The Chicago Tribune posted an article titled “Sex workers struggle to make a living as COVID-19 batters their industry.” This headline has some people asking for clarity. Several friends texted me the article asking me, “What does this mean?” After reading it, I had several reactions I wanted to share with you.
First, my heart is broken for women and men all throughout the Chicagoland area who are stuck in the sex industry. The woman who is interviewed in this article notes that she has no other option for work, and because she has less buyers during the pandemic, her income has been significantly reduced. Perhaps we can assume that the asthmatic child she has is also suffering. We may not agree with her lifestyle, but when a person suffers, especially a child, we should care. I wholeheartedly believe that she is in a dangerous and unhealthy industry as a “sex worker.” Maybe she has a different story than the women we serve at Naomi’s House, in that she doesn’t work for a pimp and she has complete control over her body and finances – and for her sake, I’m glad she is not suffering from the abuse of a trafficker. However, I would challenge her on the notion that she is in a fulfilling and emotionally healthy lifestyle. 100% of the women that we serve at Naomi’s House have identified that their life in the sex industry was not fulfilling or a healthy way to live.
Second, I sense pain and suffering in the voices of the other folks interviewed for this article. Perhaps I am making too broad of an assumption, but I wonder about the sustainability of a lifestyle of creating adult content of yourself and then selling it online … especially for someone as young as 18. One person in the article says that “so far people have been pretty respectful on the platform…” Does this mean that sometimes people are not respectful? Is this person indicating that they have been disrespected at times? Because if I were to ask a NH resident what life was like when dealing with buyers and clients, they would recount horrific stories of abuse, rape, and violence. Nothing about their former work was respectful.
Additionally, the person in the article mentions that they had to move their work online, which is exactly part of the problem. Research links the correlation between the sexual exploitation of women and girls and the use of pornography. In the last few months, since the global pandemic of COVID-19 hit every part of the world, pornography clicks have been on the rise: “On a normal day, Pornhub has roughly 120 million visitors, but with the traffic spike, almost 134 million people are getting their fix on a daily basis – and many of them are explicitly searching for coronavirus porn.”
I mention this because we also know that women are recruited for pornography when they are as young as 13 years old-sometimes even younger. If we see porn on the rise, we need to be prepared for more young girls to suffer the abuse of sexual exploitation. So to write an article in the Chicago Tribune about women who are suffering because they cannot serve as many clients because of the pandemic is a distraction from a much greater issue our world is facing.
Lastly, and I think this is what disturbs me about this article the most, is that the approach of the writers seems to be trying to normalize the sex industry. There is so much harm in trying to normalize an industry that most often harms young girls and women. As Christians, we believe and celebrate the beauty of God’s design of sex and I have met too many people whose lives have been shattered by the “sex industry.” Violence and abuse are in every corner of the industry, and if we don’t stand up against this culture with empathy and compassion, we won’t see the changes we need in order to protect our women and girls.
Thank you for your continued prayers for NH! Be well.