by Jacqueline S. Homan
Recently, Jenna Jameson announced with much reluctance that she was returning to porn, citing financial hardship as the reason. What she did not say was equally important: no other options for earning a decent living in a real job with dignity was afforded to her due to her “past”—something that sex trafficking victims, most of us who are much poorer than Jenna Jameson ever was, are keenly aware of.
This is the big, steaming pile of pachyderm shit in the living room that everyone chooses to ignore.
Now, a lot of people are saying that Jenna Jameson should not be so broke that she would be returning to the same porn industry she was glad to exit; that she got $25 million when she sold ClubJenna to Playboy. Whether or not that’s true, that’s not the point.
Even if she did net $25 million and somehow ended up pissing it all away, that does not excuse the rest of society from its role in denying jobs with dignity and an adequate economic safety net to the overwhelming majority of poor women who managed to escape from the sex trade, usually with just the clothes on their backs, who wanted real options and real jobs—not blowjobs.
Remember: most exited women were/are not anywhere near as well off financially as Jenna Jameson. Most of us can’t even afford food, a roof over our heads, medical and dental care, or anything else we need to rebuild our lives.
Society needs to be held responsible for throwing women and girls away into the prostitute class and preventing so many from escaping by denying us all other options—giving traffickers and johns the green light in the first place.
People always knew sex trafficking was happening in the US and that it mainly impacted poor women from “the Other America” and that it was by design—they just didn’t care.
They knew that there were never enough jobs to go around for everybody and that poor women were pressed into the sex trade for lack of any other options due to discrimination against women for the good-paying “men’s jobs” that don’t require an unaffordable education (which hardly makes it a “choice”) and then made damn sure that no other options would EVER be made available to those who escaped from the sex industry (often with no outside help).
Instead, everyone blames the victim—not because they don’t know any better, but because that’s what makes them feel good about themselves.
No one wants to admit that they are beneficiaries of an unjust system and that poor, marginalized women at the very bottom of the socio-economic heap are everyone else’s place-keepers in this class-bigoted, male supremacist shithole of a greed-driven, misogynistic country. Poor women have been deliberately excluded from the job market and from mainstream society in general due to classism on top of sexism, and stand better than a 50-50 chance of being trafficked here in the US since all the poverty alleviation programs were cut or eliminated (starting with Reagan) —hurting everyone who wasn’t middle class and/or a white male.
As a sex trafficking survivor, I can tell you a LOT about this deliberately indifferent mainstream middle class public who “didn’t know” and who “need to be educated” (yeah, like all those “good Germans” who didn’t know what was being done to the Jews).
Let’s talk about the fact that a good portion of the white middle class johns who were clergymen and other “community pillars, and cops (including homicide detectives and vice squad) who arrested me just to get a “freebie” in exchange for dropping the charges when I was only 13, homeless and trafficked by an outlaw motorcycle gang that owned the “establishment” that they patronized (and when they did, they always requested the youngest girls—those under age 15).
Let’s talk about the judges, probation officers and social workers who had a file a mile thick on Shannon, a fallen sister I personally knew who had been prostituted since she was 9 years old by her mother’s pimp after he threw the mother out of a 3rd floor window leaving her a permanent quadraplegic, as punishment for failing to make her quota— and yet these people from the mainstream middle class did jack shit to help girls like me and Shannon and MILLIONS like us in any real, material and meaningful way. I still remember when the head of Philly’s vice squad laughed after Shannon was arrested (her arrests began at age 9, mind you), calling her “Shannon the pig with a pussy the size of the Grand Canyon.”
Let’s talk about employers’ deliberately unfair employment practices that poor women in desperate need of a job can’t do anything about; the male chauvinist self-entitled, privileged assholes who sexually harass and discriminate against hiring poor women and girls for male-dominated jobs that pay enough to live on, or who tell us that we can have the good jobs we desperately need in post-Welfare Reform America if we “consent” to service them as disposable fuck holes.
Let’s talk about all the middle and upper class women who knew what their husbands, brothers and sons were doing to poor prostituted homeless girls like my younger self, while turning a blind eye and convincing themselves that we somehow “chose” to be where we didn’t want to be, or even BLAMED us for their husbands’ sexual infidelities and transgressions, because at least they had an out-group of “other” women to look down on and feel superior to, women whom NOBODY ever gave a fuck about; women like ME who were discarded by this society and used as human shields to bear the brunt of men’s shit so that the “good women” from the “better” socio-economic classes—the only women who ever mattered—wouldn’t have to experience it for themselves (at least, not to the degree that the prostituted class does).
Let’s talk about the double standards no one ever questions in this society. When a middle class princess like Laci Peterson gets brutally murdered by her philander husband, and when a middle class girl gets raped in college by a frat boy, it’s a tragedy and a crime.
But when a poor woman or girl discarded into the institution of prostitution that is upheld by an entire “Me First” male supremacist society gets raped by 10-20 johns a day who pay for the “right” to do so, or even murdered, NOBODY cares. It doesn’t even count as rape when it happens to us—it’s just as par for the course for being “only whores” and we somehow “deserved” it.
Let’s talk about the rich white male architects of Welfare Reform in government and the vindictive, selfish, spoiled middle class voting public who jumped on their classist, misogynistic bandwagon because they thought that the only way to solve the problem of poverty was to punish the poor (most whom were/are WOMEN) for being poor.
Let’s talk about the prevailing conventional “wisdom” where everyone thought that they should punish the poor out of poverty—a condition that is caused by flawed markets, systemic inequities and discrimination. Everyone felt this was a better way to go than the late president Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society programs (which fell under attack and suffered budget cuts before they could even get a chance to be fully implemented and work).
Let’s talk about the people with the most privileges in this society who REFUSED to entertain requests from feminist scholars like Mimi Abramovitz and April Cherry who asked that the government track the outcomes for the poorest of this nation’s women who were dumped off of AFDC regardless if they were able to get jobs or not, to make sure they weren’t ending up pressed into prostitution with no way out. As of 2001, SIX MILLION of America’s poorest women were economically disappeared. [HINT: They didn't go on a vacation to the French Riviera and forget to come home!]
Let’s talk about the fact that 70% of the poor and 94% of those living below $2/day here in THIS country as well as across the world are WOMEN while MEN are the only people with legal and political rights and have all the jobs, all the money, and own and control 90% of the world’s resources and that there were NEVER enough jobs to go around for everyone who could work who needed and wanted a job but got left out.
Let’s talk about the fact that a whole lot of self-centered, privilege-clinging people of ALL races and BOTH sexes were/are perfectly content to see the poorest, least empowered, unwanted, unloved and unvalued women discarded into the institution of prostitution as the “Final Solution” for poor women, to be used as human shields to bear the brunt of life-threatening poverty and male sexual cruelty and torture, and then punished for the rest of our lives by everybody else for what was done to us by others who DID have a choice.
Let’s talk about how those of us are treated who managed to escape the sex industry only to end up dying from extreme poverty and lack of access to medical care decades before any other subgroup of the population, not including the many who ended up dying while in “the life.” The life expectancy for poor sex trafficked or otherwise sexually exploited women is 37 years. Very, very few of us live to see 40 or 50, while the life expectancy rate for middle class women who have not been pressed into the sex trade is almost 80.
Nearly everyone knew that they were participating in pushing the poorest and most disadvantaged women straight into the institution of prostitution, and giving the pimps, traffickers, and johns a green light since it would be only the VICTIMS who would bear the full weight of the consequences for sexual slavery and exploitation—for the rest of our lives, causing us to be denied jobs and access to resources so we can survive with a little bit of human dignity while we struggle for years, even decades, trying to rebuild our lives with no real material help and no support because EVERYBODY looks down on us like we’re scum after they made sure that the gutter and an early grave was the ONLY place we were allowed to have in this society.
This society has the blood of the poorest, most marginalized, and vulnerable women and girls on its hands, and I refuse to be polite about that. And one need not read Macbeth to know that blood isn’t so easily washed away.
As an impoverished trafficking survivor fighting for human dignity, to abolish slavery and fighting for restorative justice for those of us who are struggling for our lives and basic human rights as victims of an industry of sexual torture, slavery, and the added oppression of stigmatization which has barred me from any employment in post-Welfare Reform America, your support is desperately needed so I may continue my work in educating the public about this very important human rights issue. Please donate to support my work and my quest for restorative justice. Thank you.
Jacqueline S. Homan