(I have been trying to write this for days, but I needed a dialogue with a sincere Christian to balance my recent impressions to be able to do it)
In the run up to the June 1 starter’s gun for an obscene 10 month scramble among “faith based charities” for the biggest slice of the “service provision” pie in the North of Ireland
…and that is a very big pie indeed, did you know the parent organisation of “Stop the Traffik“, called Oasis turns over between 150 and 200 million pounds sterling every year?
What has that to do with Northern Ireland?
Stop the Traffik is the umbrella organisation under which inexplicable, misinformed and senseless organisations like “Craigavon Against Trafficking” exist. They also created much of the campaign of propaganda and deliberate deceit upon which clause 15 is based.
True faith is independent of evidence. That is why faith is a very personal thing, that we choose for ourselves, whether it is Christianity or Radical Feminism. That is also why we now acknowledge that it is very wrong to inflict the faith we choose upon others.Without evidence to substantiate our faith we have no way of knowing how it will impact on others lives, good or bad, and that is far too much to take upon ourselves. However dear we may hold it, our faith is just somebody else’s bullshit, and absolutely irrelevant to their lives..
Clause 15 aims to take away the income of sex workers and leave them with no alternative but faith based rescue. Apparently this is not coercion.
I beg to differ.
(The Bible does not really mention buying or selling sex, but is very specific about not “bearing false witness” in the 10 commandments. Apparently that particular commandment is more of a “rough guideline”as Clause 15 was based on fabricated kneejerk evidence and one outright lie after another while evidence and sworn truth was just cast aside and punished where possible.)
Years ago I got to see the faith basis of rescue from a very different angle, from people who had NO IDEA I had ever been a sex worker.
In the 90s when I was a couple of years out of sex work and struggling because I had no idea I could even claim welfare (Ruhama still have to get back to me with advice on that 20 years later) I did some work making drapes and soft furnishings for a very nice young woman who was part of one of the local fundamentalist churches (to this day I have no idea which branch of fundamentalism, they all look the same to me I am afraid).
I started getting more and more work from people she knew. I needed that work BADLY, I can’t network, so the only way I could get work at all was to undercut everyone else. I was working 18 hour days and 7 day weeks just to get by (In the end that pace broke my health for good several different ways), and I have always absolutely hated sewing, it is mindnumbingly boring but requires too much concentration for you to be able to think of other things.
It slowly emerged that this entire Christian Community had made up their minds that it was best for me to spend the rest of my life as their “Dorcas”. I admit when I was trying to get work sewing I would dumb down and frump down A LOT (with the result I once walked straight past a client coming in his front hall unrecognised) so it may have been partly my own fault but I couldn’t keep that act up for any great length of time. It was only intended to get me in to measure and again to deliver without unnerving anyone…not to be a full time personality.
But they ALL LOVED THEIR DORCAS…and wanted to include her and hang on to her any chance they got. Behind their Dorcas was me…a real person they refused to see who had nobody and nothing…but they just wanted their Dorcas and most of my income depended on playing along. There was a new man who joined their community and they were not exactly subtle about lining him up with me.
They were not completely out to lunch on that…we were very well matched and suited (even though all he got to see was the fictional Dorcas the community invented) in a lot of ways, and there was no question of a little chemistry there – BUT I could never make a mixed faith relationship work and I would not even try. Never mind how a guy in his 30s was going to feel about adapting to liberal, atheist, former hooker – credit where it is due, my high IQ wouldn’t have put a bother on him but my innate expectation of being treated as an equal partner might.
One of the really good things you learn as a sex worker is how to head off attention you cannot reciprocate at the pass and avoid anyone getting hurt, so I did.
The whole situation was stifling and unintentionally cruel in itself. A daily reminder that everything I needed, the safety and security I was never to find at all, the friends, the love, the family the support, was mine for the asking as long as I pretended to be someone I am not and moved on to pretend to believe a whole faith I have actually studied and have no belief, nor even wish to believe in.
(Intellectually I could drive a tank regiment through the holes in any brand of Christianity, I don’t do it because I consider it as rude and hurtful to attack someone’s faith as their children.)
Then it got worse.
I started to see the truth about this cute and idyllic little Christian Community. It was like a spider’s web, centred on a Pastor who was intelligent and charming, and built up from lonely women he encouraged to dote upon him. He was very wealthy (I was astonished to learn there was even such a thing as a “full gospel businessmen’s” association for the super rich evangelist) he often had a degree of control over the jobs his parishioners did for a living. His wife was intelligent, talented, creative and lived life as a quiet little doormat nobody saw even if they were looking straight at her (I make it my business to always remember her name, I usually have to look his name up).
It took me about 20 minutes to realise the Pastor was a sincere as a 9 shilling note and his wife was worth 10 of him, and I suspect this realisation was not something he was unaware of.
My mask started to crack when I found myself trapped by sweet little old ladies assuring me homosexuality is a sin and a disease. Fortunately I had finished the work before they started and could point out that the Almighty may have had more of a problem with gang rape in Sodom, make my excuses and leave – in shock.
I had no idea people still believed wicked things like that ANYWHERE at the time.
Then there was Christmas. I went to their service because I like to sing carols. I wound up sharing a hymn book with the man they lined up for me because most of these WERE good people and capable of the best kind of deviousness, the sun was shining, it should have been a lovely memory…
…and then the beautiful, bright children of the Pastor did a genuinely funny little playlet mocking evolution.
I could not BELIEVE anyone could feed such rubbish (with all it entailed) into the heads of two beautiful bright children.
*There was another woman who set herself out to evangelize me, very aggressively. She had no idea about the real world, or how desperate and cruel life can be and assumed I had no idea either. So many time I was yea >< far from explaining how her merciful God had left me, personally, hung out to dry with no options time and time again and left others in worse positions…but to do that I would have to admit I was a sex worker and then that was unthinkable.
Even when she owed me money I needed and I had a couple of finishing touches to deliver I could not make myself go there again.
I went to one lady from that church with a very fine mind (she left for another church soon after) and explained the whole thing, and she advised me, WHATEVER never to lose my temper and tell this woman the facts of life. She tried to reason with her, with the result that the next time I could not avoid delivering things this woman ambushed me with her idea of people who would convince me, which was so far from the truth it was insulting.
I did not tell her the fact of my life, but my intellect somehow broke it’s leash and I wound up explaining (among other things) to the assembled gathering that I found the idea of eternal life chilling as I have a very low boredom threshhold. I had deliberately chosen to turn up dressed to go clubbing later to shatter the “Dorcas” illusion.
I point blank refused to do any more work for her after that and slowly severed all connections. I had to stop sewing and find something else where I could use my mind for my sanity anyway.
…and they hadn’t even known I was a sex worker…
People seem to work on the assumption that sex workers are spiritually and ideologically “empty vessels” into which it is ok to pour anything you like.
This is not so, sex workers have their own religious, political and ideological beliefs already. As a matter of fact I have known many sex workers who were devout Christians. In Dublin at least, one of the primary reasons for short term, crisis sex workers is to give their kids a first communion and/or confirmation as good as their friends (ok there is a bit of Mammon mixed up in that but they live in the real world and so do their kids!).
It isn’t just about religion either. I am an atheist but I have some very strong ethics. For instance, when I take money from you for a service I do so of my own choice and take responsibility for my ability to provide it. Any other circumstance that drives me to make that choice is *MY* problem, and not something my customer needs to be concerned with. That includes sexual services, so to try and get me to see my clients as “rapists” is in serious conflict with my own ethical system…literally, trying to force me to commit a sin against the system of ethics I live by.
I do not believe selling sexual services is a sin, nothing on earth would have made me do it if I did. You may feel differently. I am not going to argue with you, because I have no more right to assault your ethics than you have to assault mine. I will assure you that your life would suddenly become a great deal more challenging if law were based on my ethical system, because it does not allow for denial or deceit of any kind, and demands I assume full responsibility for the consequences of my actions. Very few religious faiths have all that covered properly.
Law must be based on the ratio of benefit to harm.
A client is of far more benefit than harm to any sex worker and they want to prosecute him.
The rescue industry is of far more harm than benefit to any sex worker and they want to throw money at it.
Then there are other issues around. Doing the background checks behind the reality TV travesty that was 8 Minutes the most superficial google showed me that two out of three “Survivor Advocates” presented and publicised had no experience of sex work:
- Lexie Smith (in her 20s) was a victim of long term childhood sexual abuse (real age 10 childhood, not 17 year old statutory childhood) by a teenaged neighbour and his friends (who need castrating).
- Stephanie Lange (about 21 now) was a sweet, normal teen “in LURVE” and took off for California on 25 October 2012. She was “rescued” within 3 days, at her own request.
Both seem sweet well meaning young women, but they are young and clueless. So clueless they would not have the discernment to see through the lies they were indoctrinated with, and they were built up and turned loose as “experts” who know what is best for sex workers far older and wiser than they are.
There is nothing unusual about this except the TV cameras (in my 20s I would have done just about anything to be on TV too). It isn’t subtle, it is obvious stuff, a lot of these professional survivors have been proved to be fakes over and over again only to have the truth brushed under the carpet. Any sex worker who really needs out has to play along with the fakes and the lies to agenda they generate, 24/7 to even have a chance at the most basic resources to help her.
The general public may never see the difference, but a sex worker can spot it in a second from her own lived experience she knows they do not have a clue, and yet, to have any hope of a real life outside sex work they are to be expected to hand control of their whole life over to that.
- A sex worker KNOWS they have no real help to offer
- A sex worker KNOWS their misconceptions will do her harm
- A sex worker is screaming for a way out of their clutches
- Nobody is listening
Of course Clause 15 will be different, didn’t one of the people who was instrumental in conceiving of the whole strategy in 2006 tell me himself:
“I agree – you are certainly worth more than being put under the authority of any organisation you feel will diminish you as a person.”
12 months later the same person tried to show me my place by sending round the person marked * above with Christmas dinner.
That is a the anathema of faith based rescue.
If you are left with the impression that the largely lesbian, radical feminist cadre behind “Turn Off the Red Light” have done their best to hand sex workers in Northern Ireland to organisations rooted in a perception of homosexuality as sin and a woman’s role as one of submission to a man, the very kind of people they ought to be fighting to protect ALL women from, you would not be wrong.
I repeat, “Turn Off the Red Light” have just moved heaven and earth to hand every sex worker in Northern Ireland to people they despise and oppose as abusive. It really is that sick.