VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN / October 2004
looks carefully at the context of the consent, as well as past trau- matic abuses, that this apparent consent to and promotion of prostitution by some women in the sex industry can be under- stood. Playwright Carolyn Gage (in press) has written about the relation between incest, dissociation, and advocacy of prostitu- tion in the life of one woman:
Angie . . . had sexually serviced, she estimated, about two thou- sand men. She owned a home, which she referred to as “the house that fucking built.” As a prostitute, Angie had become a spokes- woman for prostitution. She described herself as a “poster child” for liberal organizations advocating for legalization of prostitu- tion. She was, apparently, their model of the happy, healthy hooker.
Angie’s prostitution was socially supported and paid well. To understand herself as a former child victim would be to see that her seemingly autonomous, even rebellious choices were, in fact, pro- grammed responses to previous torture and captivity. The ele- ments of choice and free will so critical to her sense of personhood were not as she had seen them. With every act of so-called sexual liberation, she was reinscribing her trauma.
For three decades, Angie had had no memories of her sexual abuse as a child. Growing up in the Midwest as the only child of Christian fundamentalist parents, she had not remembered any- thing extraordinary about her childhood. . . . Later, she married and began to participate in group sex and partner-swapping. It was the Sixties, and Angie considered herself liberated. (n.p.)
Angie’s memories of chronic sexual abuse returned only after she had stopped prostitution. Until that time, the memories of childhood abuse were completely split off from her normal con- sciousness. Later, she met a supportive friend and took a class in which she began to write about her life. At this point, memories of the sexual abuse surfaced. For a time, she felt that she had betrayed other women by her previous advocacy of prostitution as a glamorous career choice.
Aprimary function of dissociation is to endure and manage the overwhelming fear, pain, and systematized cruelty that is experi- enced during prostitution in addition to earlier abuse by separat- ing these atrocities from the rest of the self (Ross, Farley, & Schwartz, 2003).
The dissociated identity has a profound investment in denying that it is split off, because the original stakes were usually nothing