Sex Workers and Faith
As a Visiting Research Fellow at the Centre for Religion and Public Life at the University of Leeds, I will be exploring the relationships between sex workers and faith, and indeed fundamentalist christian organizations and their unhealthy relationships with radical feminists (and the funding of such groups).
An interesting thread emerged on twitter last night with a dancer expressing discomfort with a christian group visiting their club.
As the thread continued many dancers stated they do have faith. They just clearly don’t want misguided groups coming in trying to ‘save’ them.
As part of the ‘Real Work’ exhibition in FACT Liverpool see here a member of SWEAT called Gabbi states:
“Remember, I’m a staunch catholic. And yes, I pray every night: “God, I’m sorry I sinned”. And tomorrow I go back to work again”.
Groups that wish to help sex workers need to do more than pray. They need to actively campaign alongside sex workers for safer working conditions; they need to protest against harmful laws; they need to push for a higher living wage and a security net of decent social welfare. Otherwise all prayer does is makes the one praying feel better about themselves. Prayer needs to change us, not the ‘other’ we have decided needs to reform.
We need to extend the table and have a radical outpouring of love. Not because the ‘other’ needs us, but as Bishop of Liverpool Paul Bayes puts it, we need them for us to be complete.
We need to commend the bravery of those who live outside the prescribed boundaries of respectability in society, those who are marginalised and excluded and judged.
If your Jesus isn’t political, and you don’t want to ‘get involved’ with harmful violent laws that are killing and incarcerating sex workers, then what book have you read? if your actions don’t call for radical engagement with sex workers, taking their direction, then is your project genuinely about helping sex workers, or is it about helping to get rid of sex workers?
Those in the sex industry are not your rescue project.
Yesterday on my guided walk I was asked about christian judgement of sex workers, and the person was surprised when I said that I am a Christian. It is no wonder that people have such a narrow idea of who a christian is when there are so many harmful dominant narratives that hurt workers.
We are here to walk alongside people, to listen to their stories, and to serve them. We are not there to judge. Just be a comforting presence to one another. Life is hard. People make money how they can to survive. People in the sex industry do not need or want your judgement.
Today was my turn for reading in church, Hebrews 11.29-12.2 and Luke 12.49-56
Obviously the bible is not created as a pick and mix book of quotes, it’s a complex collection of books that must be read together and studied to be understood, but it did make me smile to see Hebrews 11.31:
“It was faith that kept the prostitute Rahab from being killed with those who disobeyed God, for she gave the Israelite spies a friendly welcome”.
Obviously I am not a theologian scholar and nor would I claim to be. But how apt. Faith saved her, hospitality saved her, love saved her. being a judgemental pious prat didn’t save her.
Who are we to decide we qualifies as a christian or any other faith? I am definitely not a ‘typical’ christian and my story is messy and chaotic. And that’s ok. Because there’s room at the table for me and for anyone else. And if you don’t want to be at the table, that’s ok too. Just love and be a good person and campaign for the rights of others.
I am interested in starting a group/project with sex workers of faith, so if you are interested then please tweet me @princessjack or email me firstname.lastname@example.org
I hope everyone has had a restful Sunday.