Paid For: My Journey Through Prostitution
So many try to separate the issue of sex trafficking from prostitution. They choose to focus on minor victims and ignore the adults. It is simpler, cleaner and easier that way. There are even anti-trafficking organizations and advocates that don’t want to dally in the politics of prostitution, because of fears they will lose support for their cause.
There are those who agree that trafficking is terrible, but that prostitution is a completely different issue. They want to believe prostitution is a great way to make money … or a “job” women choose to do, that it is empowering, a victimless crime, or just a way addicts pay for their drugs. They sympathize with the trafficking victim and scorn the prostituted woman. For all of those who believe any of these things or who haven’t even thought about prostitution and trafficking having any type of relationship, I insist that you get a copy of Paid For by Rachel Moran and read it from cover to cover. It will make you think. It will give you pause. It will deepen your understanding, and if you are lucky, it will help you view those prostituting very differently.
This is the book I have most lent out to fellow advocates. It is the book I recommend to those entering the anti-trafficking movement, because without a thorough understanding, our own analysis lies incomplete … and those who need help remain invisible to us. You can’t stop a problem when you don’t understand its roots. It was recommended to me by one of my mentors, Norma Ramos, who said it was the best book on prostitution that she had read in decades. I heard her say once that prostitution was the end game of sex trafficking. All roads for those trafficked sexually eventually lead there. Reading this book taught me that at a deeper level. If I had to choose one word to describe this book, it would be brilliant. Because quite simply, it is.
Rachel Moran weaves her own personal experiences into this powerful testament to the human spirit as well as to the dynamics at play in prostitution and the havoc it wreaks on the prostituted person’s psyche, body, spirit and self-esteem. She dispels the notion that legalizing the trade would improve the lives of those prostituting over the course of several chapters in the book. Her arguments and analysis are some of the best researched and informed that I have ever been exposed to. “To be prostituted is humiliating enough; to legalize prostitution is to condone that humiliation and to absolve those who inflict it. It is an agonizing insult.” P. 221
She speaks to this separation of prostitution and sex trafficking in the international dialogue of the anti-trafficking movement. I can expound here, but I’d prefer to share some of Rachel’s words:
“The prostitution experience of the trafficked woman most commonly involves force followed by the trauma of commercial sexual abuse. The prostitution experience of the non-trafficked woman most commonly involves coercion followed by the trauma of commercial sexual abuse.” P. 226
“Women like myself, who were forced by nobody, need to find our voices and assert that this does not mean we were forced by nothing. It is a very human foolishness to insist on the presence of a knife or a gun or a fist in order to recognize the existence of force, when often the most compelling forces on this earth present intangibly, in coercive situations. My prostitution experience was coerced. For those of us who fall into the ‘free’ category, it is life that does the coercing.” P.227
I have been privileged to message back and forth with Rachel and then watch her work in Ireland and around the world as she fights for a society that truly gives women and girls real choices and not just the “choice” of selling her body when life is hard. I respect her passion, her mind, her eloquence and her extreme commitment to fighting for a better world.
Prostitution cannot be separated from sex trafficking, and sex trafficking cannot be separated from prostitution, and people in the movement need to understand that. People who don’t want to see a kid being forced to have sex for money must expand that conviction to include not accepting anyone being sold for money. Prostitution isn’t a profession; it is an oppression. Understanding it, its consequences, the justifications for it, the arguments for and against it are imperative to possessing a complete analysis.
Do yourselves a favor and order this book today. You won’t be sorry. And perhaps as we travel this journey of combatting sexual exploitation together, we will be able to create a world in which all those being exploited are viewed with compassion and offered a helping hand without distinctions being made … and just maybe, we will get to the place where the exploitation disappears, as we create opportunities and laws and shape attitudes that value everyone and lift up, rather than subjugate and dismiss.