A Voice Calling in the Wilderness

It always seems to me that there are 2 arguments about why we should legalize prostitution. I’ll deal with the second in a few days.

Argument 1: It’s the world’s oldest profession. You are never going to get rid of it. Quit trying and use our tax dollars for something that you can make a difference at.

William Wilberforce became interested in eliminating slavery in the Commonwealth in around 1789. For what it’s worth, the act to abolish slavery throughout the UK was not proclaimed until 1807 (18 years later) and the act that abolished slavery throughout the commonwealth was not proclaimed until 1833( 44 years later, and Wilberforce died 3 days after)

Perhaps because I am interested in politics, I have an idea of what 44 years of political work and activism looks like. Countless meetings with people who don’t care. Ridicule. Excuses from the other side. Dissimulation. Exhaustion. Standing in the House of Commons, again and again, to talk about the same point, while those around you ignore you or scoff at you. 44 years is a very long time. Very long. I’m sure, at times, he felt alone and unequal to the task. But, I do not think he ever thought of giving up. This was his calling. But more than that, he knew he was a lamp, held up to the evil that was slavery. He knew he was a voice calling in the wilderness, calling people to stand up for right and good.

Prostitution is not the world’s oldest profession. That dubious distinction likely belongs to slavery. And yet, no one would for a moment think that anyone who can’t pay their bills should voluntarily enter into slavery. No, we say, that’s wrong, it’s morally repugnant, and we won’t let you do that. When you read through the annals of slavery in the American south, certain themes begin to emerge – the economy would fall apart, the Africans are just like children, slavery “takes care of them”, the Bible condones slavery, says it’s ok. It’s the natural order of things.

Now, we look at those “justifications” and we think, quite rightly, that they are crap. We see them for what they are, pathetic justifications of an unholy thing. We reject them as false. I bring up slavery when I talk about this myth because the roots are the same. For a long time, far too long, the world looked at those justifications and we were lazy. We said that well, we didn’t think it was nice, but it wasn’t hurting anyone. We only need to look at race relations in the US to see how wrong we were. We know deep within us, our ancestors have blood on their hands.

I doubt we will ever rid the world of the scourge of murder, the scourge of child abuse, the scourge of slavery. But we still try, don’t we? You don’t often hear of people who say that we should stop trying to police ourselves, protect our children. I suspect we will always, this side of heaven, live in a world where babies die (and there’s Jen, Marching with the March of Dimes for Gabriel). But out of the best that it is to be human, a child of God, we keep trying to make our world a better place. As Christians say, Gods will done on earth, as it is in heaven. We try out of what is pure and noble and good in humans, to make our world a better place. We don’t always succeed.

The point is this: when we say we will never eliminate prostitution from our world, we are giving in to laziness. When we say that we should stop trying, we cease to care for the woman on my street corner, on Christmas Day. We say that she doesn’t matter. We say that we are too busy to help those who need our help, to consumed by our families and our things. We keep the small parts of the law, while ignoring the call to justice and mercy and love. We are a cup that is clean on the outside only.

And I’m sorry, but she does matter. She has a family. There is someone out there, who loves her. And I’m sorry, but I have to stand up and say that she’s my neighbour. I owe her a duty of care, and that duty of care means that I have to stand up and say that she is already enslaved, and it is both wrong and every single kind of morally bankrupt to say that we should further enslave her with legislation.

Perhaps the easiest change we can make is this. It doesn’t involve volunteering with a soup kitchen, donating money, handing out condoms to sex workers. Do you have a son? A brother? A husband? Any men in your life? Teach them it’s not ok to “buy a woman”. Teach them that women are people, and they deserve respect and protection. Teach them that prostitutes aren’t out there because they like their job, and that they are some one’s daughter, mother, friend. They too are our neighbours. And if they are good and honourable men, men like Mr. Spit, affirm that. Be a light against evil and a voice calling in the wilderness.

Laziness. It’s not ever going to be a valid excuse for ignoring the marginalized. At least not in any kind of world I want to live in.

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9 Responses to A Voice Calling in the Wilderness

  1. Two Hands says:

    I agree.
    While I am, in no way, an expert on this topic, I have heard some of the arguments for legislation. They say they are trying to protect ‘sex workers’ with it, but that sounds a counterintuitive to me. How about protecting them with a social net that helps them get through school if they want to go, that protects their kids while they go to work, that gives them enough money not to have to enter that kind of business. How about doing a better job preventing girls from being abducted into this profession, fighting harder to get them out. The legislation to me is saying that we must protect sex workers so they can go on doing the job. The solution lies not in legislation but the value we place on their lives as people and the help we are willing to give them to get out or to keep from ever going in. And yes, it starts with our children. With what we teach them about the value of life, the rights of women, their importance to us, to the world. Ah, you’ve opened up a can of worms, but as much as we might be loathe to look in the can, we owe it to our neighbours.

  2. Martha says:

    Thank you for pointing out that the lessons of respect begin at home.
    One constant that I have seen with sex workers of all 3 genders (Male, female, and transgendered) is an abusive and neglected upbringing.
    It is all about control and debasement of another person.
    You are right, they are our neighbors, our classmates, our children.
    Thank you for being a voice in the wilderness.

  3. Melanie says:

    This has nothing to do with the post, but I wanted to apologize to you for hurting Trish. What I said was not meant to be felt in the way that everyone did. I have always said “choose your words carefully” but what I thought was an innocent comment wasn’t. I didn’t heed my own advice. For that I am embarassed and sorry.

    I got angry with you for calling me out, and as more and more disapproving comments came my way I started to feel extremely defensive and then only spoke through emotion, not thought. You have reminded me of this, so thank you.

    Can you forgive me?

  4. charmedgirl says:

    i don’t think that slavery has anything to do with prostitution, except and only in the way that illegal prostitution enables sexual slavery.

    you can’t sell what you don’t own. i own my body and my sex, therefore, i should rightly and legally choose to sell it. that’s what being liberated means. the law and customs are still telling me, as a woman, i have no rights over my own body!!

    now, i don’t know you (i haven’t been reading long), but i can easily tell you are a religious woman. i understand (as i used to be religious in the traditional sense) that essentially we don’t *own* ourselves, god does, and our minds, hearts, souls, and BODIES should glorify him. i understand where you’re coming from; i understand you believe it’s a matter of right and wrong in the god sense.

    slavery, though…there is no choice in that, sexual or otherwise. legalized prostitution and slavery is apples and oranges. it’s easy to say slavery is intolerable…not so easy to say a woman has no right over her own body.

  5. Kuri says:

    I always thought that hunter/gatherer was the oldest profession.

  6. Melanie says:

    As FOR THIS POST, all I can do is applaud you. I don’t know your age, but you are certainly wise beyond your years. I have a little college education, and usually don’t get involved in politics, but as for this matter, it IS a huge issue that shouldn’t be ignored, but is. I have to admit, I used to think, “they do it to themselves, but that was long ago when I was ignorant. They don’t do it to themselves; they do it to survive.

    You’re 100% dead on. I believe that every male in my life respects women and knows that they are not “for sale” or for their monetary gain. I am proud I can say that about my family.

    But there are so many men out there who still believe women are their property, and abuse them in many ways whether it be “pumping them out” or simply implying, “You are MY woman. I own you”.

    I wish there was something more to be done. Do you know? It’s more than just telling the men in our lives, because I know these women have babies and families. It is not a choice on their part to sell their bodies. They are either being forced to by power hungry men or feel it is their only shot at survival and supporting their family. I am tired of watching the episodes of “American Justice” or “Cold Case Files” about prostitutes that were brutally murdered, especially in my homestate of WA. I am sure you know the infamous Gary Ridgeway? It especially angers me when it is mentioned by anyone, especially the killers or rapists, who say they chose those women because nobody would miss them, nobody would care. Like you stayed: They are daughters, mothers, aunts and friends. They are not simply nobody.

    I am not sure if any of what I just said made sense, as you put it more educationally than I could ever.
    Main point: I agree.

    But what more can be done?

  7. In the Meantime says:

    Mrs. Spit, I could not agree with you more. I don’t understand how Western society can possess so many resources and be so completely cavalier about suffering, all because eradicating it (or at least trying to – I know it will never disappear) seems hard and unlikely. Isn’t it the duty of every single person to do his or her best to decrease the pain of others as much as possible?

  8. alicia says:

    ohh I love this! I wish I could be at your house and we could talk about this more 🙂 I totally agree that we are lazy and that just giving up and saying it will always be around so just legalize it is the wrong answer. There is defiantly no easy solution to this that is for sure! I love your advice about educating the men in our lives, that is so important and I think educating our parents too is important teaching our young girls and boys about self esteem, how to love themselves when they world throws things like skinny hollywood actresses in front of them. if we can provide for our youths a concept of self love then the pimps won’t have any one to trap!

    I can’t wait to read about the next point about legalizing prostitution. I bet its about the protection of the girls, cause that is my thought on it. So I will wait to hear your point on that one!

  9. Debby says:

    Excellent post. Charmed Girl? I have a daughter who is bipolar. She does own her own body. Unfortunately, because she struggles in day to day living, she begins to make poor choices about how to use that body, to simply survive. Yes. She owns her own body, but she is destroying herself. There are very desperate people out there, with very legitimate problems who are sucked into lives where they are simply exploited by others. Is this right? Should this be condoned by others? And what about young girls being imported for this very purpose? What about the sex trade? Do we close our eyes to this abuse because ‘you own your body’? We can’t. You may not feel yourself a victim, however you can not deny that prostitution DOES victimize.

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