Hookers & the Kingdom of God
I am making a proclamation in the town square! I have come to the conclusion that sex work is a legitimate profession and that it’s okay for a person to be an unrepentant sex worker within the context of modern-day Christianity.
Hear me out. There are, from my perspective, three categories of sex workers :
1) Sex workers who have been coerced into it (human trafficking would fall into this category).
2) Sex workers who need money and they don’t have any other marketable skills, so they feel that this is the only way to survive.
3) Sex workers who have not been coerced, are not financially disadvantaged, and genuinely enjoy sex work and are good at it – in other words, sex workers who have agency and choose sex work of their own free will.
1 and 2, it goes without saying, are problematic and disturbing. Unsubscribe. Do not like. It is because of Category 1 and 2 that I have been, before this moment in time, unequivocally against any and all kinds of sex work. It is inherently problematic, I would say to anyone who stood still long enough. By the very nature of its being, it contributes to systemic dehumanization and sexual violence. That is what I thought and I wasn’t willing to give on that. It was a non-negotiable. Sex work – all of it – must be condemned.
As the self-appointed hype man of the divine image, it was my duty to hold the missionary position. Sex workers could, of course, be welcomed into Christian circles, given that they were willing to be rescued by us, the good guys. In order for the relationship to work, they had to be appropriately defenseless and powerless. They had to need our help. Then they would be welcomed in. The more broken they were, the better we felt about it. Of course sex workers are welcome! Unless they enjoy sex.
In some cases, this relationship dynamic worked. Because there are a lot of Category 1 and 2 who are defenseless, who are powerless, and who do need our help. My heart is with them and for them. Always. All sin may be equal in the eyes of God, but in the eyes of Megan the most unforgivable sin is the sin of sexual violence and coercion.
But what about Category 3? What about sex workers that come from good homes? What about sex workers who really, really enjoy sex and are skilled at giving and receiving pleasure? Enough that they would want to make a career from it? What about female sex workers who aren’t being controlled by men? Who are financially independent? What about sex workers who have agency?
And what about consumers of sex work? Obviously, consumers who are already married or already in a committed relationship with somebody else are a no-go. People who lie about it, people who don’t view sex workers as fully human. People who engage under-age sex workers. People who don’t believe that sex workers have a right to withdraw consent. People who pay for sex workers who have been coerced, even if they don’t realize there was coercion involved. Those are all no-fly zones, for obvious reasons.
But what about people who respect sex workers and are looking to fulfill a need? What about people who have experienced sexual trauma and want to experience sexual healing in a safe and controlled environment with a professional? What about people who don’t have time for all the trappings of a relationship but are willing to exchange money for comfort, connection and…uh…well-mannered frivolity?
Usually when I ask questions like this, there is a lot of uncomfortability around it. But does there have to be? Don’t we all sell our bodies to make money? I certainly do. I use my brain and my hands to make money. (I use my hands to type, for inquiring minds.) Probably, you also use your brain/hands/legs/feet to make money. You are also selling your body for money. Well, so do sex workers. They just also use their genitals.
Consider the brilliant and best tv show ever created, Firefly. (SPACE WESTERN!) Foregoing the problem of toxic creators, this is a show that successfully depicts what it would look like to have sex work fully regulated and respected. Prostitutes are called Companions, they are highly respected, sought after, and educated. (Sort of like doctors, lawyers and government officials in our world.) Inara, the Companion sailing with the crew on the spaceship Firefly, is able to make business connections for the ship’s captain that he would not be able to make on his own. And best of all, because the profession is heavily regulated, there is a glaring lack of disenfranchised women without their own agency. “Actually, companions choose their own clients,” snaps Inara in Episode Four. “That’s guild law.”
And while tv shows aren’t guides for How To Live Your Life, I think Firefly really might be onto something here. Personally, I would love to live in a society where sex work was destigmatized and regulated. Count the benefits : less sexual violence, less fear, less shame, less slavery. Isn’t that what we, as the church, claim to want? Last time I checked, it was.
Is there room for these people in our churches? Is there room for enjoyment of sex in our churches? Is there room for women to choose? If they never show remorse for their chosen profession and never change it, are they still respected and loved and included? Would they still be invited to spiritually lead?
So I guess my question is….why can’t they be?
The answer is a tale as old as time : Shame. We are ashamed of sex and we are embarrassed by our sexy women. This is less so with men. If you are a good-looking man who likes sex, you are a shining paragon of biblical masculinity. If you are a woman with an ass that doesn’t quit and you enjoy sex? You’re a fucking pervert. We will not say that out loud. What we will say is that technically we guess that’s fine – as long as the sex is only with one man for the rest of your life, you never talk about it, and you don’t make it your profession. If you tick all those boxes, you’re still in. You’re still part of the club.
If you are a person who falls outside of those boxes, there’s the door – don’t let it hit your ass on the way out, because we know how much you like that kind of thing.
As for what the bible says, it’s a story about a story about a story. You will not convince me that it’s an instruction manual. It isn’t one.
I think we should start to remove the stigma around Category Three. I think we should throw the doors open wide and make room for Category Three to embrace us, to lead us, to challenge us. Why not? Why can’t we? Jesus died for freedom from sin, it's true. But maybe the sin here isn't sex work. Maybe the sin here is shame. Control. Coercion. Deception. Violence. Maybe the sin Jesus died to free us from is the control and dehumanization of women.