A survivor's memoir of stripping
The silence is stifling; a slow suicide that can only be stopped by voice and truth.
Each time I conquer my fear for a moment and let my thoughts take form in words,
I fight death. Each time I expose my wounded soul, I sign a contract to live another
day and encourage others to do the same.
I originally intended to write a chapter rich with psycho-social theory and analysis of stripping. Writing a research paper, analyzing others' experiences and theorizing about them is easier than processing and explaining your own experiences. Yet facts, abstract and removed from immediacy and emotion, do not change the world. In addition, silence equals a slow suicide for those of us who have gotten out of the sex industry. So I have decided to base this chapter on my personal story. My story shows how a woman enters prostitution, why she stays in prostitution, and how she gets out, if she does. Although my experience is not representative of all women in prostitution, many elements of it are common among the population that I have worked with, both in the sex industry and then in social service as an advocate for prostituted women.
Many of the poems and journal entries in this chapter were scribbled during the middle of the night, during my second and third years after leaving stripping, in a notebook that I kept at the head of my bed. Some entries seem foreign; I do not remember writing them. Apparently my thoughts and feelings demanded expression; in fact, journaling served as a conduit for emotional and psychic catharsis as it connected thought with affect and past with present. Without this form of release and the processing that followed, I believe that I would still be stuck. I would have either returned to the life or lived miserably outside of it.
'Women of the night' are wanted out of sight. If they are not heard, they do not have to be acknowledged. When a woman does get out of the sex industry, shame encourages her to be silent. So, many women stay in prostitution and their lives are swallowed by guilt, shame, drugs, and violence. The women are afraid that there is nothing else for them, that they deserve no better. This is wrong.