The Alchemy of Pain: Honoring the Victim-Whore

I am writing this for me; and also for you, dear victim. And, you, alleged ally. I write as a full time slut who moonlights as a sex worker (or whore, as I prefer), and has lived most of her life as a victim of sexual assault.

The first time someone touched my pussy I was around 8 years old. It was a relative and it has haunted me. And it feels like a generational curse. My mom survived sexual assault and harassment growing up, too. I imagine my family as a network of authoritative failures, of misdirected affection, of violence confused with tenderness. I was raised by some mistuned and kinky-ass motherfuckers, goddess help them all. And, as a bunch of middle-class white folks, this kind of rampant fuckery gets to happen without the overbearing state surveillance that typically impacts low-income families or families of color.*

I am writing this because some people have this cute number of people they slept with or they get to sheepishly disclose at doctors appointments and I can’t. I don’t. Just like I can’t even count the number of times I was molested or raped. This is because from early on I had no idea what was sex and what was assault. This boldface line was fucked up for me, when my body did disturbing things like respond with desire to the touches of others that repulsed my head, my heart and my soul. It was also fucked up by all of y’all, by a society that glorifies rape-trial melodrama: you know, the ones where the victim is put on trial for the actions of their own perpetrator, their own audacity to exist, and the absurdity of the ass-backwards criminal justice system.

I am writing this to ask you not to use the term “survivor” or “thriver” around me ever the fuck again. This neoliberal bullshit where in I am left to clean up someone else’s mess and to make y’all feel better about it.

I am writing, primarily, though, about a trope, an archetype, a joke that won’t die, and a goddamn law in this society: that victims of child sexual assault become sluts and sex workers – especially sex workers. While such arguments have been smartly tackled by queens like Maggie McNeil and Charlotte Shane. I am writing to argue: OF COURSE WE DO.

Of course we swing from poles, mimicking the playgrounds of our deranged childhoods.

Of course we cloak ourselves in synthetic cheetah skins, like some post-industrial Selkie-o, our own skin stolen from us.

Of course we dress like schoolgirls, attempting to reclaim a precious time of growth that was so rudely interrupted.

Of course we literally fuck authority – rich men who make this world turn (to shit): bankers, CEOs, lawyers and judges. What other relationship with them could we expect to have?

Of course we are vulnerable to trafficking and exploitation, because we don’t know who the fuck to trust in this world, and have been failed by those who were to keep us safe.

Of course we become creators and curators of playtime, of elaborate scenes and fantasies. Playtime was stolen us when we were young, so we understand it best.

Of course we are going to mercantilize this shit in a capitalist system.

Of course we learn to mistrust cops and FBI agents and social workers and drug counselors and nurses and doctors, agents of the prison industrial complex, and the even larger shadow it casts — the non-profit industrial complex. You have been taking our kids, sending us to jail “for our own good” and leaving us there to die for years. Such failures happened before we met these agents of the state — though this is often quite young in our lives — when we learned the devastation inherent in legitimized forms of unearned power.

Of course we position ourselves as close as we can to queens. The strange industry of sex (an industry that is as strange as any other in late-stage capitalism) is, of course, not entirely made of victims of sexual assault. In it you will find masters of the mysterious energy of sex. We needed to be close to those who turn that which hurt us into something magnificent and dazzling.

Of course there will be those hustlers willing to extend the alchemy of this hustle to the furthest logical point, whores like Rachel Moran and Gloria Steinem, who are making millions off their own suffering – and mine. While my blood burns at your twisted logic of prohibition (that which they call “abolition”), my heart breaks because your healing has become a handmaiden to the very systems seeking to destroy our lives.

To all the queen-goddesses out there: You sluts, you whores: I hope that I can some day un-learn this pain to walk among you with such glitter and grace. Thank you for your guidance.

To myself, and my fellow victim-whores: We can stop apologizing for these systems which rendered us their prey. That shit ain’t on us. We do not owe anyone apologies for what was done to us as we heal from it – especially when we as victims are give so few options for doing so.

To those prohibitionists posturing as allies: why must my life be a data point to justify your liberation? What are you going to do to ensure mine, too?

 

* There were no visits from DHS workers, no reports made, no one brought to trial and, thank goddess, because there is no justice nor peace in that mess.

Image Credit: Picasso, Pablo. Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. 1907, oil on canvas, Museum of Modern Art, New York.

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