Because all that glitters is not gold: Here are some resources to help you better understand and empathize with women in the sex industry*.
*If you or someone you know needs help getting out of the sex industry, check out https://www.sextradesurvivorresources.com/resources. Another option for help can be found at http://iamatreasure.com/.
“Once [the pornography actresses] are in the industry they have high rates of substance abuse, typically alcohol and cocaine, depression, borderline personality disorder […] The experience I find most common among the performers is that they have to be drunk, high or dissociated in order to go to work. Their work environment is particularly toxic […] The terrible work life of the pornography performer is often followed by an equally terrible home life. They have an increased risk of sexually transmitted disease (including HIV), domestic violence and have about a 25% chance of making a marriage that lasts as long as 3 years.” – Dr. MaryAnne Layden
Listen to former prostitute Brenda Meyers-Powell's :12 interview. She's a powerful, inspirational activist and star of documentary "Dreamcatcher" about surviving the sex industry https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VS5C1N74uO4
2008 Report: (Shelley Lubben, founder of the Pink Cross Foundation)
22 Only 17% of performers use condoms in heterosexual adult films.
In 2004, only two of 200 adult film companies required the use of condoms.
One male pornographic performer, Rocco (600 films and 3,000 women), said: “Every professional in the porn-world has herpes, male or female.”
Dr. Sharon Mitchell confirms the STD prevalence in an interview with Court TV, in which she stated: “66% of porn performers have herpes, 12-28% have sexually transmitted diseases, and 7% have HIV.”
Porn actress Erin Moore admitted, “The drugs we binged on were Ecstasy, Cocaine, Marijuana, Xanax, Valium, Vicodin and alcohol.”
Tanya Burleson, formerly known as Jersey Jaxin, said, “Guys are punching you in the face. You get ripped. Your insides can come out of you. It’s never ending. You’re viewed as an object — not as a human with a spirit. People do drugs because they can’t deal with the way they’re being treated.”
A 2012 survey (Journal of Sex Research (November 2012): 1-12) of 177 porn actresses demonstrated porn stars are more likely than the general public to:
- First have sex at an earlier age (average: 15 years old).
- Have more lifetime sexual partners (74 partners average).
- Be concerned about catching an STD (average: 8% concerned).
- Have ever used: marijuana (79%) hallucinogens (39%) ecstasy (50%) cocaine (44%) methamphetamine (27%) tranquilizers (26%) heroine (10%)
A 2010 study of 304 pornographic scenes discovered that 88.2% contained physical aggression, including spanking, gagging, and slapping. Nearly half (48.7%) contained verbal aggression, mostly name-calling. The perpetrators were mostly male and the targets were mostly female. The targets were depicted responding either neutrally or positively. (Violence Against Women 16 (Oct. 2010): 1065-1085)
Listen to women talk about their struggles in, and trying to get out of the sex industry at Sex Worker's Anonymous recorded meeting.
From TV News clip (link now broken): "From Youth Pastor to Porn Star to Sex Trade Opponent: A Colorado Woman Escapes the Porn Industry"
"[Jessica Neely's] insights to the porn industry is (sic) eye opening. She said when a person consumes a scene they are watching the woman and men of that industry self-destruct. Neely said many people in that industry are victims of some kind of abuse. She also said porn is a breeding ground for the human trafficking world. She lost her friends, her dreams, and it took her ten years to escape that lifestyle.
"Promiscuous became a sex addiction, sex graduated to professional porn, and then porn fueled prostitution." Jessica Neely says, "Every single person in pornography escorts. It is human trafficking."
Sample: "My work name was Genevieve and I want to tell you that the porn industry is not glamorous at all. Although on the surface it may appear to be fun and enjoyable, it really doesn’t compare to what lies beneath the surface..." Click above link for more of the stories.
Read sex industry survivor stories of their childhoods and how that connected to their choices (or lack of choices) that led to working in the sex industry at http://iamatreasure.com/more-stories/.
Read an article I wrote on Huffington Post titled "Solidarity with My Sisters in Porn" quoting women in the porn industry, of which there is much overlap in the prostitution/sex trafficking industry.
Listen to an NPR Interview - audio recording: Prostitution: A Difficult Job to Escape
For many prostitutes, the prospect of escaping the industry seems impossible or at the very least too dangerous to endure. Jackie McReynolds is a former prostitute and now executive director of the Angels Project Power, a program that helps women leave prostitution. McReynolds explains how the program works and Nakita Harrison, who is enrolled in the project, shares her experience and her attempt to turn her life around.
They are America’s forgotten children, the hundreds of thousands of child prostitutes who walk the Las Vegas Strip, the casinos of Atlantic City, the truck stops on interstates, and the street corners of our cities. Many people wrongly believe sex trafficking involves young women from foreign lands. In reality, the majority of teens caught in the sex trade are American girls--runaways and throwaways who become victims of ruthless pimps. In Somebody's Daughter: The Hidden Story of America's Prostituted Children and the Battle to Save Them, meet the girls who are fighting for their dignity, the cops who are trying to rescue them, and the community activists battling to protect the nation's most forsaken children.
With the power and verity of First They Killed My Father and A Long Way Gone, Rachel Lloyd’s riveting survivor story is the true tale of her hard-won escape from the commercial sex industry and her bold founding of GEMS, New York City’s Girls Education and Mentoring Service, to help countless other young girls escape "the life." Lloyd’s unflinchingly honest memoir is a powerful and unforgettable story of inhuman abuse, enduring hope, and the promise of redemption.
While street prostitutes comprise only a small minority of sex workers, they have the highest rates of physical and sexual abuse, arrest and incarceration, drug addiction, and stigmatization, which stem from both their public visibility and their dangerous work settings. Exiting the trade can be a daunting task for street prostitutes; despite this, many do try at some point to leave sex work behind. Focusing on four different organizations based in Chicago, Minneapolis, Los Angeles, and Hartford that help prostitutes get off the streets, Sharon S. Oselin’s Leaving Prostitution explores the difficulties, rewards, and public responses to female street prostitutes’ transition out of sex work. Through in-depth interviews and field research with street-level sex workers, Oselin illuminates their pathways into the trade and their experiences while in it, and the host of organizational, social, and individual factors that influence whether they are able to stop working as prostitutes altogether. She also speaks to staff at organizations that aid street prostitutes, and assesses the techniques they use to help these women develop self-esteem, healthy relationships with family and community, and workplace skills. Oselin paints a full picture of the difficulties these women face in moving away from sex work and the approaches that do and do not work to help them transform their lives. Further, she offers recommendations to help improve the quality of life for these women. A powerful ethnographic account,Leaving Prostitution provides an essential understanding of getting out and staying out of sex work.
Read the article Fact: Women Often Struggle to Leave Prostitution
Nobody really prepares you for this, when you enter into prostitution. They tell you about burn out, vaguely, dismissively. But not the details. If it happens you just need time off, they’d say. And so you would, at first, take just a few days. Then a few weeks. Then months. Then you’d realise that you were not just suffering from a transient inertia, but headed towards all out atrophy. I saw it many times over the years in prostitution; women becoming depressed, anxious, hallucinatory. Suicidal, even. Like me, some of us end up homeless, if we left the brothel we live in, or the pimp ‘boyfriend’ or we simply lost our homes when we stop making the rent. Prostitution, if it is anything, is a choice between homelessness and having men we don’t like, do things we hate, to bodies we don’t know how to love.