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.

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