Trafficking/Prostitution

Archive for the ‘sex work’ Category

Sex Trafficking Survivors Worldwide Unite, Board to Meet in Washington DC

In Johns/Punters/Purchasers, prostitution, sex work, SexTrade101, Stella Marr, Tina Frundt, Uncategorized on 2012/10/17 at 2:27 am

When there are enough empowered survivors speaking out the sex industry will be dismantled

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Sex Trafficking Survivors United  is holding their inaugural board meeting in Washington, DC between October 17-21, 2012.  This historic meeting of some of the most experienced and effective survivor leaders in the Western Hemisphere and Europe will launch an unprecedented collaborative effort among sex trafficking/prostitution survivors worldwide.  Flying into the US capital from Canada, the USA, and Ireland to attend are:

Trisha Baptie, EVE, Educating Voices, Vancouver, BC

Vednita Carter, Breaking Free, Minneapolis, MN

Kristy Childs, Veronica’s Voice, Kansas City, MO and KS

Natasha Falle, http://www.sextrade101.com, Toronto, ON

Tina Frundt, Courtney’s House, Washington, DC

Cherie Jimenez, The EVA Center/Kim’s Project, Boston, MA

Stella Marr, Survivors Connect Network, Houston, TX

Bridget Perrier, http://www.sextrade101.com, Toronto, ON

Christine Stark, acclaimed writer and artist, Minneapolis, MN

For various reasons, most survivors have been working in relative isolation within the anti-trafficking movement.  We believe the time is right for us to join forces as survivor-activists to lend our expertise, our voices, our trauma-focused and empowerment aftercare programs, our stories of transformation, and our passion for social change to the larger work of creating a world free of sex trafficking, which is another word for prostitution.  Making distinctions between sex trafficking and prostitution is harmful and misleading.  It marginalize those that are trapped and suffering.

Our organization will raise funds for survivor-led programs helping women exit prostitution and recover from the extensive trauma.  We will continue educating the public on the reality of sex trafficking/prostitution from those who not only have survived it but are on the front lines with those that are still trapped and still not being recognized as victims.  Additionally, we will urge anti-trafficking organizations to empower survivors by opening doors and funding opportunities, recognizing the expertise that we bring to this movement, and hiring survivor leaders.  Our work will connect survivors, strengthen our voices and put us at the heart of the anti-trafficking movement where we belong.

We’ll also advocate for funds for services to help the victims of trafficking/prostitution and continue to grow our survivors network, while developing a speakers and writers group to help get more survivor voices into the public consciousness.  This combination of raising funds, networking survivors and expanding the voices of survivors will lead to more survivor empowerment, and ultimately more resources to help girls and women exit and recover.

About the International Association of Sex Trafficking/Prostitution Survivors Survivors United

Sex Trafficking Survivors United is a fledgling soon-to-be nonprofit organization dedicated to uniting the energy, efforts and voices of sex trafficking/prostitution survivors everywhere while making their work sustainable so we can end sex trafficking/prostitution in our lifetime.  We believe when empowered survivors that have had extensive time in “the Life” understand their experiences and are speaking the truth, along with those that support survivors, the sex trade will truly begin to be dismantled.

Already with 60 members, 25 of whom are running their own effective nonprofit organizations, our coalition provides more services to victims while educating the public  than any single anti-sex trafficking NGO in the USA and Canada.  Additionally, we operate a private network that provides community and support for survivors.  All members of our organization are abolitionists who agree that to end trafficking/prostitution we must address demand and focus on providing more choices and empowering recovery services for the victims.

Sex Trafficking Survivors United has grown out of Survivors Connect Network.  We hope to take our activism to the next level of empowerment by seeking funding for survivor-led programs that meet our best practices criteria as a coalition and creating a speakers group where we advocate that survivors are paid for speaking engagements so their activism is sustainable.  The network will remain  as important as ever.

EMAIL:  sextraffickingsurvivorsunited@gmail.com

CONTACT:  Stella Marr, 832 368-3899, texts welcome

52 Trafficking/Prostitution Survivors Vote to Support Irish Survivor Abolitionists’ Efforts

In FreeIrishWoman, prostitution, sex work, trafficking, trauma on 2012/09/11 at 12:34 am

trafficking, sex work, prostitution, sex worker activism, freeirishwoman, ireland, feminism, sex positive feminism, human rights, trauma, healing

Survivors Connect Network, an international coalition of trafficking/prostitution survivors, has voted unanimously to stand with and support the goals of our Irish sister survivor abolitionists.   These amazing women, some of whom are members of Survivors Connect Network,  are working courageously to bring the Nordic model  into Irish law while insisting on meaningful help for women exiting trafficking/prostitution.

An Irish survivor activist explains further:

“In the run-up to the Irish government’s deliberations on the future of prostitution legislation in Ireland, I put out a global appeal to women who’d experienced trafficking/prostitution via Survivor’s Connect Network. I asked that they vote to support our efforts to see the basic principles of the Nordic Model implemented here in Ireland:

1 – The criminalisation of sex-buying.

2 – This law would of course criminalise only the buyers of sex, not the sellers of it, because we believe that no woman should be criminalised for her own exploitation.  and

3 – The pledge of real, practical and workable supports for women exiting prostitution, including education, training, housing, trauma counselling, and specially trained social workers.

“We Irish survivor abolitionists received wholehearted support; in fact many survivors from around the world asked how they might be of any further help or assistance. We were and are sincerely comforted to feel the collective solidarity of survivors of prostitution and trafficking in our struggle.

“To each of the many women who voted to support us, I would say this letter is a thank you, but in fact it is a statement that we cannot thank you enough.

“With strongest solidarity and deepest gratitude,

 

How Survivors Give Each Other Hope

In Alexis at Spilled Perfume, prostitution, sex work, trafficking, trauma on 2012/07/05 at 5:40 am

Alexis, who blogs at Spilled Perfume, just posted a beautiful piece about how survivors encourage each other, about her realization that she wants to devote her life to helping people exit prostitution, and about her new book, which will soon be available on Amazon.com — Hooray!!  Here’s an excerpt:

On Thursday night last week, I made a big decision: I will give myself and my life fully, 100% to helping people escape prostitution, and helping survivors recover.  This decision has been four years in the making.  I think it is good idea that God gave me this desire years before I was ready; this allowed me to ponder it intensely and get prepared.  My wounds were too fresh before so it was not really an option for me to help other victims (not to mention that I had no courage whatsoever), but it seems that the timing is right somehow.

I often feel that I’m not in the driver’s seat of my own car.  My life is so random and unpredictable.  So check out these VERY CRAZY THINGS which have been going on in the past eight days.

First of all, I met a survivor of child sex trafficking just 24 hours after my car accident which should have killed me.  I’ve never had the courage to find out about how to apply for positions working with sex-trafficked survivors, but by the time I read his story (which took me and hour and a half) I was completely resolved.  This is the reason I did not die last Monday.  This is the reason I’m alive.  Again, I’ve known this for four years, but I did not have the courage or the resolve until Thursday night.

Second, I’m realizing that this decision I made will have its rewards and joys but it will also have its challenges and tough times.  I cannot express the joy I feel from hearing my new friend – who was trafficked as a little boy from age 6 until age 10 – asking me, “How did you get to where you are today?  I’m having trouble in my recovery.  I don’t know if it’s possible to recover.  I don’t feel that I deserve to recover.”  This is a flicker of hope, a flicker of life inside someone who is somehow still alive against all logic and all reason.  He wants to recover.  He’s not sure how, but if there is any flicker of hope out there he wants to grab hold of it.

So this is an exciting thing about being involved in the lives of survivors!

Read the rest of this beautiful post at www.ragamuffinalexis.wordpress.com.

Can You Really Know & Truly Believe?

In sex work, trafficking, trauma on 2012/07/04 at 7:19 am

survivors connect, call girl, rebecca mott, ptsd, prostitution, trafficking, sex work

Rebecca Mott’s clear unsparing voice describes how it feels to be in prostitution.  She will move you.  Here’s an excerpt from her blog www.rmott62.wordpress.com.

Do not have pity for me – I am lucky I have exited and I am finding my way back to my humanity – save your anger, grief and desire to make a change for the millions of the prostituted being tortured as you read this.

I will reach into my pain, into the places I had to block out to keep some sanity or the will to live.

I want to write for you to know who those men really were – write to say what being tortured means. Write to the place where you so lose that you could be human – that you forget what being human is.

I want to write into the rotten heart of what it is to be prostituted. I want to write to free my prostituted self, I want to write for freedom for me and all my prostituted Sisters.

To understand and be on the road to destroying male violence, we must see through the eyes and hearts of exited women – these women know and feel and understand the cynical nature of male violence. We know how it is pre-planned, how it is seen as a non-event, how violence to the prostituted is just leisure – nothing more nothing less.

Listen and truly hear our agony, our rage, our ways make deep connections – and used us as teachers to understand male violence and dismissive attitudes to all women and children.

I shall use a few common ways of how I was torture, how normal it became for me – to show that it the structure of the sex trade that must be destroyed.

I was gang-raped often – for any or no reason, because it was exciting for punters to push their boundaries with a whore, because it was branded as punishment for made up reasons, because I was classed as the whore who did not care or feel pain.

Read the rest of the article at  Rebecca’s blog www.rmott62.wordpress.com

Behind Closed Doors: Living in an Abusive Relationship

In Angel K, sex work, trafficking, trauma on 2012/07/04 at 5:54 am
angel k, human trafficking, survivors connect, surviving prostitution and addiction, domestic violence, pimp, ptsd, trauma

Sometimes you can’t move, sometimes you can’t speak, sometimes it’s like he’s shouting at you but there’s actually no one there.

Breathtakingly honest post by Angel K at Surviving Prostitution and Addiction about how what bgins as domestic violence can turn into being pimped.  Here’s an excerpt:

He breaks your boundaries one by one. He wants anal sex. He wants to use toys. He wants to take pictures. There are certain points where lines are crossed and power shifts to him. You both know it though it’s unspoken. After the pictures he has it in his power to humiliate you publicly.
Now he brings in other people.
These ‘friends’ of his, his dealer plus entourage, he wants you to ‘look after’ them, and you’ve learned what that means. Outsiders will say if it was that bad you would have left, but it’s not that simple. Just because you’re still here doesn’t mean you want to be. If you could walk away, you would, but the last time you tried that, you got caught and by the time he’d finished with you, you weren’t walking anywhere anytime soon. He tells you he’ll finish the job off if it ever happens again. He doesn’t let you leave the house. He has the money and the car keys. You have a serious addiction and you’re in trauma. You have PTSD and it makes you easy to manipulate.
Sometimes you can’t move, sometimes you can’t speak, sometimes it’s like he’s shouting at you but there’s actually no one there.

Desperately Needed: Services for Trafficked Boys

In boys, Holly Austin Smith, sex work, Tina Frundt, trafficking, trauma on 2012/07/04 at 5:32 am

Brilliant sister survivor Holly Austin Smith has a written an important post about the desperate need for services for trafficked boys.  She discusses the issue with amazing survivor Tina Frudt,  a pioneer who founded Courtney’s House, one of the very few providing services to both trafficked boys and girls.  Here’s an excerpt:

As celebrations for Gay Pride Month come to a close, I’d like to take a moment to point out a troubling gap in services for gay and transgender youth who have been commercially sexually exploited.

In March of this year, Project Q Atlanta reported that Atlanta drag queen personality Pasha Nicole received a 14-year prison sentence for “forcing a transgender teenager into prostitution,” among other offenses related to trafficking.

Nicole, known legally as Christopher Thomas Lynch, was charged alongside her 35-year-old roommate and gay bar go-go dancer, Steven Donald Lemery.   WSBTV reported the following pending charges against Lemery:  five counts of aggravated child molestation, two counts of human trafficking, child molestation, enticing a child for indecent purposes, and pandering by compulsion.

What’s most troubling in this story is the trauma inflicted on the victims.

The Georgia Voice reported that Lemery used social networking sites to lure teen boys to his house, and then he would not allow them to leave.  Furthermore, it is alleged that Lemery did not feed the victims and that he kept them locked in a closet.

Part 2 – More Pimps Posing as Sexworker Activists & the Bedford Case

In Aboriginal Women's Action Network, Bedford decision, Educating Voices, LaCLES.org, sex work, SexTrade101, Stella Marr, trafficking on 2012/06/29 at 1:36 am

James Baldwin wrote “The victim who is able to articulate the situation of the victim has ceased to be a victim: she has become a threat.”

I had no idea how threatening my voice was until I started to make it heard.  None of us trafficking and prostitution survivors did, until we started to write about the brutality we’ve experienced and these big players within these pimp-dominated ‘sex worker activist’ groups started to do everything they could to silence us and deny we exist.  Survivor bloggers are cyber-stalked via Facebook, email, twitter and hateful blog comments.  Our email accounts are hacked and private information that could endanger us is tweeted or revealed elsewhere online.  Spiteful emails about us are sent to people we work with.  Supportive activists who feature our writing on their blogs are similarly swarmed with vilifying emails and comments.

I’d like to give you a glimpse of this intense cyber-bullying, using myself as an example. I’m not asking for sympathy; I want to show you what survivor activists go through when we break the silence.

I came out as a survivor online in March 2011.  Almost immediately pro-sex industry men and women affiliated with the Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP) USA and other pimp-led activist organizations began emailing me and posting aggressive comments on my Facebook wall.  As I got bolder I started leaving comments after articles about prostitution in major newspapers and blogs.  At this point I did not have my own blog, and we hadn’t yet formed Survivors Connect Network.  I was an obscure private person. Nonetheless, members of the “Network of Sex Work Projects” found me.  An anonymous email brought me to this creepy thread about me on admitted pimp Maggie McNeill’s blog.  Another anonymous email led me to this piece on Bound Not Gagged. Here   McNeill implies that I’m a puppet controlled by abolitionistsNorma Jean Almodovar, the executive director of COYOTE LA, suggests that I might not exist.    Billie Jackson, the founder of SWOP Colorado, criticizes my language. Maxine Doogan, the leader of the Erotic Service Providers’ Union states that I remind her of another troublemaker.  She links to a video created by Michael Whiteacre, a lawyer and filmmaker connected with the pornography industry. The video, called The Devil and Shelley Lubben, slanders Lubben, a survivor who speaks out about abuse in the porn industry.  It includes an interview with an actor who was in a pornographic movie that depicts Lubben with six men.  He discusses her sexual performance.  The message is clear:  Make waves and this could happen to you.

These invasive tactics have only amplified as time passes.  There have been numerous other creepy comment threads and blog posts which pick at me and make false statements written by people I’ve never met who are affiliated with these ‘sex worker activist’ groups.  They are a constant background noise and the volume keeps increasing.  Most survivors who write or speak about prostitution go through this.

Any examples I give are just splashes from an ocean of harassment.  Examine these droplets:

  • A few hours after the first ever video broadcast of a talk by Survivors Connect (SC) members, rich and famous Brooke Magnanti sends a tweet to her 49,900 followers, Elena Jeffreys, head of the Scarlett Alliance, an Australian sex worker group affiliated with SWOP USA, and McNeill.  The tweet states that SC members are “like Operation Rescue” an extremist group known for harassing women at abortion clinics.  Survivors Connect formed just four months ago.  Our 48 members are all crime victims and survivors of trafficking/prostitution.  McNeill blogs at Sex Workers without Borders (SWWB) with Jill McCracken, a college professor who is part of SWOP USA. No one at Survivors Connect has ever met Magnanti, McNeill or Jeffreys.
  • As I’m editing this article I get a tweet from another stranger which contains encoded language that refers to the confidential part of my life.  If I were to interpret this fully I would be revealing my location by a matter of just miles.  The message here is clear: We know where you are.

This is what it’s like for survivor activists every day.  You ignore it as much as you can, and then eventually these people get so extreme, threatening or outrageous that they draw you in.  When this happens, I sometimes fall through the floor of my life and into the past’s deep water.  I become the scared, beat up girl I used to be, locked in a room in a brothel.  Then it’s hard to find my way back to the present.  Resurfacing, I’ll stare into blankness for hours while my legs shake.  I’ll feel hollow and my husband’s voice will seem to come from far away.

Read the rest of the article at www.secretlifeofamanhattancallgirl.wordpress.com

Beautiful new survivor-led center opens in Miami

In prostitution, sex work, trafficking, trauma on 2012/06/27 at 11:45 pm

Be sure to watch the video here.  This survivor-led center for trafficking victims is beautiful.  Your eyes will fill with tears of hope:

Here’s an excerpt from the news story:

Anew facility in Miami for victims of (trafficking) crimes aims to empower victims to change their lives.

The images at the Life of Freedom Center in Miami are stark, disturbing and powerful. For instance there are quotes from victims about abuse, visual representations of what victims endure and statistics about sexual exploitation and human trafficking that will shock you.

lisa dugan, freedom, trafficking, survivor, miami, survivors connect, sexwork, prostitution, ptsd, torture, coercion, crime victim, violence against women

At the Center’s opening Tuesday victim Lisa Dugan shared her gripping story of meeting a man who forced her into a life of prostitution, violence and drugs.

Read the rest of the article here.

Pimps Posing as “Sex Worker Activists” & Conflicts of Interest

In prostitution, rants, sex work, Stella Marr on 2012/05/24 at 3:58 am

stella marr, pimps, posing, swop usa, coyote, pony, international union of sex workers, robyn few, maxine doogan, norma jean almodovar, conflict of interest, fruit of the poisonous tree, survivors connect network

I wrote this piece on the widespread problem of  (usually white)  female and male pimps posing as ‘sex worker activists’ for the Survivors’ View Blog:

Well meaning people think most “sex workers activist” organizations/unions speak for women in prostitution. They are mistaken. A shocking number of these “sex worker” organizations were started by women and men who are admitted pimps and madams, or have been convicted of pimping, pandering, or conspiracy to promote prostitution. These people call themselves ‘sex workers’ but it’s a ruse. This is a huge conflict of interest. These organizations and their ‘partners’ and affiliates cannot be allowed to speak for women in prostitution or collect funds on their behalf. Any NGO, university, college of nonprofit organization that engages with these pimp-affiliated organizations or their partners is tainted by association. These organizations benefit the predators who profit off of sexual exploitation; they don’t help women in prostitution.

A pimp is someone who makes money from another’s prostitution. A madam is a female pimp. Whether they call themselves managers, brothel owners, escort agency owners — they are all pimps. As a survivor of ten years of trafficking/prostitution, I have a right to use this word. If someone poisons another in cold blood, it doesn’t matter if they call themselves a life extinguisher or claim they’re an innovative longevity re-allocation businesswoman. They’re still a murderer. A pimp is still a pimp, no matter what name they peddle.

But pimps don’t like that word. So these founders and leaders of ‘sex worker activist’ organizations say they’re sex workers. They appropriate the identity of those they exploit. It’s a bit like a plantation owner in blackface pretending to be one of the slaves they oppress. They’re trying to steal our survivor voices.

Douglas Fox, the main ‘activist’ at the International Union of Sex Workers, claims to be a male sex worker. But he and his partner John Dottery were featured as the owners of a large UK escort agency in the British documentary ‘The Escort Agency.’ On a website he co-edits Fox states his partner owns an escort agency and argues ridiculously that pimps are ‘sex workers.’ He also states ” The fact that paedophiles produce and distribute and earn money from selling sex may make them sex workers.”

The first so-called ‘sex worker activist’ group in the United States was Whores, Housewives and Others (WHO) which eventually became COYOTE. It was founded by Margo St. James, who like Douglas Fox claimed to be a prostitute when she was actually a pimp. She’s admitted to being convicted of running a disorderly house – a brothel – in 1962.

The Sex Workers’ Outreach Project USA (SWOP USA) was founded by Robyn Few the year after she was convicted of conspiracy to promote interstate prostitution. This means that like St. James, Few was also a madam, a female pimp. As a survivor of ten years of prostitution myself, I would never feel safe around a madam. Most women in prostitution wouldn’t. Such an organization can’t speak for us. Few calls herself a ‘sex worker’ most of the time so the conflict of interest isn’t obvious. But the SWOP website makes a point of acknowledging her conviction for promoting interstate prostitution. Why? Because pimps across the country are using SWOP to connect with Johns while they recruit vulnerable young women. This isn’t activism, it’s marketing while lobbying for pimp interests.

SWOP USA isn’t the only ‘sex worker activist’ organization founded by a female pimp. The Erotic Service Providers Union is led by Maxine Doogan who was convicted of running an escort service. Like Robyn Few, Maxine Doogan poses as a ‘sex worker. She claims that legislation which helps pimps is good for women in prostitution. Terri Jean Bedford, who was widely represented in the Canadian media as an advocate of women in prostitution, was convicted of running a brothel. So she’s also a pimp.

Executive Director of COYOTE/ Los Angeles Norma Jean Almodovar was convicted of pandering while she was working as a cop. As such she is part of a long tradition of police officers involved in the prostitution of other women. It’s an unholy alliance that sends women in prostitution the message they can’t get out and they can’t get help. Like Robyn Few, Norma Jean Almodovar calls herself a ‘sex worker,’ but details the pandering conviction on her nonprofit organization website.

Now when a survivor of trafficking/prostitution such as myself happens to bring up this conflict of interest, the pimping parties in question react as if viciously attacked. But there’s nothing personal about saying someone has a conflict of interest. It’s a statement of existing conditions not a vendetta. The majority stockholders of Walmart can’t speak for the company’s minimum wage employees because what benefits those stakeholders may be bad for the workers. But in the ‘sex worker activist’ movement, pimps pretend to be workers when in fact they are management — the ones in control.

No wonder SWOP -USA, COYOTE, The Erotic Services Providers’ Union, the International Union of Sex Workers as well as their partners and affiliates which include the Desiree Alliance, the Red Umbrella Project, and Prostitutes of New York (PONY) support policies that protect pimps rather than women in prostitution. PONY actually claims to “reach out” to Madam members.

We trafficking/prostitution survivors have had enough. We’re going to start calling out the NGOS, universities, and academics who tacitly support and encourage these pimp-led groups. The concept of fruit of the poisonous tree applies here. Any organization that partners or collaborates with these groups is tainted by association They can’t speak for us or collect funds on our behalf.

Related articles

An Ex-Hooker’s Letter to her Younger Self

In prostitution, sex work, Stella Marr, trafficking on 2012/05/18 at 9:34 pm

Stella Marr, ex-hooker, letter to younger self, prostitution, human trafficking, feminism, women,

Dear twenty-year old Stella,

Work hard on learning to ask for help.  It’s the only way you’ll ever  break free.  No one ever does anything alone.  You don’t have to.

You’ll learn how to make the men happy.  The happier they are the nicer they treat you.  You’ll get very good at being a hooker.  But when the Johns say “baby you were born for this” that doesn’t mean its true.

Now when most men come near you  feel a stabbing at your eyes, your throat, and your gut that you know isn’t real.  You don’t want to admit it but you’re terrified.  You start, you tremble.  Your hands shake.  Think about it, you’re being stabbed a lot these days.  This is a quite reasonable reaction to being used by man after man, day after day, in this prison of a brothel.  It doesn’t mean you are so miserably flawed that you can’t do anything but be a hooker.

Being a hooker doesn’t make you subhuman.  It’s not OK for your (white) pimps to smack you and tell you they’ll kill you.

You have to work up the nerve to pay a cashier for a soda.  You’re too scared to ask that guy behind the deli counter to make you a sandwich.   This isn’t weakness, it’s biology.  Trauma changes your brain.    Your hippocampus, where you form narrative memory in the brain, shrinks.  This is a symptom of PTSD –  a neurophysiologic response to repetitive trauma –not evidence that you deserve to be in prostitution.

In the middle of the winter in the middle of the night when that guy in theDoubletree suite invites you to sit while he pours you a seltzer trust your gut and back out of there before the five guys you can’t see who are waiting in the bedroom have a chance to get between you and the door.

Being vulnerable means you’re alive.   There’s no shame in it.  It doesn’t mean you’re a terrible person.  You don’t have to apologize for doing what you must to survive.

When Samantha tries to stop working for your pimp Johnny.  make her get out of the city.  Otherwise two weeks later Nicole, the madam who works with Johnny,  will show you Samantha’s diamond initial ring and tell you Johnny murdered her.  Though you’ll always hope she was lying, you doubt it.

You’ve lost all sense of the linear — time  disappeared and you felt it leave.  Now you’re living in the immediate and eternity.  It’s scary and bewildering, but you need this — you need each moment to stretch infinitely so that you can be acutely aware of each man’s tiny movements and shifts in expression,  which can reveal a threat before it happens.  This hyperawareness will save your life.  One day you’ll see this being untethered from time as a kind of grace.

When that shiny classical pianist you meet at Au Bon Pain says he wants to know everything about you don’t believe him.

A lot of what’s happening doesn’t make sense now but it will later.  That habit you have of writing poems in your mind to the beloved you haven’t met yet as you’re riding in cabs to calls?  There’s something to it.

Your ability to perceive beauty is part of your resilience and survival.  When a man is on top of you watch the wind-swirled leaves out his window.  Seize the gusty joy you feel as you run three blocks to a bodega to buy condoms between calls at 3 AM.  When you think for a minute you see that friend,  who’s death you never got over,  standing in the brassy light under a weeping linden, be grateful.  All this has a purpose.

Being a hooker can seem to mean you’ve lost everything you hoped to be, but that’s not true.  You’ve splintered into a million pieces, but you’re still you. You’re alive.    It’s in the spaces between those pieces where you learn to feel how other people are feeling.  It hurts so much you’re sure it’ll kill you, but it won’t.  Later when you’re out of the life it’ll be so easy to be happy.  The mundane will buoy you.

When your madam sends you to the Parker Meridien at 3 AM and you meet a British professor who says he wants to help you, believe him.  He will set you up in a beautiful condominium across from Lincoln Center that he deeds in your name.  Of course you’ll have everything to do with this — you are so “good” at being a hooker, so “good” at fucking that you can make a guy want to buy you acondo.  Shame is a hollow stone in the throat.

During the two years that this voracious man ‘keeps’ you as his private prostitute the condo will come to feel like a platinum trap.  But it’s still your chance to get out and heal. Take it.

After you’ve sold the condominium and are living in a graduate dorm atColumbia University, a man with eyes like blue shattered glass will sit beside you in the cafeteria.  When he begins to speak you know he’s the unmet beloved you’ve been writing poems to all these years.  You’ll try to run away, but he won’t let you.  Fourteen years later the two of you will be hiking through pink granite outcroppings with your Labrador retriever.  You’ll  feel like the freest woman in the world.

One afternoon when you’re twenty-one you’ll be at the Museum of Metropolitan of Art with your best friend Gabriel, who’s a hustler, a male prostitute.  When he says you ‘remind him of his death’, don’t lash back.  Even though he told you the doctor said he didn’t have that rare new virus named AIDS, it would behoove you to realize he’s still coughing.

Stop thinking about your own hurt.  Don’t lash back with that vicious phrase your mother’s said to you so many times  –” I hope you die a slow death.”  Don’t tell Gabriel  you never want to see him again and storm out of the  sculpture gallery.   Or it will be the last time you see him.  Gabriel will die of AIDS five months later.  When he said you reminded him of ‘his own death’ he was trying to tell you he was dying.   You’ll regret what you said for the rest of your life.  But even more you’ll regret running away from his friendship.

Say forgive me.

Say I love you.

Stay connected.

Love,

Stella

This is a tribute to Cheryl Strayed‘s transcendent letter to her younger self.  Her letter’s form gave me a pitcher that I filled with my life.  A big shout out toDublin Call Girl who’s thank you letter to punters is already a classic.  Re that phrase my mom used to say to me, “I hope you die a slow death.”  I’m sure she used to hear it from her dad.

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