Things That Make Me Want to Cry

For the last couple of days, social media has been exploding with opinions about supreme court hearings, about Proposition 8, about DOMA. In the midst of the arguing, the profile pictures, the debates, and the blog posts, an article caught my eye. This article, in fact, about child sex-trafficking in the city where I currently live. That’s where my heart went, in the midst of the swirling vortex of same-sex marriage discussions. It went to these young girls, not far from where I sit at my desk right now, who are being abducted or enticed from their innocence and put into prostitution. Fourteen, thirteen, twelve year old girls.

So I decided to say something about it on my facebook.

Children are being prostituted. Not “there,” but here – in Virginia. In Richmond. Not sure how you can make a difference? Mothers and fathers: train up your boys to love and respect women. Show them humility and selflessness in your marriage, your parenting, your relationships. Sex trafficking isn’t a problem of women, it’s a problem of men. And it will only truly stop when men stop paying to have sex with 14 year old girls. Let’s raise up a generation of men who protect girls, not abuse them.

That’s what I said. And many peopled liked my status. And then the arguments started.

{Yes. My own poor word choices, or tone, or opinion, or perhaps just the fact that I shared it at all, was enough to start one of those fabled facebook debates. Not what I would have anticipated, when so many other people were posting about actual controversy elsewhere.}

Several people who read my comment expressed offense at my word choice. Specifically when I stated, “Sex-trafficking isn’t a problem of women, it’s a problem of men.” What a simplistic statement that erases all fault in the female race, they said; women are active participants in sex-trafficking too, they said; you can’t blame this all on men.

And for my simplicity and brevity, I acknowledge their offense. However, I cannot and will not validate, give my approval to, the offense which was taken. And this is why.

{Time for a little bit of my story; a little bit of my heart}

I have always had a heart for boys. Anyone who knows me, even in a casual way, can tell you this. As a little girl, I almost idolized my older brother’s friends. I would have rather spent time with the older guys than with my own peers. Growing up, it was always easier for me to relate to (and love) the boys than the girls. As I moved into my late teens and early twenties, and became a more big-sisterly, motherly figure in my social groups, it was always so easy for me to reach out to the boys. I wanted to watch out for them. I wanted to love them, teach them, laugh with them, tussle with them. As a director of youth performances, nothing gave me more pleasure than circling up with a crew of boys for a rare male-only scene. They make me smile.

Even now, as I am unsure if I’m called to even have children in the future, the daydream of a house full of boys someday is a pleasant one.

But oh, the things that boys do sometimes break my heart. I wince when I see a bully, or hear a story of a little girl who was raped by two teen boys. Boys are so strong; I know that boys can be  better than that.

A little while ago I was reflecting on the sex industry, and how massive it is. How it’s like a beast with a thousand tentacles, foaming at the mouth. Overwhelmingly, since ancient history, the majority of “clients” or “customers” in the sex industry have been men, paying to have sex with women and girls. And when you look at history, hear stories of women, read novels like Les Miserables, it breaks your heart for these women. Doesn’t it? I cannot be the only one who looks at Fantine and recognizes that society broke her into something she never wanted to be.

The overwhelming, vast majority of women who went into prostitution as a trade did not do so because they thought it would be a fun, sexy time. Do we think this? Have we gotten so obsessed with “selling your body for sex is wrong” that we forget to use proper analytical skills to even figure out WHY someone would do such a thing? Look through the pages of the Bible, or other ancient texts, and talk to me about the many jobs, occupations, and careers that were open to women. Read through a Jane Austen novel and show me how women could survive without the blessing of men. I am not a crazy-raging-feminist. I don’t even use the “feminist” label to describe myself. But I know how to read a book, I know how to study a culture, and you and I both know that we live in a sinful, broken world full of sinful, broken social structures. Many social structures were put into place with good intentions, such as reflecting biblical principles, keeping money and power in the hands of decent, educated people to ensure order, and more. But social structures get abused, they fall into decay, and sometimes they just flat-out oppress people.

Women, in so many cultures, for such a long time, were looked at (and legally treated) as second-class citizens who couldn’t inherit money, couldn’t testify in court, and couldn’t hold most occupations outside their own home. In a society like this, where it is so easy to toss aside a woman, what is an abandoned or impoverished woman good for except to keep doing what she’s always been told is her job: sex?

This is not me saying “selling your body for sex is OK if you need to stay alive.”

What I’m saying is, God has always commanded his people to care for orphans, widows, aliens, and the poor – and we have always done a miserable job of that. When we do miserable jobs, miserable things happen. Prostitution is one of those things. It’s tragic, it’s heartbreaking, it’s sickening, and it’s a sin of society*. I will not be the privileged white American who berates a prostitute for all her sins, and all the ways she’s enticing her brothers to sin.

Because there is a difference between doing a horrible thing because you have no money, no opportunity to get decent work, or no way to support family or children…and doing a horrible thing because you’re horny.

There is a big difference, and that is something I will not debate.

Moving backwards a bit to my own personal reflections, I was thinking about how men (the indisputable demographic who normally pays for sex) continue to pay for it. They continue to walk into brothels and hotels. They continue to call that number. They continue to look at those women (whether they’re fifty or fifteen) as service providers, and not human beings with a story.

{Have you ever watched Taxi Driver?}

It’s sickening. There are young girls, so young, their bodies not even developed, sold again and again every day. Yes, many money handlers are women. Yes, some women pay for sex with young boys. But you cannot look at the world and say, “yes, the main problem is women having sex with boys.” It’s not. You cannot look at the world and say, “this would stop if women stopped running brothels.” It wouldn’t.

Because supply and demand is a thing. No matter who does the supplying – the demand is the problem. And the demand is there. I can’t fathom it. In this world, there exists a demand to buy thirteen year old girls so men can have sex with them.

And that breaks my heart.

So yes, I am calling out (and will unashamedly call out) men as the problem. Is it generalizing? Yes – of course women are involved. In the way that when your house is infested with termites and crumbling at the support beams, sometimes you’ll see a roach or a beetle. I don’t say this because I think women are always right (they’re not). I don’t say this because I think I’m a victim of society (I’m not). I don’t say this because I hate men (that couldn’t be farther from the truth).

I say it because I ache to see my friends, peers, siblings, raise up beautiful baby boys into the loving, glorious men I know that they can be. I’ve seen men protect, defend, cherish, cry, and love. I know what men are capable of. And I can’t stand the thought of a man (a man who was once a impressionable, innocent boy) every day, walking into a dim room and paying to have sex with a girl young enough to be his daughter.

My little nephews, just four and five years old, can be better than that. Your sons, brothers, can be better than that. And if the men who live in my city, one by one, stopped paying for sex with children, then all those people trying to sell them would soon be out of a job. Fewer children would be snared or kidnapped. Fewer lives would be crushed.

So. Feel free to take offense at my opinion. Feel free to protest that I’m giving all the blame to men, letting women off the hook, and have unfair, biased arguments and thoughts. I cannot stop you from being offended, although I certainly mean no offense to anyone.

Although it does make me want to cry when I say, “children are being bought and sold in your home town” and all you can think is, “I am offended at where you place the blame.” Because where I place the blame doesn’t matter. What matters is becoming better people, a better society – becoming more like Jesus.

Jesus wants the little ones to come unto him. I just want to do my best (whatever that looks like) to make sure nothing ugly gets in their way.

*If “sin of society” seems like a confusing or unfamiliar concept, this may be because Western culture has put a lot of emphasis on the individual as it relates to God. YHWH of the Hebrew Scriptures (and Jesus in the gospels, and Paul in his epistles) functioned with Israel (/Christians) mostly as a group – speaking favour over goodness and punishing/convicting society for its sin.

:Confession:

I have almost always felt “off-the-market.” Advances by boys usually slipped over my head, or amused me, or made me wish they were more into the Platonic Thing. (I’m really into the Platonic Thing)

Another reflection on marriage is that now I am off-the-market, and that’s pleasant. I can be me and give love and oh, look, it’s got a ring on it.

{And I Think It’s OK}

Sometimes I mourn the loss of unimportant friends. Between-and-before classes people. Study buddies. People who wanted you for a semester, year, and then decided to want other things. People who used to date a sibling or friend, but then moved on and slipped away. Military friends (or kids) who come for a season.

I think about them sometimes, and wish I could somehow have retained a little shred of them for myself. But all I have are whispers of former laughs shared; memories of notes exchanged and books lent; conversations had; papers critiqued; smiles; inside jokes.

What happens to those ghosts of smiles and inside jokes when friends stop being friends?

When Your Life Is Just Normal (No, Really, I Promise)

There’s a sense of “otherness” about growing up. A sense of mystery and mystique about words like “boyfriend,” “husband,” “motherhood,” “marriage,” “sex,” and “living together.” We all know it. And we all equally know that our own expectations are massively overblown, if only because relationships and life events in movies get underscored brilliantly by James Newton Howard or Philip Glass and a personal soundtrack is much harder to attain in real life.

So we get a little bitter or grumpy about those who have crossed to the “other side” and we sigh and imagine how idyllic their lives must be. Even though we probably understand life well enough to know better.

When I was in high school and college, all the bitterness and longing of other girls and boys (my age, older, and younger) just made me sad. So I tried to be the voice of “hey, but remember how cool life is anyway?” and “shoot girl, you don’t need a boyfriend to be happy” but I suspect that made me come across as obnoxious to a lot of people. I learned how to nod sympathetically and BE sympathetic and I’m still learning that “I want to talk to you about this” DOES NOT EQUAL “what are your thoughts/advice on this?”

<life lessons>

During our engagement, during the planning and waiting and frustrated nights of just wanting to lie in the same bed together while we slept, my fiance admitted that he hated being engaged. I couldn’t blame him. He’d been doing all kinds of growing up, and making all kinds of life sacrifices, and being engaged is pretty much like being married without any of the perks.

I had to constantly beat down his expectations about so many things. I had to remind him over and over that attaining this status of “marriage” and getting a wife wasn’t going to fill the void in his life where dissatisfaction likes to creep in. That void ALWAYS exists. Saying, “I’ll be happy when I just finally get my own space” or “I just need to release some of this sexual frustration and then I’ll be OK” is honestly to kid yourself.

Last night was the first time since we’ve been married that my husband expressed a significant amount of frustration and dissatisfaction with life. “I hate waking up, working, doing school, and going to sleep.” We’ve been married for 19 days, and he already feels those tendrils of dissatisfaction creeping back into his life. He already feels the weight of the journey he’s on as not only a full-time worker and student, but now also husband and co-provider of our new family. And it’s true. Full-time work and school leaves little room for anything else. It’s true, working in the home (like he does) gives him ridiculous cabin fever. It’s true, my need for sleep reduces our time together to a mere five or six hours a day – when we have nothing else going on. But there’s
dinner,
constant laundry,
fellowship with our small group,
errands,
banks,
the DMV,
bills,
unpacking,
and the list goes on forever.

My personal reflections on marriage (after 19 days) is nothing but “thank goodness, it was about time for this.” We occasionally just laugh and geek out about how we can eat, watch, do, or say whatever we want. We picked out our own furniture, buy our own food, and invite over whomever we want. This phase is such a relief and an excitement and just downright fun after living so long in mostly-independence and gradually accruing skills and knowledge that I can finally put to use under my own supervision and responsibility. I can feel myself growing and stretching into more than I was before.

But in such normal ways, about normal things. We’ve not got immediate plans to fly to Paris or go on a kayaking spree or anything young and fun and crazy. It was cause for celebration when my social security card came in the mail, and we had time to watch a whole movie before I had to go to bed. Baby steps, you know.

So yes, I’m All Married And Stuff and I have my own space and it’s so welcome and I’m really digging it. But it’s just normal life. It’s “I don’t have any clean socks” and driving around in circles trying to find a UPS drop-box and…you know…normal stuff.

Oh, but if only I can find time to get rid of the unpacked boxes crowding my bedroom floor…

<right. baby steps. right.>

Brutality (Initial Thoughts)

I often wonder whether people think very much about death.

I often wonder how God thinks about, looks at, (created? allowed?) death.

Today I have been thinking about the brutality of men and women.

We used to tie the left hands of left-handed children behind their backs, so that they would learn to write with their right hands. Emperors used to have slaves and criminals fight to the death and thrown to lions. Peasants and wealthy alike would come and watch. As sport. They would pay money to watch slaves fight to the death; to watch criminals hang on crosses and run from hungry lions. A subset of slaves in the antebellum U.S. south also had fight-to-the-death matches.

Our government sends drones into civilian populated areas of countries housing our Current Enemies. Our doctors and clinicians snip the necks and vacuum out the brains of viable-but-unborn infants, and our judges uphold the legality to do so. If twelve randomly chosen people hear the court case of a stranger and decide that he is a horrible enough person, he is sentenced to death.

Office employees chat in the break room about which guns they own, and how, damn straight I’d shoot a perpetrator who tried to break into my house. And you shoot to kill, because otherwise they sue you.

Ten year old children play video games which simulate the Wars that killed their grandfathers, or gave their fathers PTSD.

Teenage boys force themselves sexually on five year old girls.

We are these people.

We are brutal.

I think brutality is one of the only words that sums of the dark side of the physical, emotional, mental, spiritual capacity of Human Beings.

And I know that God probably thinks about death in a different way than I do. He must. In C.S. Lewis’ Out of the Silent Planet, the older races from Mars consider death to be a part of life, a divine passage, no cause for grief.

But then, until Man showed up on Mars, they had never heard of murder.