The revelation of Belle de Jour and the discovery that she is an educated, beautiful middle-class research scientist has initiated criticism that her story might glamourise and sanatise the work of prostitutes. But the Guardian has quickly cleared up any misconceptions of the life of prostitutes which might have arisen with the outing of Belle de Jour.
Tanya Gold writes:
“In 2003, a study published in the Journal of Trauma Practice interviewed 854 working prostitutes (including male and transgender prostitutes) in nine countries. It is a saga of battery and desolation. Behind the dry percentage figures we find punched faces, beaten bodies, broken ribs, black eyes and strangled necks.
The report found that 70%–95% of the interviewees were physically assaulted while working as prostitutes. 60%–75% were raped while working as prostitutes; of these, more than half were repeatedly raped. 65%–95% meanwhile were sexually abused as children; the line of continuity between being used as a child and being used as an adult is clear.
Over two thirds of those interviewed – 68% – developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). That is more than twice the number of Vietnam war veterans who developed PTSD. The report details that prostitutes are, unsurprisingly, riddled with physical and mental illness and the longer one works as a prostitute, it informs us, the more one’s health deteriorates.
A prostitute’s chance of an early death is, according to a 1985 report, 40 times higher than that of a woman who has never been a prostitute.”