An article on the proposed legalisation of prostitution was what first gave me a real glimpse into the world of sex slavery. It was in 2008 while I was busy doing research for a university assignment, during one of my too regular mid-study ‘web-breaks’, that I came across this article. I can’t even remember which country it was being discussed but what I did learn was that the life of a prostitute is nothing like I imagined. Abuse, rape, drug addiction, manipulation and fear were words I now associated with prostitution and also did I first become familiar with the term PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), ‘of the type front line soldiers struggle with after returning from war’ was basically how it was described. Statistics and research terminology did open my mind to this reality somewhat but when something is visually portrayed or heard by means of a first person testimony it’s near impossible to remain unmoved and ignorant.
Then, about a year ago, a friend sent me a music video in which all this information I’ve been exposing myself to ever since was now accurately and visually portrayed. It was Ed Sheeran’s ‘The A Team’ which helped me see that the women we casually refer to as ‘prostitutes’, whether pimped or operating independently, find themselves in a reality which no society claiming to value human beings can remain indifferent to, or at the very least stand judgemental towards.
More recently, I came across a the work of Ruth Jacobs, a UK-based author, which includes an interview with a London call girl, a to-be-published novel on the life of a call girl, a spin-off novel in the form of an online diary of another call girl, and also testimonials of various women who have been prostituted. Ruth’s work again painted that same reality I came to see through Sheeran’s music video.
I believe Ruth’s work will play a major role in impacting the public perception of both prostitutes and prostitution as an industry so to speak, which is why I have been following it closely online and am privileged to share her own thoughts here on my blog as I interview her:
Before you share more on the Soul Destruction series itself, give us some brief insight into your own background. You will soon have your first novel published and already carry the official title of ‘author’ but when did writing enter the frame?
I have been writing ever since I was a young teenager. I initially began writing poetry then at sixteen embarked on my first novel. I used to read it every few years or so, delete most and start again. A few years ago, I embarked on a brand new novel, but it was too personal so I had to give it up. I started writing Soul Destruction in 2010 and finished the first draft within a couple of months. It took a year of editing and rewriting to get it polished enough to send out to agents an publishers.
When does writing normally occur among all your other commitments? When you work on a project, how many hours of every day do you actually have free to write or is it rather a sporadic business happening whenever spare time and inspiration coincide?
During that period starting in 2010, I rarely turned on the television and wrote nearly every night and weekend. I have a day job, so that didn’t allow for writing in the day. I sacrificed my social life but was so dedicated to the novel, to dispel the ‘happy hooker’ myth, and show the reality of prostitution that it became my life, my mission, like a calling. The media has been glamourising prostitution at the level of being a call girl and I felt this was not only an incorrect message sent to society, but a dangerous message to young and vulnerable girls and women who are the most likely to enter prostitution. Research shows that 75% of women in prostitution have been sexually and physically abused as children, many come from care, I want to show these young girls and women the truth of being a call girl, which might seem glamorous on the outside, but on the inside there is no glamour to be found, only pain, degradation, despair, post-traumatic stress disorder, drug addiction and sometimes suicide or even being killed by clients.
I’ve read ‘Protection’, a short story of yours, a while back and mentioned to you that it’s a ‘bit past my bedtime type of story’ and similarly, the available Soul Destruction work I’ve read is not necessarily what one would call ‘easy reads’ or ‘light entertainment’. Would these descriptions be true for most work you’ve produced up to now or have different genres flown from your pen as well, and why specifically these ‘tales from the underworld’ if I may call it that?
All my writing is dark, having said that, in Soul Destruction, there are moments of humour. Even in the last short story I wrote, which may be in an anthology, I am waiting to hear back, although it is sad and violence is involved, I managed to inject some humour. I think with Soul Destruction Diary being written in first person, it is hard to include humour when the protagonist is in pain and suicidal. For Soul Destruction, that is written in third person, it was easier to inject some humour where appropriate. Having said all that, these are all dark subject matters and I want them to be taken seriously. I don’t want my characters ridiculed or laughed at. I love my characters, most of them, and I have respect for them and for what they are striving for and for what they struggle with in their lives. I struggle too with similar things to some of them. There is nothing funny about overcoming childhood abuse, rape, living with post-traumatic stress disorder, being in violent and controlling relationships. I think if I were reading a book of that ilk and the author made light of those situations I would be offended having lived through those tragedies myself. I want to show my characters and my readers respect by taking these things seriously, as they deserve to be treated.
In your own words, explain what the Soul Destruction series is about and what inspired it?
Soul Destruction and Soul Destruction Diary are inspired by the women I interviewed as well as some of my own experiences, but they are all fictitious events and people, though could, and certainly do, happen in real life. I had the book, Soul Destruction, in mind ever since I was friends with Q (the lady interviewed in ‘Interview with a London Call Girl’). I was wayward in my youth and had my own issues with drug and alcohol addiction until 1999. Some of the people I mixed with during that time in my life were from London’s underworld. I don’t have any plans on exposing anyone. I feel that would go against all my morals, but what I do want to do is use it as inspiration for my writing. I like to write what I know about, and I know about that, and having lived through numerous traumatic experiences myself that have nearly killed me, I like to write about that too. I want something good to come from the pain I have endured, as well as the pain others have endured too. It gives it meaning, it gives me hope that I have not suffered in vain, but that my suffering may help someone else.
As a comment on the ‘Diary’ which is currently a work-in-progress and available to read online, I have to admit I was initially hesitant about whether I should read it at all or not. I do quite a bit of reading on sex slavery which includes trafficking, pornography, prostitution and naturally how our culture and generation is being ‘sexualised’ through the media, which means I’m careful of what I expose myself to as it could become a bit too much for me at times. I sort of stumbled onto it through your twitter account, began reading a random diary entry and immediately realised it may contain some explicit scenes and crude language but as I turned back to page one to read it from the beginning, I realised this was definitely not some cheap attempt at a sensationalist, shock piece. Instead, I was hearing a voice we as society are often deaf to, coming from a place seldomly opened to those on the outside. Your goal is to expose a reality most people aren’t aware of and to do that you often have to portray things as they are?
I want to show the reality, the harsh reality, not the glossy image that anyone can portray on the outside. I have been ill at times in my life, but with some make up and the right clothes I can look fabulous. I am not showing the exterior, I am showing the interior. I am not writing sex scenes for men or women to masturbate over, I am showing them what they have been masturbating over, in the hope they will find a loving way to pleasure each other without causing another pain. I won’t sensationalise my writing. Having said that, Soul Destruction, is a very high concept novel, it is exciting, fast paced, and from the feedback I have had from readers, it is hard to put down. It is drama, but it is realistic. The characters are authentic, and the events could have happened, and some of them I know did happen, but it is mostly of my imagination.
I want to entertain with my writing, but I also want to educate and show my readers things they may not know about, and leave them with thoughts to ponder and perhaps even lifestyle changes to make.
What would be the message you hope to send out through your novel and who in particular do you wish to reach through it?
I would like to reach as wide an audience as I possibly can with all my work. All my work aims to dispel the ‘happy hooker’ myth and show the reality of prostitution. Yes, I want to reach the man/woman on the street, but I also want to reach the pimps, the johns, the women in prostitution and the women and girls considering prostitution as a career choice. This is why, in addition to my fictional work – the Soul Destruction series and the Soul Destruction Diary series – and my charity publication “In Her Own Words… Interview with a London Call Girl”, I have also created a page on my website called Voices of Prostitution Survivors. I want to get this message across by as many mediums as it takes: fiction, real life accounts etc. I want to show the harsh world and the dark reality of life as a call girl. Some people are under the impression that being a call girl is glamorous due to recent depictions in the media. What I show is the truth. That no matter whether the woman is paid £10 and has sex with a client in the back of a car or down an alley, or is paid £2-5,000 and has sex with a client in a top London hotel, the act is the same. The damage done to the woman is the same. Yes, the call girl might not have to see as many clients as the streetwalker, she is at less risk of being raped and beaten, but all the call girls I have known have still been raped and beaten, just not as often as those that work on the streets. Working in a brothel can be even worse. There is more control over the women, they can’t refuse clients, they are at the hands of the brothel owner, who basically owns them. This is why legalisation is so dangerous. The Nordic model is the best and safest for women in prostitution. And it is important to remember that studies show 9 out of 10 women want to exit prostitution if they could. Help needs to be available to them.
I want men to think before they go to see a prostitute, do I really want to have sex with a woman who doesn’t really want to have sex with me, who has most likely been sexually and physically abused as a child, most likely has post traumatic stress disorder and most likely has been raped multiple times. In addition, do I want to see a women who has to take drugs in order to have sex with me – 95% of women in prostitution have drug addiction issues. They do not necessarily start in prostitution to feed a drug habit, but they end up on the drugs in order to handle the trauma of working in prostitution.
After the novel has been published and the diary finished, what else are we to expect as part of this series?
I have a long series planned for both Soul Destruction and Soul Destruction Diary. The Diary (which can currently be read on my website www.soul-destruction.com) follows Nicole O’Connell. Nicole is Shelley Hansard’s closest friend in Soul Destruction. I started the Soul Destruction series in 1997 because I want to bring it right up to date. Each novel may span a year or two or three into the future, but the three novels for Soul Destruction I have plotted so far only span to around 2000. I want to show you Shelley and Nicole getting older, growing up, what happens to them and to the people in their lives. One of them will leave prostitution in the future. I want to show what that is like, starting over again after living in another world and re-entering society. How difficult that is. I am hoping my publishers will back the whole series, but only time will tell if they think the new works are good enough, but that is my plan.
Do you feel that most of your future work will revolve around the Soul Destruction theme or possibly side-projects you’ll launch from this as platform, or are there also totally unrelated works you dream of completing?
I also enjoy writing short stories so I envisage I will write a few more shorts over the years as well, but I am very committed to Nicole and Shelley and telling their stories, their life stories, as they unfold over the coming years.
…and you have mentioned you hope to see some of your work translated into film eventually?
I think all my novels will make excellent films. My writing manner is such that I watch the characters in my head and report on what they are doing. They lead the stories. To me, all my work is already on film because I have watched it in my head just like watching a movie. I would be particularly pleased if my debut novel, Soul Destruction, is made into a movie. I think it would be an excellent film and I would love for Guy Ritchie or perhaps the Coen Brothers to direct it. Having said that, I would be open to all offers from directors!
In what is possibly my favourite film of all time, Amazing Grace, there’s this touching scene towards the end after Wilberforce have succeeded in abolishing the slave trade where Lord Charles Fox says to the members of the House, “When people speak of great men, they think of men like Napoleon – men of violence. Rarely do they think of peaceful men. But contrast the reception they will receive when they return home from their battles. Napoleon will arrive in pomp and in power, a man who’s achieved the very summit of earthly ambition. And yet his dreams will be haunted by the oppressions of war. William Wilberforce, however, will return to his family, lay his head on his pillow and remember: the slave trade is no more. “. So on that epic note, as a conclusion or perhaps a concise recap of what you’ve already mentioned regarding your work, what would Ruth Jacobs want to remember when she lays her head on the pillow years from now?
I would like to know that I have made a difference to society. That I have gone some way to discourage men from using women working in prostitution, that I have helped women in prostitution find ways to exit when they are ready and when they want to. That I have given them hope. That I have changed the ‘happy hooker’ myth and exposed the reality of prostitution for what it is – abuse. I already received an email from a woman who was thinking about returning to prostitution to clear a debt or get out of some financial trouble she was in. She wrote to me saying that after reading about my charity publication “In Her Own Words… Interview with a London Call Girl”, it reminded her how soul destroying and damaging it was, and she changed her mind. To me, touching that one person, has been amazing. I can’t even find the words to express how wonderful that made me feel. And that wasn’t down to me alone, but it was down to my friend Q, who is no longer alive, as they were her words that I printed, and because they are not my words, that is why I felt it essential to donate all the royalties from that publication to charity. So another difference I hope to make is changing the stigma society has against women who work in prostitution so they are not looked down on, judged and seen as fallen women. They are some of the most vulnerable women in society who deserve understanding and compassion. I hope my work will achieve that too.
Thanks so much for your time Ruth and with this I hope to book an interview prior to the release of your film in advance so long? All the best on your journey further.
In Her Own Words… Interview with a London Call Girl is available to download from Amazon UK at http://amzn.to/P992RY for 77p and from Amazon US at http://amzn.to/Qo3SZD for 99c. It is also available worldwide. It has already received a number of 5* reviews, including a 5* review from Stephen Leather, one of the UK’s most successful writers and the author of more than 30 bestsellers.
To find out more about Ruth and her Soul Destruction series of novels, you can visit her website at www.soul-destruction.com or connect with her via social media:
Ruth Jacobs on Twitter http://twitter.com/RuthFJacobs
Ruth Jacobs on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/rujacobs
Soul Destruction on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/SoulDestructionSeries
Soul Destruction on YouTube http://www.youtube.com/user/RuthFJacobs/videos
And, if you may be someone reading this who has your own story about your experience in prostitution and have been inspired by this to voice it, feel free to contact Ruth via email so she might add it to her Voices of Prostitution Survivors page.
Soul Destruction: UNFORGIVABLE to be released 29 April 2013