I Hired a Prostitute, but We Didn’t Have Sex
(Note: This story is a composite of experiences during my trip to Pattaya )
We sat down at the bar to order a drink. She served us with a beautiful smile, but she wasn’t working there just to serve drinks. The bars in Pattaya are more of a front for the sex trade than the kind of bars I’ve visited at home. We spent some time getting to know her, asking about her family, sharing pictures – and even taking pictures together. We shared some laughs as she taught us some simple Thai phrases. We asked about her hopes and dreams – it was clear her work at the bar is a temporary situation. We asked if she likes the work – she knew we weren’t talking about serving drinks. She shrugged and explained that she has a “happy heart” and that she is able to “live there” even though she doesn’t like the work of selling her body to foreign men. She mentioned she has some nice “friends” who visit her – this is code for regular customer. We bought her a drink and chatted a bit longer then left for the evening with the promise to visit again before we leave town.
We returned to the bar a couple nights later and brought our Thai friends. We invited her to join us for dinner so we could tell her about the options Global Breakthrough has to offer her to help her leave the sex trade industry. Over dinner we talked about her hopes and dreams some more. She wants to return to her home in the north to be with her mother and daughter. She hopes to be a teacher someday. But, with little education herself, it’s difficult for her to find much work that offers a livable wage. The money she earns at the bars in Pattaya are her best hope in response to the poverty at home. She’s not ready to leave the bars – she can’t imagine finding work that would actually provide for her personal needs and the needs of her family. Her wages help pay for her daughter’s education. She doesn’t want her daughter to end up in a bar in Pattaya. She chooses to work in the bars – but does she really have a choice?
Many would call her a prostitute , a sex worker, a whore. But she has a name. The name she gave me at the bar may not even be her real name. I invited her to dinner with our team and some other girls we met at bars. We paid her rate to buy her time – a customer usually pays around $10 to have sex with a bar girl. But, we didn’t have sex. Instead, we tried the best we could to show her love and affection that communicated to her that she is valuable and of much worth. Many of these girls come to the bars looking for love – hoping to meet a foreign man who will love them and marry them and deliver them from their poverty. They are looking for love in the wrong place – and very few actually find it there.
Many of the men who come to Pattaya have read one of the guides written for those vacationing in Pattaya who are there for the sex trade on how to take advantage of a Thai “Girlfriend.” These guides coach foreign men on the lies to tell their Thai “Girlfriend” in order to string them along so their vacation is the most enjoyable for them – and leave open the possibility for using them again when they return on a future vacation or business trip. Some men are not looking for a Thai “Girlfriend” – they are just out to buy sex. We met a group of men from Afghanistan. There were about 8 of them. They hired two Thai ladies to share amongst themselves. Others want a different girl every night. Some are interested in lady-boys (more on this in a future post). We observed many “couples” during our week here, and one thing we all noticed was the lack of conversation. Many Thai sex workers speak very little if any foreign languages. Some speak a little English. We brought Thai translators with us to the bars and to our dinner dates with our new friends so we could have meaningful conversation. When I first told my oldest daughter about the birds and the bees, I told her she could ask me any question she wanted. After a few awkward moments of silence, she asked, “Do you and dad talk while having sex?” Somehow she intuitively knew there had to be a relational component of sex. It’s hard to imagine sex separated from even the most basic relational component – simple conversation.
How did sex become such a commodity? When did we separate sex from intimate relationship? Some argue that prostitution is the oldest profession, and they may be right. We might look to culture and world view issues to explain why Pattaya, Thailand has become the sex-trade capitol of the world, but sex trade is not exclusive to Thailand. Most every culture has some iteration of this brokenness. Why has God allowed such brokenness and objectification of humanity to continue and evolve into the reckless buying and selling of sex as a vacation hot spot? Is patriarchy and the devaluing of women and girls to blame for this epidemic? Is it a version of religion that says women cannot be ordained or you must be a man to reach Nirvana, and so women learn to devalue themselves as unrighteous, unholy and unworthy slaves? Whatever the root cause, the sex trade mars our humanity and names women as reusable commodities to be bought and sold in the market for the sake of sexual pleasure. The image of God is broken in both men and women who participate in the sex trade. Not only are individual humans degraded in the sex trade, but as humans created in the image of God, the name of God is also degraded.
In Amos 2:6-7 we read:
Amos 2:6-7 CEB
The LORD proclaims:
For three crimes of Israel,
and for four,
I won’t hold back the punishment,
because they have sold the innocent
and those in need
for a pair of sandals.
They crush the head of the poor
into the dust of the earth,
and push the afflicted
out of the way.
Father and son have intercourse
with the same young woman,
degrading my holy name.
Sex for hire degrades the image of God in humans. The name of God is degraded when we buy and sell the poor and the oppressed, and when multiple men have intercourse with the same woman. The One True God, the only Righteous Judge, declares these things crimes. We cry out, “God, what are you going to do about these crimes?!”
Perhaps a better question is, “What am I doing about these crimes?!” God invites us to be cooperative friends of Jesus, living lives of creative goodness in the power of the Holy Spirit for the sake of others. I’ve just returned home from a week in Pattaya, Thailand where I saw things I wish I’d never seen. Where I learned of the broken dreams of many women who out of their poverty have been taken advantage of. While many of the sex workers have good motives – they are working to support their families – it is a shame on humanity that it would be more profitable for a woman to sell her body for the selfish desires of others than to work in a factory.
What am I doing about it? My commitment to stop sex trafficking has only just begun. I have only seen a glimpse of the global problem. I will continue to support organizations like Global Breakthrough. I will go back to Pattaya. I hope you will join me in this great cause. So now I ask, what are you going to do about it?
WAYS TO JOIN IN THE CAUSE:
- Send me a check made payable to Overlake Christian Church – my local church and Global Breakthrough’s biggest partner. Mail to: Elizabeth Chapin, 7117 NE 165th St., Kenmore, WA 98028. (Please do not put my name anywhere on the check for tax deduction purposes.)
- Give to Overlake Christian Church online: http://www.occ.org/give/
- Give to Global Breakthrough online: https://dlq4.donatelinq.net/qv10/donation.aspx?MerchantID=Breakthrough
- Join one of the upcoming trips to Thailand: http://www.globalbreakthrough.net/get-involved/come-on-a-trip-with-us/
- Pray, pray, pray!
- Read more about the issues: HUMAN TRAFFICKING | TRAFFICKING IN THAILAND
- Invite others to join the cause.
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