Prostitution is a form of men's violence against women/children.
"I was not challenging the negative self-image I had been raised with and had carried with me all my life. Of course it caused me much suffering in the longer term, but at that time, in a sense, it was easier to accept that it would not be possible for me to assimilate into society than to set about the very frightening task of accepting my own potential."
The word 'prostitute' comes from the Latin pro-stituere, meaning 'to publicly exhibit'. It suggests that someone is put on public display, like a commodity in a shop window, to be examined and sold to anyone who is willing to pay the price. In other words, the word describes quite well what prostitution is all about. In prostitution, not only the body, but the entire human dignity is for sale.
Talita meets women who have been trafficked, but we also meet women in prostitution who have not been transported within or between countries, but who have nevertheless been treated as commodities. Other people, because they can pay for it, have considered themselves entitled to treat them as they please. They have bought access to another person's body to satisfy their own desires. This is not a relationship between equal parties entering into a relationship on equal terms, but a commercial exchange where two parties have different conditions and are in different situations.
Author Kajsa Ekis Ekman describes it as follows: "The split self is a reaction to a sexuality that is the antithesis of what a voluntary and reciprocal sexuality is. A voluntary and reciprocal sexuality is about you actually joining with another person, opening up in some way. It is an intimate situation where you give yourself away. You are experiencing something together with someone. In the case of bought and sold sex, two people are in completely different situations. One person is enjoying and the other person is not enjoying at all. The other person is only there because they have to be, because they want money. They often feel disgusted and don't want to be there at all. You deal with it by shutting down in some way. So if sexuality is usually about surrendering, this is the opposite, it's about shutting down. When you shut down, you can use a variety of strategies and this is something that is documented in testimonies from people in prostitution. For example, you try to think about other things, take another name or reduce the time. You do a lot of different things to avoid feeling and thinking about what you're going through."
In Sweden it is illegal to buy sex, but not to sell your body. This is because in this country, after many years of research(1), we have understood that the person who suffers in prostitution is the one who sells herself (usually a woman) and she therefore needs all the support she can get to leave the sex trade. The buyer on the other hand (usually a man) uses the woman as a commodity, which is completely unacceptable in an equal society. Who is the woman selling her body?
She is the young mother from a southern European country who was left by her husband with a 300 000 SEK debt that was his - a debt that she now pays off to the enforcement authorities in her home country by selling herself in Sweden for one week every month. The alternative would be even worse, to be deprived of her house and home and risk losing custody of her three young children.
She is the girl who sits in the rain and cries, who has cramps and can hardly breathe because her grandfather has raped her repeatedly since she was nine years old and who has been sold to his friends since she was thirteen. Now, at 18, she is hurting herself by meeting men who want to buy her. Not because she wants to, but to relieve the anxiety that wells up as the evening approaches. A desperate attempt to forestall the inevitable and regain control.
She is the woman who can't stop washing . Who has a body full of wounds from hundreds of hours in the shower and futile attempts to scrub away the memories of all the strange hands that have been on her inside and out. She is the girl who was sold by the man who claimed to love her, but who only took advantage of the fact that she was not aware of her own value.She is the girl who couldn't live anymore and who jumped from a balcony in a suburb of Stockholm one late winter night, but who survived.
She doesn't dare go to the swimming pool by herself for fear of being bullied by young guys on the way, guys who have heard rumors that she sells herself in the city on Friday nights. What they don't know is that she has lived with a bottomless pit of self-loathing since her foster father first raped her at the age of five. She puts her whore clothes (as she calls them) on the balcony so as not to "dirty" the apartment.
Several authorities and organizations testify that the number of children and young people exploited in the sex trade and who seek out clinics has increased in recent years. Among other things, adults seek out children and young people for sexual purposes via, for example, gaming apps or social media platforms such as Tinder, Instagram, Snapshat, Grindr, Badoo, TikTok, KiK and Onlyfans. The number of reported crimes involving the purchase of sexual acts from children is also increasing. In 2019, 224 crimes were reported, compared with 131 reported crimes the previous year. Unaccompanied children and young people are also a particularly risky group of migrants that has been highlighted in recent years(2).
Online, so-called sugar dating is advertised as a chance for a young person to meet an older person who is willing to pay for their shared vacations and restaurant visits. In reality, it is usually a disguised form of prostitution, where the sex buyer tries to circumvent the Sex Purchase Act. The fact that sugar dating is a growing problem is evident not least in police investigations. The number of unreported cases is described as large, and how the police prioritize their resources is crucial to getting to the sex buyers. So says police inspector Simon Häggström, who has worked against prostitution and human trafficking for many years.
There is a strong connection between how well you realize your own value as a human being and what you are prepared to be subjected to. We are not saying that there is no one who has chosen a life in prostitution, but we have never come into contact with someone who - after getting to know her more than just superficially - said that she feels good in prostitution. On the contrary, it often turns out that the woman, in order to cope at all, unconsciously dissociates i.e. cuts herself off from her experiences or (in the worst case) divides her person into different parts. We fight for the equal value of all people and therefore refuse to accept that there are people who take advantage of the fact that some people are not aware of their own value.
1) Arne Borg, Folke Elwien, Michael Fruhling, Lars Grönwall, Rita Liljeström, Sven-Axel Månsson, Anders Nelin, Hanna Olsson and Tage Sjöberg, Prostitution. Description. Analysis. Förslag till åtgärder, Liber Förlag 1981 / Stig Larsson, Könshandeln. Om prostituerades villkor, Skeab Förlag 1983 / Sven-Axel Månsson, Könshandelns främjare och profitörer. Om förhållandet mellan hallick och prostituerad, Doxa 1981 / Sven-Axel Månsson og Ulla Karin Hedin, Vägen ut - om kvinnors uppbrott ur prostitutionen, Carlsson Bokförlag 19982)
2) Jämställdhetsmyndigheten, Rapport 2021:23, Dnr: ALLM 2020/100, Göteborg, January 2021