It’s not something I ever thought I would discuss here, because I have clients who still have Protestant guilt about taking advantage of me and I very much do NOT identify as a victim. And I’m not. At least, not in the egregious and blatant way that Christine Blasey Ford or Rose McGowan or many of my sex worker sisters/brothers/others have–but, to a certain degree, it goes with the territory of doing this work under criminalization (I want to address this in a future blog post, so stay tuned.); working in a world where men often don’t recognize when they’re doing something wrong; in a world in which men don’t understand that, sometimes, the context of the violation and its implicit power structure can have as much bearing on the residual trauma as actions taken, long after they’ve walked out the door.
Mine have been subtle. (It is staggering how many forms sexual violence can take.) It has happened three times in the almost five years I’ve been an escort. Twice it was a loss of control during a session with a client, a breaking of boundaries, an inability or unwillingness to say “no” because of possible worse consequences–and a subsequent complete breakdown of a feeling of safety in the world. Anxiety about being around men. Sudden terror when confronted with certain previously benign things, which are no longer benign because of their connection in your mind with the circumstances of the trauma.
Unluckily, my most recent such experience happened right before Ms. Ford’s story was made public. So, as a news hound–particularly about this Supreme Court nominee who by all accounts was no friend to womankind even before the allegations of sexual misconduct and violence began–I have been observing daily how the nation and its leaders react to these women who have suffered sexual abuse at the same time as I come to terms with what happened to me.
There has been a lot of yelling, throwing things, and crying while listening to this portion of the news. I couldn’t initially figure out why this unfolding story has been caustic to my sense of safety. And then last night–the night before Ms. Ford went to testify in front of the country and the world–I found myself saying, “Tomorrow we find out whether they believe us. And whether it matters.”
I find I have developed this sense of identification and communal identity with other survivors such that what happens to Christine feels like it’s happening to me. In the absence of an acknowledgement of my pain from the client who is responsible, in this case, I look to how the nation treats her as a referendum on my own experience.
It was the same thing in November 2016. Just before the election, I had had a terrifying experience with a client–a republican–who was highly amused with saying, “What did he say? ‘Grab ’em by the pussy’?” while his fingers were actually inside my pussy. In that case, I actually did say no. I told him that if he repeated that phrase, I would ask him to leave. And he did repeat it. And I didn’t ask. I finished the session anyway. And I woke up the next morning in a world of psychological pain and wrote him an e-mail. Eventually, he grudgingly admitted that it hadn’t been boy scout behavior, obviously without comprehending the full impact of his actions. But that didn’t make me feel less violated or more safe. And then DJT won the election, and I spent November 9th screaming that the only possible interpretation of that election was that Americans don’t give a fuck about women. We have gone nowhere in the fight for equality. And I’ve been in denial about his presidency ever since. Every time someone calls him the president, I have a moment of confusion–“Obama?” No. The world we live in today is much, much more frightening for women than on November 7th, 2016.
And so I watch the hearing. And I wait for the verdict about whether or not my pain is valid to those who surround me. I wait to hear whether or not this world is safe for women like me.
Senator Flake hears from victims of sexual assault after voting to send Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation vote to the full senate