Interviews with prostituted women

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					                Interviews with women in prostitution: a study

                                         Merli Klein


Prostitution became an issue in Estonia after the restoration of independence (1991) when
the media increasingly disclosed incidents of young women being enticed into
prostitution. In 2002 the Estonian Open Society Institute published the study
„Prostitution and trafficking in women – unsolved problem in Estonia“, which included
information about the causes and forms of prostitution, and assessed the possibilities for
preventing prostitution and trafficking (Kase, Pettai 2002).

Although the 2002 study did not include interviews with prostituted women, it
constituted the first steps toward public awareness of prostitution as a problem. It became
to be seen as mostly originating with Russian girls from East-Viru county and being
associated with drug addiction and organized crime. The topic of prostitution was
increasingly discussed in the media and the public. Suggestions were made for
legalization as well as criminalization of prostitution. Every person and interest group
seemed to have a point of view, but no one seemed to bother studying what prostituted
women themselves think, how they got into prostitution and who they are.

Other studies conducted in Estonia have not contained prostituted women‟s own opinions
and explanations why they became prostitutes and why they remain in prostitution. This
study endeavours to fill that void and to provide prostituted women‟s own reasons for
engaging in that activity and why they continue to do so. Thus, this study aims to
describe and analyze Estonian prostituted women‟s stories, in which they talk about their
views and experiences during the course of which they ended up in prostitution and why
they continue to remain in it.

Semi-structured in-depth interview with prostituted women and their procurers was the
basis of this empirical study carried out between March 1 and October 31, 2005 in
Tallinn and Oslo.

The study brings out possible events which led to prostitution and the situations in which
one decided to go into prostitution. The influences in the prostituted women‟s childhood
home, her social environment and early experiences with sex (rape, incest or the first
encounter). The analysis led to three basic phases: childhood, entering prostitution and
remaining in prostitution.


The study focuses on descriptions of what prostituted women experience and why they
experience it. It is essential to find out how they perceive prostitution and their road to it
– how they understand it, what they feel, what they think of it, remember it, and talk
about it with others.

Thus, my aim is to describe and analyze Estonian prostituted women‟s stories in which
they talk about their views and experiences which led them to prostitution and why they
continue to remain in it.

Below is the list of women that participated in the study. All interviews were anonymous
and names have been changed: 23 year old Maria, 32 year old Lisa, 29 year old Julia, 26
year old Natasha, 22 year old Victoria, 21 year old Lyuba, 23 year old Leena, 20 year old
Anya, 40 year old Kristiina (procurer), 33 year old Nadya (procurer), 24 year old Elena,
and 25 year old Kati. Herein I will present the stories of four of them, which provide the
best account of women who become prostituted.

Julia’s story
My first interview was with Julia. She came from Kohtla-Järve. I met her on an Oslo
street near the harbour where prostituted women find clients. Julia had blonde hair,
heavy make-up and she was wearing a miniskirt. She was standing with another
prostituted woman from Estonia on a street corner. The other woman had a heavier-set
build, black hair and her skirt was longer. Both of them were Russians.

When I first approached Julia, suggesting an interview, she reacted negatively. She
thought that Estonia was to blame for her having to work on the streets. When I
explained to her that during the interview she would be able to express her opinions, she
agreed. Her companion did not want to give an interview, saying that she did not have
anything in particular to say.

Julia ended up in Oslo via a procurer, but was working independently now and renting a
flat with several other women. She works both on the street and in the flat. Men come to
the flat via ads. Julia and her companions in the flat have a schedule whereby they work
two months in Oslo and then two weeks in Estonia. Julia likes working in Oslo, because
there people relate to prostitutes differently and she thinks that the services provided by
ProSentert, where they can check their health, and get counselling and condoms, are

Julia comes from a Kohtla-Järve family of five children. The father abandoned the
family when she was little and mother began to drink. Julia was sent to an orphanage.
She got a basic education and crane operator‟s training. In Estonia, Julia has a partner
and a flat which she bought with money earned from prostitution. She explains that her
first encounters with prostitution occurred in Germany where she had worked as au pair.
The father in the family forced sexual relations on her, threatening her with being thrown
out if she did not comply. That experience was very traumatic and while in Germany,
she also had a married man for a boyfriend with whom she slept for money, out of need.

Julia thinks that those experiences were her first steps toward prostitution. She explains
that she had to start prostituting when she owed rent in the amount of 20,000 kroons on
the public housing flat given her by the orphanage. In addition, her flat had been broken
into and everything was stolen. Julia talked of her problems to a friend who suggested

that Julia could go to work as a prostitute in Finland. After her first client she did not
want to quit, because for her the money was a large sum. She said to me, “I did not want
to quit after the first experience. I said to myself, „Julia, that was 300 kroons! A lot of
money!‟ I thought that I would immediately take the next client and I would have 600
kroons. I got the taste of money in my mouth.”

Victoria’s story
I met with Victoria in Harku women‟s prison where she had been committed for crimes
connected with drugs and theft. The social worker at the prison told me that Victoria has
worked as a prostitute and that she is not reluctant to talk about it. Indeed, she was not
reluctant. When I asked her whether she is willing to talk about her experiences as a
prostitute, she replied positively. Her appearance was attractive. She was 22 years old
and her home was in Narva, although she was born in Ukraine.

Victoria said that she has had a difficult life. She has no father and her mother was an
invalid who had been placed in Narva public housing, due to her failure to pay rent.
Victoria has finished 6th grade, thanks to the Kaagvere Special School where she
completed grades 3, 4, 5 and 6 in two years. Victoria began to have difficulties at school,
because they were so poor that she was unable to buy school supplies and to have enough
food. She dropped out in the third grade.

She thinks that she had an unhappy childhood. Her parents divorced and father went to
live in Ukraine. Her mother started living with an Azeri man who beat and terrorized
both of them. She explained to me, “I was a year old when we started living with that
Azeri. Those five years were not family life. The borders were still open and my mother
and I fled to St. Petersburg, where we lived in the Moscow station. Mother had a broken
leg and she could not work. I went about begging and gathering food left on restaurant
tables, so that we could have something to eat. Although we had a flat and everything,
but because of that Azeri we were forced to exist like that.”

Victoria entered prostitution at the age of 16 when she ran away from Kaagvere Special
School. At first she sold sex in order to buy food and clothing, but later she needed
money to buy drugs. She started to inject drugs when she was 16 and that‟s how she got
HIV. Victoria thinks that prostitution is totally devoid of human values and there is no
prostituted woman who can endure it in a sober state. All of them end up either in prison
or in a cemetery.

Elena’s story
Elena‟s story is different, because she had ended involvement with prostitution at the
time of the interview. Elena is a 24 year old Estonian from Tallinn. She had already
ceased being a prostitute six months earlier and was working as a cleaning woman in a
restaurant. I met Elena at Nadheim, a Christian counselling centre for prostituted women
in Oslo. Elena is a reserved and simply dressed woman who invites me to interview her
at her home. At that time, Elena was living with her new partner and two small children
in the outskirts of Oslo.

Elena‟s is different also in that she met her partner when she was still involved in
prostitution in Oslo and he was her client. She says that her partner was her first client in
Oslo. They liked each other, started to dine out together and the relationship developed.
At first she did not trust him, but when she had decided to cease her activity and was
thrown on the street with her belongings, she telephoned her present partner and they
started living together.

Elena thinks that her present situation is good: “My present financial situation is very
good. Both my partner and I earn money. Even if I weren‟t working our financial
situation would be good. My wages are so small that nobody even notices them. All of it
goes to cover part of the au pair’s pay and my partner has to add to it. He takes care of
all the rest.”

Elena has a basic education, having left high school when she got involved with
prostitution. She explains that she began to have problems at school and she left. She
got involved with drinking and ran away from home. She went to study at a vocational
school away from home, managing to remain in that school for two years. But then she
had an unhappy love affair and she tried to cut her veins. Later, at a school party she
drank herself into oblivion and was told, when sober, that 15 young men “had enjoyed

Elena herself does not remember the episode, but afterward all the girls at the school
started calling her a whore and the boys asked whether she had become pregnant. She
remained at the school for another month when she ran into people who offered her
prostitution. “I was in a situation where everybody thought of me as a whore. Why not
then? Actually, in my subconscious I harboured another reason. I wanted to prove …..
Everybody said that I was a whore and I wanted to show that I could even do something
crazier. I can also be a prostitute. I wanted to show that even people like that can be
good people. They are not that bad – fingers should not be pointed at them. Somewhere
deep in my being I hoped to prove that,” said Elena.

Kristiina’s story
Kristiina is 40 years old and is serving at Harku women‟s prison a second term for
pimping. She is originally from Ukraine, but claims to be Russian. She has two sons
about whom she speaks fondly and whom she loves very much. Her appearance is
maternal and gentle – blond hair, short of build and a sweet voice. Kristiina‟s speaking
manner is kind, which makes her role as a pimp very contradictory.

Kristiina agreed to the interview immediately, but I had to promise her that her name and
story will not go into a newspaper. She is eager to discuss how she did everything and
how she became involved with prostitution. She is most concerned about her children
and wonders how she can return to them after her long imprisonment.

She explains that her husband died at the beginning of the 1990s. After the automobile
accident, her husband was in the hospital and they were left without income. She could
not pay the rent and she and her two children were in danger of being thrown on the

street. A girlfriend advised her to look at ads and to become a prostitute: “I was 33 years
old and had never… lived decently with my husband and children… I didn‟t know how.
My girlfriend said to go and try it. We worked together in the same shop. I went to the
business she recommended and there a man asked, „Do you know how to do it?‟ I replied
that I don‟t know how and the man said „Take a drink‟. I could not. Everybody there
drank. I went home and sub-let my flat. I began to think that I saw how those girls work
as prostitutes and I could become a procurer, I could find them clients.” She rented a flat
in which she started running a sex business while living herself in another flat. Kristiina
found the young women via ads and both she and her young women looked for clients via
ads which read “we invite men to a cup of coffee.” Kristiina describes enthusiastically
how she has dreamed in the prison about legalized brothels so that she could run an up-
scale house where young women are trained as geishas.

2.1 Childhood experiences and their influence on going into prostitution
Numerous studies have shown that childhood home and experiences are factors in
entering prostitution, because non-functioning families and experiences as a child have
caused women to be more receptive and vulnerable to prostitution. Research in different
parts of the world has shown that most girls/women in prostitution have been, in their
childhood or youth, victims of sexual violence by men (Ekberg 2002: 6).

Studies which have compared childhood experiences of prostituted and non-prostituted
women reveal that childhood experiences of the prostituted ones have been negative.
Frequently, prostituted women come from families that are broken, violent, or not loving;
they leave home early, they have experienced sexual and physical abuse, they become
sexually active early and as adults, they have experienced rape (Vanswesenbeeck 1994:

Since problematic childhood and sexual abuse have been identified in many studies of
prostitution as the risk factor in becoming involved in prostitution, I have chosen
prostituted women‟s childhood as one of the research questions in my study. A childhood
home is a good opportunity to describe the environment and value structure in which the
interviewee grew up. And the events in one‟s childhood and relations in school also
provide a good opportunity to describe what life was like before entering prostitution and
to explain whether there were happenings, situations or persons in childhood that
influenced the interviewee to go into prostitution.

The research project “Sea star” by the AIDS Support Centre in 1996-1999 disclosed that
30% of prostituted women had been sexually abused before the age of 16 (Kase, Pettai
2002: 13). Other research has shown that females of minority age end up in prostitution
if they become socially isolated, do not get good grades or have problems getting along
with fellow students at school, which leads to dropping out. Frequently, problems at
home, such as parents‟ alcoholism and family fights, add to the problems outside the
home. A non-functioning family life in which a girl lacks regular and supervisory care
can easily lead to prostitution (Klain 1999: 3).

Research has shown that girls from poor economic conditions and those originating from
districts with greatest social problems constitute the greatest risk groups when it comes to
enticing minors into prostitution within a country. One factor is familial relations – at
greatest risk are considered those whose parents are alcoholics and abusive, who lack
close relations and parental supervision in the family. Minors living under such
conditions may start using drugs more easily, drop out of school and go to large cities,
looking for adventure or better opportunities (Trummal 2003: 13). Bad familial relations
and poor performance in school are basic causes which make a girl wish that she could
only leave home. These early attempts at independence can quickly lead them into

In my study I have treated interviewees‟ childhood home and experiences as
preconditions for prostitution, which combined with other factors can easily lead to
prostitution. This approach is supported by Norwegian studies done on trafficking and
prostitution, which showed that the economic situation, education, work and familial
relations are central factors influencing a person‟s choices (Brunovskis, Tyldum 2004:
41). Since the combined effect of several factors is of importance in becoming a
prostitute, a single cause can not be identified and it becomes necessary to describe the
presence of different causes and their combined effect. In the next section I will discuss
entry into prostitution and the risk situations, but below I will describe the interviewees‟
childhood experiences.

2.1.1. Interviewees’ memories of their childhood
The interviewees spoke of their childhood experiences in very conflicting terms. For
example, in one moment she would describe an abusive home and, in the next, she would
say that her parents were normal people. Most of the interviewees described their
childhood as being unhappy, or happy until a tragic happening, like mother‟s death which
sent her to the orphanage or a special school. Childhood was happy for those
interviewees who had a close relationship with their mother. There were two such
interviewees and both of them said that their lives took a turn for the worse after their
mother‟s death.

Four interviewees were very young when their mother died and only two – 25 year old
Kati and 20 year old Anya – had a close relationship with their mother. The death of
mother was a hard blow for even those interviewees whose mothers had not been good to
them, who had been abusive and neglectful. After mother‟s death, both interviewees – 23
year old Maria and 21 year old Lyuba – were sent to an orphanage which made their lives
even worse.

In the opinion of 20 year old Anya, her mother‟s death was the greatest tragedy in her
childhood and she thinks that is the reason the rest of her life went downhill: “My mother
died when I was twelve and I remained with my father. In my childhood, my mother and
grandfather were closest to me. My mother was a good person – loving and caring.
Mother‟s death affected me psychologically. I began to have problems in school. I didn‟t
want to study at all. I started using heroin at fourteen. I thought about suicide after

mother‟s death. I tried to kill myself with a razorblade. I did not succeed. Whenever I
think of bad things, I want to be with my mother and I think of suicide.”

Twenty-three year old Maria, who went to the orphanage after her mother‟s death,
describes her childhood as being happy until mother‟s death: “I think my childhood was
happy, although father abandoned his family when I was four. When I was eleven, my
mother committed suicide. She cut her veins. After that it was orphanages and special
schools for me.”

Due to family problems, four of the interviewees ended up in an orphanage which
influenced their later life and, in many respects, the institution harmed them. Two of the
orphaned interviewees came from large families and both of them had sisters who were
also prostitutes at the time of the interview. The interviewees considered the life at the
orphanage as bad and they constantly ran away from it.

Twenty-one year old Lyuba said that her childhood was normal until the death of her
mother and she was sent to an orphanage. She was ten years old at the time and was
taken in by several families, but she always found herself back at the orphanage. Her life
with foster parents was bad and when she was 13, she lived on the street for a while,
because she had nowhere to go. “When I was 12, I lived with a foster family where a girl
constantly stole. I wasn‟t fed at all in that foster home and that girl told me to go to the
store, take a bar of chocolate and eat it right there. Nothing will happen. I went and did
as she said and I was fined 700 kroons. I was taken to the police and later beaten at
home. I was in different foster homes where children were loved, but they did not love
me. At the age of 15, I was back in the orphanage.”

In describing their unhappy childhood, several interviewees mentioned that father
abandoned the family when they were three or four years old and the family started to
have financial difficulties. Most of the interviewees were from poor families or those
that were on the borderline, in which social problems, like unemployment, alcohol and
violence, added to the financial difficulties. At least five of the interviewed had constant
fights and violence at home. Several of them said that the bad situation at home was the
reason why they dropped out of school and went into prostitution. Twenty-two year old
Victoria said, “Had it been a choice between school or prison, I would have become
afraid and remained in school. But I always had a choice. Mother never paid any
attention to me. Mother was young and she had her own interests. She ran around and
drank and she never had any time for me. I lived by myself all the time.”

The four interviewees who lost their mother in early childhood idealized their mothers
and described how they miss her closeness and support. Twenty-five year old Kati said,
“Mother was very warm and kind. I don‟t remember anything else. She released warmth
and affection.” Twenty-one year old Lyuba, “After mother‟s death my childhood was
unhappy. In my life, I miss mostly my mother, then money and then love.”

The other interviewees‟ relations with their mother were more complicated and
problematic, because some of the mothers were by now either pensioners or invalids and

as a consequence, the interviewees felt sorry for them. Several interviewees said that
mother demanded of them financial support, which most of the women gave from money
earned from prostitution. Their mothers knew how their daughters earned the money.

The mother‟s role in childhood and current relations with her in adulthood have to be
separated, although most of the respondents tended to jump between the past and the
present and, in addition, their attitudes toward their mother changed frequently when
describing their relationships. Sometimes it became clear only at the end of the interview
that, in reality, she was ashamed of her mother, or that mother is still an alcoholic and
does not care for her daughter.

Although twenty-two year old Victoria accuses her mother of not being sufficiently
affectionate and caring toward her while living with a violent man, she now, being within
prison walls, idealizes her mother: “We were a happy family – mother, father and two
children – until mother became unfaithful by taking up with an Azeri and father
abandoned his family. That Azeri abused mother and stuck a knife at my throat. There
were constant fights in the family, drinking and violence. Once I asked my mother why
she ever had me, because my life has been nothing but misery. But now I think that I
have a wonderful mother whom I love. She has not visited me once in the prison, but I
constantly send her my drawings and I want her to know that I‟m still alive.”

Several interviewees‟ stories revealed that their mothers had had problems in their
childhood, either psychological or that they were physically abusive or neglectful.
Twenty-four old Elena: “My mother had psychological problems at the time of my birth
and my grandparents cared for me. Mother also had financial problems and my
grandparents raised me. /…/ I have had moments where mother and I feel close, and I‟ve
also known moments where we have chased each other with knives. Once we had such a
fierce fight that both of us had a black eye. Mother‟s philosophy was that a child learns
through punishment, but too frequently she could not control herself and would take, for
example, an electric cord and start to punish me with that. I believe that my grandparents
hated my mother and, as a result, I started to be ashamed of my mother. By the way, my
mother thinks that children are born for the purpose of supporting their parents.”

Some of the interviewees characterized their relations with mother as friendly when they
were teenagers, being able to live as they pleased, while in childhood the relations had
been bad due to their parents‟ physical abuse. Twenty-three year old Leena, “When I got
D‟s or C‟s in school, I was beaten at home by either my step-father or my mother. They
beat me until I was eleven, because then I could fight back. When mother started to hit
me, I would hit back. /…/ Later my relations with mother were good. Mother was like a
friend to me. She let me have space to live independently.”

Interviewees‟ relations with their mother are contradictory, because of the different
periods and the relations have been both affectionate and abusive. It also became
apparent from interviewees‟ stories that most of the mothers had difficulties, whether
psychological or economic, as for example having an abusive husband in addition to

unemployment or poverty. It was also apparent that the more problems developed in a
family the worse became the interviewee‟s situation, especially when being a teenager.

It is noteworthy that a father‟s role has been small or even absent in almost all cases.
One could say that a father‟s role and support were missing. The fathers of nine
interviewees abandoned their families when they were little. One interviewee knew only
her father‟s name, but had never seen him. Most of them remembered their father for
only his drinking and abuse. Only a few of the women had been in touch in their
adulthood with their father, but these contacts too lacked closeness or support.

Four of the interviewees had step-fathers in their childhood home and most of the
relations had been negative. Generally the step-fathers drank and were abusive. Twenty-
three year old Maria, “Mother got a new man after father left. That man drank and
because of non-payment of rent we lost our four-room apartment and had to move.
Mother lost her job because of him.”

Twenty-three year old Leena: “I remember when I was seven and mother was pregnant.
My step-father started hitting mother in her stomach. I tried to protect her. In my
childhood there were many of those instances where I protected my mother. I was
helpless and fearful.”

The only exception was twenty-six year of Natasha who came from a family that cared
for her and was attentive to her needs. In her opinion, Natasha had a happy childhood
where nothing was lacking. Although mother divorced her father when she was little, her
step-father was as good to her as her own father and she thinks she had a good family.
Natasha‟s case is unusual, because family relations were good and financial problems did
not emerge.

It is evident from the interviewees‟ stories that parental care and supervision were weak
in most families. Father‟s role was absent in almost all cases and the mother‟s role in
raising the child tended to be of two types. There were mothers who were preoccupied
with themselves and were not concerned whether the child attends school or not, and
there were mothers who acted more as friends, letting the child decide for herself.

The interviewee raised by her grandparents was also left to decide for herself. With
regard to prostitution, weak or problematic family relations or inadequate parental
supervision became risk factors for the interviewees in their teenage years. Twenty-four
year old Elena: “I was a teenager then. I could not have stayed with my mother, because
she had financial problem. I was back-and-forth between two families who did not like
each other. If I didn‟t like it in one place, I would go to my mother‟s place, and when I
got into an argument with her, I would go to my grandmother‟s. I ran wherever I found it
more to my liking.”

Several interviewees mentioned that the problems at home made them feel rejected and
with this came problems at school. The bad home situation and feeling of rejection made

many women seek early independence – to get away from home and earn one‟s own

2.1.2. Physical and sexual abuse experienced in childhood
We already learned above that several interviewees had experienced physical abuse in
their childhood home. It was surprising that the interviewees who had experienced such
abuse considered it ordinary or thought of it as a child rearing method. On several
occasions the women said that they were beaten at home for “something”. Several
interviewees had abusive mothers. Twenty-one year old Lyuba said, “Father was an
unskilled labourer who drank and beat up. He locked me in the cupboard if I cried. He
was a good father – normal. I had good relations with my mother and father. Whereas
my father would always lock me in the cupboard, my mother would strike me. She would
beat me until her hands got tired, but she would beat me for something I had done.” The
“something” was usually stealing candy, getting a poor grade in school, or simply some
childhood mischief. Generally, whenever the beating was done by the mother, the father
or step-father, if that was the case, would beat the child also.

Four of the interviewees had step-fathers in their childhood and two of them had tried to
rape the girl, but they had been able to run away. Two interviewees did experience rape
in their childhood home: 21 year old Lyuba‟s father raped her when she was 13, and 24
year old Elena‟s older brother raped her when she was 11 or 12 years old. Lyuba said, “I
was 13 when my father raped me. He was drunk, but he is altogether a sick person.
After Afghanistan, he was pronounced irresponsible.” Elena said, “I was 11-12 years
when my older brother, who was a drug addict, raped me while under a heavy dose.
Let‟s say that he raped me. He did not beat me, but it was sexual intercourse against my
will. He was a big man and I simply could not manage to get away from under him.”

Five interviewees had experienced rape as teenagers. Three of the cases involved group
rape. The interviewees considered that experience extremely traumatic and thought that
it had influenced their relations with men. The rapists were strangers or casual
acquaintances and none of the interviewees notified the police. Twenty-three year old
Maria describes the incident, “I was 16 years old. I lived in an abandoned house. Once,
when I left the house, they saw me. They were two Russian men who tore the clothes off
me and raped me. They hit me, also. Raping lasted half-an-hour and they did it

Twenty-three year old Leena said, “I was 16 and visiting a girlfriend. She was having
some kind of a party. It was a studio apartment and the veranda had been converted into
a room. We were conversing on the veranda, but he wanted something else. He started
to beat me hard and raped me. We called the ambulance, but it charged for the service.
That was in Ukraine at a very chaotic time. The ambulance came and asked if we were
going to pay for the service, but we had no money and the ambulance left.”

The sexual abuse caused anger, helplessness, and repulsion in the interviewees and they
thought that sexual abuse in childhood had influenced their relations with men, but most
of them believed that it had not directly influenced them into prostitution. They thought

that they had been sufficiently strong and do not think of the bad that has happened to
them in the past and that it is important to forget. Only 24 year old Elena, who had been
raped by her brother and whose uncle had sexually abused her, thought that sexual abuse
in her childhood could have pushed her into prostitution, “After those incidents, I began
to think that sex is the only thing wanted from me.”

2.1.3 School and relations with other pupils
Experiences at school varied greatly among the interviewees. Some of them did very
well. They finished high school without any problems. They happened to come from
more stable and better families. Twenty-six year old Natasha, who finished high school,
and 25 year old Kati, who was the only one among them to attend a university, were in
this group.

Majority of the interviewees either managed to do all right or had an unsatisfactory
record at school. They explained their lack of success with difficult situations at home
and their own lack of interest in studying. Some of them mentioned that they already
were indifferent toward school in elementary classes. They had problems with
homework, other pupils seemed smarter and had better school supplies. At the upper
levels of the elementary school, seventh and eighth grades, they began to be absent from
school and finally dropped out.

Interviewees‟ bad home and problematic family relations contributed to the dropping out
of several, and as a consequence, quite soon thereafter they were in prostitution. Four
respondents who dropped out of school became prostitutes right away. Twenty-five year
old Kati, who dropped out of the university during the early months of the first year, said
that becoming a prostitute had been the reason for dropping out. It did not appear from
the conversations of the dropped-out respondents that their parents or someone close to
them cared whether they attended school or not.

Twenty-two year old Victoria: “I don‟t have much education. I finished six grades. I
dropped out, because of the circumstances. It was very difficult for me, for I could not
afford school supplies. Mother sent me to school on an empty stomach. I went to a
school - Narva High School Nr. 14 - where there were mostly well-off children. I didn‟t
even have school supplies and I felt inferior. I dropped out, because they insulted me.
You know, the rich can never understand the poor. I did not go to school for four years
and then I was sent to Kaagvere Special School. There I finished grades 3, 4, 5 and 6 in
two years. After that I ran away frequently, and then I tried to study again. The last time,
in 1998, when I ran away, the school personnel were so weary of looking for me that they
threw me out. I was 16, and for one year I simply wandered around. Then I went to
Tallinn to become involved with prostitution.”

Kaagvere Special School is in the story of two respondents and both of them started
prostituting at the age of 16 after running away from the school. Twenty-two year old
Victoria was already pimping while attending Kaagvere Special School. She and her
classmate visited bars in Narva and she would collect money from men who engaged in
sex with her classmate. In retrospect, Victoria herself thinks that she was an agent for

sex-selling, but she emphasizes that her friend did it of freewill and later they divided the
money between them.

Twenty-year old Anya was the youngest to become a prostitute at 15, when she dropped
out of school. Her story is one of the most drastic, having started at a brothel at 15 and
being a prostitute for five years, taking only short breaks from it. Anya got involved with
drugs already at age 14 and she does not remember exactly how those years in
prostitution have been spent. She says, “Everything was normal. School was normal; I
was always in the principal‟s office. I was restless and capricious, causing discipline
problems in all the classes. I was spoiled. I stayed in second grade three times. I didn‟t
finish the 9th grade. I did not like to study. Mother‟s death affected me psychologically.
I was 12 then. I began to have problems in school. I did not want to study. And without
drugs, not at all! I started using heroin when I was 14, and I have shot-up for the last six
years. When I was 15 and visiting a friend, there a man simply made an offer to me.
That was in a brothel, which also had procurers. I started to work there, because I had
nothing else to do at the time. I had everything. I had money, etc.”

The minors who became prostitutes, whether due to personal problems or having dropped
out of school for lack of interest, found their way there via friends or acquaintances.
There were four of them; the 15 year old was the youngest and the others were 16 years
old. They gave very different reasons for becoming prostitutes. The basic reason,
however, was the want or need to earn money independently, because they were either
orphans or they had problems at home.

Twenty-two year old Victoria explains, “At first I worked in order to have food and
clothing, but later already to get drugs. My mother knew that I was a prostitute, but she
could do nothing about it. I had already become of majority age. She could have done
something earlier, but she drank and she did not care. Later, when I was already working
as a prostitute, she knew about it, but she was afraid of me.”

Twenty-four year old Elena, who had been a victim of sexual abuse, explains similarly
that she went into prostitution after dropping out of school and the convergence of several
factors are evident also in her story: staying away from home, problematic family
relations, difficulties with studies at school, not getting along with classmates, and
meeting a procurer which creates a tie with prostitution. “I began to have problems
already in elementary school and after a while I simply did not go to school. I began to
drink and run away from home. Then I went to a vocational school, which was far from
home. I lived in a dormitory and I began to have behavioural problems. I was at that
school two years and then I lost interest. Everything had to do with sex. For example,
why did I leave high school. I had a boyfriend with whom I went for six months and then
he found another. I drank myself to oblivion couple weekends. One time I even tried to
cut my veins. During Christmas, the older students rented a house and had a big party. I
went to it. My girlfriend and I were the only girls and there were about 15 guys. Being
still heartsick I got myself completely drunk and what exactly happened with me, I don‟t
know, but I was later told that those 15 guys had enjoyed me…. When I returned to
school, the girls called me a whore and the guys wanted know whether I had become

pregnant. I stayed in school for a month and then left. Right after that I got involved with
prostitution in that town. I met people who suggested it to me. I thought to myself that
everybody thinks I‟m a whore, so why not.”

On the basis of the interviewees‟ stories one can infer only indirect connection between
childhood experiences and becoming a prostitute. Due to the childhood tragedies and
traumas develops a personality that is unsure, easily influenced, and which seeks
solutions or compensation in alcohol and drugs. Such women are also more receptive
and vulnerable to prostitution.

The risk factors can be the parents‟ inability to cope with everyday life, alcoholism and
domestic violence, and weak or sometimes even cold family relations where parental
supervision and care are absent. Also traumatic childhood experiences, such as the death
of a mother or having been sent to an orphanage, make a woman more receptive to
prostitution. The breaking point occurs when present are additional facts such as sexual
trauma, bad relations with school mates and dropping out of school, followed by the
presence of a girlfriend in prostitution or a positive meeting with procurer. Four of the
interviewees, who started prostituting as minors, had girlfriends in prostitution and the
other two, upon dropping out of school, had male friends who were connected to

In the previous chapter I analyzed the interviewees‟ childhood experiences and the
possible influence these had on making them prone to prostitution. In this chapter I
describe situations in which the interviewees chose prostitution and the reasons they gave
for that choice.

Studies of prostitution and trafficking try to identify risk groups and risk situations in
which women decide to become prostitutes. The studies emphasize that in the analysis it
is essential to look at the context in which the women were when they made the decision
and that such contexts can be considered risk situations (Brunovskis, Tyldum 2004: 41).
In this chapter I describe the typical risk situations in which the decision was made to
become a prostitute, the first experiences in prostitution, and what entering prostitution
brought for the women.

A noteworthy number of interviewees entered prostitution between the ages of 18 and 22.
Four of them were minors, youngest being 15 years old and the others – 16. The oldest
was 25 when she started prostituting. If one considers sexual experiences before entering
prostitution, the picture is quite varied. The earliest sexual relations were at the age of 12
and the oldest was at 20 years. Most of the women began to have sexual relations
between the ages of 14 and 16. Twenty-two year old Victoria experienced sex for the
first time at the age of 16, 24 year old Elena – at 12 with her brother, and 21 year old
Lyuba experienced sex at the age of 13 with her father. The rest of the women‟s sexual
experiences were of their own volition and with men they knew. It is also noteworthy
that nine of the 12 women had experienced sexual violence before going into prostitution.

With reference to the risk situations in which the interviewees entered prostitution, I
describe the context in which the women made the decision and how the women
themselves explain the choice, whether they were forced, motivated or influenced. The
role of the procurers and acquaintances of the interviewees is included in the analysis in
order to learn whether the women were influenced, and if so, how much. Anette
Brunovskis and Guri Tyldum present in their study three aspects for examination and
comparison with the context at the time the women made their decision (Brunovskis,
Tyldum 2004: 41). They looked at the women‟s general socio-economic situation and
whether there were factors which limited the women‟s opportunities or in other words,
the lack of certain resources. Secondly, they looked at the women‟s own reasons for the
decision to go into prostitution. They considered what role the women‟s social
environment or network played at the time of the decision, and whether the woman
herself made the decision or did her family make it for her. Finally, what role did the
recruiter into prostitution or the procurer have.

The most typical explanation given for going into prostitution by the interviewees was,
“when I started that work I had beautiful dreams and plans, and that the work was only
temporary in order to overcome a financial crisis.” All of the interviewed women had
held originally the opinion that prostitution offered to them the best temporary solution to
overcome a financial problem and none of them had ever dreamed of becoming a

Risk situation Nr. 1.
One of the situations that causes entry into prostitution is when a young girl runs away
from a special school or ends up living on the street. The interviewees did not have at the
time of their decision a place to live (i.e., they had been in a special school) or they had
problems at home.

As a rule, the minor going into prostitution does not have previous employment
experience or she lacks skills. She has dropped out of school and consequently has only
elementary or basic education. Some of the interviewees were drug users when they
ended up on the street and, therefore, they had a need for money. Two of the
interviewees described how they ran away from Kaagvere Special School at the age of 16
and got involved with prostitution immediately after that. Twenty-three year old Maria
said, “After I ran away from Kaagvere, I worked as a prostitute in an apartment and there
were other minors, also. I got that work through a taxi driver who arranged everything for
me. The procurer was a woman and she made me sign a contract. You know, if you
break some rules then you have to pay 10,000 or 5,000 kroons fine. That apartment was
in Kopli. It was a two room unit and we lived in it also, because we had no other place to
go. Sometimes there were five or six girls living there (...) I became a prostitute for
financial reasons, because I had nothing to eat and no place to live. The other reason was
that I needed a dose.”

It became evident during the interview that previous contact with prostitution, either a
girl-friend or an acquaintance with positive experiences with prostitution, was a
significant factor. A financial crisis caused by either not having a place to live or having a

drug habit was decisive in entering prostitution as a minor. A positive picture, which she
tried to get for herself in prostitution, influenced especially the teenage girls. The
procurers‟ influence played a big role here, especially after being on the street and falling
under their influence.

Twenty-four year old Elena, who had dropped out of school and felt rejected by
everybody: “There were no prostitutes among my acquaintances, but I got the contact
from a video lending placed. I was 16 and I had left school. I went and watched those
films and my favourite – I watched it six times that evening – was Demi Moore in
“Striptease”. The clerk in the video store got curious why a teenager watches that film so
many times and came to check it out. I poured everything out to him about what had
happened at the school and everywhere else. He began to sense that I may lose control
and he began to console me and the thing ended with us sleeping together. Then he said
that things have gone that way already and if I want, I could get paid for it. That‟s how it
started. I wasn‟t wanted at home and so I called the number that the man gave me. I
went there. I was bought special garments, taught how to work by watching porno films
and an apartment was found for me. That all took two weeks. Before I started working I
discovered that I was pregnant and I said to my boss, sorry I got to leave. The boss
grabbed me by the neck and said that he had spent money on me and he did not care if I
had to do it with a big stomach, but I had to earn back the money. I had an abortion.”

The interviewees own reasons for going into prostitution are very confused and
contradictory due to the influence of several converged factors and it was as if they had
fallen into prostitution. Certainly, one cannot speak of a conscious and determined
choice. One can describe it with the words of many of them, “I didn‟t become a
prostitute because of money. I just happened to get into it”, because they did not want to
go home, did not want to go to school, and some of them were drug or alcohol dependent.
At the moment of making the decision for prostitution, the minor was on the street or
running away from home, and she needed a place to live and money to eat. As a
consequence, it was easy for the procurers to attract them into prostitution.

Risk situation Nr. 2.
The second risk situation in which prostitution is the choice is when the interviewee had a
negative incident in her life or she found herself in financial difficulties. For example,
her husband has been taken to jail, or thieves had plundered her home and unexpected
need for money occurred, and debts piled up. In such cases, an essential role is played by
a previous positive experience as a prostitute, a connection with either a girl-friend or
friend in prostitution, or an encounter with a procurer who encourages her to go into
prostitution. By “previous positive experience” I mean that many girls had sought men in
bars and night clubs and had slept with them for money.

Twenty-nine year old Julia describes her road to prostitution: “Via the orphanage I had an
apartment in public housing and I accumulated a lot of unpaid bills due to the
remodelling of the apartment which was in bad shape. And one winter my apartment was
broken into and everything but my slippers were stolen. Even the stove that was in bad
repair was taken away and I could not even cook a meal for myself. So, I sat down and

began to think. I had never imaged myself as a prostitute and I decided that only big
money would save me. I owed 20000 kroons for rent. I knew that either today or
tomorrow I would be thrown on the street. I went to see a girl-friend and told her that I
don‟t know how to go on. My girl-friend asked if I would go to Finland and I answered
that, of course, I would. (…) But before prostitution I was a baby-sitter in Germany. I
was in a big city and went out in the evenings. There I met a married man who paid me
for sex. I didn‟t like him, but I didn‟t have money and I slept with him. He bought me a
big bottle of Martini that I emptied. I got drunk and slept with him. It can be said that
was my introduction to prostitution.”

The interviewees who became prostitutes as a result of a traumatic experience had
employment at the time, but the income was insufficient to manage her life. Generally
speaking the employment was either baby-sitting, railway work or sales clerking. The
women said that they liked the work, but the pay was low, and in order to overcome a big
money crisis it was necessary to get big sums fast. Girl-friends‟ positive experiences and
connections with procurers helped to make a decision. The women entering prostitution
in a crisis situation planned to stay there only temporarily, until they had gotten out of the
financial bind.

Risk situation Nr. 3.
The third risk situation consisted of women who had lost their jobs or their wages no
longer covered all the expenses. They wanted to get rid of their financial problems, but
the opportunities available did not provide a solution. Here again it was significant that a
girl-friend or some acquaintance suggested prostitution as a possible solution. Hence the
thought that she would try it. A previous random or single experience with sex for
money supported it.

Twenty-one year old Lyuba: “I took up prostitution after I lost my job at the hospital a
year ago. A girl-friend mentioned to me prostitution; a friend had suggested same to her.
Four years earlier I had started to sell sex, but that was kind of on-the-side. You know,
you are at some kind of party and you start talking and so it goes. My father knows that
I‟m a prostitute. Actually, he suggested it to me.”

The above shows that among people around Lyuba the idea and actual experiences with
selling sex were prevalent and supported. That is quite a typical situation.

It is characteristic of the previous risk situations as well as this one that the parents of the
interviewees have not forced them into prostitution, but had on occasion expressed such
views. In the risk situation under discussion here, Lyuba‟s father suggested that she go
into prostitution. That father had also raped her when she was13. One factor quite
certainly was the fact that at the moment of decision these women lacked family or some
other close person‟s support.

Risk situation Nr. 4.
The fourth risk situation is related to drug addiction. For example, Natasha was from a
caring family and she lived with her mother. Natasha had a high school education when

she entered prostitution and she had worked as a hair dresser, on an assembly line and in
a kiosk. Conflicts occurred in the family when Natasha was a teenager and used drugs.
As a consequence, she got mixed up with a wrong crowd. The interviewee herself said
that prostitution was her own choice, because she needed money and it was tied to drugs.

Twenty-six year old Natasha: “Before prostitution I worked as a hair dresser, in an
industrial plant and a kiosk. But when I became a prostitute I no longer went to work.
Prostitution came into the picture, because of personal needs – can‟t live with your
mother for the rest of your life and I had personal expenses. I visited night clubs and
made acquaintances. There were times when I offered myself and there were times when
I was asked if I wanted to have sex for money. These men were foreigners, usually Finns
who came and asked if I would sleep with them for money. I was 20 years old then.”

Natasha discovered prostitution at the age of 20 when she and a girl-friend visited night
clubs, where they were offered money for sex. Natasha worked independently and
visited bars and night clubs about 10 times a month. It should be noted that in addition to
the so-called organized prostitution, seven of the 10 women went to night clubs to find
clients independently. Only for one woman was the latter a sole and basic way of finding

Risk situation Nr. 5.
The last risk situation reveals a desire to find an exciting life abroad and the extremism
offered by prostitution. Two of the interviewees, whose mothers had died when they
were children, said that at the moment of decision they had thought how great is
prostitution. What could be greater than “money and men”!

These women described prostitution in terms of an “exciting” life-style, while at the same
time expressed having had the wish to be rid of parents‟ supervision and to enjoy life.
Twenty-five year old Kati: “I came to prostitution via a girl-friend. My situation was
that I no longer had a family and basically that meant that I had to fend for myself. I was
17 and a girl-friend sold sex in an apartment. The first time left me indifferent. Maybe I
have some kind of gift where after a happening I don‟t feel responsible and can forget it
very fast. I‟ll go and do it and afterwards everything is OK. When I started prostituting
at 17, it seemed to be terribly interesting to be abroad and free of parents, enjoying men
and money. What more can a young woman want, but money, men and lots of fun!”

In this risk situation were also women who simultaneously with so-called organized
prostitution sought men in bars and hotels with whom to have sex for money. One of the
interviewees said that at the beginning of prostitution she satisfied her thirst for adventure
and prostitution is interesting due to the adrenalin. The women who entered prostitution
in this risk situation gave conflicting reasons, because they also expressed the wish to end
prostitution due to depression and sustainability. “When I‟m selling sex…. I have no
feelings….. that kind of work kills all feelings. The reality is that when I go out I do not
think of anything. Sometime I get the feeling of being a zoo where everybody pays an
entrance fee.”

The above risk situations indicate the presence of conditions that led to the decision and
the women‟s own reasons. The principal reasons, however, were the women‟s need for
money. Another apparent factor was the lack of family or close persons‟ support while in
a situation where prostitution seemed like a good choice. This situation was influenced
also by a positive picture of prostitution and by friends, acquaintances and procurers.

From the descriptions of several interviewees it was evident that if at first prostitution
was a solution to a financial crisis then later prostitution became for some women a
means to realize their dreams and to improve their quality of life. However, only one of
the interviewees bought herself an apartment with money earned in prostitution. For the
rest of them, the money was spent on drugs, parties, or some other daily expenses. As
one of them said, “It was like a closed circle where money always moved and never

In the next chapter I describe the reasons for remaining in prostitution and it becomes
clear that the big money obtained in prostitution is the reason for staying in prostitution
far more than it was for entering prostitution.


In the section below I describe the women‟s first experiences in prostitution and what
kind of life they had after becoming prostitutes. I present women‟s own perceptions of
what is positive and negative about prostitution and the role of procurers when it comes
to remaining in prostitution. At the end I present the women‟s own thoughts about the

4.1 Women’s first experiences in prostitution and their influence on remaining in
Whereas the women‟s situation, possible choices and contacts with sex business played a
role in entering prostitution, the reasons for remaining in prostitution usually begin with
the women‟s first experiences in prostitution. Upon analyzing interviewees‟ responses it
was very clear that initial experiences in prostitution cause very conflicting feelings and
reactions in the women. Some of them felt apathy, some felt disgust, some felt
indifference, but there were also those who considered their first experience to be

For some the positive experience occurred when the client did not want sex, but passed
the time with her and paid for that. Some of the respondents appreciated the client‟s
considerate ways by assisting the first-timer.

A notable number of interviewees used alcohol during the first experience and, also, later
when meeting with clients. The majority of the interviewed considered servicing sex-
clients to be an unpleasant process, but the positive effect was provided by the money
which continued to keep them in prostitution.

Twenty-six year old Natasha: “My first client was a foreigner. My girl-friend and I had
gone to a hotel and being half drunk, I offered sex and they offered money for it. I would
not say that it was easy money. It was morally and physically difficult, because there are
no feelings, no nothing. But if you‟re drunk and have taken some alcohol, then you don‟t
feel much. But in the morning, when you begin to realize what has taken place then it‟s a
bad feeling in the pit of the stomach. After the first time…. I was glad that it was over
and I had earned that sum of money. But at the same time, it did not feel good that I had
done it for money.”

Some women did not remember at all their first experience in prostitution, but taken
together, the interviewees responses can be divided in two. One group consisted of
women who wanted to quit after the first encounter, but could not because of money and
thought they had no choice but to remain in prostitution. The other group consisted of
women who did not want to quit, for they were pleased with the money earned and
thought that the experience wasn‟t so bad and they decided to continue.

Twenty-nine year old Julia: “My first client was disgusting. He had a terrible
beard…When I went on the ship, I thought I cannot do it. But I was faced with either
going home without money or earning it. I convinced myself that no matter what, I have
to sleep with him for money. We were in an apartment. I remember that I had it already
in my head that this was work. He‟s not interested in my body, he just wants to fuck me
and leave. I undressed without any complexes and worked like a machine. The first
client was a Finn. I look at a client like a piece of meat which pays money. The first
time it is not as awful as the second. The first time it is like a carousel and you don‟t
know what you are doing. But the second time you are aware and that is worse. I had
prepared myself for the first time. My girl-friend had instructed me to close my eyes and
while it‟s going on to think about what I can have for that money. I did not want to quit
after the first time. I said to myself „Julia 300 kroons is big money‟ and I‟ll immediately
do it a second time and I will have 600 kroons. I got the taste of money in my mouth.”

Twenty-five year old Kati: “During my first experience in prostitution I had a hangover.
It was summertime. The first client was dark-skinned, about 30 years old. I think he
asked me if this was my first time. I don‟t remember too much about it. It took place at
some apartment near his work. He found me on the street where there were special
places for hookers. It probably lasted about 15 minutes. He was nice to me. Afterwards
I thought that, well, that wasn‟t so bad. Now I can continue. I didn‟t have thoughts about
quitting. The feeling was that it wasn‟t so awful.”

The influence of the first experience in prostitution is important, because the positive
emotion and perceived possibilities the money provides is one of the fundamental reasons
for remaining in prostitution. They think that they‟ll do it a little longer and a little
longer, and then quit. In most cases, the quitting period has not arrived and hence
twenty-nine year old Julia is prostituting for the sixth year on the street, which she first
started in order to pay her rent.

One of the interviewees said, “When you start this work and get money easy and fast, and
when you start to quit you already look for ways to get money easy and quick. I know a
woman who is a 60-year old prostitute and she has been that since age 20.”

4.2 What is positive and negative for the women in prostitution?
The women‟s answer to what is good and positive about prostitution is the money earned.
At the same time, their income varies, depending on where they work and whether they
are drug dependent. Drug dependent 23-year old Maria, who finds her clients on Viru
Street by approaching men, earns 4000 kroons per month. Her habit is so expensive,
however, that she does not know how much money comes in and goes out. The
interviewees‟ income in Estonia averaged 10 000 – 15 000 kroons per month. It should
be noted, that if the prostituted woman is not an independent operator, her share is about
one-third of what the client pays.

Estonian prostituted women in Norway earn from 20 000 to 55 000 Estonian kroons per
month, from which is sometimes deducted housing expenses and the procurer‟s take. It is
apparent from the interviews that the women have become accustomed to such an income
and they could not get comparable income from regular work. Several interviewees
rationalize this by saying that they don‟t know Estonian and it is difficult for Russian
speakers to find work in Estonia. Most of the women did have an understanding that
becoming a prostitute is easier than getting an education and finding good employment.
One of them said that prostitution is regrettably an easier and faster road to money.

Some women mentioned also that prostitution gives them independence: they have their
own money. As one of them said, “Can you imagine being married and having to ask the
husband for money to buy panties. That is abnormal. When you earn money, it is your
money. A normal man would give you a credit card and say, go ahead, dear, buy what
you want.”

A significant positive factor is a good client. The interviews revealed that for many
women in prostitution it is characteristic to have persistent relations with their clients
with whom they travel on occasion, go out together or from whom they borrow money.
Even close relations, or partnerships, develop with some clients and pregnancies occur.
Couple women had former clients as boyfriends or partners. Twenty-three year old
Maria: “I had a Swedish regular client. He invited me to his home. I went to Sweden
twice. One time I was there for two months and the other time, one month. I liked it
there very much. That Swede was also my daughter‟s father, but the girl died at three
weeks old.”

The regular client is an added value to remaining in prostitution. The client returns
repeatedly to the same woman and sometimes even romantic feelings develop. It is quite
common that a woman has six or seven clients who constantly help her financially. Some
clients become “sugar daddies”. For example, a 59-year old Estonian man visits 22-year
old Victoria at the Harku women‟s prison and gives her money. Victoria is very happy
that she has such a man in her life and she plans to go and live with him after her release.

Sometimes a client will take the woman along on a trip, as happened with 29-year old
Julia who was in Paris and proudly showed me a picture taken in front of the Eiffel tower.
Julia said that client does not even want to have sex with her, but simply wants to have
her company. All of the interviewees had clients who gave them gifts of either money,
cosmetics, or jewelry. Twenty-five year old Kati: “I have around 20 men as regular
clients. They come once a week, or every other week. Sometimes I charge them less
when they complain that they don‟t have that much money. Sometimes they pay more,
and sometimes they bring gifts, flowers, candy, cake or whatever. One of my clients
always brings me jewelry and pays too. One of them brings me perfume. I have also
received two serious marriage proposals. Some men have offered marriage so that I
could get a Norwegian passport, but I don‟t want to marry for documents.”

Whenever one has been a long time in prostitution it is seen as helping people.
Prostituted women have developed an ideology of prostitution‟s necessity
(Vanswesenbeeck 1994: 35). A majority of the interviewees explained that not
everybody used their body, many of them wanted to simply sit and talk, “They wanted to
bare their souls and talk about their sorrows.”

In some cases the women in prostitution see their interaction with clients as providing
help to troubled men or being company to lonely men. Several interviewees reasoned
that prostitution saves marriages when wives do not satisfy their husbands‟ sexual needs.
Some of the women see themselves as social workers: “My work is to help men. They
need sex and we need money.”

Basically the negative experiences mentioned by the interviewees were violence
perpetrated by clients and pimps. A notable number of the interviewed women had
experienced beatings by their clients and some of them also rape. Twenty-one year old
Lyuba: ”I have experienced violence by clients. Once a client had sex with me and did
not want to pay. I wanted to throw something at him. He grabbed my both hands and hit
me in the face. Then he started to strangle me. He pulled a pair of pants over my head
and threw me out of the car.”

Most of the women had also experienced violence and threats by the pimps. Forced sex
by the pimps was very common, justifying it as “quality control.” Twenty-nine year old
Julia: “I have experienced violence by a pimp. It happened in Finland. He said to me
that he has to find out whether I know how to work or not. I slept with him. I slept with
him without being paid.”

As another negative feature, the women mentioned fears about the future and also that
somebody, especially their own children, would find out what they do. The women in
foreign countries missed their friends and acquaintances at home. Some of them felt
shame and inferiority. One of the basic negative aspects the women acknowledged was
health problems. Working at night and an unstable, stressful life made them tired.
Sexually transmitted diseases and a general bodily malaise were also problems, because
sometimes a woman working in a brothel would have up to 25 men in one night.
Twenty-nine year old Julia: “I agree that one can last in prostitution for a limited time.

Maybe 10 years, because the organism wears out. I want to say that my vagina wears and
ages. For example, there was a time in Finland when I had 23 clients in a row. It was a
men‟s party. The vagina cannot adjust that fast to the changes in size and, therefore, it
gets tired and wears out. Why is it said that prostitutes age fast? Organism simply cannot
endure it. Life causes stress, brings joy and again stress. We make our own decisions. If
I don‟t have any children, I myself am to blame. I chose money and I have only myself
to blame, not life, the world or other people, but only myself.”

Three of the interviewees got HIV by shooting up drugs while working in prostitution.
Several women complained that clients do not want to use condoms, or they remove
them, or the condoms break. All of the women had regular check-ups for either sexually
transmitted diseases or HIV.

4.3 The procurer’s influence and relations with the procurer
The role of a procurer or pimp is very central to the interviewed women with regard to
getting into prostitution and even more important when it comes to remaining in
prostitution. Nine of the ten interviewees got into prostitution via a procurer. According
to the interviews, two types of procurers can be mentioned – “the mafia men” and “the

In cases where “the mafia men” are procurers, the relations are more brutal, violent and
the penalties larger. The male procurers are usually associated with brothels or with
trafficking of women abroad. At first they gain the woman‟s trust and when the woman
has talked of her fears and worries, the pimps recruit them into prostitution and then try
to keep them there. In latter situation, the woman agrees to remain in prostitution,
because of the threats and the fines she has to pay.

Several of the interviewees mentioned that if you want to get out of prostitution, it seems
as if you have to buy your freedom. Twenty-four year old Elena: “When I wanted to get
out, the first procurer had already been killed, and there was in place another, who was
also a drug addict. He sold us drugs and if you wanted to be free of him, you had to pay
him 5000 Estonian kroons and find another woman to replace you. Those were his terms.
The women listened with awe…..”

The other type of procurer is the very confident sweet-talking woman who knows how to
be a mother and friend. She comes across well especially to young girls to whom she
offers “a home”, placing them in an apartment to work. Such a maternal prostitution
procurer is 40-year old Kristiina who is serving already a second term in jail for
procuring. “You have to treat children well. Girls from Kaagvere came to work for me
and I talked with them calmly and told them to go to sleep at 10 p.m. There was a small
girl who had neither mother nor father and I told her I would buy her whatever she‟d like
and she can later pay me back in 50 or 25 kroon instalments. I told her to just collect the
money in an envelope and give it to me later. I bought that 16-year old girl a cassette
player radio, because she loved music. We went to the store and I bought the radio for
1600 kroons and also a cassette. I loved her very much. She was an orphan. She even
called me mother. She had had problems at home. Her step-father sent her to me to

work, because he had a wife and a new baby. He didn‟t want her around. When I took
her to the doctor, she had syphilis, gonorrhea, and HIV.”


Future prospects for the interviewees are very different, but mostly dim. Of the 10
prostituted women, only three had left it. Twenty-two year old Victoria was no longer
selling sex, because she was incarcerated in the Harku women‟s prison. She had been a
streetwalker in downtown Tallinn and thinks that she would have quit even if
imprisonment had not happened to her. Victoria is HIV positive and she has a 6th grade
education. She has a typical unrealistic dream that her 59-year old “uncle” will find her
work: “I plan not to get involved with prostitution anymore, because I have an “uncle”
who will help me find a job and I think I can do it. I would like to work in a beauty
salon, but I may not because of HIV and I could infect someone. But I think he will not
have me work as a cleaning woman.”

Twenty-four year Elena managed to quit prostitution thanks to the help of Oslo social
workers and her partner for his material and emotional support. Family support or the
presence of someone close is most important in quitting prostitution. Twenty-six year old
Natasha quit prostitution, because she no longer needed to work. Natasha went to live
with her mother, who is supporting her, and she is learning to become a hairdresser.

The future is much dimmer to the rest of the interviewed women. Twenty-three year old
Maria thinks that she has no future. She injects drugs, is HIV positive and lives on the
street wherever she happens to be. “I have no apartment, no home and no money. I can
only manage to buy some food. I may live another year or two. It‟s all the same to me.
I‟m the kind of person who does not fear death. I think it is better if I‟m dead. It‟s better
to die than to suffer. I have tried to kill myself already by overdosing seven times.”

Twenty-year old HIV positive Anya initially thinks that she has no future, but after a
moment‟s pause she presents to me a typical “family and children” future dream. Anya
says that she does not like to go to work and school does not interest her. She has a 9th
grade education and in Tallinn she hangs around with drug dependent friends and they
party. “I think, why should I live. Who needs a HIV positive woman? As soon as I get
back to Tallinn, I‟m going to a party… I think my life is going to be good – husband,
family and children. I‟m not going to work. I don‟t like to work nor do I know how.”

Although the thought of quitting passed through the heads of most of the interviewees,
none of them could say how, when they would accomplish that and how they would go
on living. Twenty-nine year old Julia: “I am tired of prostitution. I‟m constantly at work
and cannot make plans at home or go to girl-friend‟s birthday party. I‟m tired of living
sparingly and would like spend money, but I cannot do it because I want to make a dream
come true.” Julia‟s dream remained unclear to me. She had bought an apartment with
money received already during her early days in prostitution and her sister, who had been
a prostitute, was married and had a child. She worked as a seamstress for 2000 kroons a
month. I saw Julia six months after the interview and she was still working the street

near Oslo harbour, standing at the same spot by a streetlamp where I had seen her a half
year before.

Julia said that during the interim her boy-friend had been killed in an automobile accident
in Estonia and she no longer wanted to go back to Estonia. I asked Julia to complete a
questionnaire and when she returned it to me the next day at ProSentret, I was even sorry
that she had such a sense of responsibility and was basically a kind person. It would have
been easier to see her in her state had she been somehow to blame for being on the street.
She came from a family of five children. The father had left them and the mother started
drinking. Julia had ended up in an orphanage.

Twenty-one year old single mother Lyuba has orphanage in her past. Her mother was
murdered and the father was declared irresponsible, but Lyuba still hopes that life will be
alright. “The greatest lack in my life is the absence of my mother, then money and then
love. I don‟t think about my future. I hope everything will turn out alright. Prostitution
is for me the only option for getting money. I would like to find normal work in order to
support myself. I‟m sick and tired of sleeping with everybody. I would work legally if
only Russians were as well paid as the Estonians. If I hadn‟t been discriminated against
and accused of not speaking Estonian fluently and not having Estonian friends…. I don‟t
know… if I‟m in difficulty, I‟ll probably end up in prostitution again.”

Twenty-three year old Ukrainian, Leena, would like to find regular work, but in Tallinn
the obstacle was lack of Estonian language and now she hopes to find regular work in
Norway. At the moment, Leena does not see an alternative to prostitution. Leena thinks
about school and studying. “I have a high school education. I haven‟t thought about
studying more. I regard education positively; it is necessary. But it‟s better for most
women to be married to a good man, because even when you have a good education you
may not get a good job. It‟s so in most cases and that‟s why it would be better to be
married to a good person. I would prefer marriage, staying home and raising children. I
would be a homebody and my husband would support me. It would be OK to have a
part-time job that I like, but that would be for having something to do with my time. A
husband has to provide for the wife.”

And the last example of future prospects is seen by 25 year old high school graduated
Kati, who has two children in Estonia. The children‟s father and grandmother are taking
care of them. Everything that Kati earns she keeps for herself. At the moment Kati sells
sex in Oslo, Norway, and earns an average of 55 000 kroons per month and she does not
have to pay a pimp. “Were I to return to Estonia I would have to find work, rent a flat
and buy food for my children. But that is impossible, absolutely cannot be done. It is
difficult to find a good job in Estonia. I would have to be a clerk in some store for 3-
4000 kroons – now, come on! I want to live. I like the kind of work that keeps me
active, to be on the go, and not sit eight hours behind a desk.”

Kati has worries, nevertheless, and she thinks her future is dim. She would like to remain
in Norway, bring her children there and find some regular work. “I do not think
prostitution is my only option for staying alive, but things seem to be pulling in that

direction. I would like to quit, because I‟m getting tired of whoring around. I would like
to work in a clothing store or a restaurant where I can move around.”

It appears from the stories of the interviewees that the women are short on support from
either family or social workers, and whenever they would like to quit, the pimps
sometimes put obstacles in their path. The other thing is the shock they experience upon
changing their environment and the absence of choices in the ordinary world. “And
when I finally was free of everything – the pimps and the drugs – I discovered with
horror that in fact I lacked education and employment experience… nobody would hire

The topics - childhood experiences, entering prostitution, and reasons for remaining in
prostitution - discussed in the interviews with the prostituted women give clear and new
insights into the world of women in prostitution, and also the phenomenon of prostitution

The prostituted women clarified and interpreted their activities in four research areas.
Evocation of childhood caused in them nostalgia or sadness, because of tragedies such as
the death of mother, being sent to an orphanage, or non-caring or even violent family
relations. The impression remained that already in their childhood home they had to fend
for themselves in all kinds of situations. Also, school did not hold much interest for most
of the interviewees. They had failing grades or felt rejected by their peers. Those who
had entered prostitution as minors seemed to find their “own place” or activity, which
compensated for the lack of care by their parents and home.

In the second research area the prostituted women described the risk situations in which
they entered prostitution. Looking at the risk situations and the social context in which
the decision to enter prostitution was made, it is apparent that the women were enveloped
with chaos and hopelessness. At the moment of their decision the women thought that
there was no alternative which would solve all financial problems, and, therefore,
prostitution seemed the best solution. It should be noted that all interviewees came from
simple families or those with limited means, and as a consequence the sums of money
received from prostitution gave them a somewhat unrealistic opportunity to dream and
live that “glamorous” life – buy whatever one wanted - which poverty had denied them.
Simultaneously, it gave the prostituted women a perception that they were “somebody”.
For example, whenever she would have a client that did not want sex, but wanted to
spend some time with her or gave her compliments, her self-esteem would increase

It is noteworthy that at the moment of entering prostitution the women did not have
supportive friends or acquaintances, but rather, were surrounded by women in
comparable situations, and in some cases, women that had already found their way to
prostitution. Possibly the most tragic stories were of the simple girl who dreamed of a
better life. A scene at ProSentret demonstrates their dreams: the women were looking for
hours at bridal magazines and when I asked them what they were thinking, they said that

they were dreaming of being married, of having a husband and children. They would
comment for hours on those gowns and fantasize at ProSentret and if a client called and
they had to leave, they did not want to stop dreaming. The daily life of a prostitute
seemed to bore them.

In the third research area the prostituted women would describe their reasons for
remaining in prostitution, citing the plusses and minuses. It was very clearly evident that
the behavioural patterns had become a habit and they were not able to make changes.
Prostituted women coped very well with crises in their lives. One became a prostitute
when one needed money. Whenever they were thrown out of a flat, they quickly found a
man with whom to move in. This could be called real art of survival and yet they lacked
sufficient will or self-criticism in order to leave prostitution. The women were unable to
plan their lives in longer terms and to realize their dreams step by step. The prostituted
women lived in the day.

Prostitution became a way of life primarily due to the sums of money which enabled
them quite often to live a rather luxurious life. Different repeat clients seemed to be
exciting and attractive experiences for the women. They appeared to play with them,
creating closer relations and thereby receiving gifts or “borrow” money. The game
seemed to be played by both sides, since the clients enjoyed the paid women‟s company
in coffee houses and while traveling.

Bad and violent clients were disliked by the women. Neither did the women like the
unstable life and to work at night. While they were not with their clients, the women
usually partied, and used alcohol or drugs. It seemed as if they constantly wanted to
“forget” their lives, not think what in fact they were doing and what was going to become
of them. Using drugs or selling one‟s body seemed to be temporary means to cope with
deeper emotional problems and a superficial solution to all other concerns.

Most disturbing were women‟s answers to the questions about their future. Most of the
women had no vision about their future, having instead quite unrealistic dreams. It
seemed as if they constantly hoped that somebody would decide for them, whether some
man, social worker or pimp. Although they earned money, they did not know how to live
an independent life. One interviewee said that most of the women eat chocolate all day,
spend their money on clothes and beauty parlours. The women seemed to think “that‟s
the right way to live.”

Many women lacked a sense of responsibility and would sleep, for example, until noon
which was possible in their work. It also appeared that they take clients whenever they
ran out of money. They would describe typical aspirations about a good job and having a
family, but they did not comprehend their real situation and it was also very typical of
them to be disinterested in things that did not affect their lives directly. They were quite
pessimistic about continuing their education and described how most work was
unappealing or unsuited for them.

It is apparent that failed family relations, childhood traumas and daily experiences as a
prostitute have made these women very vulnerable and they lack the will to bring change
in their lives step by step. The earlier experiences of the interviewees have left many
women socially immature and receptive to all kinds of influences. Regrettably, their
fragile and unrealistic hopes, such as attempts to stop using drugs or look for a better job,
often crumble fast. In most cases, the women did not know what they want or how to
achieve it.

Some women, especially the HIV-positive or those with a drub habit, were indifferent
about their lives and looked forward to the new dose or the end to life. Others cared
more about their lives and thought that the money received from prostitution is adequate
compensation for the negative experiences in prostitution. I think all the women had
some kind of wish to leave prostitution, but since reality did not make it possible they had
learned to ignore the problems and to accept the situation. Most of the women were used
to living in prostitution and their views about their lives and reasons for their vocation
were often convincing and vital.


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