By Rachelle Tchiprout
‘Paid For – My Journey Through Prostitution’ by Rachel Moran is an autobiographical book about her experiences as a prostituted woman in Ireland for 7 years. There are a number of things Rachel Moran has taught me – and her story is one that should be shared with all. All of these lessons are essential to the knowledge of the world of prostitution, and essential to my understanding of the roles of women in today’s society. The key things I have learnt from Rachel can be summarized as:
- Prostitution is not, and never will be, a product of ‘sexual liberation’
- Women do not ‘choose’ prostitution. Is it a ‘choice’ when there appears to be no viable alternative?
- Prostitution should not be made illegal. The act of buying sex should be. Why punish the exploited and not the exploiter? (Also known as the ‘Nordic model’)
- There is no difference between a ‘high-class prostitute’ and a street-walker.
- Drugs are commonly a result of prostitution (and thus perpetuate it), as the women involved search for a mental escape from their traumatic lives.
- If you have never experienced prostitution, you cannot possibly assess the extent of its mental and physical influence over an individual.
Moran is, without a doubt, a fabulous writer. She draws you into the true horrors of her life from a young age, beginning with her difficult childhood in which her father committed suicide and her mother suffered from mental illness. This is the first book I have read about prostitution that is not a glamourized Hollywood depiction. We are all conditioned to see prostitution through the eyes of characters in Game of Thrones, where naked women giggle and prance around lavishly decorated bedrooms. These women are liberated, enjoy sex and enjoy the money they make, right? Wrong.
Moran considered writing the book under a pseudonym. She knew she wanted the world to know what she had experienced, and how fortunate she was to be one of the few that can lead a relatively normal, educated life after many years selling her body. However the fear of judgement was real – and it almost pushed her into a corner. She thankfully changed her mind, knowing too well that to use a pseudonym would further create the negative stigma of prostitution as something shameful – and thus she decided to be fully open about her story.
Leaving prostitution was not something that Moran did with ease, not simply due to her drug addiction but also due to the struggles of integrating into society. She writes in part three of her book that she experiences ‘aftershocks’, depression and overwhelming feelings of shame and doubt many years after her self-release from prostitution. This further enhances the understanding that prostitution is deeply scarring and emotionally traumatic. She enhances this with experiences and statistics from prostitution-prevention organisations, who emphasize that the rate of prostitutes suffering from severe depression is shockingly high, as is the rate of suicide. Along these lines, Moran aptly and repeatedly calls the act of prostitution ‘paid rape’ or ‘paid abuse’ – explaining that the women in question have resorted to prostitution out of sheer desperation, and paying to use their bodies qualifies as abuse.
Moran also makes a distinction between ‘free’ and ‘forced’ prostitution. Whilst, like many others, I may have granted more sympathy to trafficked women as opposed to women who appear to have chosen the life of prostitution – I now understand that this is critically problematic. Whilst an individual may have been forced by nobody it does not mean they were not forced by nothing. Moran writes that she never met a prostitute that was not prostituting her body due to either desperate times or as a result of a childhood filled with sexual abuse.
I am also suddenly finding myself more repulsed by the attempt to justify prostitution. This attempt comes mainly from the male population – those who are more typically likely to ‘enjoy’ prostituted individuals. The ‘rape-prevention’ theory that is used in these justification attempts suggests that prostitution is a necessary evil, allowing aggressive men to be abusive towards prostitutes as opposed to other women. This is false, as Moran points out that studies show that men who abuse prostitutes are more likely to be abusive in their relationships too.
After reading this harrowing autobiography, I struggle to watch popular media and find myself picking up on slang used by friends. The implications of the word ‘prostitute’ and the way the word is used (in all its forms eg. whore, slut) simply perpetrate the problem of the prostituted women. By degrading prostitutes in such a way, we degrade women as a collective. As a woman, this is something I cannot fathom to be acceptable in today’s seemingly progressive society.
To prevent women experiencing the life that Moran has, something crucial needs to change. Whilst this will involve laws and social mechanisms for prostitute rehabilitation – the key to this is norms and attitudes towards prostitutes. Reading Rachel Moran’s autobiography is a good start – and I recommend it to anybody who has doubts as to the realities of prostitutes. From there we should strive to smash the stigma of prostitutes as lower human beings and men who use them as simply ‘responding to natural urges’. These men are abusing the basic rights of human beings and this ‘paid abuse’ must stop in order to prevent such a traumatic existence for girls like Rachel Moran all over the world.
To purchase this book online, click here.