Sanctuary for the Abused
Monday, August 07, 2006
What is the Sex Industry?
The sex industry involves a wide range of activities including: prostitution, phone sex, stripping, pornography, mistressing, madaming, being a "provider," pimping, and all other forms of commercial sex work. This might include performing on live internet sex sites or placing an ad in the “Alternative” section of a newspaper and advertising for a "benefactor," "hobbyist," "monger" or "sugar daddy."
It is easy to be in denial about our addiction, when our culture, on the surface, appears to validate our involvement. For example, if you are a stripper, it might seem as if you receive a lot of attention and money for your performances. And yet how many times, while practicing “our art” were we verbally, or even physically harassed? How many times did customers cross that line and make us feel we deserved it because after all, we were strippers?
Or, perhaps we tell ourselves we aren’t really in the sex industry at all. If we are “performers” who are paid to have sex in front of web-cameras, we may tell ourselves, “at least I’m not on the streets.” Or: “I’m only doing this until I get my first big acting role.”
The method by which our sexuality is conveyed does not change the fact that we are indeed involved with the sex industry. The sex industry is the sex industry, whether it is played out behind closed doors as an exclusive call girl, while being filmed as an internet sex site performer, or during a stage performance as an exotic dancer.
We find that focusing on our differences keeps us stuck in our addiction. We are any man or woman, of any race, religion or sexual persuasion who accepts money or goods, for sex, or sex related activity. We all have different pasts, different kinds of clients, and different prices.
We wish to de-glamorize the sex industry. There is nothing glamorous about winding up stuffed in a dumpster, raped, dehumanized, and treated like a piece of meat.
The Sex Industry violates basic human rights
We believe that it doesn’t matter how long you did it, how you earned it, how much you got paid, or how long you have been out of it. We believe that the sex industry violates basic human rights: the right to be treated with dignity and respect. We do not believe it is a victimless crime. Everyone loses, both the prostituted individual, and the perpetrator.
How can I define Sobriety?
When we use sex, in any form, in exchange for material or monetary gain, we release our addiction all over again.
Therefore, the date in which there is an absence of sex related earnings is the beginning of your sobriety. When we accept money or goods through only legitimate means, we will begin to be free from our addiction. The only way to keep from returning to active addiction is not to take that first transaction. Our sexuality is no longer for sale.
Today, we know that are bodies are sacred, and we respect who we are by placing a protective boundary around our sexual selves. Together, we will examine our beliefs, deal with our issues, and become empowered to be the person our higher power intended us to be.
We no longer feel the need to attain a sense of power through our sexuality. Instead, we are busy rebuilding our sense of self, discovering our true talents, and perhaps retraining ourselves so that we are fully contributing members of society. We are worthy, recovering sex industry survivors.
We understand that as we begin to tell our stories to other recovering sex industry survivors, we heal ourselves and each other.
Sex Work Linked to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Rather than criminalizing prostitution, we wish to dismantle the causes that lead to this addiction, such as childhood sexual exploitation, post-traumatic stress disorder, and our society's glamorous portrayal of sex work.
We will try anything to not have to address the shattering of our core personal identity. Joining together as survivors, we finally find a place where we can openly admit all our shameful secret.
Even if you have been out of the sex industry for many years there is an aftermath, a scar, or what countless studies are now calling Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PTSD can lead us to continue to act out, and to abuse substances (drugs, alcohol, toxic relationships, ect).
About the Aftereffects
There are aftereffects associated with being in the sex industry.
The sex industry brands the psyche of the person with its stigma. Prostitution is a form of sexual violence, a severe form of sexual abuse. Many of the same aftereffects of sexual abuse survivors apply to sex industry survivors.
Joe Parker, of the Lola Baldwin Foundation, states that “Prostitution becomes an irrevocable identity, one that is very difficult to discard.” And so together, we work to help you discover your true authentic self.
Together, we will work to uncover, discover and discard the faulty sense of self that is the cause and the source of our symptoms.
There are a constellation of symptoms associated with participation in this world.
· Sexual dysfunction or avoidance of sex
· Feeling like you’ve turned a trick without getting paid
· Disassociation (feeling split off from your feelings)
· Sexual overdrive and promiscuity
· Drug abuse and or alcoholism
Other things don’t go away simply because we stop involving ourselves with the industry. Some of these symptoms or problem areas might include:
· Anxiety attacks
· Sleep disorders
· Phobias; compulsions
· Post-traumatic stress disorder.
Sexual dysfunction is a very common trait in sex industry survivors. We call it “The Split.” This is a complete sexual shut down or disassociation between the body and the mind during sex. Others also describe this as turning a trick without getting paid.
Other members describe a feeling that any sexual encounter is really an act. We are unable to experience what we have heard is called: “Lovemaking.” It isn’t “lovemaking” to us. It is an experience, an act, a fantasy, where we stand outside of the experience viewing our performances. We feel split off from our sexual experiences. This is “The Split,” or a sense of being disassociated.
Why Does it Hurt to Love You?
Yet another common symptom or characteristic of sex industry survivors is the tendency towards addictive and abusive romantic relationships. It is almost as if at some level we feel we deserve the abuse. Caught in a vicious cycle, we rescue alcoholics and/or addicts. This gives us a temporary feeling of importance. Because we are just as powerless over another’s addictions as our own, we cross an invisible line and lose control. We ignore the warnings signs that were usually there, those big bold letters marked: “TOXIC.”
* Domestic violence
* Verbal abuse
* Emotional/Psychological Abuse
The most graphic example of this type of relationship is the pimp/whore relationship. Traditionally, the pimp operates by undermining the prostitute’s self esteem so that, over time, she begins to believe that she really is worthless, and powerless without his “protection.”
Yet many survivors never associate with official pimps. But if we look at our history, we may find an individual who had many of the characteristics.
Behaviors we might expect from this type of personality include:
· Attacking our (current/or previous) lifestyle and then financially profiting from it
· Abusive to our sense of integrity
· Attempting to control our activities
· Forcing us to engage in sexual activities that are no longer appropriate for who we are today.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
PTSD stands for post-traumatic stress disorder—a set of emotional problems that occur after someone has experienced a terrible, stressful life event. Another way to think about PTSD is “after trauma anxiety reaction.”
Sex industry survivors often suffer from PTSD that they first experienced in their childhood, coupled with the stress of being involved with sex work. The founder of our program began to experience severe PTSD after she had been out of the industry for over a decade. “I believe the stress disorder was brought on because of the abusive marriage I got into,” she said. “After he found out I had been a prostitute he would say things like: once a whore always a whore. I felt emotionally flattened on a daily basis. Because I didn’t have anyone to discuss my past with, I started acting out and being promiscuous.”
If we have not dealt with the issues surrounding our involvement in the industry, we will inevitably re-create the pain and drama that is familiar to us. Long buried pain and fears become triggered, and we experience the stress now, that we were unable to experience then.
As our founder’s experience shows us, we are then at a high-risk to either relapse completely, or act out our addiction in seemingly innocent ways that eventually might catch up with us. These might include: sexual compulsivity, or finding ways to get others to pay for things we are capable of paying for ourselves. In other words, we set up a form of an exchange. We barter our sexual energy for some type of material compensation. While all this is going on, we may not even think of it as a relapse. That is why we need to stay in the meetings. The meetings will keep us out of denial.
Recovery Is the Way Out
Whether we were a stripper, a phone sex operator, a porn actor, a live website performer, a street prostitute or an exclusive call girl, we have found that our experience of addiction gives us a common bond. We are addicted to that first transaction, and once we take that first transaction, we lose control over where the disease will take us.
For some, the outcomes are jails, institution, or death. There is an extremely high mortality rate for those of us with multiple addictions. And even if we get out, if we do not address the shame, the pain, and the hurt that come from turning our sexuality into a product for sale, we will continue to feel a sense of disgrace.
Recovery helps us come out of the closet, and tell the secrets that we thought we would take to the grave with us. We discover that we are only as sick as our secrets. We find, through listening to those who have shared our addiction, that often incest, cultural expectations, and a shattered self esteem created a belief that the sex industry was our only way to survive.
We draw strength from a dynamic spiritual truth that is at the core of our twelfth step: one sex industry survivor helping another. We find that the therapeutic value of one sex industry survivor helping another is without parallel.
SEX INDUSTRY SURVIVORS ANONYMOUS
For information on getting a group started in your community, call 888-702-7273.
If you know anyone who may wish to meet and talk with other survivors, please give them this flyer. They may be still involved, but have a desire to quit. Others dealing with other survivor issues (incest) are welcome.
There are online discussion groups. A recovery textbook is in the making, as well as other pieces of literature.
SEXUAL BILL OF RIGHTS
Today I place appropriate boundaries around my sexuality. My body is a sacred temple, an expression of my divinity. I choose the sacred path. I choose to experience my sexuality within the context of a loving, nurturing relationship. I hold myself in high regard, and the choices I make around my sexual expression reflect this. I have the right to say no.
I have the right to grieve the painful memories and recognize how these experiences led me to certain beliefs. I uncover, discover, and discard the beliefs about my sexuality that no longer serve me.
I have the right to disregard cultural and religious messages that do not serve me. If I need a time of abstinence or celibacy, I honor my need to do this. I have the right to explore my sexuality so I am empowered by my choices. I let go of the need to be a victim. I honor my emotions, and I recognize that pain is the touchstone of all spiritual growth.
As I work to go through my emotions, instead of around them, I discover a new peace of mind. Every day I am growing stronger. I take the hand of another survivor and together we will build a bridge to a healthier tomorrow.