Farley / HARMS OF PROSTITUTION
Prostitution is like rape. It’s like when I was 15 years old and I was raped. I used to experience leaving my body. I mean that’s what I did when that man raped me. I went to the ceiling, and I numbed myself because I didn’t want to feel what I was feeling. I was very frightened. And while I was a prostitute I used to do that all the time. I would numb my feelings. I wouldn’t even feel like I was in my body. I would actually leave my body and go somewhere else with my thoughts and with my feelings until he got off, and it was over with. I don’t know how else to explain it except that it felt like rape. It was rape to me. (Giobbe, 1991, p. 144)
A New Zealand pimp of 25 years, B—, reported that after turn- ing one trick, almost all of her girls knew whether they could sur- vive prostitution. According to this pimp, 30% of women abso- lutely could not endure prostitution. It is likely that this 30% who could not continue were those who could not dissociate. Making a similar observation about women in the Netherlands, Vanwesenbeeck (1994) noted that what she called a dissociative proficiency contributed to a “professional attitude” among women in Dutch prostitution (p. 107). A Thai woman said, “You make yourself empty inside” (Bishop & Robinson, 1998, p. 47).
[In prostitution] I would just go someplace else mentally as well as emotionally. Soon I just lost track of days at a time. When I was awake, I started feeling “invisible.” When I would come back home from a call, I used to stand in front of a mirror and pinch myself just to see if I was real. Spending months with people just looking at your body can make you wonder if “you” exist at all. (Williams, 1991, p. 80)
“Memory is an amazing thing. I leave here [brothel] and I can’t re- member a thing” (Farley, 2003a). Another woman described the gradual development of a dissociated identity during the years she was prostituted in strip clubs:
You start changing yourself to fit a fantasy role of what they think a woman should be. In the real world, these women don’t exist. They stare at you with this starving hunger. It sucks you dry; you become this empty shell. They’re not really looking at you; you’re not you. You’re not even there. (Unnamed woman, personal inter- view, May 10, 1998)
It is confusing to many, including governments, that women in prostitution appear to consent to prostitution. It is only when one