In the Know: A Survivor’s Perspective
“Beyond the Sex Fantasy”
Giving a voice to the millions of victims trapped
within the fantasies of sex-industry customers.
“Open your eyes, Fantasy Seeker, for I am trapped in a nightmare while being forced to fulfill your dream. You compartmentalize this dark corner of your life as you step back out into the daylight while leaving me here … If only you could see that what pleases you is killing me. If I fail to perform and sell you what you seek … if I am not able to service you through my abuse and pain, there will be severe consequences. But you will never see them, because all you see is the sex fantasy. Open your eyes, Fantasy Seeker, because your satisfaction may be the death of me.”
-Poem by Sula Skiles
I remember the first time I heard the word “prostitute,” along with other obscenities being screamed at me from a crowd of people. I was so confused as to how anyone could label me in that way when I was dying inside, being victimized by the sexual fantasy of another, and forced to give my body away to monsters. If only someone could have really seen me and identified what I was going through at the time … not as a sex toy, or a sexual fantasy, not as a prostitute or a slut … but as a victim who was screaming inside for someone to save me.
It’s so easy to label and judge people while being completely clueless of what is actually going on. I wish there were a way to shatter the fantasy facade sold to customers of the sex industry while exposing the dreadful reality of sex slavery. The eyes of the customers of pornography and prostitution must be opened to the truth about sex trafficking. As long as there is a high demand for purchased sexual fantasies, there will always be some form of sexual exploitation. The buying and selling of human beings for sex is a very lucrative business. I feel compelled to, in some way, try to enlighten those creating the demand (being a huge part of the root of the problem).
The illusion is extremely deceptive, leading many sex-industry thrill-seekers to believe that the fun and sexy girl or boy in front of them actually wants to be there to meet their sexual desires … that the money used to purchase sex acts always benefits the one providing the services. Wherever there is pornography or prostitution, there is absolutely sex trafficking. I am not saying that all sex workers are victims. However, more than likely at some point in their lives they were victimized or exploited sexually in some way. With the average age a girl enters the commercial sex trade being 12-14 years old and 11-13 for boys (National Center for Missing and Exploited Children), I think it is safe to say that everyone in the sex industry did not enter by choice. I think prostituted people are extremely misunderstood, because the dangerous consequences of allowing an individual to understand could mean life or death. There is a massive difference in the way someone labeled as a “prostitute” is perceived and the reality of what is truly going on in their lives. So what is really happening in the life of the individual trading or selling sex? Maybe most don’t want to know the answer to this question. Maybe it’s easier to look away and intentionally remain ignorant in order to continue satisfying the itch for acting out sexual fantasies. I am very aware that all customers are not ignorant to the atrocities and injustices feeding their addiction, but awareness may cause it to not be so easy to ignore or falsely justify.
The customer may see many things when it comes to engaging in pornography or physically purchasing a human for a 15-minute sexual encounter. The customer is being sold a fantasy of dolled-up bodies, appearing to want to do anything to please them sexually for a small fee … a knock on a truck door at a truck stop from a teenager seeking a sex partner may be all that someone sees … or a craigslist ad, in the “personal’s section” listing a “new-to-town young girl, looking for a wild time” may spark someone’s interest. Maybe a pornography collection seems harmless … However, there is another reality behind the invitation, the smile, the flirtation and all the right words being said to get customers to buy sex.
For a victim of trafficking there are different methods of force by puppeteers pulling the strings and controlling every move and action behind the scenes. Traffickers and pimps use physical violence, death threats of family members, forced drug addiction and dependence, emotional manipulation, verbal abuse, tricks and lies, debt bondage and other forms of manipulation. Behind the sexual fantasy that a customer enjoys in a cozy hotel room may be a kidnapped girl, beaten into submission, fighting withdrawals from a drug addiction forced on her, fearing for the lives of her family members, knowing that any day she could die if she fails to make the quota her pimp demands. But all you see is a fantasy… because her life depends on it.
I believe that awareness and prevention is powerful for all members of society. We can work together to put an end to this social injustice. The more that people are aware, the more likely they’ll be able to identify victims of trafficking, and those who were once invisible won’t be anymore. My hope is that consumers of pornography and customers of prostitution would continue being exposed to awareness, and that it would become less comfortable and more of a risk punishable by law to continue down the path they are on. Ultimately, customers can get help and find freedom, so they stop contributing to the demand for sex trafficking.
I am so thankful for all of the efforts of the anti-trafficking community and for organizations like Truckers Against Trafficking who work around the clock to make these dreams of abolishing modern-day slavery a reality. If we continue fighting in unity, the truth beyond the sex fantasy can be exposed, making a huge difference and freeing many.