When She Says Woman, She Doesn't Mean Me
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When She Says Woman, She Doesn’t Mean Me


When I was 19, I paid my way to San Francisco with pornography. I answered an ad for the most inexpensive space I could locate, and when the woman who lived there asked me, I lied and explained I was straight. I did not know anyone. Adult males or boys requested me to go destinations, and I went. At a get together in the slide, I wore tight red trousers and no bra. I drank what was handed to me. I fell asleep on a bed and woke up and this boy was fucking me. His scent and skin and my teeth grinding and I was drunk or large, I don’t know which, and I could not go. I could not make him quit. I handed out once again and woke up and his physique was there on the mattress and I inched away and it was so gray, San Francisco was always so gray, always so predawn, and I did not want to jostle everything, collected my limbs, my fragile center, slipped out to the grey street and the shivering bus and stepped carefully on the stairs up into my rented home and washed myself with hot h2o and drank very hot espresso to burn off the inside of of me and started the get the job done of pretending it experienced not took place.


That exact calendar year, my boss at the espresso shop still left me 5 messages in three days:

“Hey, just wished to see if you want to go to that present on Friday at Wonderful American Songs Corridor.”

“Hey you haven’t identified as me again so just checking in all over again to see if you want to go, or maybe get a drink.”

“Hey you know it is really rude of you to just smile at me like that and then not even phone me back.”

“You just cannot just be great to individuals and then act like it doesn’t necessarily mean just about anything.”

“You believe you’re so specific but you’re not. You need to be more very careful.”

At get the job done, he did not mention the cell phone phone calls. He watched me. He begun scheduling me so that I only worked by yourself. As I wiped down counters, he stood near to me, keeping a clipboard, not on the lookout at me, just retaining his significant entire body future to mine.


In Old Town and in Ocean Seashore the cops were being always seeing us. Ended up often stopping us in the street. Were generally generating us vacant our pockets and backpacks. We felt them coming and we stiffened, tried to duck all around corners, attempted to avert our faces. At evening, they shone their flashlights into our eyes. Some evenings they produced us stand in a row. They held photographs of missing small children up beside our faces. We were being not missing.


The boy who raped me experienced paid to see my naked photographs on the net. He’d accomplished this with his mates, the team of them jointly at the pc with someone’s brother’s credit score card. I knew this simply because 1 of them explained to me. They told me he wanted to fuck me. This was supposed as a compliment. I have tried using to consider what they reported to every single other in that room, hovered more than the display screen. I can’t listen to them. I appear up with very little.


Intercourse personnel, claims Catharine MacKinnon, are “the assets of adult males who acquire and promote and rent them.” She states that to rape a sexual intercourse worker implies just to not pay her.


When adult males ejaculated on me it did not feel like trauma, it felt like dollars. Like hire. It was not distressing. It was not bewildering. I did not dislike them. I felt very little about them. I knew what I was agreeing to. I understood what I would have when I walked absent. I realized that I owned myself. That proudly owning myself meant having a way to make my revenue and wander away. That the strolling away, more than anything, was the issue that manufactured this function different.


Sex operate, tweeted Ashley Judd, is “body invasion.” It commodifies “girls and women’s orifices.” “Cash,” she suggests, “is the proof of coercion.”


On March 11, 2019, the New York Metropolis chapter of the Countrywide Corporation for Women (NOW-NYC) held a protest on the actions of Town Corridor, demanding the continued criminalization of sexual intercourse work. Speakers at NOW’s protest known as the decriminalization bill that a team of New York sex employees experienced been organizing towards the “Pimp Security Act.”

NOW-NYC’s president mentioned, “Yes, you’ve read it suitable, the intercourse trade could be coming to a neighborhood in close proximity to you.” New York City, she reported, could turn out to be the “Las Vegas of the Northeast.” As though sex operate were not also unlawful in Las Vegas.

Possessing myself intended possessing a way to make my revenue and stroll away.

A little team of sexual intercourse workers arrived to counterprotest. They held signals that stated, “Sex Staff Against Intercourse Trafficking.”

The anti-decriminalization protestors stepped in front of them to address their indicators. Speakers reported that the intercourse staff had been “ignorant of their personal oppression.”


I did not inform anybody that I had been raped. I did not explain to any one and continue to they mentioned, “What is incorrect with you that you allow for adult males to shell out to touch you.”

They stated, “What transpired to you that designed you like this?”

I heard these points again and all over again.

I listened to them so generally that I feared that they had been right, that I experienced only tricked myself into believing that there was a big difference in between the issues I’d decided on and the items I hadn’t.

In my mattress, not sleeping, Adam’s hefty arm in excess of me, my overall body involving him and the wall, I imagined: I am broken.

I did not know what I was, and I did not know how to be something else.

I knew that to turn into a human being that males like Adam could adore would suggest earning myself visibly weak. Would imply undertaking the type of weakness that other people today could locate lovable. Would suggest proclaiming ignorance so they could see me as worthy of getting remade.

I understood that the weak point they needed was almost nothing like the real weak point within of me. The actual weak spot inside of of me could only be healed if I trustworthy my own rules. If I did not give my soreness away for other people’s tales.


It was in a porn studio that I 1st started to feel as however my body was a factor I could adore. I did not get the occupation in get to really feel this. I did not even comprehend it as it was taking place. It took place slowly but surely and also all at as soon as. I showed up to shoot and the guy that I would be operating with asked me, “What are your boundaries?”

I experienced no concept what he was speaking about.

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“What do you not want to do?” he asked. And on that day, I could not convey to him. No a single experienced ever questioned me that issue just before.

“We’ll check out some items,” he stated, “and you just say ‘red’ if you want to quit.”

So I attempted matters. Some of them I liked and some of them I did not and some of them I did not care about one way or a further. Just about every working day when I arrived to shoot, they asked me the identical query: “What do you want to do now? What really don’t you want to do?”

Eventually, I could solution. I could make a record. This is what I want. This is what I never want.

There was a working day when I was tied up, suspended in rope in the center of a warehouse in downtown San Francisco, and a gentleman was hitting me all more than my system with a deerskin flogger. I was in midair, ropes pressed into my hips and thighs and upper body with calculated rigidity, leather-based thudding rhythmically from my back and breasts and I felt a form of elation, a swelling in my centre. I felt strong. I felt myself acquiring more powerful. The scene ended, and they lowered me to the floor and they untied the ropes and blood rushed back again into my knees and elbows and I felt quickly cleanse. I felt full. More than entire, I felt unbreakable.

They handed me a look at, and it did not really feel like coercion, it felt like basic safety. It felt like I had taken a thing from them.


“It is difficult,” suggests Andrea Dworkin, “to use a human system in the way women’s bodies are made use of in prostitution and to have a total human remaining at the conclude of it, or in the center of it, or shut to the beginning of it. . . . And no lady receives total again later on, soon after.”


In Los Angeles, the days ended up all the exact but also they have been all distinctive. I worked. All of us labored. We lived to operate. We known as it the “porn dorm” and we named it “porno boot camp” and we received up at 5 a.m. and worked right up until two the subsequent early morning. We worked two-a-times and we worked seven times a week and there was not a single working day of the 12 months when an individual, somewhere, was not earning pornography.


The superior days and the bad days were overcome by days when almost everything went as envisioned. Times when I showed up and laid out my apparel and we selected some thing and I put my make-up on and took the stills and waited for male expertise or waited for the light or waited for the dialogue and did 6 positions and a pop and took my test and went house. I felt bored much more usually than I felt anything else. I felt bored and I felt as though the issue I was inside of was invisible to absolutely everyone who was not inside of of it.

They handed me a test, and it did not come to feel like coercion, it felt like safety. It felt like I experienced taken one thing from them.

When I was not performing, I was exhausted. I was more fatigued than I experienced ever been. Some mornings, when it was time to get up to go to work, I cried.

“You cry now, but you are going to cry when you have no income,” my agent mentioned.

I cried and then I went to do the job.

The working day would be great or it would be negative or it would be neither and I would collect my check out and my agent would arrive and select us up and get us to Jerry’s Deli and we would try to eat rooster soup and black and white cookies, and I cherished him. I liked these gals close to me, just about every of them with their bodies like weapons. I felt as although I did not belong everywhere but there.


I’ve rarely talked about my rape and I’ve rarely talked about violence I have knowledgeable whilst undertaking sexual intercourse operate. I have not talked about these points for the reason that I am scared. Due to the fact I know how tales like mine get told. Mainly because I know specifically how very good anti–sex get the job done “feminists” are at carving out the pieces of our stories to make them suggest a little something else, some thing much less complex and far more effortlessly sold. I know how superior they are at flattening us, at excavating our encounters to make tales that are only an imitation of the items we’ve lived. I know how excellent they are at building us no more time human but symbols of this issue they contact womanhood. This detail they’ve made that I do not see myself in.

I’m worried, but also I’m angry. I’m offended that I could not converse about violence without the need of fueling descriptions of me as an object, composed by girls saying to be my allies. I have survived violence in sex work and also I have decided on again and all over again to do this operate. I have executed sexual intercourse and femininity and also I am not a image of any person else’s womanhood. I have been bad more than enough that intercourse do the job seemed like a present, lousy enough that sex do the job changed my energy in the entire world by providing me the security that money provides. To say that I desired the cash is not the identical as indicating I could not pick out, and to say that I selected is not the similar as indicating it was constantly excellent. I have been harmed in intercourse get the job done and I have been healed in sexual intercourse operate and I must not have to explain possibly of people activities in get to converse about my get the job done as work.


“Women ought to be heard,” states Ashley Judd. And I know that when she claims females, she does not imply me.


Excerpted from the e-book We As well: Essays on Sex Function and Survival, edited by Natalie West, with Tina Horn. The essay “When She Says Lady, She Does Not Necessarily mean Me” Copyright © 2021 by Lorelei Lee. The collection, posted by the Feminist Push, is out now.

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