Ms. Iraq Comments on the Prostitution of Iraqi Women and Girls
By Suki Falconberg
Miss Iraq 2008, Myra Adel, noticed one of my articles on the Iraqi sex trade and e-mailed me about what she had seen when she visited Syria, a country where Iraqi refugee women and girls, rendered desperate by the war, are being sold for prostitution.
I asked for her permission to use the information, since e-mail correspondence is private; and she urged me to share it with the world, in hopes we will all help. Before I do, though, a little background, from other sources, on what is happening. About 50,000 Iraqi refugee women and girls are being sold for sex. There is a large sex trade in young Iraqi girls in the nightclubs of Damascus. Fourteen- and fifteen-year-olds—literally girls–not even women yet, and even children, are being sold. (MSNBC, CBS, CNN, Reuters, the Associated Press, Salon Magazine, the UK Guardian, the Independent, the New York Times, the Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children, the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq, Human Rights Watch—all have covered the Iraqi prostitution situation due to the war. See “Sources” below for information and for some coverage of the prostitution picture inside Iraq as well.)
Myra Adel, Miss Iraq, adds a valuable eyewitness account and she also explains that her trip to Syria is the reason she is stepping down as Miss Iraq 2008: “They have been great to me but I will no longer be involved with the Pageant, due to the fact that I really couldn’t take it when I saw all those refugees in Syria being mistreated…seeing these people suffer made me ashamed….I don’t deserve to live in a classy apartment while other women are selling themselves.”
Miss Adel is shocked at what she saw in Syria, like the sale of ten-year-old girls. “What kind of sick demented human being would want to have sex with a 10-year-old?” she asks.
Ms. Adel also comments on the ineffectiveness of the UN High Commission for Refugees and on local corruption: “I couldn’t take it seeing the UNHCR just sitting there doing nothing, while governments like the Syrian government and the Jordanian government see this as an opportunity to manipulate the countries of the world to donate millions of dollars to Syria and Jordan and the money goes into the pockets of government officials and the U.N. staff.” She goes on to say that “the Syrian and Jordanian governments are taking advantage of the refugee situation to turn it into a profitable business.” And she thinks that greed and apathy on the part of Iraq and the U.S. are also responsible for the plight of the women. Of course, she could not be more on-target: the terrible sexual exploitation of women as a result of war is always extremely low on all governmental, political, and military agendas. It is important in so far as others can make money off the women’s bodies and use them for male convenience: but it is not an aspect of war where anyone pays attention to female safety, dignity, and well being at all.
It is interesting that Ms. Adel notes the failure of the UN in this matter since I have asked, in my own writings, where the UNHCR funds are going in Syria. The UN is extremely well funded. It would seem that not one single Iraqi teen should be for sale in a Damascus nightclub if all that money is going where it should be going. (For a good summary of the corruption problems at the UN, see Nile Gardiner’s article, “Kofi Annan’s ‘Legacy of Failure’” [11 Dec. 2006] at www.heritage.org). Someone to monitor the UN is one of Ms. Adel’s suggestions.
Ms. Adel also criticizes the current government in Iraq for not implementing social programs to help refugees. The Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq (www.equalityiniraq.com), headed by Yanar Mohammed, is a good source for the hardships of women forced into prostitution within the country.
Ms. Adel admits she is not a politician (neither am I, for that matter); but she makes some sensible suggestions for getting help to these girls. She believes that “humanitarian organizations headed by governments that have a…corruption-free status should monitor the money being sent to the refugees and the money should be given to them instead of the Jordanian or Syrian government.” And she would like to see “more NGO’s from Scandinavian countries and other European countries set up offices in Amman and Damascus.” She also thinks that getting people to talk about this issue would be a big step.
She says that the “annual government budget in Iraq exceeds 70 billion US dollars. Where is that money going? Power cuts are long, people get electricity for only an hour or two a day…water is cut off as well.” She would like to see some of the money going to fund the Iraqi women and girls in Syria who are so desperate they must sell themselves to survive. Ms. Adel brings up a great question—to repeat it—where is the money in Iraq going? Is US and Iraqi corruption, combined, so overwhelming that a few are getting enormously rich and the majority of Iraqis are suffering terrible hardships, and in the case of the subject of this article, the women in prostitution, those hardships mean bodies and lives that will be nightmares forever from this degradation.
A story entitled “Iraq’s Oil Profits Huge” by Kevin Hall (McClatchy Newspapers) came out just a few days ago (Aug. 5, 2008), and it reports that “Iraq…racked up $32.9 billion in oil earnings from January through June of this year.” In my view, with those kinds of funds, the Iraqi government could extensively care for all of those 50,000 suffering women and girls whose bodies and lives have been so degraded. It could provide for that 10-year-old Iraqi girl prostitute for the rest of her life and give her the counseling and care and protection and safety she deserves.
In my view, the story of the 10-year-old Iraqi girl, forced to have sex for money, this is war. All the rhetoric of politicians and journalists cannot excuse what has happened to her. All the fancy phrases about a war being “A Right War” or “A Just War” have any meaning for her. Is the woman who must walk the streets of Baghdad and sell her body to feed her children in any way aware of the politicians, sitting in their neat offices, making the decisions that have destroyed her life? Would she consider this ‘a right war’ and ‘a just war’ and a war for her ‘freedom’? What do these men and women–who have endless debates, in their safe offices, about policy and weapons and troop reductions–have to do with her? The thing is: a woman never, ever thinks: what a great war this is—it has given me the ‘freedom’ to sell my body.
War never benefits women. Condi Rice, you are supposedly a woman. Explain to me how Operation Iraqi Freedom works? How does it benefit the 50,000 or more prostituted women and girls you have destroyed?
Miss Iraq mentioned to me that Trump is behind the Miss Universe pageants and that she thinks he might be a possible source of support. She says that “the Miss Iraq organizers are working on creating awareness and they are taking this matter very seriously.”
The most moving part of her e-mail was her description of a visit to prostituted Iraqi girls in a Syrian prison. “I spoke to some of them,” Ms. Adel writes, “and they said they would rather be in prison than have to go back out there and get abused by Saudi, Kuwaiti, and other Gulf States men who still hold grudges against Iraq and find pleasure in abusing Iraqi women to make them pay for Iraq’s war against these Gulf States in 1991.”
It is the same old story of men using women’s bodies as battlefields, and the women have no chance of victory in this kind of war.
“Please help these girls,” says Miss Iraq, in her e-mail. What came through in Ms. Adel’s e-mails to me is how deeply troubled she is by what she has seen. And her passionate commitment to help these women and girls.
I wrote to her that I think she should try to contact Oprah. Airing this topic on Oprah would be a big first step. It is definitely the kind of subject Oprah might cover and she is likely to find the views of Ms. Iraq on the subject timely and profoundly moving. Oprah has done similar shows–one on child prostitution in Asia–and it would certainly be of interest to her viewers to know what is happening in terms of wartime prostitution as a result of our occupation and the corruptions in the UN and in Jordan and Syria.
This writer would welcome suggestions from readers about what all of us can do to help.
I don’t usually append a formal works cited to my articles, since informal, in-text citation seems more the convention of the internet; but here I am adding a list of sources where readers can find information about the prostitution situation of Iraqi women and girls. If a first step is awareness, the information is out there. Once enlightened and informed, people have no excuse but to act—whether it be campaigns to enlighten millions of others, or pressure put upon organizations, politicians, and governments to act.
Anwar, Layla. “An Arab Woman Blues” 2006-2008. Blog.
Caryl, Christian. “Iraqi Vice: Porn, Prostitution and Booze.” Newsweek 22 Dec. 2007
Clark-Flory, Tracy. “Iraqi Women Sell Sex for Survival.” Salon 29 May 2007
Davis, Sue. “Sexual Exploitation of Iraqi Women: Another Reason to Bring the Troops Home.” Workers World. 8 Oct. 2007
“Desperate Iraqi Refugees Turn to Sex Trade in Syria.” New York Times 29 May 2007
Engle, Richard. “In Syria, Girls March as Timebomb Ticks.” 10 July 2007 MSNBC.
Firmo-Fontan, Victoria. “Abducted, Beaten and Sold into Prostitution: A Tale from Iraq.” Independent 26 July 2004
Gardiner, Nile, Ph.D., “Kofi Annan’s ‘Legacy of Failure.’” The Heritage Foundation. 11 Dec. 2006
Goldenberg, Suzanne. “US Soldiers Accused of Sexual Assaults.” The Guardian 8 Mar. 2005
“Iraqi Women: Prostituting Ourselves to Feed Our Children.” Arwa Damon. CNN 15 March 2008
“Iraqi Refugee Women and Youth in Jordan.” Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children. Sept. 2007
Jamail, Dahr, and Ali al-Fadhily. “Rape Case Emerges from Shadows.” 3 Mar. 2007
“Iraqi Women Paying the Price.” 24 Jan. 2005
“Johns, Prostitution and Iraq.” Apostate. 28 Aug 2007
Lloyd, Carol. “Survival Sex in Iraq.” Salon 7 Dec. 2007
Lyons, Alistair. “Iraqi Refugees Turn to Sex Trade in Syria.” Reuters 31 Dec. 2007
Macleod, Hugh. “Despair of Baghdad Turns into a Life of Shame in Damascus: Young Women Fleeing War and Poverty Fall Prey to Sex Traffickers.” The Guardian 24 Oct. 2006
McNutt, Debra. “Is the Iraq Occupation Enabling Prostitution?” Psyche, Science, and Society. 11 July 2007
Morgan, Robin. “Their Bodies as Weapons” Guardian UK 21 Aug. 2006
Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq
Palmer, Elizabeth. “Iraqi Refugees Turn to Prostitution.” CBS News 31 Dec. 2007
Phillips, Joshua E.S. “Unveiling Iraq’s Teenage Prostitutes.” Salon 24 June 2005
“The Rape of Iraq.” Women’s Space 8 July 2008
Riverbend. Baghdad Burning: Girl Blog from Iraq. New York: The Feminist Press at the City U of New York, 2005.
Rosen, Ruth. “The Hidden War on Women in Iraq.” Mother Jones 13 July 2006
Ross, Sherwood. “Rape of Iraqi Women Byproduct of Militarism.” OpEd News 10 Apr 2007
Sarhan, Afif. “In Iraq, Sex is Traded for Survival.” Arab American News
“Sex Traffickers Target Women in War-Torn Iraq.” Organization of Women’s Freedom 1 Nov. 2006
“Sexual Violence and Abduction of Women and Girls—Iraq.” Human Rights Watch 2003
Sinan, Omar. “Iraqi Refugees Turn to Prostitution.” Associated Press 25 Oct. 2007
Wolf, Joerg. “Prostitution in Iraq.” Atlantic Review 26 Aug. 2007
“Women, Children and Youth in the Iraq Crisis: A Fact Sheet.” Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children Jan 2008
Suki Falconberg is a former prostitute and the author of two novels: Tender Bodies and Whore Stories and its sequel, Comfort the Comfort Women. Both are erotic satires on military prostitution and can be ordered at www.amazon.com, www.barnes&noble.com, and www.borders.com. She has a non-fiction account of military prostitution, The Raped Vagina, coming out in the fall of 2008.
“I feel, now, if I were assaulted again, or witness to the assault of another, I would go for blood. Kali, that hindu goddess of death and destruction, of time and change, resides in my heart now, has for years, all of these years since I learned to recognize rape. I see myself tearing flesh from bone, blood dripping from my lips, and wearing a necklace of skulls. It is not the innocent I wish to devour. I would purge this earth of it’s rapacious pretending-to-be-human werewolves, prey on the predators. I would make the world safe to be a child or a girl or a woman or a little boy.”
by Rebecca Gibson
I guess I’ve always known, deep inside, without really saying it, that if I ever started writing this would all come tumbling out. It’s not like I’ve repressed it, it’s been there all along. But I’ve had it stored inside of me in chopped-up bite-sized pieces. A little here, a piece of it there, some of it kinda thrown out back – some in a box in the garage, bits of it in a junk drawer, odds and ends in various pockets and stuffed in old purses in the back of my closet. A little in this poem, a little in that one.
When I read a short story describing a man’s foray into a bar in terms of predator and prey, it all came twisting out of my heart like a tornado; my thoughts and feelings flying off of my fingers like fire, out and out and out and onto the page, set loose and led out on a leash by that one little word: PREY. There it was, the thing it is best not to talk about except…..
It’s the subject that encompasses all other subjects, the untold unacknowledged unpopular un-PC unseemly truth-telling summing up of all human history. Predators and their prey. Prey. From the dictionary: One that is defenseless, especially in the face of attack; a victim. From my life: Womankind. Children. The poor. People of color. So-called enemies. Prey. Animals. Earthly things. Smaller, vulnerable, desirable, mute, powerless, invisible, exploitable, import-or-exportable, usable, consumable, sell-able, dominate-able. Prey. Here’s what I wrote in response to the story:
‘Prey to your predator, yeah, I’ve been there. The silliness of adolescence and the subjugation of womanhood, flattered by wanted and unwanted attention, preyed upon, but now I know. I know now that attraction based on domination is rape, not love. Sex that is about power rather than affection is rape, not love. A pursuit meant to prop up a limp sense of self-esteem is rape, not love. It has taken me a long time to call it what it is. I was there, wasn’t I? I liked this boy, this man, this predator, didn’t I? I got what I wanted, didn’t I? No. I didn’t. Not even close. I longed to be seen and known and understood, savored like the tasty delicacy that I am; a shared embrace, mutual appreciation, meaningful connection, sincere and thoughtful conversation, heartfelt exploration….of that most sacred of human mysteries known as sex.
So I am woman.
Bearer of possibility,
Carrier of creations space.
I hold mystery within me.
Fullness is my very nature,
Paradox, my fate.
Oh, she is feared!
For her anger and knowing,
Most for her vision.
Justice is a woman.
She has been raped
Peace is a woman.
Men have spit
In her face.
Life itself is a woman,
Taken for granted until
She threatens to leave.
Forgiveness is a woman-spirit.
Powerful quiet beautiful true
Difficult – she is the healer.
I will honor womanspirit.
In flowers and fertility,
In dreams and moonwinds.
I wrote the poem above, and many others like it, many, many years ago, after I was able to call rape rape, subsequently recovering the ability to see my own beauty and value, and the quiet dignity of all my raped sisters and all of the women treated as prey since time began. Where would you boys be without your mama? She should have taught you better, but perhaps she had forgotten, perhaps she’d had the inherent inner wisdom of what’s right and what’s rape raped right out of her before you ever came along. Rape-shit males, I’ve heard them called. Predators. Horny boys and insecure men. Using, abusing, and losing your soul. My work is done here.’
That’s what I wrote. And that felt right and true. But when I said my work is done here I couldn’t have been more wrong. I said all of that like I’m over it, like it’s done. Well, it is and I’m wiser, but the damage was delivered straight to the part of my soul that lives behind my breastbone, that warm light I need in order to know who I am, the vibration that lives in my voice, sparkles in my eyes and twinkles in the center of every cell. My own bright buzz of being. I don’t know what it did to me, what happened to me, what it’s doing to me now. I still love and my love burns bright and true. My heart blazes. It isn’t broken. Well, it is, but it’s better like that. It is light unencumbered, being contained as it is in a shattered vessel, and it burns strong and vicious, deep and incandescent, fiery light and a radiant inner heat.
Now. I know what I need to do; gather it all up and put it all together, here in the one room of the present moment, where it can be appraised as a whole. Sized up, seen as one thing, weighed and measured and reassessed; I don’t even know if – all lumped together like that – it will fit back inside my heart and mind without crowding all the light and beauty out. I might have to smash it into pieces again.
And then, there it is, the whole arid, too-bright, burning my eyes, burning my heart, lump in my throat rage of the whole of what happened to me, what happened to my friends, what is happening to untold thousands millions–too many, way too many of us as we speak, as we speak, as we speak. Hidden in shame, a double loop-de-loop of shame and sorrow done wrong, done wrong, done wrong. But there it is and it is your shame to live with, your loss to endure, the taint of it is a stain on you, stained by the cum of all those nasty men and boys who rape and rape and rape and feel entitled to that privilege. They rape women, they rape girls and they rape boys, but they also rape the earth and each other, profiting from their exploits, supposedly, but what do they really gain? Money to buy the necessities of a nothing and never-adequate pretending to be all-of-that sense of self, metaphorical notches in a metaphorical belt, imaginary trophies on an imaginary shelf. In business they call it a hostile takeover, and it is the most prized of accomplishments, the ultimate endeavor, satisfaction par excellence. They fuck each other like that. It only works when one has more power, more money, more clout, and the other barely has time to see it coming. Nations just call it war.
It is also sometimes just rape, all the more satisfying if one is in a position in society where it can’t be called that because the women you rape are just trash or wouldn’t dare to speak up about it because they know that in the end they would be the one shamed. Or you are the victor and they are your spoils. Or, hey, life’s been rough on you so why shouldn’t you have a little fun, get something for all your hard work, teach that bitch a lesson, sow your wild oats and all that. And sometimes it is just called prostitution, and then it’s okay, ‘cause that poor dumb girl was actually sold to the trade by her parents, they were so miserably poor, and that other whore, that one there, she’s so dumb she got on a plane and flew all the way over here thinking she had a job as a nanny. Dumb broad. She probably knew what it really was and secretly wanted to be fucked forty or fifty times per day by sleazy strangers. Isn’t that every little girls secret dream? And that one? Well, hell, her uncle was fucking her from the time he could, so what would anyone want with her anyway? She might as well turn tricks and shoot meth, what else is she gonna do with her broken-down self? And her? She’s my wife. It’s not rape if you’re married, is it?
Prey. I was a girl, a barely-woman-barely-girl-in-betweener, a teen. Now I know, those of that precarious and short-lived in-between time are the most sought-after prey, like the nine point bucks and the beautiful marlin, the vacation home in Aspen and the position called CEO. A good bottle of scotch, home of the free and land of the brave, it’s the best, I tell ya. The best feeling in the world. So vulnerable, so gullible and sweet. So easy. Like hunting deer from a blind, corn feeder off to one side. Now I know. I didn’t know that then. Flattered by all the attention, a fatherless girl, an ugly duckling turned swan but not knowing not knowing not knowing.
I gave a ride to a girl the other day. Thirteen trying for sixteen, short-shorts, eyeliner, push-up bra, emotionally distraught, adorable, alone; she was everygirl. Ideal prey for the predatory male. Outside a convenience store she asked me for money for the phone. I lent her my cell phone and watched her eyes fill with tears when her prospective ride didn’t answer. I said “where’re you going? I’ll give you a ride”. Once in the car I told her, ‘ya know, don’t take a ride like this from a guy, even if they seem nice, especially if they seem nice’. She said, ‘yeah, I know’. But she didn’t. She thinks she knows but she doesn’t. Chances are she will though. She will trust and she will know what it feels like to be overpowered, to be taken, to be raped, to have her heart ripped out and eaten in front of her eyes. Maybe she will think ‘Oh, this is why that nice lady told me that’. More likely she will tell herself that maybe that is what she really wanted, sort of, maybe, did she?, did she? and seek out some guy more her own age who doesn’t seem threatening and choose it so that she can try to be in control. That won’t work either. Any choice she makes from that point on will make her feel like shit, because the love she will need then can only come from herself.
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Oh, love. Power. Predatory seduction in an infomercial, (hey I think I do need one of those), and a credit card, ‘cause all you need is love, and love is a Visa card, right?, get it? (lo)V(e) is a. Traps and bait, hooks and lines and sweet seductive promises. We understand. We are here for you. This is what you need. I’ll take care of you. 90-day free trial, nothing more to buy ever. Trust us. Trust me. There you go baby, let it go. Have a drink of this, a hit of that. There you go. Your eyes are so beautiful. Wow. I love you. Pow. He reaches in and eats my heart, blood dripping, eyes glazed over with lust and disgust.
So, what to do? Smash it into manageable pieces, stash it here and there. Wrap it up, contain it, try to find a place to bury it, but it would become a tumor then. It’s best to keep its terrible heart beating. It’s terrible and necessary to know that I know what I know. It doesn’t matter. It’s done. Like finding out that the tradition of a bride wearing a veil, (so romantic!) comes from the time when girls were traded as property, and the girl would be delivered with a bag over her head, the deal finalized by the fathers (giving her away, get it? how sweet!) before removing said bag, so the other family couldn’t back out just because they didn’t like the goods – ‘cause a deal’s a deal, right? Bridesmaids and groomsmen a relic of the fact that the girl would have to be restrained by her brothers and sisters and cousins, struggling as she inevitably would to try to escape her fate. Or finding out that our country’s valiant efforts to stem the opium trade in Afghanistan has become a spectacle of indentured sexual servitude for thousands of daughters, traded to the druglords to whom the families owed money after the then-destroyed crops couldn’t pay the bills. Or articles tucked in the back pages of newspapers, like this one:
CHICAGO (UPI) – Two million women and children are being held in sexual servitude worldwide, and the easing of border restrictions and other trade barriers has exacerbated the problem, researchers say. A recent report by DePaul University’s International Human Rights Law Institute finds 80 percent of those sold into sexual slavery are under 24, with some as young as 6. An estimated 30,000 die annually from abuse, torture, neglect and disease.
Two million. 2,000,000? Lives. Stories. People. Girls. Women. And those unfortunate little boys. Poor, unnoticed, forgotten, the sexual slaves of rape-shit males and the world they have created with their rape-shit ways.
“The phenomenon is fueled by poverty and indifference to the rights of women and children, as well as conflict and political upheaval in various parts of the world,” reports the institute, engaged in a three-year study of worldwide sexual exploitation. “The advent of globalization has exacerbated the problem by creating what some call market opportunities for traffickers in human beings and for their exploiters.”
A market reality. Supply and demand. Demand! This is the fire that burns in my heart. The world as it is. The horror of it. The destruction of this tender, beautiful, all-giving, glowing mother – earth. The destruction of one little girl or one little boy or one little woman who is thought not to matter, at all. The destruction of entire nations, races, species, rivers, forests, tribes; lives and dreams and landscapes exploited, canceled, destroyed. Torture. Abuse. Neglect. Disease. A demand for it. A demand!
“# About 50,000 Asian, Latin American and Eastern European women and children are trafficked into the United States for sexual exploitation, the going rate between $12,000 and $18,000 each.
# As many as 7,000 Nepali girls as young as 9 are sold annually into India’s red-light districts, 200,000 in the last decade.
# Afghani women are sold into prostitution in Pakistan for around 600 rupees – less than $4 a pound, depending on their weight.
# Ten thousand children between the ages of 6 and 14 are in Sri Lankan brothels.
# Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia have become the sex centers for Western Europe, featuring women from the former Soviet Union.
# About 1,000 women from the former Soviet Union became prostitutes in Israel in exchange for legal documentation.”
Every day and all around us and no one sees it. We see what we want to see, what we can bear to see, focus on some stupid little triviality, the price of oranges or the price of gas and what can you do? What can you do? What can you do? Realistically speaking, of course. If it were your life that was thought not to matter, at all, not to mean anything, at all… your life which had no value except the value extracted by selling your own flesh by the piece (of ass) or by the pound. What would you do? What could you do? Who would you be? Would anyone see?
“…. compiling such statistics “will make it impossible for governments and international organizations to continue their ignorance and denial of this problem and the terrible toll it takes on the lives of the world’s most vulnerable people. This investigation will lay the groundwork for an effective, national, regional and international means to combat the phenomenon and to put an end to this cruel form of human slavery.”
Will it? Could it? Can it? We can gather these statistics, but can we end it? Really? What about the global demand for consumable, disposable humans and sweet young flesh? The demand! What an outrageous demand when the price is a life! It’s the demand. It’s the seeking of power and pleasure, pleasure through power, the distortion of pleasure, demented to even call it pleasure, because what sickened, twisted, mutated perversity finds pleasure in such atrocities! It’s like they say, perhaps, about a wild animal, once they have tasted human blood they will never be the same. Is this what happens to these boys, these men? That once they have tasted conquest, the blood of a young girls broken heart dripping from their slimy lips, no other pleasure tastes as sweet?
In the news this morning: a man in Atlanta accused of murdering his twenty-five year old daughter for refusing to cooperate with an arranged marriage. A supermodel is divorcing her sex-addict husband, finally fed up with his expensive and disgusting pornography habit and extramarital affairs. A polygamist sect leader in jail for arranging the marriages of young teen girls tries to commit suicide. A man is accused of murdering his teenaged niece after luring her into a sex-ring initiation thing. So many girls just disappear. For every one that disappears, thousands more are raped and never tell. Gang-rape is apparently a popular past-time for packs of adolescent males. Their victims are silenced by shame and fear. Date-rape, rape-rape, gang rape, drugged rape, drunk rape, planned rape, spontaneous rape, initiatory rape, rape as a profitable business venture. Female soldiers are raped by their fellow soldiers as if it is a part of their official training, female gang members are raped as a part of their pact with their gang. I guess this is feminism, how you become one of the guys. It happens every single day.
I have a memory of some man masturbating on me as an infant — I remember being poked in the groin, right in the crease of my little right thigh, feeling terror. But I was a beautiful baby, so maybe I asked for it, (right?) after all. I dreamed one night that my grandfather told me to put his little red riding hood in my mouth, in the backseat of a car. I guess that was just a dream, as both of my grandfathers were upstanding men in their communities. My first experience of intercourse was violent date rape, blood everywhere, and my cute little boyfriend (he was so cute!) from school never spoke to me again. We were at a party with my mother. I didn’t tell her what happened. I went home, stunned, shocked, and put on a white nightgown. Seems silly now. I was never the same. Of course I wasn’t. I was gang-raped more than once after that, having developed an alcohol problem and a tendency to overdo it and pass out, thus making myself vulnerable. Prey.
We all have our stories, my friends and I. Most women’s lives are tainted like this. It’s painful, and it’s nothing. In the bigger scheme of things, it’s actually nothing at all. But for each individual woman, her stories are big ugly tattoos on her soul. Indelible ink. Etched into her heart and her sense of herself forever. Permanent. And once the pain relents, you just see everything else, the way the whole world turns when it comes to sex. So, the pain continues. There is no other world to flee to. This is it. This is the way that it is. Each woman tries to carve out her own private sanctuary, create a world apart from this way that the world just is. A safe man, you hope and you pray (pray not to be prey), or a safe and solitary existence, but the fear remains. Dread when you hear that old women, grandmothers, are raped too. You’d think there would be a respite, you hope against hope, but no….young girls, infants, teens and toddlers, pregnant women, mothers, grandmothers, women with disabilities and the mentally retarded are especially vulnerable. This we seldom hear about, but don’t think it isn’t common. We are all fair prey for the predator. There is no safe age, no safe country. One’s home is not a safe haven either. A friend was raped by her husband after filing for divorce. A client of mine murdered in her own home by a little pack of teenaged invaders. But in everyday life we greet one another and smile.
I heard a policeman speak one time, commenting on sexual assault, that nine out of ten women he’d interviewed over the years said something like this: “that guy always did give me the creeps” We recognize creeps, our animal instincts spot predators. Our bodies give us the signals, if only we’d listen…… to the uneasiness, the quiver of that light behind our breastbone, pulling on our breath; to the delicate bristling of the hairs on the back of our necks and arms, like little antennae, picking up danger. We should teach our daughters to listen. Listen! These are the signals. Don’t fall prey. Don’t disregard this, don’t tell yourself it’s okay. Even if it’s your minister, your bus driver, a policeman, your uncle, your dad. It could be your brother, your boyfriend, your neighbor, your teacher, a doctor, a priest, your female (even!) gym coach. We should make this required learning, as early as first grade, even sooner. Listen! You have wisdom. You know. Know what you know, see what you see, feel what you feel, and say so. Creeps will give you the creeps. Learn to read the signs. Don’t fall prey to advertising, either, or the stupid crap in teen magazines, the so-called modern dating tips for modern women, stressing the importance of playing hard-to-get, since men need a conquest, need to feel they have won a prize. The predators training the prey, it’s natural, they say. I’m just gonna place my fangs on your jugular vein but I promise I won’t bite. Sweetie-pie. Honey-bunch. Apple of my eye.
The whole of this, no, I can’t quite fit it together. It won’t all fit in this one room. It will still reside in bits and pieces, strewn across the landscape of my heart, mind and life, scattered and sprinkled throughout my poems, taking up space in that old trunk that is now full of journals. I write and write and write but it is never over. It isn’t over. It never will be, because life goes on. It is what it is. I feel, now, if I were assaulted again, or witness to the assault of another, I would go for blood. Kali, that hindu goddess of death and destruction, of time and change, resides in my heart now, has for years, all of these years since I learned to recognize rape. I see myself tearing flesh from bone, blood dripping from my lips, and wearing a necklace of skulls. It is not the innocent I wish to devour. I would purge this earth of it’s rapacious pretending-to-be-human werewolves, prey on the predators. I would make the world safe to be a child or a girl or a woman or a little boy. Written long ago but still relevant, still the issue at hand, I leave you, my reader, with another of my poems, the heart of the matter, for me, a snapshot of my sole-soul-survival strategy, another, yet another, poem.
Female sweetness the center
of this universe.
Sex-you-all. We are I am.
(little do they know)
(little do they know)
Kundalini – Kali rises, as a Fire,
Golden fire-cloud thru
my core, my core
on fire, thru centers
of different knowings
the center of everywhere
the hands of my lover are air
his love is moonlight
my love the tide
Oh he is ecstasy!
I am his bride!
Enfolded forever we
Enter the temple
(Where I have lived alone)
(Where I will return)
Sanctuary of secret knowing
Sanctuary of strength
It fills with our power
Liquid power forbidden
Fruit and fearsome
(We have known it)
(We have always known)
(Yes, sisters, but we
Must not tell. It is
(But still we have always known)
Oh, this mystery sustains me!
Ecstasy is the food
Of my female soul!
And I enjoy it.
I enjoin it.
I join with it
Whenever I can.
And I can.
And I may.
I may live here
Banished from my temple
But I kept a secret key.
And I may be here
When I wish and
I may live here forever.
I am alone .
Banished from my my temple beautiful
I do not understand
Why HE said, You, Woman,
Must come to live at my house.
Be my slave. You are not I AM.
His house is ugly ordinary
I am pure rage and
Fire and it is ecstasy.
I still know who I am.
Forbidden fruit milk
and honey nectar of life
The Goddess lives within me.
Still, and always, anticipating ecstasy,
Building and bridging and
Planning her return from exile.
She will marry a New Man
And it will be Heaven.
It will be Holy – I AM will be free.
(little do they know)
And She rises, as a fire,
Golden fire-cloud thru
my core, my core on fire,
thru centers of different knowings
the center, everywhere
the hands of this lover are air
this love is moonlight
my love the tide
I am – I am
I long for the lover.
Sex-you-all We are
I am – I am – I am
The bride The lover is
Their union is
Ecstatic union for us all.
By Suki Falconberg
One month from now, on August 8, 2008, the Beijing Olympics will begin and sex-for-sale will probably be part of the festivities….
When the World Cup was held in Germany in 2006, Julie Bindel wrote an article in the UK Guardian (30 May 2006) about the explosion in sex trafficking that would be an overlooked sideline of the event. She also pointed out that other major sporting events, like the Olympic Games, are venues for this kind of exploitation. In my dumbness and innocence, it never occurred to me to connect sports and prostitution before reading Bindel’s piece; but I have since learned that sex-for-sale is rife and common, whether it be at the Olympics or the NFL Superbowl. Inevitably, girls are trafficked in, to meet the high customer demand.
Bindel interviewed Alina, “a woman who knows something about the link between sex and sport. She escaped as traffickers tried to bring her into the UK from Athens….She had been abducted from…Moscow for the Olympic Games. When the games ended, Alina was considered ‘second-hand’ and sold on to another criminal gang who transported her to London in the hope that she would make money in a Soho brothel. ‘I was worn out, literally used up and spat out,’ she says, talking from a safe house in London. ‘During the games I saw hundreds of men, some British, who thought that a good time was watching sport, drinking and having sex. We were part of the entertainment.’”
For the World Cup, British men could buy condoms at 500 branches of Superdrug with slogans emblazoned on them like ‘Lie Back and Think of England,’ and decorated with the cross of St. George.
Bindel quotes Will McMahon, director of the Crime and Society Foundation, as saying the message at the World Cup to women was “We don’t give a damn about you.”
At least, that was the message to these particular women. About 40,000 were trafficked in to deal with the 3 million fans, and Germany even built a mega-brothel right beside the soccer venue in Berlin, and set girls up in mobile brothels all over the country.
What will happen in Beijing? We know that trafficked girls from all over the world work in China, and that there is a Russian contingent of at least 15,000 trafficked girls who service Chinese men. This number comes from several years ago, so it is probably much higher by now. China is the largest importer of trafficked Russian girls in Asia, with Korea being second. For the Olympics, will there be a large importing into Beijing and sale of Russians and their Chinese counterparts, along with all the other nationalities currently trafficked into the Chinese sex trade: girls from Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Taiwan?
If this is a typical Olympics, it seems a certainty. (Back during the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, some male athletes insisted they be given geisha. The Japanese dressed up some pathetic prostitutes in geisha style and sent them to the men.)
Will girls be put to use to service the Olympic tourists in Beijing? Will the athletes themselves be celebrating their victories by buying sex? If anyone in China knows any thing more about this issue, please contact me about it. I haven’t been able to find a mention of it in the media, unlike other aspects that have received some attention. The Olympic torch had a tough time on its journey due to Tibet, a widely covered story. Animal groups have done some protesting of open-air markets where dogs are butchered live and of the bear farms where animals are milked for their bile. But, of all the ‘rights’ violations being leveled against China in order to discredit the Olympics, this particular one–trafficking, which involves all the nations of the world in a spirit of rape and degradation of women–is being ignored, as usual. The situation stems partly from the refusal to recognize prostitution as a violation of human rights. In reality, it is sexual violence toward women. But in the view of most it is simply ‘entertainment’ based on a harmless financial transaction. The desire to draw a distinction between prostitution and trafficking only masks the fact that both usually involve the same exploitations of women.
During the World Cup, I could not find one ping of protest from a female fan in Germany—the voice of outrage came from a few women’s rights advocates and organizations like CATW (Coalition Against Trafficking in Women) and Amnesty International. If women fans in Beijing see sex-for-sale, maybe they can say something? Or perhaps a female athlete can speak up?
Or maybe a contingent from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International can investigate this side of sporting events, starting with the Beijing Olympics.
What is the rhetoric of the Olympics? Higher, greater, purer? Is it not about the best in the human spirit? I don’t think the Olympics are supposed to promote and support a devastating form of sexual exploitation.
Suki Falconberg, © 2008
Suki is a contributing editor for Cyrano’s Journal Online.