Young adults have been hit especially hard by the economic downturn. College tuition has more than doubled in the past twenty years and continues to soar even higher despite the fact that jobs are harder to come by and starting salaries have decreased. Increasing numbers of students are struggling to get by and many will have racked up tens of thousands of dollars worth of debt by the time they complete their degrees. In addition, large numbers of these students will be forced to move back home with their parents at some point after graduation out of economic necessity.
In a recent article published in the Huffington Post, the author mentioned the numerous websites that have sprung up in recent years promising to help young women struggling with the enormous financial burden of college to find wealthy benefactors, commonly referred to as “sugar daddies,” to help with the expenses of dorm, tuition and books or pay off student loans.
A young woman interviewed for the article described her experience of hooking up with a man she met through one of these websites saying she had to brace herself to endure the afternoon of having sex. Taylor said she just wanted to get the act over as soon as possible. The man she hooked up with gave her three hundred and fifty dollars at the time he dropped her off at the train station. Her initial thought was, “Not bad for an afternoon of work,” but she agonized over the fact that she just had sex for money and said she felt dirty afterwards. It’s very important for us to pay attention to these kinds of feelings because they are signals letting us know we are doing something harmful to ourselves.
I feel a great deal of concern when I hear about young women like Taylor. Most do not realize the consequences of their actions and are just doing the best they can to survive. It is so easy to stray off on some kind of destructive path and even more so during the stage of our lives where we are making our way out into the world. Sadly, many never find their way back.
I’ve come across many individuals over the years in their late teens and early twenties who were struggling to find their way. In many instances they were not able to afford my services. I would go ahead and work with them anyway, because I felt a sense of responsibility to do whatever I could to reconnect them to their soul or the spirit that resides within and help them develop the resources they needed to get them on track with their own life’s purpose.
I met a young woman years ago while living in Albuquerque, New Mexico who was involved in some form of religious cult. Leyla didn’t seem to possess the resources to make it on her own after she fell out of the cult and ended up auditioning to work as a stripper in one of the clubs. I was saddened to learn about Leyla’s decision to work in a strip club and ended up spending a few hours talking with her over the phone about the consequences of her actions.
“The presence in those strip clubs feels absolutely horrible. Dancing nude in front of a bar full of men with all kinds of serious issues makes you vulnerable by opening you up to a great deal of emotional, energetic and psychic toxicity. Many of these same men are going to be fantasizing about you later that night when they go home and jerk off.”
“Working as a stripper is only a step above prostitution. You’re having to make physical contact with a lot of men that you would never in your life want to interact with. An exchange of energy takes place any time you’re making physical contact with the men you entertain in the clubs. The men whose laps you gyrate on as you do lap dances are going to become sexually aroused and to some degree you will too. That’s going to make you even more likely to absorb the negative energies and emotions held within their bodies. Are you sure you want to be subsisting on a steady diet of that?”
I left Albuquerque soon after that conversation. I received a call from Leyla a few months later. Leyla told me I helped her to see the consequences of her actions and she realized after dancing a few nights in the club that the price wasn’t worth paying.
Exposing our bodies in an environment like a strip club or having sex with someone with whom we have no desire to be with is a very unpleasant experience that evokes all kinds of uncomfortable feelings. Our normal response is to shut down parts of our consciousness by pushing the uncomfortable feelings outside of our conscious awareness. That causes us to become very numb or desensitized. Blocking feelings and experiences out of our awareness doesn’t mean they will go away. Our bodies continue to hold onto the horrible feelings, emotions and energies we internalize from working in such a toxic environment.
Women who engage in prostitution and other forms of sex workers have to shut down parts of themselves in order to do their job and that accounts for their tendency to become very armored. I can always see and feel the parts of the self that have shut down and disconnected. I can also feel the toxic energies and emotions from all the people they’ve had sex with that they are holding within their bodies.
The act of engaging in sex with a complete stranger that we have no desire to be with is an intimate bodily invasion. These feelings are greatly magnified when we find the other person unattractive or disgusting. Many dissociate by switching off or separating from the experience taking place within their bodies and that further exacerbates the harm done. The parts of ourselves that we disconnect from are left holding the trauma and that can prevent us from being fully present or developing the resources we need to be fully functional.
Large numbers of women involved in prostitution exhibit signs and symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder that are similar to people who have experienced rape or incest. They commonly suffer from anxiety, depression, insomnia and irritability. Many also report feelings of being emotionally numb, are tortured by recurrent nightmares and flashbacks and live in a state of emotional and physical hypervigilance. They frequently suffer from physical conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome and are also highly prone to eating disorders.
Women involved in the sex trades often cope by self-medicating with tobacco, alcohol and other substances to numb themselves to the energies and emotions associated with what they’re doing. The use of substances deadens their consciousness so they don’t have to feel what’s happening, but that leaves them even further desensitized and disconnected from their authentic core self.
I’ve known and have worked with a number of prostitutes and strippers over the years. I’m always curious to understand more about them, the choices they’ve made along the way and the struggles they have gone through. A few of the women I have worked with told me that they find their work enjoyable at times and that they even look forward to seeing some of the men who come to them on a regular basis.
Some men and women become highly sexualized as a result of sexual trauma that occurred during the early stages in their lives. In many instances they’ve learned to get attention or validation through their sexuality. A large percentage of women involved in stripping and prostitution were sexually abused as children. Working in the sex trade is a continuation of their early life experience of being sexually exploited.
A friend of mine went into prostitution after her husband left her with three young children because she didn’t see any other way that she could support herself. Most of the women I’ve encountered who are involved in the sex trade are not doing what they do by choice. Many have not been able to complete their education or develop the skill sets and other resources that would enable them to succeed in our society. They’re often doing the best they can to survive.
Most people tend to become very heavy and stagnant as they age. Older men who solicit prostitutes or seek money for sex arrangements with young college girls struggling to get by are usually not in good health. Many drink, smoke and consume unhealthy foods. Most are holding a great deal of anger, resentment, grief, loss and other toxic emotional baggage pertaining to loveless marriages, bitter divorces, custody battles and other dramas that have played out in their lives within their bodies. Women who prostitute themselves to these men are opening themselves up to this toxicity. They take on or absorb the energies and emotions of any person with whom they become physically intimate. They also take on some of their karma, sickness and the toxic dramas in their lives. Much of this toxicity remains trapped within the body indefinitely.
Stripping or prostituting one’s self may appear for some to be a quick and easy way to make money, but it is also a very dangerous game to be playing. Making large amounts of money so quickly can be very tempting, but we need to ask ourselves, “Exactly how much is my soul really worth?”
I have known women who had the ability to go into sex work for a period of time, do what they felt they needed to do and then get out. Many have gone into prostitution with the intention of saving the money they needed to create a better life, but were never able to hold onto what they made. The danger for many is they grow so accustomed to the kind of lifestyle afforded by prostitution and often find themselves sinking ever deeper into a hole they cannot escape from.
Women who prostitute themselves are forced to rely upon their physical beauty to make it in the world, but it’s only a matter of time before age and gravity take their toll and the looks fall apart. The process of shutting down or disconnecting that takes place among women involved in the sex trade has a crippling effect. Those who fail to develop skills and resources to stand on their own operate at a deficit which leaves them little, if anything, to fall back on.
I stopped over in Thailand on numerous occasions while waiting for my connecting flights to India and Sri Lanka. I realized very quickly that Thailand was one of the world’s primary sex tourism destinations. Large numbers of Thai and other Southeast Asian women are involved in prostitution to varying degrees. Women and girls who have been sold into sexual slavery are often forced to work in houses of prostitution. It is also fairly common for young attractive Thai women to hang out in bars looking for wealthy, by their standards, foreigner boyfriends who travel to Thailand on vacation. As soon as one boyfriend leaves they go out to the bars and find a new guy. These women often call or write letters to their “boyfriends” after they return home to ask for more money.
Women in developing nations such as India, Pakistan and the various African republics are often forced into prostitution after being widowed or abandoned by a husband because of their inability to conceive. Thousands of young women and girls in Nepal have been drugged, kidnapped and sold into prostitution across the border in India. Many are eventually murdered and a large percentage of these girls and young women contract HIV and eventually die. In many instances their families never see or hear from them again. India’s law enforcement and government is largely complicit by failing to shut down the houses of prostitution and prosecute the perpetrators of these horrific crimes.
Men who have struggled financially at some point in their lives know what it’s like to be passed over by women who evaluate a man’s worth based upon his financial status. There will always be women who look for men who can buy expensive dinners, clothing and jewelry, take them on the vacation of their dreams and pay off their debt. Such women never learn to stand firmly on their own two feet. Another young woman interviewed in the Huffington Post article said, “I’m choosing one or two men I actually like spending time with and have decided to develop a friendship with them. While sex is involved, the focus of our interaction is on providing friendship. It’s not only about getting paid.”
It is so easy to come up with all kinds of rationalizations to justify our actions. But we need to be fully honest by asking ourselves, “Is this someone with whom I truly desire to be intimate?”
There is so much shame and stigma attached to prostitution. Women who become engage in prostitution are often forced to lead double lives. Most cannot tell their friends or families what they are doing and that leaves them with a feeling that they always have something to hide. Having to hide parts of one’s self makes it very difficult to be fully present.
Opening ourselves sexually to another individual is an experience that reaches very deep into our psyche. Sexuality is a very important part of our process of personal and spiritual growth. Selling our bodies to someone we don’t want to be intimate with corrupts or contaminates the very deep and personal parts of ourselves through which we develop intimate bonds.
It can be very difficult for a woman to break out of prostitution and go to a regular job that only pays a fraction of the huge sums of money she is used to making as a sex worker. Many never develop the resources they need to make it in the world. That accounts for the fact that so many of them end up on welfare or disability and find themselves living in public housing or out in the streets.
Women who engage in prostitution are placing themselves at great risk. In many instances they are forced to engage in unprotected sex. Many have experienced unwanted pregnancies and miscarriages. They are far more likely to contract sexually transmitted diseases such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes, syphilis, the human papilloma virus and HIV/AIDS. They often test positive on pap smears and have a much higher incidence of pelvic inflammatory disease. Greater exposure to sexually transmitted diseases also increases their likelihood of developing cervical cancer.
Women involved in prostitution experience extremely high levels of violence and often find themselves in grave danger. Many report being robbed, beaten or sexually assaulted and some have also been killed.
Some of the wealthy “sugar daddies” seeking money for sex arrangements with young women saddled with enormous amounts of debt like to see themselves as providing a service that will ultimately help them to create a better life for themselves. In reality, these men are inflicting tremendous harm by exploiting the vulnerabilities of young women who are struggling to survive.
Young women are more likely to fall into stripping or prostitution during times of economic hardship when they see no other means of covering their expenses. These young women would be much less likely to find themselves in a position where they feel that they have to sell their bodies in order to pay off their education debt if our government would stop feeding vast amounts of money into senseless wars that can never be won and corporate subsidies and the wealthy were made to pay their fair share of the taxes.
Having compassion for ourselves and others
I feel a great deal of concern for and compassion for people and the struggles they go through in order to survive. It’s important to keep in mind that we have all done things in our lives that we are not especially proud of. We all prostitute ourselves or compromise our integrity in one way or another at various points in our life. It’s important for us to come to come from a place of acceptance and compassion for ourselves. We also need to demonstrate understanding and compassion for others by reaching out to help others along the way whenever we can make a difference.
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