When sex sells and provides

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, 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?

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

A village in western India 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, marginalized 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 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 13 more got engaged, ending the possibility of life as a prostitute for those 21 young women. In a village of 50,000 people it’s not much, but it’s a start.

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 – free!

Jesus calls us to do what we’ve seen Him do. But do we? 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 by 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?

Comments (13)

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What kind of society do we live in? To me, part of the answer to this excellent post is that we live in a society in which men and women are not free to either suffer or enjoy the consequences of their actions. How can a young man learn responsibility and the rewards of labor if the law prevents him from getting a real job until he is in his late teens? What do poor people learn about life when the government gives them free medical care, cell phones, etc. etc.? I believe the society we have today is the natural result of misguided and corrupt attempts to control people's lives.
Well said i never read such mess before in my life although i have seen so horriable stories about our young men and women it almost like they brain wash this teen male or female it does not matter but i feel sorry for the cause i just thank god that i'm not standing in there shoe cause omg what a price they have to pay. peace be with u and your's.
A lot to think about, Tim. My husband has struggled will the fact that some of the parents of the children he teaches resort to this kind of living as well. I've also seen stripping portrayed on TV shows as a legitimate way for a girl to finance her college education. Sad.
Tim, Thought-provoking post. I will be honest here though -- when we've been in bad financial straits the thought of being an "exotic dancer" has crossed my mind. I thought, I could make good money doing that (if I could get past being so embarrassed and self-conscious of what I was actually doing), but of course I never chose that because it wasn't God's plan obviously. And I kept thinking what if I made someone stumble? it would never have worked!

BUT, I see why a woman would choose this. She probably makes more doing that than working other places. We are so conditioned to scrabble and worry about money and try and do all we can without relying on God, that the best way we can make money sometimes is selling ourselves.

It is glamorized, anything to do with the flesh, in the media. I'm surprised we don't have a reality show on this yet. It will happen.

I'm thankful for those girls who went through the marriage ceremony.

I have no idea if any of these comments added anything to the discussion. People will do almost anything to provide for their kids -- and if they aren't relying on God why would there be limits?
It is sad. Can you imagine the conversation at a post college job interview where the question is "So tell me, what did you do outside of class during college?" It's painful to consider.

And don't get me started on the way TV and movies glamorize stripping. Oops, too late, you already got me going on the topic. I see strippers and prostitutes in my courtroom. They don't act (or even look) like the ones on TV, even the unglamorous ones on TV. Same things with drug dealers and gang members; they don't look like the actors on TV either. There's nothing slick or glamorous about dealing drugs, or being in a gang, or selling your body on the street or in a club.

Tim
I can see why a woman would choose this too, Jane. That young mom certainly did make more money stripping than working elsewhere, and she wasn't the only stripper I ever had appear in a child custody case. When it comes to caring for kids, stripping is sometimes seen as the best among a bunch of bad choices.
This might be a long comment.
First off, I agree that it is sad to hear about the custody story. If a man and woman are fighting to give their child the best option, they aren't working hard enough on moral grounds at least to set a good example to their child. They are going to end up getting him involved completely into it (unless the Holy Spirit helps lead him elsewhere, which is certainly possible, or if the parents have a life changing experience). I remember my mom telling me that when she was a child her parents brought her to a strip club because they had no one to watch her. Thankfully she didn't end up involved in that lifestyle because her life was protected by the hand of God and she had a fear of Him early on without being taught correctly. . .but that didn't help her siblings one bit. I wish people wouldn't make stripping seem like a glamorous wonderful thing when all it does is destroy so many people.

Second off, about the human trafficking issues in India. It is really bad there, but you also have to keep something in mind. . .forced marriages is also a form of slavery. Were these girls wanting to marry or were they set up by their parents at young ages with men who were twice their age (I am fully aware that India does arranged marriages though and they get to meet and CHOOSE if they really want to marry that person or not, but did that happen with this issue?) While it seems all lovely that these girls were saved out of forced prostitution, were they saved from husbands that might put them right back into prostitution anyway (many men in India do this to their wives to make more income) or does this save them from abuse of domestic violence? I hope that they were trained all about the dangers and told about their rights to fight against these things. You KNOW I HATE human trafficking/slavery in general, but I don't want them to be forced into something, but be willing to happily go into a marriage that will be loving.

Third off, I love how your post was written and it was really wonderful.
Thanks Victoria. One thing the article made clear was that once engaged, the prospect of prostitution was over. This village is a very small people group among the thousands of people groups in Indai and their small culture stops the socialized prostitution at betrothal.

The other issues that you note women face in India were beyond teh scope of the article, so I don't know how the village dealt with them. The fact that social activists were involved in the marriage program, though, makes me think that they were far-sighted in bringing the women into the marriages and looking beyond as well.

And, of course, not all arranged marriages are problematic. One of the most famous and most successful is in Genesis 24 - Isaac and Rebekah. When God is your matchmaker, things are really looking up for the couple!

Tim
Thanks MMF. I think the society we have today is the result of the Fall, but I know what you mean about a creating a social order where actions do not have natural consequences. On the other hand, I am so glad that God does not require me to live with the eternal consequences of my choices!

Tim
The question with which you end your excellent essay is the one that haunts me when I read about these issues. You ask, "What kind of society do we live in? What is the Body of Christ doing about it? What are you doing?"

My sad, truthful answer: Not enough.



 

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