Some facts about the sex industry

If ‘sex work is work’ as we are told, then we must ask, “How many other ‘jobs’……have such a high proportion of people with backgrounds of CSE or other forms of childhood adversity?”
That so many women entering the industry have had experiences earlier in life of childhood adversity – often childhood sexual exploitation or abuse – raises important questions about whether ‘sex work’ might at times be a re-enactment of trauma or an effort at trauma reversal.
One female survivor of the industry explained her involvement in it this way: “Traumatic situations can be addictive because they cause a massive release of adrenaline – and that is addictive. I learned from early childhood on: The place where I am afraid, where I am hurt, where I am degraded, is the place where I belong. That is home.”

As understanding of Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) grows, the ‘dots need to be joined’ by social care professionals to understand that women involved in prostitution are frequently the same person as the exploited child (Coy, 2016). Yet there are very different legal approaches around CSE and prostitution, as if an individual child’s ability to make decisions and choices develops overnight as they attain adulthood.

Multiple and Intersecting Experiences of Women in Prostitution, Hodges and Burch

…come with such high levels of violence (other than the military or emergency services)?

For in-person meet-ups, sex worker unions issue advice such as checking under the pillow or bed for weapons, never wearing a necklace or a scarf because of the risk of choking, planning exit strategies, keeping one’s eyes on the client at all times, etc. The list of precautions is lengthy. Women are advised that danger cannot be ruled out entirely and “you may have to submit in order to preserve your life” (National Ugly Mugs safety advice).

Whatever measures they take, the reality is that women in the sex industry are always at a high risk of experiencing violence. A report on prostitution issued by the UK Parliament’s Home Affairs Committee cites findings that it is one of the most dangerous occupations in the world, with “near pandemic levels of violence.”

Online options may seem to eliminate risk, but this can be misleading. Women can find it hard to set boundaries when clients are demanding more and more degrading acts for their money, and there have been cases of stalking and harassment linked to webcamming. And with more and more women entering the webcamming industry, competition has forced prices down, leading to women sometimes carrying out increasingly degrading and dangerous acts online to maintain clients and ensure positive feedback.

…are so strongly aligned with dissociative disorders and drugs and alcohol abuse?

Dissociation lies at the heart of women’s experiences in the sex industry. Not only are they groomed into complicity with the industry’s own dissociative claims, persuaded that what they’re experiencing is something they want and enjoy and is even empowering to them, they often go on to find that they can only survive the degradation and trauma of their participation in it by developing their own mechanisms of dissociation, such as trying to disconnect their minds from their bodies during sex acts, and/or by abusing substances.

Those who have exited often speak of a bell-curve experience – the initial lure, and subsequent euphoria, of financial rewards giving way gradually to an array of trauma-related symptoms. Alongside dissociative disorders and addiction, many experienced anxiety, PTSD, feelings of shame and hopelessness and even suicidal ideation.

Relume is the working name of Relume Stoke CIO, a charity registered in England and Wales (registration number 1202524)