Sexworkers hunting

If you’re working as a sexworker, you probably have been visited by some Christians once in a while. I never see them among the streetwalkers, but I have seen them on the streets where the windows are. They usually step by and want to talk with you. Sometimes they even offer you a present. However they may not leave right away, when you ask for it. Or they may come back a lot of times. Also, the way they ask the questions or what they tell, can be (or at least feel) really offensive.

Sexworkers / prostitutes who chose this job voluntarily, may actually feel proud of their job. They could be proud of being meaningful to their clients. Or they could also be proud of their independency. There may be quite a few reasons why sexworkers are proud of their job. Imagine that you have a job you are proud of, and maybe even a job you like. And then imagine something tells you that someone else forces you to do that job. Even when you deny that, that person persists. The person tells you that you don’t know any better or that you are brainwashed. I bet the first time that happens to you, you will just laugh. But when that happens over and over again, you probably will feel annoyed or offended. Especially when a big group of people believes it, including some big media. After all, no one listens to you – because people believe you’re brainwashed…. Well, you get the clue. This is not the best way to make friends with a sexworker / prostitute who wants her job.

 

The thing is that many Christians genuinely believe that prostitutes are very often victims of sex trafficking, being under high pressure and that they could be brainwashed. But these cases seem not to occur much, but for these few cases this approach might help them. I don’t know about that. But many sex trafficking victims aren’t under these extreme circumstances. As for the rest, there are many people who I know who did choose to become a prostitute. And for them, such approach simply isn’t appropriate. By the way, this also count for some health professionals who get in touch with prostitutes.

 

However when I would be one of the Christians who believe that prostitutes are mainly victims who are in immediate danger, I would probably do the same thing. Going to the sexworkers and offer help. When I have that view and understanding in mind, I don’t feel so much offended as I otherwise would.

 

It probably helps for me that I have a Christian background. Although I think I’m agnostic now, in the past I worked several days a week for a church. I did that several years. Plus my mother is a kind and passionate Christian. So I know that religion quite well. It’s interesting to see that most Christian organizations that reach out to prostitutes are the ones with similar Christian views I once had. My church that I’ve joined in the past had connections (and still haves) with the Bethel church in Redding, CA. If you know that church, then you will now have an idea of what I mean. My faith changed as I had issues with it. As someone with a transsexual background and for someone who started working again as a prostitute, it did bring some conflicts. Conflicts with both the church and my own faith. Apart from that I also had issues with the animal slaughtering and offers in the Old Testament, but that’s off-topic.

 

To be honest I both love and really dislike the behavior these Christians show at the same time. So I dislike them often for their approaches to sexworkers, their immature behavior and lack of knowledge towards LGBT people. Also for a few other things I don’t want to share right now. But I love them for their patience, love and offerings they are willing to make towards others. I have seen Christians taking people they barely know into their families for years, because that person needed and wanted that. One time it was a young adult who was offered a place into a family and she was treated, loved and cuddled almost like it was their own child. Actually in one of my Ministry Team trainings I received, it was sometimes even recommended/indicated to do so. Of course these cases were not the standard. Nevertheless they generally will treat you as a human being, as a brother or sister (how they see and call it). That’s also how they usually would talk about you behind your back. Not like a client or some kind of visitor. I don’t think you will ever find so much amount of compassion, dedication and patience in secular health organizations. I think they deserve credit for that part. To be honest, I still know a few Christians from that period who are really close to my heart.

 

I personally hope that churches will be more open to hear our sides and vice versa. If churches understand that sexwork and human trafficking are two different things, they may even have the potential to offer better support/care to sexworkers then the secular social workers do.

 

Idealistically, I hope that there will become health organizations runned by sexworkers themselves, for themselves.

Should traumatized sexworkers be protected?

A common question I get is whether traumatized or vulnerable sexworkers should be protected for taking the risk of being retraumatized (by restricting or refusing their legal working places). I don’t mean victims of human trafficking, but the traumatized or the so called vulnerable ones who choose this job by their own choice.

Many people I spoke with about my job said I’m vulnerable, because I’m traumatized and started way too early with having sexual contact with adult men. I definitely don’t deny that I started too early with that and I know that I have some traumas, including sexual ones as well.

My job isn’t always easy when having sexual traumas. There are some clients who tend to be abusive or aren’t seeing you always as an equal human being. Unfortunately screening my clients behind the glass of my window is not my best skill. To keep things short: I had some clients I rather didn’t had. In a few cases I ended up on my bed with tears, feeling disgusted and bad memories flashing up in my mind. These moments are not fun and I usually don’t share them with my coworkers. Fortunately these moments usually doesn’t last long.

So should I look for a different job, simply because I have some clients who trigger me? I don’t think so. There are many people with some amount of traumas and also people who get triggered on their work once in a while. I think people need to decide for themselves what it’s best for them in their circumstances. As I wrote earlier, my job not only provides me money, but it also provides me with self-esteem, self-appreciation and satisfaction. For me, the pros outweighs the cons.

When you work here in Belgium behind a window or in Holland, sooner or later some health professionals will visit you to talk with you. Of course you’re allowed to refuse this, but it can be a good thing as well. If you’re new in a country, you may not be aware of the facilities for sexworkers. This way you’ll have the opportunity to learn about this. So far, so good.

In Amsterdam I’ve got in touch with such a health organization which aims at sexworkers. Besides the STI checks I decided to get frequent chats with a social worker. After all, my job isn’t always fun and great to me. The social worker was helpful to me in a practical way. For instance, she helped to decide whether my current way of working as a sexworker was best for me or not. We also talked about other forms of sexwork and which one would work best for me. Some other time she also shared some options for support when I would want to stop working as a sexworker. In that point of view her help was useful.

However, there was also a different side on this. She was a social worker and as most health professionals, she was kind but also quite distant. I didn’t shared with her my issues that were emotionally troubling at that time. I think most health professionals do their work with best intentions, but I can genuinely say that most of the health professionals I had were not healthy to me. I’ll write about my issues and views of health professionals more in the future, to explain this further.

So yes, I had many health professionals. I also received many therapy in the past, both as inpatient and outpatient. So it’s not like I didn’t tried to resolve my traumas in a way which is considered the healthy and ‘as-it-should-be way’. As a matter of fact in my work it seems to be that I am slowly recovering my past. I can remember more traumatic memories ever without being too much triggered. Besides that, it also get a lot more out of this work than just only money. So in my opinion, I don’t need ‘protection’ and I’m able to make that decision for myself.

First window working day in Antwerp

A couple months ago I started to work behind a window and I still remember that day. I heard from some coworkers that there was a good place to work in a different country: the windows in Antwerp, Belgium. At that time I was still working on the streets in Holland where I had some bad experiences. Of course I didn’t had only bad experiences, but I wanted to try something new.
So I went off to Belgium. I already received some information and went looking over there. The are a lot of windows, which made it a bit difficult to choose. But at one I chose randomly one of the ones that felt okay to me. I called the number of the company which has the windows for rent, the phone number is usually located above or next to the window. I visited their office, then showed my passport, paid the rent and that was it. I made a reservation for a window.
I didn’t wanted to start right away that day, but I could if I wanted to. But I decided to start next week. I still had to bring my working clothes and stuff to Belgium.
A week later I started working there. One of the friendly staff members showed me the way inside and the couple of rules they had. After that I made the bed ready and changed my clothes. I put my condoms and other work stuff ready and then was the big moment: getting my clients.
At the beginning I felt a bit nervous, but it didn’t took long before I felt comfortable. Many kind of people passes by. Some laughed at me and others just looked at me. The first day I had several clients. Some were locals, while others were not. Some clients asked me some crazy requests, while some other ones seemed to just want have some attention.
In the end of the day I had a good feeling – actually I also felt proud. Seeing some clients go away, made me happy as well. I felt I did something really meaningful for these persons. Also I felt good of earning my own money and having the freedom to choose my own working days, hours and location. Of course I didn’t felt good afterwards with every client, but that’s a different subject – which I probably come back on later. After all, everyone has bad days at work right?