It is because doing that is totally disrespectful towards women. I do not have a “control fantasy” and I am not in fact pretending – I do have probably more control than most women have over their work. This notion that I can be so summarily dismissed in the name of someone else’s crusade is… well, frankly, where the fuck is the sisterhood, man? Like the only way to have a cohesive approach to sex work or prostitution is to develop a strategy in which all of our experiences and all of our stories matter instead of just swinging back and forth between varying extremes and deciding who matter and who doesn’t within a particular narrative. Maybe we should turn our efforts into listening to each other rather than dismissing each other. Just putting that one out there.

    Solidarity, sisters.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Um, what exactly are you referencing? Was there something specifically about Rachel’s experience that made you uncomfortable? Because perhaps you should consider why it made you uncomfortable rather than simply dismissing her.

      • L

        what makes me uncomfortable is the cavalier way this interview brushes aside the experience of other women with the generic phrase “your/their head is not right.” What makes me uncomfortable is this notion that it is BAD to talk about women’s agency in the context of sex work (or prostitution, or stripping, or dom work… whatever it makes you happy to call it) like the decisions they make – whether they are in the context of limitless choice or not – don’t matter. What makes me uncomfortable is being told that my view on my life is an illusion and can be safely discounted until I take up her view. What makes me uncomfortable, as I said, that somehow I’m the enemy because I’m pretty sure my life is not actually illusory.

        I am not uncomfortable with Rachel’s experience – I have nothing but pity and sympathy for that. I am terribly uncomfortable with this notion that it is necessarily MY experience, and on the other hand that my experience is illusory. So I can see very clearly why I am uncomfortable, not with her experience which belongs entirely to her, but with the things she is saying, and I’m not sure it would benefit from further or deeper examination. And, with all due respect, I am not dismissing either her experience or the things she is saying. Dismissing her would be rolling my eyes and clicking off the page. This is what would popularly be called “engagement”. And again, I would like to stress that I am engaging with her ideas and statements, and have no wish to have some contest of whose “experience” is more real or more valid.

        • Meghan Murphy

          Saying “this sucks” isn’t “popularly called engagement,” particularly when one doesn’t reference anything in the interview/book at hand that “sucks,” specifically. So thanks for your clarification.

          As Rachel discussed, women in prostitution tend to look back at their experiences with a different perspective than they do while enmeshed in it. Same as when we are in abusive relationships — we often don’t even realize how abusive those relationships were until we leave, sometimes until years afterwards. It isn’t a dis to point this out.

          • L

            Will all due respect (again) it may not be engagement if that was ALL I said. I did refer, specifically, to aspects that I found questionable, including suggestions that women who had different experiences were wired incorrectly, and the suggestion that while it was “popular” to talk about women’s agency, that it might somehow be morally wrong, and the notion that you and she can casually agree that I am abused regardless of my lived experience. You chose to respond only to two words out of 220. I therefore think the label of engagement is entirely appropriate. However, as you can tell from the length of my posts, I am always happy to clarify, so you’re welcome.

            In point of fact what Rachel said was that we weren’t “wired right” or “our heads weren’t right” and that is most assuredly a “dis” to any reasonable person. The comparison to an abusive relationship is wholly yours, and, frankly, is not apt. I am not in a relationship, abusive or otherwise. I could say that any decision that anyone ever makes is “just like an abusive relationship” and therefore nobody ever could make an informed choice. Indeed, I could say that your point of view here is “like an abusive relationship – you will not know what you really think until after – when you’ve come round to my way of thinking” however that would disrespectful and in no way an apt comparison, so I tend to refrain from saying things so entirely ridiculous. The comparison is simply another tool to silence me – and again, I ask you, what sort of solidarity is that? This is, at heart, a claim that I do not know my own mind, but you certainly know what my mind should be. I do not require you or Rachel to do my thinking or feeling for me – I am well capable to doing my own, on both counts.

            These conversations will only become useful when women in/from the industry use their experiences to talk to each other and relate to each other instead of cherry picking the experiences that back up their hypothesis and saying the rest of them don’t matter because they are, somehow, like an abusive relationship and can be discounted. (I feel, incidentally the same when it works the other way around). How horribly obnoxious would I be if I said “well, you were a teenaged drug addict when you were working – what do you know anyway?” It would be HORRIBLY obnoxious for me to seek around for tools to discount all experiences that do not jibe with my own rather than acknowledging that someone might just have different feelings – not only obnoxious, it would be intellectually lazy and terribly oppressive and totally inaccurate. Rachel knows what her life experience is – in what way am I qualified, by virtue of having different experience, to blithely announce that her experience is not real – that somewhere, deep inside, her experience was just like mine? Like where would I get the authority – where would I get the pure ego to do that?

            I agree about the term “sex positive” – I dislike that term, and I tend to view it as another way of silencing dissent – like “oh, everyone who disagrees with this stance is one of those ugly, unshaven frigid feminists, unlike us, the delightful lipsticked variety” and I find that so distasteful and entirely antifeminist. However, this interview engages in the same exercise – you’ve worked out which women matter – the ones that say the things you think they should say and feel the things you think they should feel and exorcise the rest under this bizarre stereotype of hysterical woman who don’t know what they are really thinking. It is mainstream feminism using the tools of the patriarchy against the outliers, man.

          • Meghan Murphy

            I’m not sure that Rachel’s argument can be boiled down to being “wired incorrectly.” Is that really what you got from her book/interview? How? Rachel talks about herself and the other women she knew in prostitution when she says that their perception of what is happening to them is off. It’s a protective measure. It doesn’t mean Rachel thinks those women are biologically flawed. It’s a psychological issue that comes from abuse, PTSD, trying to disengage/cope. It’s not that these women are, like, inherently flawed.

            “and the suggestion that while it was “popular” to talk about women’s agency, that it might somehow be morally wrong”
            Again, how did you get “morally wrong” from that? The point is that prostitution isn’t about women’s choices — it’s about men’s choices. The violence that happens in prostitution, again, is about the choices of men, not women — so to represent prostitution as something that is about women’s agency is misleading and, really, simply incorrect. This isn’t the same as saying that women in prostitution don’t make choices or have agency, everyone makes *some* choices and has some version of agency — but prostitution exists because of male demand, not because of women’s desire to sexually service men.

            And sorry, no, I’m not going to spend all my time responding to your comments when I’ve written extensively about this for years and you simply don’t care to read my work (or Rachel’s, for that matter).

          • L

            I would indeed be very ambitious if I attempted to boil down a 30 minute interview into two words; I was not attempting to boil it down – I was in fact quoting her. She claimed, in those words that women who were “wired right” agreed with her, but that not everyone was “wired right.” I suppose my insistence that I do not actually have PTSD will not count for much, but… I can’t help it, I don’t have PTSD.

            While this diverges from the interview a bit, I’m not sure how to neatly extricate my choice from the choice of a client or customer or john (I honestly don’t have a strong feeling on what you call them). Have I always been working from an infinity of choice? Certainly not. But extricating me from the array of decisions that are being made surrounding either an individual contract on sex work or from sex work as a whole is kind of artificial. And that is the moralizing, right there: it’s popular now to talk about women’s agency to conceal the fact that they don’t have any. Every business exists to serve a demand – donuts exist because people want to eat them, not because people want to make them. And I’m not claiming here that prostitution and donuts are morally neutral, ethically neutral or the same. Just that the fact that there is a demand for a service is not in itself, a moral wrong.

            I know you’ve been writing for years. It also might be interesting if spent any time contemplating how your writing is perceived by women who are currently in the business and what that means.

          • Meghan Murphy

            “It also might be interesting if spent any time contemplating how your writing is perceived by women who are currently in the business and what that means.” Do you honestly think I’ve never considered that?

            So, “choice” isn’t the only issue for abolitionists. It’s about looking at larger systems of power and the women who are funneled into prostitution and why. It’s also about looking at the way johns treat the women in prostitution, which is abhorrent (and I don’t even think that’s a strong enough word…). What do men who buy sex from prostitutes think about women? About women in prostitution? What does it say that we live in a world where men think it’s not only ok, but their RIGHT to get a blow job from a woman who is desperate and has few to no other choices?

            You may have more choices than these women, but it doesn’t make that system or behaviour ok.

          • L

            And I am down for a conversation about greater systems of power. I just don’t know why we must contextualize that conversation within or alongside or whatever with a conversation about the hysterical women who think they are actually choosing this life – that is the terrible conversation. I’m fine with “choice” not being the end of the conversation.

            I mean, ultimately you and I might disagree about a lot of things, (for example, I would suggest that while a certain percentage of clientele do share the view you ascribe, a great number do not. They don’t see themselves as having any inherent right to any sexual act; not everyone is the same, dude). And that is totally fine – my big problem comes up with the insistence that me and my views don’t matter in the conversation – I mean even where you say “prostitution isn’t about women’s choices, it’s about men’s choices” – like it is a way of removing me (and my ilk) as stakeholders in the conversation.

          • Meghan Murphy

            I don’t think women who choose this life are hysterical at all. You and your views do matter in the conversation. I just don’t think that the “prostitution as an empowered choice” narrative should erase the vast majority of women in this world or that those individuals should decided for ALL women that prostitution/patriarchy is ok.

          • L

            While it is gratifying to hear, that is like the opposite of most things that were said/ agreed to in the interview, which stated, you know exactly that women who did not agree were not wired right.

            I agree that choice is not the only conversation, and that a choice is not necessarily feminist because a woman makes it; although I think there are things about prostitution that benefit women (although for that argument to make sense, we have to agree that the women it benefits matter).

            However, while we’re talking about choices, I’m not sure either you or Rachel are speaking for “the vast majority” of women in the world. Like are we talking the majority of sex workers, or the majority of women? In terms of “majority of women” I think the expression “tyranny of the majority” may have some application, as well.

        • lizor

          With respect, L, what do you think accounts for the extreme divergence between Rachel’s experience of the industry and yours?

          I am also wondering what your thoughts are regarding the idea of prostitution as a skills exchange like any other job when there is overwhelming specific and general cultural evidence to show that the younger and more inexperienced a prostitute is, the more value she has for the client.

          Have you looked at the evidence cited in the post here:


          and here:



          I am interested to hear your thoughts on this.

          • L

            Hi Lizor
            I’m not sure anything specific can account for the difference in experience. It may just be that she point blank hated it – lots of people do. I mean, I am not claiming and would not claim that sex work is exactly, for all purposes, like all other work, and I also think there is a reason most people don’t do it despite the low entry barriers. I think most people view any physical as something that should be between them and someone significant (even if that person is only significant for a brief period of time). I’m saying that I think that the view of actual working women, you know, matters in the conversation, and that dismissing the choices I make to bolster a political position is facile and offensive and antifeminist – I am not trying to say that everyone loves sex work. I weirdly enough spend most of my time arguing the other side of this – that feminists are not our enemies and the experience of women who hate the industry matter too.

            I do think a couple of factors are going to be that i didn’t get into the business as a homeless 15 year old and I have never been addicted to drugs. My view on the business might be way freaking different if I were 15 years old and homeless. I can completely understand why in those circumstances it would feel like a prison.

            But. I have all sorts of privilege as a sex worker. I’m white. I’m English speaking in an English speaking country. I’m not and have never been addicted to any substance. I’m healthy. I’m well educated. I’ve never worked with anyone I would call a pimp.

            I’m not sure there is any mystery to the issue of younger women having more value. If we are talking about child prostitution – I think it is self-explanatory – stuff that is highly illegal and attracts more disapprobation is going to be more highly valued by the providers and the aquisitors. If we are talking just young women – I don’t think there is any mystery to the fetishization of young women. That has nothing to do with whether prostitution is legal or illegal – that exists well outside the parameters of prostitution. Although in general I can also say it is not like a 1:1 kind of thing – like it is not like I made the most money when I first started and it has dropped every year.

            Reading some of the comments is hyper disturbing. I obviously believe that women are sentient beings and I do not think it is ridiculous that a sex worker can be raped. Honestly, I’m not wholly adverse to the suggestion that prostitution is a social evil. I am, however, wholly adverse to the idea that the only explanation for my life is PTSD.

          • ME

            I don’t think L means to say she disagrees with the whole of what Moran is saying, but simply, that Moran was wrong to make it seem like (which she did) that all women who enter prostitution have been abused and had some type of fuck up that brought them into the industry, and if it’s otherwise something is wrong with them.

          • lizor

            “Honestly, I’m not wholly adverse to the suggestion that prostitution is a social evil. I am, however, wholly adverse to the idea that the only explanation for my life is PTSD.”

            Thanks for your response, L – all of it. I think that this final line encapsulates a great deal of the divide and contention between factions in this debate.



          • L

            thank you – to be clear I’m not conceding it is necessarily a social evil, but that is just a conversation, and a conversation that has room for all of us. I think the biggest problem is not that people disagree about sex work, but that so many people are expending so much energy excluding others from the conversation – and obviously the attempts to exclude working sex workers from the conversation is especially problematic.

  • annika

    Dear happy hookers that always appear in radical feminist discussions of prostitution,

    I’m very glad that you have a job you like. But if your only response to the topic of women being abused in prostitution is “oh I sympathize but…” or “it’s sad but not indicative of the whole industry,” then you are a sociopath. Let’s say you’re right and only a minority of women have negative experiences. Even just one woman being abused is not okay. This should make you angry, as a decent human being! Go pretty much anywhere and your rosy experiences will be validated. Why do women who speak of their experiences make you angrier than the Johns that do the exploiting? Rachel Moran doesn’t have the power to silence you. This is patriarchy at work-violence against women is so pervasive that nothing more than lip service about how sad it is is sufficient to voice. Take a look in the mirror, because it’s you not showing solidarity with your sisters.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Right? “Sympathy” isn’t good enough. Are we so disconnected from other people? That’s like robot-talk. Well I feel sorry for her, BUT!

    • L

      Hi Annika – so, let’s start with: don’t label me. I am a full person, with every bit as much complexity as Rachel, or Meghan or you. Dismissing me as a “happy hooker” is both rude and unproductive.

      My only response to women being abused is not “i sympathize but”. My only response to being labeled as an incomplete person without a good knowledge of her own mind and feelings is to say “that is not true and I resent anyone who claims that.” My notion of solidarity doesn’t involve dismissing the sisters that disagree with me as being “wired wrong” – and honestly I can’t find a definition that includes that, so I don’t think the problem is with me.

      It does make me angry when any woman is abused. That does not mean that I have to a) agree with you, Meghan, Rachel or anyone else that I have no legitimate feelings about my life or b) that I have to agree with you about the root causes. It is, again, intellectually lazy to say that because I don’t think Rachel’s characterization of women like me is correct to then suggest that I’m a-okay with any kind of woman abuse. Seriously – you should be ashamed right now for resorting to it. You are probably not, but you should be.

      For the rest – let’s see. Women who speak of their experiences do not make me angry, no matter what those experiences are. Women who will cavalierly dismiss my experience, suggesting that I have some form of mental illness and I don’t know my own mind – that I find a tad irksome. Second – I have a bottomless font of anger. I have plenty to go around. I can be mad because Meghan and Rachel highhandedly agree that I’m not wired right for no reason except that I disagree with them, and I can be even angrier at men who sexually assault women, no matter what she does for money. I don’t have to choose to be mad at one or the other, and again – the fact that I might disagree with some characterizations does not mean that I’m okay with abuse.

      Rachel doesn’t have the power to physically silence me – witness me typing! However, nor does anyone complicit in the patriarchy have the power to actually tie my hands down and gag me. That is not really how it goes. Silencing occurs when we get together and agree that some people matter and some people don’t. If you don’t think establishing that pesky women who don’t share your views are mentally ill and not to be trusted is a time honoured patriarchal tool of silence… well, I don’t even know what to say except you would be wrong because it is. You will notice that I referred to “attempts” to silence me – I’m wired wrong, it’s like I’m in an abusive relationship and can’t understand my own experience, I approve of woman abuse. These are not conversations, they are tactics.

      Meghan, I am not disconnected from people – but nor do I buy into this binary system in which I can agree with you about my own damn life or like not care about other women who are, in the end, a lot more like me than like you. That is not right. I can both care and disagree.

      • Meghan Murphy

        I’m not only speaking about you, L. Kate Zen had the same response on an earlier thread/post and it seems a common response from sex work advocates (which I’m not saying you necessarily are…) – “well, I’m sorry she had a bad experience….” “I sympathize with her narrative…” http://feministcurrent.com/7963/femen-was-founded-and-is-controlled-by-a-man-exactly-zero-people-are-surprised/#comment-110013

        You can have whatever opinion about your own life you like, but that doesn’t disconnect you from larger contexts and it doesn’t mean that simply because you currently define your individual experience in a specific way that we make laws based on that particular experience — especially while women are dying/suffering horrendous abuse.

        You, again, are misrepresenting the “wired wrong” issue. The issue is not that you are somehow biologically flawed, the issue is that women tend to internalize misogyny and come up with ways to cope with their circumstances which often means normalizing said experiences. I think we probably have all done this/do this to a certain extent.

      • annika

        I’m sorry, but what are you talking about? I never argued that you weren’t a person or your voice doesn’t count. I just wrote that whether you realize it or not, your experiences in the industry are the most privileged. And if misogyny really makes you so angry, then why do you and so many others like you only comment on prostitution articles, and remain silent on other feminist posts?

        • L

          Annika, you in fact did not say any of that. What you said was “dear happy hooker who always pop up in these conversations” – could that, all by itself, be more clear about who actually belongs in the conversation? It has become clear that in your view I do not.

          As for why I have not commented on other articles – I would think the very obvious answer would be that it was this article that drew my attention here, and to be honest – I’m not feeling that any other viewpoints, whether opposing or not, are all that welcome. I am kind of getting a strong feeling that there is a party line going on here that obviously I’m not well positioned to toe.

          • annika

            My comment was not only in response to you, but also to the ones that Megh mentioned. And party line, seriously? You need to come up with something more original than that. I never said you don’t belong in the discussion, just that your knee jerk reactions of being silenced by feminists and prostituted women are frankly absurd. My advice would be to listen more, b/c once again if your only reaction to hearing about an abusive experience is “oh how sad but I don’t like her tone,” than you have a serious problem.

          • stephen m

            @L: “I’m not feeling that any other viewpoints, whether opposing or not, are all that welcome. I am kind of getting a strong feeling that there is a party line going on here that obviously I’m not well positioned to toe.”

            There are a few of us men who comment here on a regular basis and we would seem to be much further positioned than you are from what you currently perceive the “party line” to be. This is a radical feminist blog, and and by its nature I expect it to be critical of the patriarchy and the privilege which I was comfortably born and raised into. Stick around and I think it will grow on you long term.

    • tonisvacay

      Thank you Annika! What I appreciate about Rachel is she talks straight no sugar coating. When she says prostituted women “…aren’t right in the head…,” I took it as her way of speaking about trauma. Writers such as Judith Herman and recent science have done and written about studies of people who have experienced short term and long term trauma. Trauma damages the frontal lobe of the brain as well as the ability of the two hemispheres of the brain to communicate with each other.

      Since studies across the globe site that anywhere from 60 to 90% of prostituted women “started” when they were in their teens, this means a majority are “acting” from a traumatized place. Since 70 to 90% of prostituted women were abused to some degree as children this means they are “acting” from a traumatized place. They are in fact impaired by no fault of their own. It’s perps who bare that responsibility.

      This happens when it’s a one time trauma or when trauma is repeated over and over again such as in cases of long term child abuse or prostituted women. I suffer from Complex PTSD as a result of long term physical abuse and rape at the hands of my female parent. That abuse informed every decision I made in ever aspect of my life including the type of “men” I date who were essentially pornified men who were abusive and sadistic just like my female parent. I freely admit and own I wasn’t “right” in the head.

      Now, I don’t take what Rachel said as an insult at all. I wasn’t “right in the head” because I couldn’t have been right with all the abuse I experienced. PTSD and Complex PTSD are normal reactions to trauma. It’s what the brain does to protect itself when it was terrorized. It’s not insult it’s a reality. In order to get help, I had to acknowledge that I wasn’t “right in the head.” That’s when I started to find people who could help me.

      Although my experience was being abused as a child and subsequently being stalked by my female parent as an adult when I finally rejected her, when I hear the stories of exited women, I relate 100%. Why? Because long term trauma no matter the cause has the same results. Being sexually used whether it was by a parent or by different man every night in my opinion is trauma.

      I too tried to rationalize what my female parent and pornified men did to me. I too tried to minimize what those pornified men did to me. It was all in an effort to deny, to abate the reality. As a kid, I was trained not to say, “no,” to not have agency over my being. The female parent would even demand that I smile after she’d had me. Just like pronographers do in porn today. Predators can smell this like blood in the water. I was a master of disassociation and it was completely unconscious.

      To me, the “happy hookers” are in denial. I don’t judge that all because looking at the reality of rape and sexualized violence in utterly debilitating. It just is. It rips you apart, shatters the paradigm. Looking at the truth of this shit has shattered my psyche. Because the abuse experienced started when I was baby, I know there are parts of me that I will never recover. And on the other side is living in truth, not pretending, not minimizing and just being real in the world. It’s smiling when I want to not when some abuser demands it of me. I don’t perform any more. I am.

      I think Rachel absolutely understands this. She’s not judging. She’s stating the facts.

      • annika

        Thank you for that insightful comment tonisvacay! My heart weeps for you and the abuse you suffered. Please know that you’re not alone and that you’re strong!

        I completely agree with your reading of Moran. As feminists navigating a patriarchy, we sometimes have to get our hands dirty. This means using hyperbole and vocabulary that gets to the root of the issue. It’s not pretty, but true change will never come until the most marginalized voices get to speak uncensored.

  • marv

    To come to grips with the full impact of our acculturation to patriarchy it might be useful to pay closer attention to how it generates gratification in people . I am referring not solely to the intoxication of power in those who dominate but the relative enjoyment the subservient profess. For examples, many women are totally devoted to their husbands as their reason to be. Many working class people are sincere in taking pride in their class status. Ardent consumers claim shopping makes them high. When some prostituted women say they love their work I believe that they believe they do.

    My remark is not to erode the actuality that power and powerlessness sculpt desires as feminists have duly noted. Yet numerous members of the subjugated classes experience those positive passions as more real than any oppression they feel. The satisfying feelings seem undeniable. The conviction that “if it gladdens it’s right” might be one of the principal juggernauts we have to confront to make patriarchy history. That is the hapless truth in my limited outlook. My favourite response to this conundrum is found within Meghan’s interview with Cherry Smiley a First Nations feminist . It is worth listening to again and again:

  • Crimson

    Nice job, everyone. L articulated herself clearly, thoroughly, and mostly respectfully, and you all piled on her because she disagrees with some of what you think.

    • annika

      Nah the accolades go to you and L for missing the point by the widest margin. Her criticisms ( if you can call “this sucks” a valid criticism) were disrespectful and unuanced-she deliberately misinterpreted Rachel Moran and the abolitionist position. Feminists are tired of having to add “well some women like being prostitutes” as an addendum to every discussion on prostitution. It doesn’t further the discussion at all. Go to Jezebel or Feministing if you want validation. Why is it so hard to understand that there are women unhappy with the status quo and want the freedom to not be a whore?

      • Crimson

        You are making assumptions about what I think based upon 2 sentences. What I see above was her viewpoint being dismissed because part of what she said was contrary. That is not discussion.

        • annika

          Once again, saying “this sucks” is not a discussion. What she wrote was not a viewpoint, but a deliberate misrepresentation of Rachel’s ideas. She wasn’t trying to engage in a debate, but rather hijacked the discussion to be all about her and how mean feminists are for not centering her privileged experiences.

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  • Iona Robey

    This was emotional…it occurs to me that one little thing I would love is to be able to persuade any one of my third wave/ lib fem friends to come round to our side on the prostitution debate. It saddens me that it’s been impossible thus far.