The Sex Industry, the Abolitionist Movement, and Things That Need To Change PART 2: Rocking the Boat

Photo credit: 2009 Kat/flickr.

The following is a post written by guest contributor Meg Munoz:

I hope that Part 1 spurred some reflection and conversation. There’s no such thing as a “one-size-fits-all” response program, and not everyone’s philosophies are going to gel, but I want to dig a bit deeper into how the Church’s anti-trafficking movement can improve its after-care efforts for sex workers and trafficking survivors.

Where are all the resources?

I don’t think it would be inaccurate to say that the harvest is plenty and the laborers are few when it comes to sex worker (survivor) after-care. God love the amazingly generous and fabulously necessary check writers who fund the work (thank you, thank you, thank you and please, please don’t stop)! But unless we starts seeing the development and implementation of more psychological, residential, and individualized healing resources, Abeni and many other organizations will continue to struggle to offer our survivors the tools they really need in order to experience long term, holistic healing and recovery. If they can’t get what they need, survivors may go back as they often do.

Not one of the women who I’ve worked with can function enough to hold a 9-5 job. Every part of their being has been negatively impacted, altered in mind, body, and spirit. They are dealing with Complex PTSD, Dissociative Identity Disorder (aka Multiple Personality Disorder), Borderline Personality Disorder, homelessness, suicidal tendencies, eating disorders, anxiety problems, scars all over their arms from cutting, and unstable and/or unsafe living conditions. They’re co-dependent, moving in and out of abusive relationships, battling addictions with drugs and alcohol, and going back and forth between wanting to get help and returning to sex work. What we need is an abundant variety of qualified survivor- and trauma-informed resources that have been developed based on a community model of care.

It’s time to ditch the word “prostitute”

I’ll be honest, I hate that word. It smacks of judgment and seediness, social stigma and a lack of understanding. It’s a legal term, not a human one. Most of those “prostitutes” are girls who have been forced, coerced, or tricked into commercial sexual exploitation. It’s called domestic sex trafficking. Whether it be sex for sale, webcams, porn, brothels, BDSM, sex clubs, exotic dancing, or other related sex-for-money exchanges, forced involvement in these activities amounts to human trafficking. With that being said, there is a difference between voluntary sex work and being trafficked. It’s time to recognize that there are two different worlds that co-exist and bleed into one another as far as the sex industry is concerned. It’s time to honor, respect, and love those who have willingly chosen this industry as either a career or temporary job.

Some girls want to be there or just aren’t ready to leave … and that’s ok.

Like I said, agree or not, we simply must honor and respect people’s choices. It falls under the whole “do unto others” thing Jesus talks about. If we can’t love them on their journey without agenda, prerequisites, or expectation of change, then it really isn’t love at all, is it? I guarantee that loving people where they are speaks into their lives more than anything else. If we’re open and willing, it may even teach us a thing or two about how Jesus wants us to love. But if we keep insisting on stripping them of their ability to choose, pushing them to do things on our timetable and in our way, we end up being no different than pimps. It’s not about us. Let’s not only be available for those who have chosen to work in the industry, but be willing to allow those very necessary paradigm shifts to occur in their own time for these amazing men and women.

“Activism is not a replacement for healing.” – Jes Richardson, Freedom’s Breath

Healing begins with us. Often times, we are the first contact these industry girls or survivors will have … Our emotional, psychological, and spiritual health is SO critical! We give out of who we are. So we can’t give to others what we haven’t been willing to receive ourselves. We in the church talk a good game about the “healing power of Christ,” but if we really believe that, why aren’t more of us chasing after it? I’m not talking about memorizing more Scripture, or joining another Bible study. I’m talking about real, ongoing, Spirit-led, inner healing.

Are we dealing with or own “issues?” Are we facing those lingering demons? Are we establishing healthy boundaries with others and respecting theirs? Do we know our triggers? All of these are essential parts of healing and growth that enable us to better come alongside others on their journey. The importance of us being engaged in an ongoing trajectory of healing cannot be overstated. It impacts those we serve in more ways than we will ever know.

Another critical component to this whole healing process may be the very thing we long to avoid: God invites us into healing and requires we be active participants in the transformation. It’s messy, cathartic, painful, and freeing, all at the same time.

While we’re at it, let’s be honest: Healing rocks the boat. Not everyone’s happy when Jesus comes to town and starts cleaning house (see Matt 8:30-34), especially when entire systems (or organizations) have been built on faulty foundations or unhealthy philosophies. But not cleaning house has it’s own consequences and can cost others deeply. Not cleaning house leads to the kind of systemic dysfunction that damages those who come to us to escape those very things. One of my favorite calls to action comes from Shane Claiborne:

Certainly God loves us as we are, not for who we could be – not in spite of our shortcomings, but with them. And yet, being a church of and for the broken doesn’t mean we stay in our brokenness. We need to be healers, communities where people can heal.”

The women I work with ask me all the time where God is, and when He’s going to show up. They tell me they’ve been waiting so long for Him to show Himself. Sometimes, I don’t know how to answer their questions. Maybe it’s time for us to accept that we are the missing piece in how God is going to answer. Maybe it’s time for us realize that the world changes one person at a time, and that, cliché and trite as it sounds, it all starts with us.

We have a lot of hurting people out there.

Let’s not keep them waiting any longer.

**

Meg Munoz is convinced that Love still conquers all and that healing is a lifelong journey. She lives in Southern California, where she balances her two loves – family and Abeni

 

5 thoughts on “The Sex Industry, the Abolitionist Movement, and Things That Need To Change PART 2: Rocking the Boat

  1. So, so true!!!I’m just learning how to be part of Jesus healing others’ lives. I have a survivor living with me (husband and myself) and am continually blessed by her, but also having to stay at the feet of Jesus every day for the strength and wisdom to help her through the incredible healing she is having to go through. The true Church has so much to offer these girls who are brave enough to seek it out- we need to be willing to invest in their lives so Jesus can love them through us!

  2. FYI, many of us have prostitute pride. And what I’ve learned from many years of organizing is that many exotic dancers don’t like the term sex worker…so I coined the term erotic service provider as it demonstrates our labor as erotic and valid and its a non discriminatory term that doesn’t evoke such hatred.

    • Maxine, thanks for sharing that. I understand completely and appreciate you sharing that. I personally don’t care for the term “victim” because it’s disempowering among other things. I want to honor providers in ways that empower and respect them, as well as advocate/ally for them in the best ways possible :)
      Acious, I wish I had more space to address this because it deserves to be discussed, in secualr and Christian arenas. The stigmatization is horrible, even after you leave. No one does that to a lawyer, preschool teacher, or pastor :/ In addition to that, the misinformation and inaccurate stats that get repeatded as mantra can really damage not only erotic service providers, but survivors, as well. We need to think more carefully and critically about cause and effect. Thanks for jumping in both of you – I appreciate and respect your voices :)

  3. I applaud you distinguishing voluntary vs. involuntary prostitution. To be honest, there are grey areas in between. I have friends and acquaintances working in many diverse industries such as food service, janitorial, cubicle work, sex trade, retail, engineering, etc., who would say that the threat of poverty is coercing them to work in these industries, and that they really would otherwise not have chosen pursue them. This does not automatically equal trafficking. At the same time, I have friends working in many other industries such as counseling, theater arts, sex trade, etc. who take pride in the work they consider their calling…even if they sometimes have bad days.
    For those that consider their calling to help people who are in the sex industry, they should first have respect for the fact that it is a valid industry. Then, help those that are actually seeking help. Finally, understand the real sources of trauma for those in the industry…namely, the fact that it is criminalized. It’s hard for some people to understand that the police are a large source of violence against sex workers. Not only this, but being thrown into the “system” is another source of trauma that can follow you around for a very long time. More importantly, though, the very fact that sex workers are stigmatized and criminalized is the very reason that others can so easily take advantage of them. Murderers of sex workers didn’t start with murder. They began with raping and beating and quickly realized that THESE WOMEN DO NOT REPORT THESE CRIMES BECAUSE OF FEAR OF LAW ENFORCEMENT. This leaves sex workers (and any criminalized person) vulnerable to blackmail, robbery, rape, manipulation, and all other manners of violence. This is true for “undocumented” workers in every industry. Sex trafficking is a tiny fraction of all human trafficking. Look to the domestic service, farming, and manufacturing industries for all the rest. And it’s the criminalized migrant workers who fall victim to this exploitation because they fear law enforcement and everybody knows it…and takes advantage of it. Should we outlaw cleaning services and farms and factories? That would be a pretty absurd conclusion. Just like outlawing prostitution is not only absurd but the source of most of the problems.

  4. And Maxine, I’m sorry if I offended you. You have reclaimed the term prostitute and empowered yourself and other providers. I was coming from a place and referencing those who use the term in a stigmatizing, negative way, or as as insult or weapon.

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