Sex Sells and Sex Provides

[I wrote this article for Think Christian last April, but it can stand a re-run. If you’ve never visited that site, take some time to click around there and you’ll see why their tag line is “No Such Thing As Secular”.]

***

Years ago I had a family law case in my courtroom where the mother and father, never married, were arguing over who would be the better parent for their son to live with. Actually, only the mother was arguing for custody; the father hadn’t bothered to show up. I’d read through her paperwork but didn’t see her occupation, so I asked her.

“I’m an exotic dancer.”

Exotic dancer? You mean like a stripper? I asked in my head. Out loud I said, “And what’s your monthly income from that?”

She told me, and by the end of the hearing I awarded her custody of her son.

Later back in chambers I asked my clerk, “That mom, the exotic dancer. Do you think that means she’s a stripper?”

“Oh come on, Judge,” she said from her desk. “What other kind of exotic dancer is there?”

That led me to other questions.

What kind of society is it that makes young mothers feel that becoming a stripper is the best way to be able to provide for their children, to put a roof over their heads and food on the table?

What kind of society is it that makes young fathers feel that they can leave their children behind, forcing the mother to raise the child all on her own even if it means she has to take a job in a strip club?

A Community Subsisting on the Sex Trade

Here’s an article that broke my heart and brought me hope at the same time. Here’s the lead paragraph:

A village in Gujarat hosted a mass wedding and engagement ceremony of 21 girls on Sunday aimed at breaking a tradition of prostitution which has for centuries exploited women of a poor, marginalised and once nomadic community in the region.

The article explains that this village’s inhabitants once served warring factions by selling their daughters to warlords as entertainers, dancers, sex slaves. The government has tried to help the village build an economy, but farming isn’t as profitable as prostitution so they continued to sell their daughters. One government official said, “Prostitution is a tradition which this community adopted for ages and it has been very normal for them. They did not think they were doing anything wrong.”

Where did I find hope in this? Working as a prostitute lasts only until the woman is engaged to be married so the government and a group of social activists organized a mass wedding of young women before they entered the sex trade. Eight got married and thirteen more got engaged, ending the possibility of life as a prostitute for those twenty-one young women. In a village of 50,000 people it’s not much, but it’s a start.

Ransoming Slaves

It didn’t come cheap. The activists spent $18,000 to make this happen. In a country where the average annual salary is about $1,300 this is a fortune.

We who belong to Jesus Christ should be able to relate. We’ve been ransomed too. The ransom was high: it cost Jesus his life. But that’s who he is, it’s what he does. He sets captives, slaves, the oppressed free!

Our Neighbors: oppressed, captive, enslaved

It’s easy to look at that village and shake our heads at how a society could go so far down that road, so far that prostitution is not only condoned but depended upon for daily sustenance.

Remember the young mother I spoke of at the beginning of this article, though? That’s not in some far off village of former nomads. That’s here and now. She takes her son to school, she goes to parent/teacher conferences, she drives him to soccer practice and she goes to court to make sure there is a legal order that says she gets to make the decisions about what’s best for her son. And she works as an exotic dancer to make all this possible.

What kind of society do we live in?

What is the Body of Christ doing about it?

What are you doing?

You may not be able to do much but remember that whatever you do, it’s a start.

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18 Responses to Sex Sells and Sex Provides

  1. Kinda goes along with this…

    http://abnormalanabaptist.wordpress.com/2013/02/12/outside-in/

    we in the body of Christ can’t necessarily make judgment calls against those lost in the fringes… they are doing what they feel they must to survive. Our job is to bring light and hope and peace to them and to show them that the world is not against them… at least our little corner of it isn’t…

    • Tim says:

      Well, technically, the world is against them and is dragging them down to the pit of hell. But you’re right that our job is not to judge them. Our work in the-kingdom-which-is-not-of-this-world is to point them to the One who can lift them from the pit and make their footsteps firm. Rule-keeping is nothing more than a recipe to sin more. Christ’s completed work in fulfilling the law on our behalf saves us from all that. Those who are not in the light (as you ably put it in that sermon you linked) should not be the victims of our judgment, but the recipients of God’s love pouring through our lives to them.

  2. Aimee Byrd says:

    All this reminds me of the book of Hosea.
    My husband talks about this sad situation too, as he is a 4th grade teacher and meets these mom’s at parent-teacher conferences. It is so sad. They obviously work nights and their children are home alone, come to school unprepared…
    But it also makes you ask, “What would our response be if this mom sat in our church on Sunday morning?”

    • Tim says:

      That’s the very question I think the church should be asking, Aimee. Because these folks are visiting our churches as well as enrolling their kids in local schools. Whether they stay at church is another matter. What can a church do to be prepared to welcome and minister to those folks? I think it starts by having the discussion ahead of time.

  3. Jeannie says:

    Thanks for this post. Our church is starting to become quite involved in efforts to deal with human trafficking, prostitution and other related issues around the world. Realizing it doesn’t just happen “away there somewhere” but in our own neighbourhoods is eye-opening — and once you know, you have to do something with what you know. Very challenging.

  4. I help with an organization here in CO that mentors American teenage girls who have been forced into prostitution. It is a sad, sad, thing–but pimps and clubs prey on girls who are lost, lonely, usually don’t have a father, were sexually abused, and have low esteem. Pimps can sniff girls like that out as if they’re rabid dogs. They go to malls and hang out with young girls and gain their trust, then exploit them. The organization I work with often asks, “How come the church isn’t sniffing out these girls when they’re young so they don’t get exploited? How come we aren’t doing more to stop the trade from even happening in the first place by helping girls feel loved and safe and secure?”
    It is true that once a girl/woman is treated a certain way, it is VERY hard for her to ever think she should be treated another way. Most people don’t understand why women stay in abuse or stay in prostitution. Most of them truly believe they are worthless and that they don’t deserve anything better b/c they’ve been treated like it. You must understand abuse and the way it harms someone before you can ever understand why people have so little respect for themselves.

    • Tim says:

      I was at a conference on human trafficking where one of the speakers was talking about working with the girls who fall prey to guys like that, Teryn.

      A typical conversation is where the girl says her boyfriend truly loves her. She knows they’re in love because of how he takes such good care of her, driving her to motels where he’s set up a date for her to have sex with a guy, holding on to the money she gets so that she won’t lose it, telling her when and what she can eat so she doesn’t have to decide those things for herself, hitting her once in a while if she gets out of line for her own good.

      She loves her boyfriend because he takes such good care of her. He’s not her pimp, he’s her boyfriend; just ask her.

      • Yeah, the pimps do that a lot. They act like a boyfriend or even father figure and twist the girls’ perception of what love and provision means. So for a lot them, it’s very, very hard to get out of it b/c they start believing these guys love them and or there for them. They’ev never before known love, so they fall for a horrible fake version of “love.” And then, course, the abusers then tell them police can’t be trusted, the outside world is evil, etc. They just live in such a warped world. It’s hard to help them think differently. So sad.

  5. Kathleen says:

    Thanks for this! I think you really hit on something in your Reply to Aimee ” What can a church do to be prepared to welcome and minister to those folks? I think it starts by having the discussion ahead of time.” Ministering and meeting the needs of these women and children, coming along side them and supporting them has to be done at the personal level. The Church can teach, encourage and equip but then we need to step out of our comfortable lives and befriend. Good stuff, reminds me to be open to the Holy Spirit’s call when He directs me to those side roads.

    • Tim says:

      Good point about being open to the leading of the Spirit. The Spirit longs to work through us, and who knows how he will bless us and others as he does so? God is extravagant, so I’m betting the blessings will come in unimagined ways!

  6. SJBeals says:

    I have no idea how you didn’t ask your questions out loud. My face would have betrayed my “wondering” about this poor woman’s line of work. Poverty and crime are such repeating cycles and kids who grew up in that surrounding have a hard time rising out of it. Some troubling questions, to which I have no answers.

  7. Michael Snow says:

    ” What kind of society do we live in? What is the Body of Christ doing about it? What are you doing?”
    There are certainly some Christian groups trying to do something about it. But most of us seem to be oblivious to much of this. Take Facebook and prostitution for example:
    http://zeitgeistcontext.wordpress.com/

    • Tim says:

      One good start, as in your link Michael, is to get people aware that there is a problem in the first place. I am so grateful for those groups that God is using to reach out to these victims.

  8. Pingback: Why I haven’t Seen 12 Years A Slave (and probably never will) | Tim's Blog – Just One Train Wreck After Another

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