Pensées on Prostitution

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In a recent article, an esteemed friend (Julia Beazley) wrote about the current problem we have when dealing with the issue of legalizing prostitution. In her article,  she reminds us not to ignore the real issue on prostitution. A lot of the argument about legalizing prostitution revolves around the intended “safety” that legalizing prostitution would bring to those who practice this particular “profession”. By legalizing it, we can then enforce laws that could potentially create a safer environment for women who have “chosen” to be in this field of work. Beazley reminds us that

The violence is rooted in the underlying view among the people, mostly men, that purchase them that women in prostitution are somehow fundamentally different from their mothers, sisters, girlfriends, wives and daughters. This misperception justifies treatment of women as objects to be bought and sold. The very existence of prostitution requires a subclass of people who are available to be bought, sold and rented; people understood to be somehow just a little less equal than everyone else.

I know a lot of fathers who will move heaven and earth for their daughters. The moment their daughter’s little fingers wrap around theirs, even the most manliest man can be reduced to tears. They dream of a bright and lovely future for their daughter. Maybe she will become a doctor or a lawyer (especially if her parents happen to be Asians hahaha), a writer, a ballerina, a teacher, or even become the prime minister (or the president if you’re not in Canada)! I haven’t met a lot of normal fathers who ever dreamt a future of prostitution for their little girl. Probably because that would be incredibly sick and disturbing if they actually did! I would like to think that as a society, we can agree that wanting your daughter to be a prostitute when she grows up is wrong.

While I recognize that lots of things happen when a child grows up, I hope that our general views on protecting others from harm would not be something we throw out because of a change in someone’s age. The prostitute in the street is not a random piece of flesh to be bought and enjoyed like you would buy a chocolate bar from a vending machine. She is a woman created in the image of her Creator. She is someone’s child. She is someone’s sister. She is someone’s friend. She is a human being. She is not a piece of commodity to be owned and bought at someone’s convenience and pleasure.

We live in a broken, messed up world. I am not naïve enough to think that just because I think someone is wrong means that everyone will think what I think is wrong is wrong too. But, in a world of relativity and lack of absolutes in this post-modern world we inhabit in, there are general ideas that most people irregardless of their religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or political stance do agree on. In general, we are all about love, peace, joy, and general happy things. We generally want peace instead of war. We are all about protecting the weak and oppressed against the power of the strong tyrant. And maybe this is just the idealist in me, but I really hope and pray that as a society, we would rise up to protect the weak and the disenfranchised who find themselves in the prostitution trade and remind them that they are not disposable sex objects but human beings who need to be treated with love and care. But then again, maybe that’s not me just being idealistic… maybe that’s just me recognizing and respecting someone else’s humanity. Maybe that’s just me being truly human.

 

 

Comments are always welcome. It’s ok to disagree with me and/or others, but we can disagree in a nice way that doesn’t result to denigrating or being demeaning to others in the process =)

17 thoughts on “Pensées on Prostitution

  1. The whole relative truth thing is also a huge issue. “I would never do it, and I wouldn’t want my daughter to do it, but if it makes her happy…” As if they really believe it would actually make her happy but they just don’t want to rock the boat. You know? Like I’ve heard so many people say, “Well, *I* wouldn’t have an abortion, but if she wants to, that’s her business.” Our politeness culture in Canada in combination with post-modernity makes for some pretty confusing perspectives on morality and gives other people permission to do things we think is wrong enough that we wont do. I don’t get it, and yet, I kind of do (I used to say the line about abortion because I understood the Canadian value of politeness.)

    • And that’s why as relative as we can get here in Canada, er should have a general consensus that prostitution is a former of sexual violence and exploitation of the weak and marginalized. We, as a society, seem to not have that relative attitude when it comes to issues like FGM (female genital mutilation) or interracial marriages. There is a consensus that FGM is bad and interracial marriages are good. And if u disagree with that general notion, there’s something wrong with how u think. I don’t see how prostitution can ever be a good choice for anyone!

  2. I appreciate your ideals, but I have to say that they are indeed only ideals right now, unfortunately. Try being a young woman who is being abused and going to your local church for help. “I will never help someone like you,” one pastor responded to me in disgust when I told him I needed help and feared for my life. “You can’t expect anybody at church to love you with your past,” a pastor’s son/young ministry leader once told me when I asked why I had been slandered instead of protected and helped when I asked for help at his church. The boys all like to put their arm over my shoulder and compliment me and invite me to the next party when I attend churches, but ask any one of them to help or protect me and you are out of luck. Being my father’s daughter didn’t merit love or protection from him, he abused me. Being my brother’s sister didn’t merit any good either, he abused me too. All “Christian” men. I want to defend myself here as worthy of love, as having value, by explaining that I am not a prostitute, I was not sexually abused and therefore i am not somehow worth less, I was just a victim of violence, I did nothing wrong, even that i always dress modestly. But then i think, what then are we basing value on? I am falling into the trap of thinking as they do. If i was a prostitute, if i had been violated, if i had sinned to somehow deserve the abuse, if i didn’t dress just right, should i have been treated as i was — would i have deserved it then? Prostitutes, the abused, the fatherless have no value in churches. How then can we expect them to have value in the world? How can your ideals become reality for people like me — among “Christians” first and then the world?

    • Hi Anonymous,

      My heart breaks at your story. It angers me to no end when the people who are charged to protect and care for others aka the family or the Church fail so horribly in their duty to do so. As a Christian men, I am deeply angered at how other “Christian” men have treated you. The Bible is clear that you will know someone by their fruit and someone who abuses you or devalues you are people who sully the name of Christ and are not worthy to carry His name.

      The beautiful thing about the gospel of Jesus Christ is that this is good news for the poor, the disenfranchised, the marginalized and the oppressed. It is for the drug addict, the prostitute, and even the pimp. The good news is that He has redeemed us and have called us His children. The only way for the ideals I talk about in this post to be a reality is when the Church (aka all who call themselves as Christians) begins to act in the way that they’re supposed to act, obey the way they’re supposed to obey, and live the way Christ calls us to live. It starts with repenting that we have failed to value the prostitutes, the abused and the fatherless when God clearly commands us to look after and care for them. It starts with being active in providing the help and care needed by those who need it the most. It becomes a reality when we personally live out the love of Jesus Christ in our daily lives.

      • Thank you for your anger at injustice.

        I agree with everything you wrote. But how are the “unlovable” to find the Church, those known by their love as Jesus said His people would be, when every building we walk into labeled “church,” every person we encounter locally who calls themselves “Christian,” kicks us while we’re down?

        I’ve time and again given away all my money, sometimes so i couldn’t even buy groceries for myself, over $300,000 in my lifetime, to people I’ve encountered who needed it more than I did. Last year, my family and i were in a serious car accident (at about 90 kph), and the resulting medical bills have left me in debt about $80,000. Instead of helping, the Christians i talked to accused me of “using other people’s money” to obtain the emergency care my family and i needed. When i merely asked for prayer for my whole family, vaguely explaining our situation, not even asking for a penny of his or anybody’s money like he frequently solicits for unnecessary ventures, a pastor told he preferred i not share anything personal with him. We are supposed to be family! You are supposed to be known for your love! Jesus was never that rude to anyone — not even the girl who let her hair down and washed His feet with it. I just want to scream. If what i said feels personal, its because it should, it should hurt him that i am hurting, that God Himself disguised beneath the filthy bleeding faces of “the least of these” is hurting — Jesus came, spoke, lived, bled, died to make the plight of people like me personal to people like him.

        Where is the Church? Where do people like me even begin to look for it, for the ones who live like you spoke of?

      • Hi Anonymous,

        That seriously horrifies me that you are surrounded by a “Church” and “Christians” who act in such a despicable manner! The way that they have treated you is NOT the way that Christians should act. And I completely agree with what you said… it is personal because it should be personal!

        If you lived in Ottawa, I could actually answer that last line. I go to a church filled with recovering addicts, homeless people, abused people, and hurt people who are bound by the love offered by Jesus Christ. It is a place where people like you are looked after and where people live like I spoke of. The Church is full of imperfect people. And I don’t want to use that line as a cop out. I agree that the ideal and the reality are two completely different things. While it is true that there are a lot of churches out there who do NOT live out the mandate that Christ has given to the Church, there are a few who would be more than willing to come alongside you in your journey and help and encourage you and not put you down and treat you as if you don’t matter. You do matter and you matter a lot!!!

      • I’m afraid you’re wrong. I’m sorry. With all my heart I wish what you said was true. But I’ve just been given so much proof to the contrary. Trying to believe it is like trying to believe there is no such thing as gravity after jumping off a roof and falling to the ground a dozen times. I don’t think even your friends in Ottawa would care for me. I’m afraid what the christians I’ve known have said to me is true. No one could ever love me. Not even those said to be known by their love. I am hopeless. Unlovable. And, I’m sorry, but I’ve given up searching. When I wrote the above comments I hoped still — was still searching. But not anymore. How many times do I have to be told something before I’ll believe it? How many times does a sane person take a leap of faith only to plummet to the ground and get hurt? I give up fighting. I believe what every Christian I’ve known has told me. I will never be one of them. And I don’t want to be anymore.

        P.S. I only wrote the two comments above (and this one). The other anonymous commenters aren’t me — check the IPs. Just wanted to be sure you knew I’m not spamming you.

      • That hurts my heart to hear you say that. It truly does. I will tell u tho that my friends here in Ottawa are different. I know this because I have seen them live it out day after day.

        I hope you do know that the “Christians” who have spoken words of death over your life are not actually Christians. The Bible says that there are certain characteristics that Christians should exemplify and the characteristics they have shown you are NOT Christian values.

        If possible, I would like to continue this convo with you via email. Please let me know if this is something that would be ok with you.

      • My email address is anonymouscommenter989@yahoo.com.

        I said what I did because one of the people I mentioned who did those things attends your church. I doubt they are a friend of yours due to certain factors. I did not mean to insult any of your friends. I’m sorry if it came across wrong.

  3. The commenter above raises the same point that I had throughout reading your post. You are missing a key aspect of why most women become sex workers– because they have been abused. And most women who are abused are abused by family members, including fathers and stepfathers. Yes, the same men who cry when their baby squeezes their fingers. It is not society that needs to stop thinking women are only worth what they can perform sexually, it is men who are in positions of authority and power. Cops, priests, fathers, uncles, etc, . Only then can we have an honest conversation about if prostitution is ‘wrong’.

    • Thanks Patti for bringing up a key aspect to why most women become sex workers. Studies after studies show that the rates of abuse among sex workers is ridiculously prevalent within this key demographic area. You are completely right that most of the abusers are family members. Overall, I agree with your statement. But I will respectfully disagree on one point.

      ” It is not society that needs to stop thinking women are only worth what they can perform sexually, it is men who are in positions of authority and power. Cops, priests, fathers, uncles, etc, . Only then can we have an honest conversation about if prostitution is ‘wrong’.”

      - It’s not that I completely disagree with this point. In fact, I guess that was what I was hoping my point was in writing this post was to begin with. We can’t treat women as if they were different from our mothers or sisters. There is nothing inherently different from your daughter to the sex worker on the street. And if we forget that there is NO distinction between the two, then it is easier for prostitution to thrive since we have dehumanized the prostitute and labelled them as “other”. It is easier to oppress and enslave someone when we think that they are not like us. We see this constantly in history. Newspaper cartoons are rather telling in the way that a society chooses to characterize (or often make a caricature!) of the other that they disagree with. The pictures always show that *insert particular ethnic group* is not human like us, they are *insert animal here* or sometimes *insert evil adjectives here*.

      The men who are in positions of authority and power are a part of society. We can’t exclude this particular subset from society in our discussion. I think you and I would both agree that they play an important role in shaping public life and values. Sometimes for the good, too many times for the not so good. However, the conversation about prostitution being “wrong” goes beyond what any legislator/legislation might say about whether it is wrong or not. In this, I will appeal to natural law. I would argue that prostitution is wrong not because a law might be put into effect that would say otherwise. I would argue that prostitution is wrong because it is another form of slavery that we must seek to abolish.

      • I agree with what you’re saying. I think it the reason “we” don’t see sex workers as our daughters or sisters etc is exactly because of the connection between sex work and sexual violence. Because violence against women is so taboo in our society, even when it IS LITERALLY our daughters and sisters and.. we don’t talk about it. Many (most?) families have some connection to someone who works in the sex trade, but it is never appropriate to say it. we might talk about “a daughter who ran away and we don’t talk to anymore” or “a old neighbor who got into crime and drugs”- but to know that people we love are in that position is too much for most people to confront (perhaps because it would mean confronting their own experiences as perpetrators or victims of abuse?)- it is much easier to just promote a culture that locks ‘em all up. It’s all very messy to think about- but all I know is that I don’t want to live in a society where a woman can get raped and beaten by a stranger and then herself get incarcerated for going to the police to report it. no matter what her line work- it’s not ok.

      • You and me both! That’s why I’m a big fan of the Nordic approach to prostitution. They too don’t want to live in a society “where a woman can get raped and beaten by a stranger and then herself get incarcerated for going to the police to report it.” That is just seriously messed up and the studies show that it is NOT working. And I love the holistic nature of their approach to prostitution. They don’t just send the pimps and the johns to jail, but they also make sure that they come alongside the women in their journey out of the sex trade. This means counselling, and practical counselling to make sure they have the necessary tools to survive outside of their abusive environments.

  4. I want to start out by saying that in no way do I condone or support prostitution.

    However, it seems to me that the problems you presented would be at least partially addressed by legalizing prostitution. In nations where prostitution is legalized, the brothel becomes a legitimate establishment, where prostitutes receive steady pay (which in some cases can get up into six figures), clients are forced to use protection, and paid security staff are always at hand to prevent violent and/or abusive scenarios.

    I would say that many of the problems you stated in your post stem from the fact that prostitutes cannot do anything about their problems because as criminals, they have no rights. In Western nations, at least, the legalization of prostitution tends to go a long way towards improving their plight.

    Abortion makes a decent parallel. Abortion was legalized because people said “This is happening everywhere and we can’t stop it, so we may as well make sure it’s happening in a safe and sterile environment.” Of course, the problem with this is that abortion suddenly became much more commonplace.

    I think legalizing prostitution would see a similar effect: life would become much better for prostitutes, but prostitution would become far more common.

    To promote sexual immorality in order to help others seems wrong, but to refrain from helping others to preserve our sense of morality also seems wrong. Decisions, decisions…

    • Legalizing prostitution has not decreased crime rates nor increased the quality of life of the prostitutes. In fact, the countries where prostitution has been legalized are now facing increased crime rates. That’s why the Nordic law is way more effective at combatting this problem. Their solution is to first recognize that prostitution is a form of sexual exploitation of the weak and vulnerable. Instead of sending the prostitutes (who are already vulnerable) to jail, they send the pimps and the john to jail instead. Like anything else, the sex trade works because there is a high demand for it. But if you decrease the demand because all the clients are too afraid to go to jail, then demand for prostitutes goes down. Also, the government works closely with prostitutes to help them get out of it by providing them with the necessary tools to survive off the streets.

  5. What a courageous and deeply vulnerable conversation. I am thankful for both articles.
    I am also thankful for the worthwhile conversation they are producing.

    From some reading and some observation, it seems that some sex trade workers do share similar themes –Abuse, poverty, disability, addiction, mental illness, unemployment, a desire to sustain a higher standard of living otherwise unsustainable due to the aforementioned challenges.

    When I consider the context, in which most sex trade work occurs, (as I have described briefly above), or at least, the culture that it helps engender (i.e further exploitation of the vulnerable, through sex trafficking) it seems almost irrational to bow out of the conversation on a platform that defends the “choice”, of a very small minority that choose this lifestyle.

    In terms of the church responding in a sensitive way to some of these challenges, there has been a few things happening in my community (Hamilton).

    I know there is an intentional group of Christians that hit the streets walking, praying and offering care by means of practical support to those working the streets.

    I know of another group that routinely walks, talks and prays in different areas of downtown with all kinds of people from many walks of life.

    I know there is a coffee shop opening in an area known for sex trade workers, that is supported by a church in the community. The intention is to be a welcoming place for those that work the streets ( and everybody else too). They’ve aligned their store hours to be a safe space for those working the streets.

    Here’s a link to their webpage…there’s a short film describing the initiative.
    http://fivefortyone.ca/

    This organization originated in Hamilton and is working to fight sex trafficking.
    http://hopeforthesold.com/

    There are a number of ministries, groups and people that truly care. I am certain that is true of other cities as well. At the same time, I know it is also true that some people are ill equipped to respond to some of these issues . I hope some of these examples encourage your heart to know, there are Churches and Christians out there that care.

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