Voice Out!

While I was writing my previous post, I stumbled upon this, also from the Ex-Prostitutes Against Legislated Sexual Servitude, within something titled “Calling Former Sex-Trade Workers”.

Are you tired of hearing prostitution described as a choice and do you have a different story to tell
So am I

It resonated with me for some reason, even though I am not, of course, an ex-sex worker. So why?
Silencing. That’s why. I have experienced silencing when expressing dissenting views when it comes to prostitution and the sex industry. Worse still, I’ve experienced silencing through my entire life when expressing non compliance to patriarchy.

This is not abut me not being abled to express my disgust for porn. This is about women who have experienced male violence not having a voice to say “I have endured this and I feel it’s wrong”.

In the midst of the abuse, these women cannot articulate what’s happening to them, not to others, not even to themselves. The silencing is so thorough they cannot name it. Because they are told that “nothing” is happening to them. And even if there was something happening to them, it couldn’t be that bad. And even if it were that bad, well, it must have been their fault in the first place.

Think about it. They have suffered male violence. But what do they get if they dare speak out? They are told that they are liars, mad or whores; that “rape is simply sex”, so what’s the big deal; that “it’s just a job”, the implication being “quit complaining”

Being abused is undoubtedly painful. But having everyone deeming your abuse unimportant when not downright imposible? Having your pain brushed aside because it’s believed you “chose” it?

Who is telling these women that what they have suffered is wrong? Who is telling them that they are the victims? Who is listening to them? Who is validating their feelings?

Here, Amananta tells her story , one filled with pain and abuse. The kind that forces you to reconsider what the limits of human indurance to suffering are. And instead of adopting a “why me?” attitude and feel sorry for herself like I WOULD DO, she bravely stands up for all the women who experience this and tells us she is no exception.

(…)
Through her blog I discovered other unapologetic feminist blogs. I was exposed to ideas I had not heard before, but that struck a chord deep within me. If you have ever heard something for the first time and instantly recognized its RIGHTNESS on a deep level, you know what I mean. But still, I could not talk about these things in my own blog because I was afraid of frightening away all of my friends, who got mad at me if I even said anything that was like a pale echo of what these other women were saying.
(…)
“The child abuse I experienced was sanctioned by the patriarchy, was committed by patriarchs, was demanded to be hidden by the patriarchs and their supporters, and when I refused to obediently remain silent I was further punished by the patriarchs and their servants.
And finally I get told by women who think they are fighting the patriarchy that many of the systems that oppressed me can really just be good clean fun if you have the right attitude and clearly I don’t so the whole problem is my attitude problem and IT’S ALL MY FAULT so why am I so angry and I can’t criticize a system they are supporting without it meaning that I am trying to steal their “feminist membership card”, because talking about my experiences and those of my friends honestly isn’t allowed if it makes them feel maybe they are buying into the patriarchal mindfuck program somehow, because denial is just so much more comfortable.

This is Rebecca’s comment to my last post.

(…)
I, as an ex-prostitute, have spent my life being silenced.
(…)
I had to live with silence, and it was killing me.
When I chose to speak out, I did it with great of pain and confusion,
(…)
When I first spoke out it was with a pro-prostitute group who sent me back into denial. For they told me that “if” was as violent as I said then I would be dead. And, because I was middle-class, I could of brought my way out. I was then told that prostitution wasn’t that violent.
I went back into silence.
(…)
Finding radical feminists save my life.
I found women who let speak in my own words. I found women who listen and heard. (…)
I found that I was believed and I was seen as a full person.
I also found women who were prepared to see that prostitution is male violence against all women. That prostitution is a violation of prostituted women’s and girls’s rights to dignity and safety.

It’s heartbreaking. I cannot find the words to express what these stories make me feel. So I’ll borrow Marcella Chester’s, author of abyss2hope, from her post “Sexual Assault Awareness Month”:

“Most survivors of sexual violence rarely, if at all, talk about being survivors which is their right (it took me decades before I could begin to speak about my experiences), but too often their silence is taken as proof that they were never victims of sexual violence or if they were that the violence committed against them had no serious negative impact.”

For these women, speaking out against sexual violence is not a choice. It’s a matter of life or death. They can’t look the other way, or hide behind bogus claims of “women’s individual choices”. They have suffered violence themselves. It has shaken them to the core. They have to articulate their feelings as a first step to exorcise this monster out. Notice how Rebecca says that “finding radical feminists saved my life”.

Our duty as fellow feminists is to add our voices to theirs so we can all be heard everywhere. So that every woman who has ever suffered violence, who has been abused, who has had to put up with patriarchy’s nastiest side, knows it’s not her fault. That is not OK. That her pain is real, not “made up” by oversensitivity to a non-existent problem.

We cannot keep quiet. We owe it to them. And I’d advice all feminists out there, including myself, to think about this every time we feel like giving up. Read these words, listen to these women, acknowledge their pain. They are the reason why we are here.

NOTE: To the women quoted in this post: if I misrepresented your views, or if I have offended you in any way, please let me know.

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8 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    rmott62 said,

    Thank-you, thank-you so much, this is so moving and needed to be said.
    I am very honoured that you use my words.
    I love you saying –

    “these women cannot articulate what happened to them, … not even to themselves.”

    This is how terrible the silencing of survivors of the sex trade is. My experiences were so horrific, it became impossible for me to believe. I live in a world where sadistic sex was the norm. I survive by blanking it all out, not through choice, but in order to stay alive.
    Unfortunally, this blanking out meant I lose “memory” of that time for many years.
    This feed the idea that my memories are “false”. Never that I could of live through violence that so bad that I had no choice but to close down. It is easier to say I am a liar or mentally ill.
    I know now that I am seeing truths of my life.
    To have women who believe me is so vital. It help me have the strength to keep speaking my truths.

  2. 2

    Debs said,

    This is a great post, Mary Tracy. I admit I have felt a little like giving up recently, but I won’t and neither should any of us. Silence kills. xxx

  3. 3

    pisaquaririse said,

    Well done Mary Tracy.
    The insults lodged at those who do not focus their critiques of porn and the sex industry on choice-feminism and pleasure are beyond reason. No one needs to look far (for some it is in their most immediate pasts) to see the rampant violence.
    ( and not trying to plug my post or anything)– but seriously: afaic the “no” is really the more pressing issue. That people push their “yes, I love this” into conversations centered around such high levels of abuse and life-threatening situations is so absurd and selfish.

    “The kind that forces you to reconsider what the limits of human endurance to suffering are.”

    Absolutely! (well said MT). Stories like Rebecca’s and Amanata’s shine a light on inner strength I didn’t know existed.

  4. 4

    marytracy9 said,

    Thanks to my favouritests radfems in all the blogosphere for commenting!

    I’m glad you like this post, I worked quite hard on it. It’s a very important topic but it’s also a very sensitive one and I was afraid of not getting it right or offending anyone with it.

    I’ll probably write about these ideas a bit more in the future, as I continue to read the stories of all the brave women out there who have survived male violence and have the courage to speak out. Their strength is truly inspiring.

  5. 5

    abyss2hope said,

    Hi, I’m just catching up on blog reading and I’m glad my words resonated with you. For all the vocal critics who try to silence us there is someone who is thinking, “Wow, I’m not the only one.”

  6. 6

    […] MaryTracy9 speaks about the absolute silencing of sexual assault victims in Voice Out at Beyond Feminism This is not abut me not being abled to express my disgust for porn. This is […]

  7. 7

    […] speaks about the absolute silencing of sexual assault victims in Voice Out at Beyond […]

  8. 8

    […] August 11, 2008 · Filed under Uncategorized I have told you about Amananta before, haven’t I? Of course I have. […]


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