Gender Indoctrination Led Her to the Sex Trade—Here’s How She Escaped

By Andrea Mew

In recent years, academics and activists have euphemistically replaced the term “prostitution” with “sex work,” in an attempt to decriminalize, destigmatize, and legitimize the act of buying and selling sex. The rebrand worked on Olivia B., a Texas woman who got caught up in the sex trade. 

Olivia thought that by engaging in “sex work,” she’d obtain the independence and empowerment that advocates promised. But instead, Olivia became helplessly subservient to a man who pimped her out. To cope with the physical and emotional trauma, Olivia adopted a “non-binary identity,” meaning she began identifying as neither a man or woman. During this time, she said she suffered routine abuse and degradation, and was nearly killed.

Olivia’s journey started when she was a sophomore at a small high school in central Texas focused on the arts. First, she came out as a lesbian and maintained a long-distance relationship with a woman who was very active on websites such as Tumblr, regularly discussing her sexual orientation and thoughts on “transphobia.”

Then, she learned more about the idea of drag queens, transgenderism, and “gender-nonconforming identities” through a group of friends who introduced her to RuPaul’s Drag Race, a reality TV show for drag queens. 

Though her friends were “obsessed” with the show, Olivia said she felt viscerally offended by the content—its crass, vulgar language, racial stereotyping, and hypersexualized “bimbofication” of women. But, any objections she had were not welcome amongst her friend group, she said. This trend would follow her to university, where Olivia fell deeper down the rabbit hole of gender ideology, eventually coming to believe the idea that individuals can have a “gender identity” different from their biological sex.

“Either Get With This Agenda Or Die Socially”

While in college, Olivia made friends with other lesbian, gay, bisexual, and otherwise “queer” students. (She asked not to share her last name or any details of where she attended school out of fear that her former pimp would find her.) She recalled her friends’ tribal, herd-like mentality, saying, “It was so clear you either get with this agenda or die socially.”

She explained that her friend group instilled a “visceral, bone-deep fear” within her if she didn’t use people’s “preferred pronouns” or call biological men “women.” Though the climate reminded her of middle school, she said her friend group experimented in more mature activities.

“There was such a culture of sex work as empowerment; having sex with many different people as being liberation, being indiscriminate with who you have sex with, whether it’s having multiple partners at one time, or if you are a lesbian, being indiscriminate in the way where you’d be willing to sleep with a man dressing as a woman. That was the way to be a good gay,” Olivia said. 

At her core, she knew this was wrong. But the pressures to conform were dogmatic. For example, Olivia co-founded a STEM group for students who identify as LGBTQ+ with a female classmate who had been taking opposite-sex hormones and underwent a double mastectomy to achieve a more masculine chest.

Her co-founder subjected Olivia and other participants to a “training” exercise that taught students in the group how to police their own language and thoughts. At one point, she said her co-founder tried to convince her that men who take estrogen are actually women. 

“It was really wild,” she said, now looking back.

Eventually, Olivia started to believe what her friends were telling her—and soon, she began to develop her own dysphoric feelings about her “gender identity.”

How “Sugaring” Led To Trafficking

The final nail in her proverbial coffin of social indoctrination came when Olivia was introduced to “sugaring,” or pseudo-romantic transactional sexual relationships between a young person and an older wealthy person.

Olivia started seeing ads on her phone for a sugaring website called “Seeking Arrangements,” so she took up sugaring as a way to afford school.

“I was very naive, and it’s not that I didn’t know what could happen, it’s that I had this really arrogant idea that it wouldn’t happen to me,” Olivia said, foreshadowing several experiences in the trafficking industry that would indelibly change her life.

It started with Olivia meeting a middle-aged man at a gas station in Dallas. He had her spend the night with him at a spa and engage in sex acts for the “measly sum” of $200. 

“This just goes to show how naive I was and lacking in self-respect that I accepted that [$200] as payment for giving away my very precious body,” she said. 

During the summer of 2020, Olivia felt a deep sense of desperation to stay afloat. She recalled how COVID lockdowns created a hot-bed of social chaos and how meaningful work was difficult to find. She wasn’t speaking to her family and was in the wake of recovering from SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) withdrawals, a commonly prescribed antidepressant medication.

A woman she was dating at the time, who also did sugaring, had an OnlyFans account, so Olivia started making content on the subscription platform to bring in additional income from home. At this time, she started identifying as non-binary. Looking back, Olivia believes this identity was her way of coping with the physical and emotional trauma she experienced on a massive scale.

At the same time, Olivia was still participating in Seeking Arrangements and met a man at a gas station who would then irreparably change her life. This man was closer in age to Olivia and promised her that, as a photographer and music producer, he could help her achieve her dream of becoming a singer and songwriter. 

He said he’d take control over her OnlyFans content and become her “manager,” which Olivia now understands actually meant her pimp. Olivia was then trafficked from motel to hotel between a mix of men who her pimp knew and men who were total strangers. She would never even see the sexually explicit pictures and videos that her pimp took of her and sold.

“There was one experience where he took me to a motel,” Olivia said, calling to mind how her parents lived just a few hours from the motel. “I remember feeling this really scared, desperate ache to just go to my mom’s house; to call my mom and tell her what was going on and just have her come pick me up and never see him again.” 

But deep in the industry’s stranglehold, she kept seeing her pimp. Olivia recalled finding small moments of solace when she would meet up with other women who were also being trafficked—the comfort she found in their presence, and how they were able to distract her from the pain and hurt she was experiencing and even observed in the eyes of the men who were abusing her.

“I knew that I was selling my life,” she said. “I felt so tired, worn out, and just hungry for real love, for someone to see what was going on and help me get out of it.” 

“You Cannot Put A Price On A Human Body”

Bit by bit, Olivia dissociated from her identity as a woman. All she had come to know was that being a woman meant having her female body be on the receiving end of brutality. By embracing a “non-binary identity,” she was able to believe that the trauma she was experiencing couldn’t be real—because she wasn’t really a woman. 

During the scariest night of her life, Olivia said it dawned on her that if she didn’t make a change, not only were the people around her in danger, but that she could also lose her own life.

Rent was about to be due, and Olivia and her then-girlfriend were both struggling to make ends meet. They went to a sports bar to meet up with Olivia’s pimp, who wasn’t alone this time. One of the men he was with took a particular interest in Olivia. Despite feeling apprehensive about her safety, she was desperate to be able to pay rent by the end of the night. 

“He raped me,” Olivia said. “He did things that I explicitly said I don’t do—biting, choking, slapping. And then we went back.” 

They went back to a hookah lounge, where Olivia said he acted like nothing had happened. Her girlfriend, however, was terrified by the situation. The shock Olivia then felt from what had just happened, and witnessing how it affected her girlfriend, was profound. 

“That just flipped everything,” she said.

Though Olivia was engaging in a sexually promiscuous lifestyle and said she had previously been violently raped, she had never been raped with such brutality—especially while out with her girlfriend. The assault was so traumatic, Olivia said she struggled to communicate out loud to her girlfriend what had happened. When the two returned to the apartment they shared, Olivia decided she needed to get out. 

“It’s not just our lives. We all have ripple effects on one another, and we all are accountable to one another,” Olivia said. “I was making really risky decisions and just not paying attention to how hurt she [her then-girlfriend] could be.”

She called one of her aunts, who took her to SAFE Alliance, a sexual and domestic violence crisis center, to document the bites, bruises, and other evidence of rape. It was then that Olivia started their CARES program meant to help women exit the trafficking industry.

“I really believe sex work is not work. It’s primarily contractual rape,” she said. “You  cannot put a price on a human body. These [are] acts of sex and intimacy, and no matter what religious or spiritual belief you have about sex, putting a price on it is slavery.”

When Olivia started counseling, the head counselor of the program took a “crone, very grandmother-like” approach to Olivia’s “gender identity,” teaching her how to speak gently to her female anatomy and forgive herself for “abandoning” her body.

Slowly, Olivia felt like she could step back into her skin.

“It just all clicked,” she said, explaining how she felt as though a spell had broken. Speaking of her pimp, she added, “This is not a person who sees me as human or worthy of life. This is a man who wants me dead.”

Though Olivia was coming to understand how her pimp was neither a “manager” or the boyfriend that many victims of sexual abuse are conditioned to see their pimps, she had a difficult time walking away. The final straw came when he choked her, called her racial slurs and told her that he wanted her to die. Finally, she walked away for good.

“No One Could Ever Own You”

Now 24, Olivia has fully exited the sex industry. For several months, she lived on another aunt’s farm where she said the routine and rhythm of taking care of animals and tending to the land helped her in the healing process to manage “incredibly debilitating flashbacks, like full body ocular hallucinations.”

Olivia had also grown close with her cousin, who imparted to her the importance and inherent value in being a woman, despite the powerful efforts by ideologues, institutions, and the government to erase sex differences. Both her aunt and cousin “really embraced their womanhood” and eased Olivia through her healing by tending to the land, singing, and cooking together. This type of “women’s work,” Olivia said, has saved women’s lives throughout history.

Eventually, Olivia describes coming “home” to her womanhood. She now works with children and spends time in female-only spaces like her local singing group where Olivia had attended a retreat earlier this year. There, she said the women sang a particularly impactful, allegorical song to her about Pistis Sophia.

This formerly-lost text written about Mary Magdalene was adapted in the 12th century by German Benedictine abbess Hildegard von Bingen. Olivia felt that the lyrics resonated with her as they detailed how Pistis Sophia came to earth to experience the most debased brutality and cruelty in order to be a light to women and a beacon of unconditional understanding, compassion, and love.

“That was honestly the most beautiful experience of my life and one of the most necessary things that has ever come into my life was that whole day with only women, looking into each other’s eyes, holding each other, stroking each other’s hair and eating together, singing together.”

While her experience isn’t that of everyone who comes into contact with gender ideology, she said that stories like hers are medicine. For that reason, she said she feels humbled to be able to share hers and believes it to be her mission to pass along these warnings for other members of the female sex.

“If there’s one thing that I could impart to young girls or women, it’s to really take every day to notice your body as a sacred gift and of priceless value—we were designed this way for very particular and also mysterious reasons,” she said. “No one could ever own you. Anyone who tries to convince you that they do is actually one of the most embodied forms of pure evil that I can think of. Run like hell if you ever come into contact with that.” 

*To protect her identity and ensure safety from past abusers, Olivia’s full name has been abbreviated in this profile.

Return to Homepage

Sign Up For Updates

  • Become a Mobile Insider. Text WOMAN to 40442 to opt in. Sign up for recurring informational messages from IWF. Msg&data rates may apply. Terms & Privacy Policy.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.