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Inside Outside

the sex industry in Scotland

Inside Outside – we have lift off!

The project has started….  Different services from the Encompass Network (https://www.facebook.com/Encompass-Network-1065509953531923/)  have been in touch saying that they have spoken with women and some are keen to take part in the Inside Outside project.  A lot of meetings and alot of coffee being consumed  up to now ( and no doubt much more to come!)

The next stage is to line up the 1-1 interviews with the women as well as planning the workshops. It will be a busy few months ahead but so exciting to meet the women, hear their stories and support them in telling these through photos.

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So how can you tell me you’re lonely….”

A piece from E written the day after the reading night as part of #insideoutsideayrshire

Thank you E for this.

“I remember when I was nine sitting on the toilet and breaking my heart after going to a BBQ with my mum where she was singing the song ‘The streets of London’. It is my first real memory of feeling something quite overwhelming at the way life is for some people and the injustice in the world.

As an adult whenever I started new paid or unpaid employment working with people whether they were experiencing homelessness, rape and sexual assault, involvement in prostitution or domestic abuse, it always made me feel something. It would be a whole mix of emotions… upset, helpless, numb, shocked, motivated, inspired, grateful, absolutely raging and sometimes utter disbelief. These feelings would swim around in my head for a few days, keeping me awake at night and then finally they would settle as I adjusted to and accommodated this new information that had upset my brain.

I read the women’s stories from ‘inside outside’ in the house and they felt familiar to the stories I had heard before; the same distressing themes manifesting in different lives. I suppose I have heard a lot of horrific stories over the years, however a part of you always has to remain detached. It is a way to keep yourself safe, keeping a boundary in place, empathising with the woman and helping her, but always remembering that her pain is not your pain to have. You are not desensitized, but you learn to keep an emotional distance or it would consume you and you couldn’t do support work. I am human, of course sometimes certain people get to me and there will always be people I have worked with that I will always wonder about.

However, last night was different and so important….

I couldn’t sleep last night. My mind was racing after the reading night thinking of the women, their names, their stories, poems and revelations as the event unfolded and all the thoughts and feelings that accompany such a night. As I listened to the stories, to people truly speaking from the heart, you could just feel everyone in the room was there for the same reason; for the women’s stories to be truly heard.

It was a roller coaster ride of emotions, a very special evening to be part of and it reminded me how important it is to take time to do that.

It helped me remember why I do what I do, which you can’t always allow yourself to fully feel.

It enabled me to sit there not as a worker, but as a woman, to listen and feel from the heart and embrace all the smiles and snotters that come with it.

Thank you all.”

 

 

The Game Changer

On the 25th April as part of #inisdeoutsideayrshire we held a reading night.  A new idea and not something we had tried before but we wanted another way for people to link with the realities of what the women’s lives were like.

A group of women took the stories from Inside Outside and read them, not an easy task and not something to necessarily do in one sitting.   They were asked to select a woman’s story that they felt connected to and narrow that down to one section that they felt really spoke to them.

The “readers” came from all walks of life – carers, managers, mothers, support workers, business women …. the list goes on.  We met and talked over the night, the plans and most importantly how they felt about the stories, what it meant to them to read them and how they felt about sharing them with others.

It was an incredible night at a beautiful venue.  A group of women all gathered together to hear the stories.  There was abut 45 of us in that space and words cannot capture the energies, the emotions and the power in that room.  I dont think I have ever been to something quite like it and I doubt it could be fully replicated again.

One of the readers wrote this blog immediately after the night to capture what it meant for her to be part of it.  Thank you L for sharing this with us.

 

“Last night was a game changer. The point where something theoretical became something really fucking real. Submerged in a room full of strong, powerful women brought together to share the lives of women who had been involved in prostitution. The stories in the skewed and biased media suddenly became stories from the primary source, the undeniable gruesome, heart breaking reality…to say there was an emotional charge running through the room would be an understatement.

 

I started my experience during the day at the exhibition in Ayr – in the court room – where I had the eye opener of reading the “Memoirs” Books with some ‘reviews’….of women…..yup, punternet – a tripadvisor style review forum for men to share their thoughts on the women’s performance. Can you imagine? That was the first time I cried, a couple of pages in to the first book. The comments were unbearable, I imagined how I would feel if these words were written about me….or worse, my own daughter. How could they? How could they objectify other human beings in such a disgusting and degrading way? My tears of sadness grew to those of complete rage.

 

Descending in to the cells under the court where the remainder of the exhibition was set up wasn’t easy. Part of me wanted to run, the other knew that later on, I would be the voice of Wendy who was a main contributor and I owed it to her to get as full a picture of her life as possible. Each room held another sledge hammer blow to my preconceived ideas of the sex industry. Cassie’s spoken stories of pimps, saunas and life in that world brought home just how dangerous it can be. The follow up videos from another 3 women proved to be my next cryfest, Joanne, who took so much from a few words of kindness demonstrated the important of help without judgement, of empowerment without laying down the law, quite literally and of how little it can take to give hope of a way out.

 

As I navigated my way through the cells, the organiser Linda regularly checking in that I was ok, there was nothing comfortable about it. It was intense, confronting and the muscles in my stomach ached from beginning to end. But I’m glad I went. I’m glad I brought my friend to share the experience and I think it’s something everyone needs to see.

 

The evening, held in the stunning setting of Unity Grill (an amazing social enterprise addressing food poverty in Ayrshire, please check it out) was relaxed at first but as the stories were aired, the mood changed and the intensity was palpable. I was one of the volunteer readers….in the privileged position to tell a section of Wendy’s story….of a life started in difficult circumstances, of a beautiful young girl bullied, raped, isolated and broken who could have been me, could have been you, your sister, your daughter or any one of the other women in the room. As woman after woman stood up, from all walks of life, you could hear a pin drop. Whilst gut wrenching, we wanted to listen, we wanted to give these words the attention they deserve. There could have been 5, 50 or 500 people in the room, all that mattered was the stories.

 

We all know these things happen, we know women are driven to desperation for a plethora of reasons, we know that it’s no-ones first choice. Now admittedly, there are other stories to be told, those who apparently “choose” the life – the Belle De Jours of the world – but after visiting the Inside Outside exhibition and reading all of these stories word for word, I can’t help but think we’ve chosen to commit that picture to mind and ignore the horror that becomes the reality for the majority of these women. It’s simply easier to process if we maintain the glamourised perception we’ve been fed for so long. The facts are it’s violence, it’s rape and sexual abuse, it’s unacceptable and we are failing these women. They need our help. Belle and her peers may be one thing, this is quite another.

 

As we came to a close, we were honoured to hear a poem from Wendy’s mother, words of fury, strength but absolute pride for her daughter, the survivor. It was one of the most powerful, impactful collection of words I’ve ever heard…..Then mere moments later, we heard from Wendy. The Actual Wendy. To be in the same room as someone not only brave enough to take part in the project to begin with but to stand up in this crowd of strangers and profess who she was, well, I’m crying now just thinking about it.

 

Towards the end of Wendy’s story she ponders how to explain to her four year old what a junkie prostitute is…..to Wendy I would say this…..” you’re a survivor, you are strong, brave, can be anything and quite enough just as you are…I’m pretty sure that’s all your boy needs to know”

 

I wanted to take part in this project because it was my small way of showing support and solidarity to women who are often held on the fringes of society or overlooked altogether. This night mattered and I was honoured to be a part of it.

 

For me personally, I picked Wendy because I got her, I related to what happened in her childhood and what led her down that path. She is articulate, she’s witty and has strength in abundance. What matters to her is her child, her dog and a house of her own….so really she’s not too different to me.

 

As a stay at home mum, I often think about what I’ll do when I return to work. Having the opportunity to see how this project has positively impacted not only the women themselves but everyone who is in any way connected to it, it makes me determined that my time will be spent supporting other people in whatever capacity I can.”

 

Outside Inside

We love it when people get inspired by the women’s words and works.  It is fascinating at times to see what it can lead to.

A woman who supported #Insideoutsideayrshire write this piece and agreed we could share it.

 

What do you see?

When you look what do you see?

Do you see me or what I’d like to be?

My life has taken a darker turn.

When men use me, my body burns.

 

All I wanted was a better life

A house, children and to become a wife.

Now my soul has been ripped to shreds.

Let me live the life I was born to live.

Help me! Set me free!

 

L.C.  April 2018

 

 

 

 

 

Now my soul

 

 

She wasn’t yours to take

I’ve yet to meet a parent who wishes their children have a worse childhood or less chances in life than they had.  Most people wish for more, for bigger and better for their kids.

I look at my kids and hope that they have all the opportunities to travel, to learn and connect with others.  I want to be there for their good times.  I want to be there for their bad. I remember someone telling me that my job as a parent was to prepare them for life when I wasn’t around.   They will make mistakes along the way, fall down but I hope there are caring others to help pick them up and put them back on their paths.

I was privileged very recently to meet with a mother of one of the women in Inside Outside.   I had heard about her and was really looking forward to seeing her.  She knew her daughter had been inside the sex industry but she didn’t know all that happened.  She came to the exhibition to support her daughter and see what she had been involved in though Inside Outside. We got to spend some time together with tears, some hugs and some laughs too.

It was intense.  It was emotional.  Of course it was. How could it be anything other.

She wrote this poem afterwards.  It is brave, honest and heartfelt.  This is a mum speaking through her pain.

20180421_144508.jpg

(Wendy’s mum’s mask – April 2018)

 

If I met you

Hello sir how may I help?

No I’m not from around here, it’s just for today

I was at an exhibition not too far away

It was full of little faces some colourful some white

In fact you may yourself have exhibited by day or by night

 

Oh no sir u don’t have to pay me

what happens here is free

For I have waited a long time for u to meet me

 

Can I tell you of a little girl perhaps you think you know

Although it may hav been some time ago

when she was really low

 

Oh sorry am I talking perhaps a tad too much

I’m just not feeling vulnerable or wanting you enough

I do have butter fingers, I’m sorry was that sore

And that was way too clumsy ramming your head against the door

 

Aw look at you, you’re ten feet tall squirming on that seat

But your just a little pervert, a tiny little creep

 

That little girl was Wendy of whom I’m really proud

You wouldn’t know her now sir she stands out from the crowd

 

Oops I think I’ve cut you

shall I retrieve it from the floor?

Although I don’t think that you’ll be needing it, not now not anymore

 

Because I’m her FUCKING MOTHER AND YOU’RE A  FUCKING SNAKE

That’s MY LITTLE GIRL YOU BASTARD

SHE WASNT YOURS TO TAKE!

 

So please do remember me as I take leave from your car

Recommend me to your friends I won’t be very FAR !

 

Wendy’s mum

 

 

 

 

Gagged

gagged by wendy(“Gagged”   photo by Wendy 2017)

“People are supposed to be able to deal with this kinda thing but they’re shuttin’ down and tryin’ to get you t’discuss other stuff that has no significance whatsoever to where you are. They don’t wanna know it. You see the look in their eyes, it just makes ‘em so uncomfortable, you can see that they think it’s dirty, it’s appalling, it’s disgraceful. It’s filthy and it’s wrong. That silencing is like a gag. ”    Quote from Wendy

Well…. hello there.

It’s been a while since we last blogged.   Ther are about 12 unfinished draft posts to be finished and shared reflecting on all the exhibitions #insideoutsideborders, #insideoutsideperth #insideoutsideedinburgh #insideoutsidebelfast, #insideoutsidelondon #insideoutsidepathfoot and of course #insideoutsideayrshire.

 

It has been a roller coaster of a journey over the autumn and winter with us travelling all over Scotland with either longer runs of the exhibition or pop up days.  A pretty incredible rollercoaster it has been and we haven’t had the time to catch our breath and keep in touch with you all.  Hopefully we can have the time to do that over the next few weeks.

We wanted to do Inside Outside to see if women who hadn’t had the chance to tell their stories wanted to do exactly that and if people would engage and listen.  A resounding yes to both questions.    The funding ran out a long time ago and we have been scraping together the funds to keep it going and develop it.

Every where we have went – new additions have been added and so many people have stepped forward to support the women and help us develop.  We cannot thank them all here but each one’s efforts are appreciated.  Local people adding their own skills and ideas to make each exhibition different and unique.

#insideoutsideayrshire has been a pretty special exhibition.  It is in Wendy’s home town and so we wanted to make sure she was proud of what we brought and shared.  A full post is needed for that but she is happy, very happy and so we are happy.  Many people congratulate us on what we have done but this is and always will be the women’s project.  They are the heart behind it and it is theirs.

We know there have been criticisms of what we have done – why are ‘sex workers’ not included, why did we not talk to women who already speak out, why did we not speak to women who love what they do in the sex industry,  why did we not link with lobbying groups to allow their women to be included.   There are long answers to each of those points and too long for this post.  The short answer is that we wanted to speak to women who didn’t have huge twitter followings, who don’t keep blogs about being involved, who don’t do media interviews, who aren’t activists, who aren’t linked with lobbying organisations.  Women who haven’t had a platform and who felt ignored were our priority.  We make no apology for that.

We stress to people that we did not cherry pick women and select only those with difficult stories.  We didn’t know what women were bringing to the table and digital recorder,  we didn’t censor them or only allow those who had negative experiences.  We asked women what were the good points , to tell us about the good punters, to tell us what they gained being inside the sex industry.   They chose what to tell and what to share.  If they struggled to think of the good, of the benefits and the positives, then that was because that was their experiences.  To suggest otherwise is to silence them.

One person took the women’s photos out of context and shared them on twitter without giving any background and worst of all with no credit to the women who actually took the images.  We often wonder why they did this and what they hoped to achieve?   Is it really so threatening to allow the women from insideoutside some space and time and have their voices, opinions and experiences heard?  This post most likely will also be taken out of context and shared.

I even had one person tell me that these women aren’t educated enough and haven’t read the academic research so really, what would they know.  I wont type how I felt and what I thought when I heard that.  Were they really suggesting that only those who are University  educated women are allowed a voice?  That only research immersed women should be allowed an opinion?  Surely they didn’t mean to be so judgemental and excluding?

I will end this post with something directly from Wendy  on what this project has been meant for her.

“Getting my story out has freed me in ways…..  you know it’s like somebody just cut the strings and my wings – now they can go….”

freedom

(photo by Wendy 2017)

 

A student view…

pathfootpathfoot3pathfoot4We currently have a number of students linked with us, at different stages of work and on different areas of the project.

Laurie has linked with us through her course and wrote this blog for the Art Collection Stirling blog.

We are really happy to share it here too.

Inside Outside exhibition

 

The thoughts, feelings and experiences of a lot of women in the sex industry are seldom heard in the media and academia. Through the Inside Outside exhibition, the voices and personal experiences of women involved in the sex industry in Scotland were amplified through chosen words and images by individual women themselves. These women had not been given that chance before and had remained as hidden voices. They are Natasha, Natalia, Levi, Katie, Wendy, Sarah Jane and Joanne.
Wendy one of the participants states :
“People are supposed to be able to deal with this kinda thing but they’re shuttin’ down and tryin’ to get you t’discuss other stuff that has no significance whatsoever to where you are. They don’t wanna know it. You see the look in their eyes, it just makes ‘em so uncomfortable, you can see that they think it’s dirty, it’s appalling, it’s disgraceful. It’s filthy and it’s wrong. That silencing is like a gag.”
Inside Outside was co-ordinated by Linda Thompson from the Women’s Support Project on behalf of and the Encompass Network . Inside Outside aims to challenge and question the misconceptions about the lives and experiences of women involved in the sex industry and what it means for them.  The project has been helpful in shattering the preconceived assumptions of what it means to be involved and each story and narrative is different and unique to each woman, giving them a safe space to share . The project has been helpful in shattering the preconceived assumptions of what it means to be involved and each story and narrative is different and unique to each woman, giving them a safe place to share the realities of their lives before, after and during their time in the industry
The women describe their paths which lead to their experiences of the sex industry and for some, the challenges they face(d) when they decide(d) to exit. Their stories do not only discuss their experiences of the sex industry but also their hopes, dreams, family life and career aspirations. http://www.insideoutsidescotland.info/

One participant describes:
“I think the idea of getting women to tell their stories in such an individual way and using our minds to create something so beautiful that is going to reach so many people is amazing and shows why we shouldn’t be ashamed of our stories – they are our stories. They have made us who we are.”

The exhibition of the women’s stories and photos has travelled across Scotland. It has helped educate and challenge Scottish society’s assumptions of the sex industry and the women involved. Additionally, the manner in which the project has been presented is an attribute to the empowering nature of the project as a whole, as well as the exhibition. As the exhibition was created by these women it is theirs. It is their voices, their ideas and their hearts. Each element of Inside Outside was produced for and by women, driven by women. Inside Outside opens up the conversation for the women involved in the sex industry to empower themselves and as a space they can discuss their involvement and experiences in a productive positive way with complete control over their voice.
The exhibition is on display at the University of Stirling, in the Pathfoot Building until the end of May 2018.

L. Furie

 

https://artcollectionstirling.wordpress.com/2018/03/21/inside-outside-exhibition/

 

 

Freedom to create

Some of the masks decorated by women in Corton Vale as part of the Inside Outside: Freedom to Create partnership project.

 

Happy holidays

We are finishing up for the festive season today to recharge batteries and get ready for what looks like another busy and productive year.

Happy holidays to Natasha, Natalia, Wendy, Katy, Katie, Cassy, Stephanie, Sarah Jane, Levi and Joanne.   You have given so much to so many people this year and we hope you have a peaceful holiday.

Many thanks to everyone who has supported us in any way throughout the year – there are far to many to mention but it has all been appreciated and we hope to continue working alongside each other in 2018.

 

Have a great holiday!

 

 

What’s inside?

20171213_154200

We are just back from a trip down to Ayr.    I have a soft spot for there and it is always bypassed on my journey to and fro my homeland.   I love the little lanes and wynds, corners to be explored, unexpected delights in hidden places.

Over the summer, we had #insideoutsideayr all planned.  We had found what I thought was to be the perfect venue. Sketches, floor plans, sample layouts – we had it all done but  sadly due to circumstances beyond us, that venue was no longer a possibility and it was back to the drawing board.

Hopefully today we have agreed a new venue.   I am so excited by the potential of it and the planning team’s brain’s were fizzing with ideas.   Holly, a student who may be supporting the work down there kept looking at each other wide eyed as similar thoughts struck us round the same time.   Laura, Joan and Geraldine all were chipping in to say – “we could do this…  we could try that.. hows about……………………………………………”

This is one of th emany things I love about this project – how it has the room and scope to evolve and change, to adapt and grow as new people and areas come on board.

I cant say too much at this stage about plans and venue but I know#insideoutsideayr will not be like any other show we have had so far.  I’m excited.  Are you?

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