Choice – a word defined by the Merriam Webster Dictionary as “the opportunity or power to choose between two or more possibilities: the opportunity or power to make a decision.”
What happens when making a decision is motivated by the lack of opportunities or lack of power? Does that decision remain a free choice?
A decision made in the midst of no other option is not a choice. A decision made influenced by the power of someone else is not a choice.
The mixture of the two festers a toxic scenario that is only recognizable as a choiceless choice: a decision made lacking options and influenced by the power of another.
Eighty-nine percent of prostitutes interviewed in the “Prostitution and Trafficking in Nine Countries: An Update on Violence and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder” study stated their desires to leave the world of prostitution. Their choice to remain in the field is not a choice at all, rather a forced decision with no options.
They went on to recognize this disadvantage, stating, “A total of 75 percent [of prostitutes] needed
a home or safe place, 76 percent needed job training, 61 percent needed health care, 56 percent needed individual counseling, 51 percent needed peer support, 51 percent needed legal assistance, 47 percent needed drug/alcohol treatment, 45 percent wanted self-defense training, 44 percent needed childcare and 23 percent wanted physical protection from a pimp.”
Though “Thirty-four percent wanted prostitution to be legalized” in this study, this desire derives from a lifestyle where sex for profit is normalized.
Susan Stafford grew up with an abusive stepfather and a mother who was unable to fulfill her desire for maternal affection. Stafford said she first turned to her peers for affirmation, which was never received.
When Stafford was raped and threatened with a knife for the first time, her friends were absent.
This event, she said, tossed her to rock-bottom. “I wanted desperately to have an out of body experience and remain disoriented until my heart stopped,” Stafford said.
She was then faced with her first choiceless choice. Her step father offered her a place to stay.
“I considered my choices (which at that time there were none) so I seized the opportunity and moved into his small apartment,” Stafford said.
For a woman who was groomed to feel inadequate and unloved, any slight emotion of care seemed like the right option.
She saw no other possibility for herself so naturally, this is the lifestyle she had to take upon herself.
After she moved in with her stepfather, he coerced her to become a prostitute.
After her transformation into a prostitute, Stafford said she “had it all.” She was well-off. But her happiness could only be measured by the materials she had. In reality, she was miserable.
“I was miserable. Miserable under the influence of my pimp rapist and role model stepfather and he was making money off my destruction,” Stafford said.
Stratford decided on her choiceless choice as a result of the normalization of sexual abuse in the place of love. This option is a prominent reason for many people’s participation in the underground sex industry.
A little more than 31 percent of people who go into the industry recognized the reason as a family member who connected them to the business, while 26 attributed their influence to a neighbor.
The “Estimating the Size and Structure of the Underground Commercial Sex Economy in Eight Major U.S. Cities,” study found “Pimps and sex workers cited many of the same factors influencing their decision to become involved in the UCSE [Underground Commercial Sex Economy].”
Pimps described neighborhood influence, family exposure to sex work, lack of job options and encouragement from a significant other or acquaintance as critical factors in their decision to engage in the UCSE.
Tanja Rahms, a former prostitute, said “Prostitution is not a choice, it’s a lack of opportunities.”
Rahms continued by defining prostitution as a buyer’s market.
The men determine the condition, while the only choice given to the woman is whether she “will or will not do anal or will or will not have sex without a condom.”
Even the parameters of the sexual exchange often becomes a choiceless choice. The “Prostitution and Trafficking in Nine Countries: An Update on Violence and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder” study identified 74 percent of prostitutes from the nine countries studied were sexually assaulted while working.
This shows that people who are supposed to make a free choice are actually trapped in the prison of prostitution as a false profession.
They are forced into that way of life not because it is what they want, but because they have no other option.
As a false profession that masks the vulnerability of someone who needs the opportunity to work as a professional rather than a slave, prostitution’s only description is as a choiceless choice.
Anna Glassman can be contacted at email@example.com