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Prostitution > From fantasy to reality


The oldest business in the world, simply business, necessary evil, slavery … the ideological and moral confrontations concerning prostitution are countless. But, true public debate, that's all.

Since 1946 (see the legal aspect of prostitution in France in this same section of the website), France has adopted a position said to be "abolitionist" which aims at - without forbidding - the extinction of prostitution by the absence of texts regulating it, the penalization of procuring, and several meager grants given to associations working in the field of health and social action.

Since the closing of brothels, prostitution has continued to develop in many other places, settling more recently in new territories such as the minitel and the internet where this activity has more easily escaped police control and the Internal Revenue Services … but also associations offering services to prostitutes.

These new "territories" of prostitution, displacing the activity from the street to the home (or other meeting place) and modifying the method of recruiting clients, give the feeling to people having sexual relations in exchange for money of participating in an activity of escort girl or call girl (terms used on the internet), not a prostitute, the words "prostitution" or "prostitute" having such a pejorative sound, echoing all the other slang terms possible : whore, hooker, etc.

© Yves Lambert

Between fantasy and reality ...

Prostitution is in itself a major fantasy: that of a person (woman or man) sexually available, meaning not refusing a sexual act which it suffices to solicit on the base of an obvious contract, known by everyone: sexual act in exchange for money. It is this contract that qualifies as prostitution.
It is of course a fantasy (quite) essentially masculine: it is obviously men who form the major mass of clients (
To the (male) contract: a little "lovin'" for a little money, the prostitute adds a special clause, generally ignored by clients : get the most money possible and get rid of the client as quickly as possible, which adds up to doing whatever is necessary so that he ejaculates as fast as possible.

Almost all prostitutes did not choose to become prostitutes: except for some rare exceptions, they were forced one way or another, it's an undeniable fact.
Sometimes, it is a socio-economic situation which will have favored getting involved in prostitution; an important need for money linked to an addiction (but many prostitutes need something to be able to work as a prostitute, alcohol or narcotics. From this, we can see that becoming a prostitute has nothing to do with pleasure...): most often, this socio-economic situation does not explain everything.
Often it's emotional manipulation and/or force, quite simply, coercion, sometimes the most savage where threats to the person herself as well as to family and loved ones are very real and very serious.

But most importantly, what makes prostitution possible, especially in the case of female prostitution (but not only ...), is sexual abuse.

In fact, a large majority of women prostitutes were sexually abused while they were small children or adolescents, generally by a family member (incest), father, brother, uncle, ... or by someone close (a friend of the family). Concerning this subject, you can discover some very interesting life stories in this section of the website (here, in French only), this testimonial in the column Questions, messages, answers or, another option, the website of Isa (now unfortunately deleted), a victim of incest and a long-time prostitute.

Even though it has rarely been described in specialized literature and in reality, rarely studied (which doesn't cease to surprise me...), this fact has nevertheless been observed for a long time by teams in the field, such as Antigone in Nancy, the ALC-SPRS in Nice, etc. It has been described by Caroline ALVAREZ-BROGONZOLI in her psychiatry thesis on the subject (research done in Paris and in Nancy), it has been confirmed by certain authors like Guy CORNEAU, (in N'y a-t-il pas d'amour heureux ? Comment les liens parents-enfants conditionnent nos amours ("Isn't there happy love? How parent-child links condition our love"), Collec. J'ai Lu n° 7157, Ed. Robert Laffont, Paris, 1997) which cites a social worker in Quebec who claims that up to 80 % of prostitutes have been a victim of incest (Cf. also Les Enfants de la Prostitution ("Children of Prostitution"), Montreal, VLB editor, 1987).

The consequences of incest or of sexual abuse in children are numerous and catastrophic. It is not our aim here to discuss this question in depth but we can attempt to clarify the relationship which exists between incest and prostitution.

The child (or adolescent) victim of incest will find him or herself before the obligation of having to deal with the worst paradoxes that exist and ... that a child cannot deal with without deeply altering his or her psychic function.

The echo of silence ...

From the silence or from the words of the child victim of incest will depend either the future of his or her ordeal, or the destruction of the family or the family network: to be the cause of the destruction of one's family, to have all fault and responsibility thrown on yourself and/or one of your family members, is a responsibility that most children obviously cannot assume alone and without assistance ... Their silence will then permit the maintenance of the family cell and its stability at the cost of undesired sexual relations, degrading, secret, prohibited and extremely destructive for his or her psycho-emotional development, his or her future sexual life and his or her self-esteem.
From the silence of the child victim of incest or sexual abuse, responds the silence of the prostitute who never denounces the client, in any situation (with the exception of: theft, aggression, etc.) like a strange echo: his or her silence permits a certain social stability and, even that of the family (the spouses are rarely advised of the fact that their partner is a client of a prostitute...) at the price of sexual relations with men not chosen.

This filthy body ...

Men not chosen ... But what on earth can motivate a person to offer their body and their intimacy for such a small sum of money (2) to anyone (3)? Here is a question that many women, for example, ask themselves ...
Incest and sexual abuse explain this "aptitude" well enough. The premature discovery of sexuality, and especially of male sexuality, at an age where the child (or the adolescent) is not capable of understanding will engrave a very devaluing representation of this, of male compulsions, of her own body. Because the sexual act is interpreted as dirty, because rape and incest generate shame and guilt, the body itself is felt to be something dirty and shameful, the victim shuts themselves into a feeling of their own responsibility (4) ...
Furthermore, as neither the child's will or her body is respected by the very adult who is supposed to protect her, as it is this same body which is responsible for her suffering (because it is the object of the desire of the abuser), the body becomes a detested and worthless object in the eyes of its owner who integrates little by little, and parallel to, the idea that this same body is paradoxically the only thing that makes her interesting in men's eyes...
It is thus possible, not to sell it, but to agree to use it for monetary gain.
Listen to C.: "Since the moment when my dignity as a woman and as a human being were stolen from me, I have observed I continually and repeatedly live and relive the same relationships of emotional, physical and sexual abuse, with a variety of men. (...) I began to follow men to their homes, strangers I met in the street. I followed them, let them use my body and then left. And each time, during the entire encounter, I never said a single word, as if a part of me had accepted the idea that I was worth nothing more than providing pleasure to a man. Any man, could use my body as they saw fit. (...) I was responsible for his erection and I had to help him relieve himself, at any price. (...) I cannot describe the number of times that I allowed myself to be used by men who I didn't like, who disgusted me ... but never to the level that I disgusted myself."

Responding to desires of the father...

All children have at least this one wish: to be what their parents expected of them, boys being very sensitive to the desires of their mother, girls to those of their father, as we know...
But when this desire is sexual in nature...?
A young girl that we followed had been raped during her entire childhood and adolescence by her father, a fireman by trade. She became a prostitute for several years at the Porte de la Chapelle in Paris and then sought refuge in the suburbs to escape the world of drugs. Regularly, perhaps once every three or four months, she returned to the Porte de la Chapelle for one or two nights and upon returning home would destroy any money she had left, dirty money, as she called it. We often discussed this sort of "compulsion toward prostitution" with her that we were trying to understand because, each time, these outings made her physically sick and depressive.
One day, she admitted: "Why do I do that? Because I need to degrade myself to please papa."

Incest ... but also rape

Excluding incest and sexual abuse that certain children or adolescents were victims of, rape has, most often, very similar consequences on adults and can, in certain cases, "foster" the passage into prostitution in the same manner.
Certain networks of traffickers have understood this well: Nadia (not her real name) was kidnapped in her home country (Eastern Europe). Locked up for several weeks, she was raped several times every day by several men before being put to work on the Parisian sidewalks ...
It is a common practice ...
Nadia was able to get away thanks to an association: she obtained territorial asylum and has resumed her studies.

Note: you have read that up to 80 % of prostitutes were victims of incest. If we add to this figure sexual abuse (excluding incest) and rapes, we are nearer to 100 % ... On the other hand, you have not read that all victims of incest, sexual abuse or rape are prostitutes, were prostitutes, or will be prostitutes.

Would you like to respond to this page, to provide a testimonial? Write to us...

Notes :
1. By writing this, we are not looking to deny the existence of male prostitution for which women are the clients (gigolos); this form of prostitution does exist. But: 1) it represents an extremely small activity compared to prostitution aimed at men; 2) it generally only develops in wealthy environments; 3) the majority of male prostitutes are prostitutes for male clients. Back to text
2. To have an idea: typical prices (street prostitution): 20 € fellatio (blowjob), 50 € "penetration" (fuck). Back to text
3. This is not completely true. Certain prostitutes declare, for example, "not to do 'drunks', Arabs or Blacks" ... In reality, aside from an apparent xenophobia, prostitutes refuse those clients who seem to be potentially dangerous. It's the rest that we recommend to them ... (see here). Fear is probably the most loyal friend of prostitutes.
Back to text
4. In responding to victims of rape or incest by email on this website, we often must write that the criminal is the rapist (rape is a crime, do we need to remind you?) who make their bed on the silence of the victims and the paradox is that it is the victim who feels guilty... much too often, in any case. Back to text



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home l domestic violence | rape and sexual abuse | harassment | prostitution | homosexuals | birth control and abortion
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