Woman. Not Merchandise

A woman. Not merchandise.

Since I started this blog, Stories for Social Change, I made a point not to tell other people’s stories.  I tell my own stories, because sharing stories is a form of agency, a way of being in the world, of creating new knowledge. Stories should be told by those who lived them.  So, here concludes my introduction, and here’s the story of a woman who wishes to be called S.

I want to thank Michal and Idit of Awareness Institute for bringing her story to my attention.

Letter to a client:

I stand before you  with a short skirt and a pretty body. You pick me ’cause you like me. Burn through your wallet and acquire “sexual services”. I know I’m smiling and it seems like I’m all into you, like you’re so handsome and perfect. It’s only pretend. Make believe. You’re just a payday.  I close my eyes and wait for it to end, faking at orgasm so you’ll finally leave me and my body alone. You’re not even attractive or perfect, you lay your hands on me and I touch you, cold and impersonal. You don’t even know my real name.

I run to drugs and alcohol, to forget our atrocious rendezvous. I pay for them from your purse. I am disgusted by you, by myself. I ask you to put on a condom, but you pay me extra to do you without one. God only knows what you’ve given me. For such a long time, I was ashamed of my body. It didn’t matter that it was beautiful, it wasn’t mine. It was yours. Until one day I took it back. I showered with bleach. I couldn’t stand it anymore. The burns that covered my body now scar my soul. I lost myself, and nearly my life.

Today, I’m sober from substances, from you. It’ll be years before I recover from prostitution. They call it post-traumatic stress disorder. I distanced myself from men and had relations with women. Mood swings, aggression, depression,  I was volatile. I got alarmingly skinny and all my friends abandoned me, because nobody wants to be around a former whore. Nightmares that haunt me, flashbacks that swamp me with anxiety. Making me reach for pills, pills that let me sleep. Let me escape. When I’m alone I can feel hands touching me. Before I got to bed, I lock down the house. Never shower before everything is sealed shut. When I wash the dishes, the chilling waters send shivers down my spine, reminding me of the strangers that invaded me as cold sweat rushes over me.

You think that if you paid, it’s fine. But that money is tainted, and it withers away like a breeze. Before you call a brothel to use a woman who is only there out of distress, think back to what you have read here. Maybe you should decide to be more than just a man, to be a human. Put down the phone.

 Breaking the chains of silence, Illustration by Daniel Gouri de Lima breakfree