If you’re working as a sexworker, you probably have been visited by some Christians once in a while. I never see them among the streetwalkers, but I have seen them on the streets where the windows are. They usually step by and want to talk with you. Sometimes they even offer you a present. However they may not leave right away, when you ask for it. Or they may come back a lot of times. Also, the way they ask the questions or what they tell, can be (or at least feel) really offensive.
Sexworkers / prostitutes who chose this job voluntarily, may actually feel proud of their job. They could be proud of being meaningful to their clients. Or they could also be proud of their independency. There may be quite a few reasons why sexworkers are proud of their job. Imagine that you have a job you are proud of, and maybe even a job you like. And then imagine something tells you that someone else forces you to do that job. Even when you deny that, that person persists. The person tells you that you don’t know any better or that you are brainwashed. I bet the first time that happens to you, you will just laugh. But when that happens over and over again, you probably will feel annoyed or offended. Especially when a big group of people believes it, including some big media. After all, no one listens to you – because people believe you’re brainwashed…. Well, you get the clue. This is not the best way to make friends with a sexworker / prostitute who wants her job.
The thing is that many Christians genuinely believe that prostitutes are very often victims of sex trafficking, being under high pressure and that they could be brainwashed. But these cases seem not to occur much, but for these few cases this approach might help them. I don’t know about that. But many sex trafficking victims aren’t under these extreme circumstances. As for the rest, there are many people who I know who did choose to become a prostitute. And for them, such approach simply isn’t appropriate. By the way, this also count for some health professionals who get in touch with prostitutes.
However when I would be one of the Christians who believe that prostitutes are mainly victims who are in immediate danger, I would probably do the same thing. Going to the sexworkers and offer help. When I have that view and understanding in mind, I don’t feel so much offended as I otherwise would.
It probably helps for me that I have a Christian background. Although I think I’m agnostic now, in the past I worked several days a week for a church. I did that several years. Plus my mother is a kind and passionate Christian. So I know that religion quite well. It’s interesting to see that most Christian organizations that reach out to prostitutes are the ones with similar Christian views I once had. My church that I’ve joined in the past had connections (and still haves) with the Bethel church in Redding, CA. If you know that church, then you will now have an idea of what I mean. My faith changed as I had issues with it. As someone with a transsexual background and for someone who started working again as a prostitute, it did bring some conflicts. Conflicts with both the church and my own faith. Apart from that I also had issues with the animal slaughtering and offers in the Old Testament, but that’s off-topic.
To be honest I both love and really dislike the behavior these Christians show at the same time. So I dislike them often for their approaches to sexworkers, their immature behavior and lack of knowledge towards LGBT people. Also for a few other things I don’t want to share right now. But I love them for their patience, love and offerings they are willing to make towards others. I have seen Christians taking people they barely know into their families for years, because that person needed and wanted that. One time it was a young adult who was offered a place into a family and she was treated, loved and cuddled almost like it was their own child. Actually in one of my Ministry Team trainings I received, it was sometimes even recommended/indicated to do so. Of course these cases were not the standard. Nevertheless they generally will treat you as a human being, as a brother or sister (how they see and call it). That’s also how they usually would talk about you behind your back. Not like a client or some kind of visitor. I don’t think you will ever find so much amount of compassion, dedication and patience in secular health organizations. I think they deserve credit for that part. To be honest, I still know a few Christians from that period who are really close to my heart.
I personally hope that churches will be more open to hear our sides and vice versa. If churches understand that sexwork and human trafficking are two different things, they may even have the potential to offer better support/care to sexworkers then the secular social workers do.
Idealistically, I hope that there will become health organizations runned by sexworkers themselves, for themselves.