How Much

Here’s Sherlyn Assam’s poem, performed at JHR’s Night for Rights!

Sherlyn Assam at Night for Rights. Nov 16. Alison Sandstrom/Carleton JHR

By Sherlyn Assam


In Cambodia, a poor family hopes to bring a girl into the world

A token of luck, they will her exchange her like a good in a marketplace

In Romania, a young woman travels with a seemingly generous man in hopes of her dance dream unravelling

but he will charge admission on her body in ways she could not imagine

In Canada, teenage girls dream about how they will lose their virginity

but cannot conceive that it can be sold

How Much


Fifty dollars for an hour – even more if she’s young

The insults we slap on women do not stop even when they use their safe words

Her body can be bought, but her rights are stolen

Reducing her to what her mouth can do, but pretending not to hear her cries

How Much


Pimps beat out the perfect price

and the greedy johns oblige

Convincing themselves they are helping

They are her regulars and treat her well

They caress and leave her treasures

but foolishly believe she is the prize

I beg – do they ask themselves why they prey at night?

So they are not forced to see the tears crawling down her cheeks as she moans

…in pleasure?

How Much


In India, brothel owners roll cooking sticks in chilli powder and penetrate their girls as punishment

burning them from the inside as if their shame is not enough

In Thailand, pimps beat their girls if they don’t come enough cash

As if the countless men entertained between their legs isn’t enough abuse



Somewhere in the world, a girl hates what she’s become

She tries to make herself numb

To the pounding in her head

To the blows of the men

To the raps on the door that tell her there is only more terror to come

How Much


Somewhere in the world

A girl wonders how much longer her dignity will be for sale


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