I often receive emails from readers asking for answers or advice, and I try to answer every one of them as thoroughly and promptly as possible. Many of them have found their way into Q & A columns, and some have inspired full columns on their own; this particular example was, I think, interesting enough to deserve such a treatment. I’ve condensed the reader’s letter and removed some facts in order to protect his privacy, but my response is essentially the same as the one I sent him personally.
Hi Maggie, I wandered into your blog because I was researching if being a working girl has a negative effect in your psychological make-up. I have read in multiple articles that it gives you post-traumatic stress syndrome. Here’s my situation: I am a young guy who lives in a particularly conservative country and I don’t have much experience with women; in fact I’ve only ever had sex with working girls. Recently, I met a very pretty 19 year-old girl and after our “date” I spent more time with her just drinking, so I got to learn a little more about her. She shared some intimate details of her life with me, and it seems that prostitution was not a desperate or coerced decision for her; she enjoys the economic freedom of being able to buy anything she wants. The next time I saw her she seemed more vulnerable; she drank more, revealed her real name and told me that one of the reasons she got into prostitution was looking for love and attention that she never got from her parents. She kept saying that if her father ever accepted her back that she would leave this lifestyle, but didn’t say the reason for the rift. I think she has a lot of “whore guilt” and is trying to drink it away. So I have four questions:
1) How do I convince her to walk away from this life? I believe it really does have a traumatic effect on 99% of the women who engage in it. It is like forcibly going against your programming which would definitely cause some undesirable effect with your psychology, especially at such a young age.
2) Should I even try to convince her? After engaging in this type of work for a significant amount of time, would she be able to walk away from it, knowing that it would lead to a more difficult life?
3) If I shouldn’t convince her, what can I do to help her protect her psyche?
4) Should I just walk away? Is my line of thinking just too naïve? Am I sticking my nose into something I shouldn’t? Is it possible that she is just playing me? I want to help her but I am afraid that maybe I can’t.
The idea that prostitution causes PTSD was developed by anti-prostitute neofeminists like Melissa Farley and has absolutely no basis in reality; in fact Farley’s claim to be able to diagnose PTSD via questionaire is one of many gross ethical violations named in a recent complaint to the APA filed by a psychologist in New Zealand, which petitions for her membership to be revoked for her dishonest, unprofessional and bigoted behavior.
Prostitution is a job like any other; some women love it, some only like it, some merely tolerate it and others dislike or even hate it…but the same could be said of teaching, housewifery, nursing, office work or anything else. But even in the cases where a whore hates what she’s doing, it isn’t the fault of the work but rather the fact that she is not suited to it. Women with strong guilt complexes over sex, those with weak personalities, those who have low emotional barriers or those who have listened to far too much anti-whore propaganda should not be doing this kind of work, because they aren’t right for it and it isn’t right for them. In fact, a lot of the “horror stories” you read are spread by women who should never have entered hooking but did (for whatever reason) and had a bad experience which they then exaggerated in their minds as people are wont to do.
With all that in mind, let’s look at your questions:
1) Prostitution is not “going against programming” for any woman; it’s the most natural thing in the world. Take a look at my column “How Old is Oldest?” and make sure you read the links as well. While as I said above, formal prostitution is wrong for some women, it’s not because of biological programming but rather cultural programming (or just personality type). It’s definitely not bad for most women who choose it freely; as explained in my column “Out of Context”:
A 2005 study…[reported] that 97% of California escorts surveyed reported an increase in self-esteem after they entered harlotry, compared with 50% of Nevada brothel workers and 8% of streetwalkers (Prince, 1986: 454). That study (page 497) also reported that the escorts saw their work positively, while the brothel girls were merely satisfied and streetwalkers were largely dissatisfied. Another study of low-end escorts in the U.S. found that 75% of them felt that their lives had improved since becoming escorts, 25% reported no change and 0% said their lives were worse. (Decker, 1979: 166, 174). A Dutch study (Dalder, 2004: 34) gave the same results, and all of the escorts studied by Foltz (1979: 128) took pride in their work and viewed themselves as more sensible than amateurs; “they consider women who are not ‘in the life’ to be throwing away woman’s major source of power and control [sexual capital], while they as prostitutes are using it to their own advantage as well as for the benefit of society.” And an Australian study found that half of all prostitutes surveyed ranked their work as a “major source of satisfaction” in their lives, and 70% said they would definitely choose prostitution again if they had their lives to live over (Woodward et al., 2004: 39)…[another study]…reports that 72% of escorts feel their self-esteem is higher because of their work…
2) You most definitely should NOT try to convince her of anything. Suggesting that a sex worker needs to be rescued is highly presumptuous, because it is based on the premise that she is incompetent to make decisions for herself or to take care of herself. As I explained in “The Rescuers”, lots of people want to “rescue” us, and most working girls are mightily sick of it; even when the intentions of the would-be “saviors” are sincere, they never have any actual, feasible plan for supporting these “poor victims” after they’re “rescued” in anything like the style the girls can support themselves. And when the “rescuers” abduct women by force in the name of “saving” them from their own choices, the results are highly predictable. Since you recognize that quitting prostitution would make your lady friend’s life more difficult, why on Earth would you want her to do it?
3) You can’t do that, either, except by offering her a sympathetic ear if she wants it. Based on what you’ve told me it seems that her emotional problems have nothing to do with prostitution, but rather a poor family life (and obvious Daddy issues). In other words, she’d probably be drinking, looking for male attention via promiscuity and burdening herself with guilt no matter which job she did…only she’d be making a great deal less money. Surely you don’t want to add poverty to her other problems?
4) Your thinking is indeed very naïve, but you are the only person who can decide whether you should walk away. All relationships involve risk; allowing oneself to care for someone else exposes one to emotional injury, but that doesn’t mean one should avoid opening up to others. There’s nothing wrong with a client becoming friendly with a whore, though I would advise caution in allowing his feelings to go beyond friendship unless he is an excellent judge of character and honestly comes to believe he might have a chance with her. As my marriage proves, it’s possible for a client/hooker relationship to develop into a truly intimate one, but that is rare and takes two mature, well-balanced individuals. If you feel a genuine sense of friendship for this lady as a person and not merely a fascination with her as a prop for a white-knight fantasy, you might be able to help her work through some of her issues by listening, caring and supporting whatever decision she makes even if you don’t like it. But yes, it’s also possible that she’s playing you to keep you coming back, and even more likely that there’s nothing you can do for her; in either case you may get hurt, perhaps seriously.
One Year Ago Today
“Not So Different” reports a case of a rapist using a sugar daddy website to lure a victim, and the interesting way in which the story was covered in the media.