I sold sex for a few years. I met many, many men, none of whom gave much of a shit about me. Why should they have? I was just doing a job. Now when I see people talking about prostitution all I hear are women’s voices. It’s women who are debating it, women who are arguing about it. The right to sell sex. The right to choose. Nothing about the right to buy sex. Nothing from men in that regard. Women do everything in the area of ‘women’s issues’. Most of these ‘issues’ exist because of men. This isn’t an insult. It’s just a fact. Sexual violence and sexual abuse, domestic abuse, pimping, grooming; Women run the Rape Crisis Centres and women start up refuges. Women petition the government for better laws and better rape sentencing and it’s the female politicians who work for women’s equality, and women are the activists in male violence against women. Men don’t want to be involved. Men are not on our team. Men don’t want to feel uncomfortable. Men don’t want to know.
I want you to know how much hope it gives me, a survivor of sexual violence, and someone who has experienced prostitution, when a man says something supportive, anything supportive, about women’s experiences. I want you to know how my heart bursts when a man does something as small as signing an online petition. I want you to know how safe I feel when a man denounces the latest shitty rape sentencing. I want you to know how encouraged I feel when a man has the balls to say not in my name. I want you to know how much hope and safety I feel when a man simply wants to discuss these things, these things that involve all men and all women. But it is a very rare occasion, and it is frustrating, and exhausting, and hurtful to know that my male friends, relatives and colleagues care more about protesting water charges than challenging the Irish epidemic of male violence against women. Why should they? Because they are men, with an inherent responsibility to be accountable for the kind of men they are, and the kind of society they contribute to. So it wearies me to know that in this uncomfortable area, men don’t care very much about what other men are doing. If this was the other way around – if women were abusing men as to the same extent that men are abusing women, I would be one of the first to stop everything and say Hold on. What is going on with women? What is happening here? How are we just letting this happen? But men, in general, don’t seem to find that sense of personal responsibility or accountability for the culture they live in. I hope you are the exception to the rule.
If you’ve bought sex, THEATREclub’s play is about you. If you haven’t bought sex it is about you. It doesn’t matter what you think about prostitution. It doesn’t matter if you think it’s okay or not okay, if you think it should be abolished or if you think it should be accepted as a legitimate service. It doesn’t matter how young or how old you are. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never thought about prostitution before. It doesn’t matter if you know a lot or a little about it. It doesn’t matter if you’re an active sex buyer or if you did it once and regret it. What matters is that you recognise that you, as a man living in our society, have a responsibility to engage in conversation about this, and all conversations that revolve around men and women. The root of prostitution, the thing that links it all together, is what men want. You are a man. You are linked to this just how I am linked to this by being a woman.
Volunteering to be part of this play is not a symbol that you are a man against prostitution. This call out isn’t to try to make you compensate for what other men do, or to somehow right some wrongs. This is about you. Your choice to be part of the discussion. Your choice to step up and claim your space in the society you live in. You get to have a say. You are entitled to have a say. This is about a willingness to step into a vulnerable space, for some greater good. It is a symbol that you are curious and humble and want to learn more, about yourself and about everything in your world.
“By taking the risk and being vulnerable you are stepping on to my team. You are with me. I'll be with you.”
And in this place of being curious and humble and wanting to discover more, progress is made, conversations happen, change is made. Enough of holding our hands up and saying it’s not about me, it’s about other people, it’s other people’s problem. I’m not that kind of man. I don’t know enough about it. I don’t care about it. Everything in society is about you. All of your choices are about the society you live in. And all of society is about the choices that its members make. It is time to think about this. Please think about this.
Volunteering for this show is a sacrifice. You’ll sacrifice your sense of security. You won’t know what will happen, or what will be asked of you. It’s scary. You’ll sacrifice your sense of sureness. You will be challenged. All of our choices have costs and benefits. It’s a risk. I had to be brave every time. I didn’t know what or who I was going to encounter. I opened my body to unknown people with whom I had no sense of safety, no ease, no joy. Tense but smiling widely, calmly. I didn’t know how much I’d have to act, how much I could be myself. I was always on guard. Waiting for possible danger, harm, threat or insult. Mentally ready to run. I didn’t know what was going to asked or demanded of me. I laughed easily at their suggestions and politely asked them to remove their hand from my throat. I smiled. I smiled. Everything was a facade. I smiled. I played the game. I was brave. I want to see men being brave for me, for women, for men, for all of us. We need men to be part of this conversation. We need men to take their place. Your sacrifice means so much to me. It means so much to the sacrifices I have had to make in my life. By taking the risk and being vulnerable you are stepping onto my team. You are with me. I’ll be with you.
Make your voice known. Take your place. What you think matters. Your voice is important. Make the choice to be part of a vital exploration that affects every one of us. Will you step up and be part of the difficult conversations that need to be addressed? Or will you sit back in the comfortable seats, just another bystander?
Have courage. Be part of the progress. Step up. Be brave. Be brave for me. I had to be brave for a long time. Be brave for me.
From A Prostitution Survivor Collaborating with THEATREclub on ‘The Game’
If you would like to volunteer, contact Shane at firstname.lastname@example.org- more information by clicking here.