EWL News

Paid For: My Journey Through Prostitution, by Rachel Moran

[Brussels, 23 July 2013] The European Women’s Lobby (EWL) is pleased to share this article with you, which presents the book of Rachel Moran "Paid For: My Journey Through Prostitution". Rachel Moran is a survivor of prostitution and has been a speaker at the EWL’s side event on "Prostitution and violence against women: protection women’s rights in Europe and worldwide", on 6 March 2013 in New York, during the 57th session of the Commission on the Status of Women. Rachel Moran works closely with the Irish NGOs dedicated to the abolition of the system of prostitution, such as Ruhama and the coalition Turn Off the Red Light. She has a blog theprostitutionexperience.com.

paid for rachel moran

Paid For: My Journey Through Prostitution, by Rachel Moran

A brave account of seven years as a prostitute makes harrowing reading, but it also shines with compassion and humanity

by Susan McKay, published in the Irish Times, on 11 May 2013

Rachel Moran’s extraordinary book lays bare the seven years she spent as a prostitute. It took her more than a decade to write, looking back with clear eyes into the hell from which she had escaped. A blend of political analysis and memoir, this is at once an indictment of Ireland’s tolerance of violent sexual enslavement and a remarkable woman’s celebration of the survival of body, soul and passionate sexuality. It is a book about brutality by a writer of great sensitivity.

Like other exceptional individuals before her, Moran has bravely forfeited her anonymity to describe a life almost ruined by sexual violence, the better to insist that such violence must be stopped. She candidly admits that if she had been able to foresee her future when she was 14, she might well have killed herself. That was the age she was when she first stepped into a car on Benburb Street in Dublin, her then boyfriend urging the driver, a bespectacled and balding man in his 40s, “Take it easy: it’s her first time.”

The man paid her more than the going rate to “pull his prick with one hand, while leathering the arse off him with a thin, flexible branch”. She found that men who liked to be dominated were likely to be less dangerous than those who took their pleasure in overtly inflicting pain.

Whether the prostitute is required to be a dominatrix or a submissive, however, the man is in control. Moran’s graphic descriptions of what men demand from prostitutes are harrowing reading. She comments that a prostitute needs a “strong stomach”, and the book is replete with extremely disturbing material. There is semen, there is shit, there is blood. She quotes Andrea Dworkin, that most maligned of feminists: “Prostitution is not an idea. It is the mouth, the vagina, the rectum, penetrated usually by a penis, sometimes hands, sometimes objects, by one man and then another and then another and then another and then another.”

Moran tells chilling stories of women destroyed. One of them is so badly beaten that she takes to heroin and changes rapidly from a slim girl to a walking skeleton, chain-smoking, with “a vacant empty stare in her eyes”. Another agrees to perform a strip show and then service individually a group of men celebrating a sports event at a hotel – except they don’t stick to the terms agreed. “I never met the girl who left that night again, though I spent several years in touch with the one who arrived back the next morning.”

There is no solidarity with the clients, nothing to remind the prostitute of their shared humanity. Moran comments bleakly that the closest a prostitute will get “to understanding anything of a client’s family life is by noticing a baby seat in the back of his car or feeling the cold metal of his wedding ring pressed against the inner walls of her vagina”. Moran notes that men from Ireland are among those who travel to countries such as Thailand to rape children even younger than those they can find at home.

Her own childhood primed her for prostitution. Her parents both had serious mental illnesses that, in the Ireland of the 1970s and 1980s, they had to treat themselves, with drugs they became addicted to. The family was acutely poor. In the working-class Dublin housing estate where they lived, they were called knackers. “Our lives as children set us utterly apart from mainstream society and we were raised both painfully aware of it and numbly accepting of it,” she writes.

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EWL event "Progress towards a Europe free from all forms of male violence" to mark the 10th aniversary of the Istanbul Convention, 12 May 2021.

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