Beyond the Fantasy
I am writing today about a topic that is close and dear to my heart. I am writing in hopes of bringing awareness and a new perspective.
I want to start off with saying that no matter how different we appear to be, the similarities we share unite us, and we do have a common ground. Some fundamental facts we both agree on are:
- Abuse of any sort is inhumane and damaging to a person;
- Slavery is a form of abuse and is utterly destructive to a human;
- Human trafficking is a horrendous form of abuse and slavery, where people buy and sell other humans for a cost they deem reasonable.
For the minor differences that we hold (gender, religion, socioeconomic status, race, etc), I want to say that I am aware of and acknowledge these differences, but I want to clear the table of all these differences for the sake of our similarities. We may be from complete opposite sides of the spectrum, but we are humans and that pulls us together.
Standing on the platform of our similarities, I want to reiterate that we agree that abuse, slavery, and human trafficking are forms of human exploitation and abuse. We hear stories of men beating women, adults molesting children, women and men getting raped, a buyer murdering a prostitute and we cringe, shake our heads, and question what kind of world we live in. Subconsciously, we understand that the abuser is controlling and objectifying the other person—the other person becomes the abuser’s outlet of anger, fear, pain, and hurt. We understand the person abused has very little chance of escaping the hands of the abuser if other people do not come alongside them and provide a way out. We understand the helplessness of the defenseless victims, and feel a little bit of compassion and sympathy.
But at the end of the day it is easy to disconnect ourselves from them. At the end of the day it is easy to not get too emotionally involved because after all, it is not someone we know. At the end of the day, we tend to ignore the fact that these stories are about someone who is a human just like us. And at the end of the day, we fail to realize that we could possibly be contributing to the world of abuse, human trafficking, and slavery.
Perhaps you are disagreeing with what I am saying right now, because you feel that there is absolutely no way that you would contribute to any form of abuse or slavery. But what if we unintentionally added more pain to abused people? What if instead of bringing love and healing to people, our actions simply reinforce the hurt they carry? What if we are the ones who are continuously oppressing and violating people? Let me explain.
Human trafficking has been coined as “modern day slavery.” It is an explicit form of abuse and violation towards human beings. One person buys a human for a determined time, gets to use them in whichever way they want, and then walk away as if they are disposing of them. (And for clarification, there is a difference between sexual exploitation and sex trafficking. With sexual exploitation, a person’ sex and body is being abused, but there is no third party gaining money for the exploitation. With sex trafficking, a third party is gaining money for selling a human to someone else.) Our hearts break for the women being forced into prostitution and for the abuse they must face. We are enraged when little girls are sexually abused and demand justice. We declare that we want abuse and sex trafficking to end, yet we openly attend and engage in strip clubs… The two are not disconnected.
Let me connect the dots: 90% of all trafficked women have been abused as children. 70% of sex slavery happens within the commercial sex industry, which includes (but not limited to) strip clubs, street prostitution, call girls, and escorts. 89% of women in the sex industry want to leave, but see no other way to do so. All of this to say: Sex trafficking happens in strip clubs.
Strips clubs are often seen as a place of leisure (particularly for men), where the women stripping want to be there; she has a choice to be stripping or not to be. There are however, strip clubs that coerce, traffic, and enslave women. How do we know which strip clubs are trafficking humans? We don’t.
And to the clubs that are not trafficking women, and the women are there “by choice”… what is choice without options? If a child grows up in an abusive home, where sexual advances from her parental figures are the only ways she has encountered “love,” does abuse not become a normalcy for her? Without healing, abused children go on to be adults who believe that their bodies are what makes them loved and valued. Their abuse has caused them to believe that without offering their bodies to others, they are worthless. Thus, is there truly a “choice” for a women who has been continuously abused and does not know another way of life?
I want to extend the case of the dangers of going to strip clubs and unintentionally contributing to sex slavery with three points.
1. Bodies are not commodities. Bodies are not for sale. Whether or not we agree on what is a choice, we do agree that the selling of bodies and sex is fundamentally dehumanizing (wrong). We are appalled at people buying and selling their bodies for sex, but we throw money at naked strippers. In strip clubs, the dancers become an object/an item of entertainment/a sex purchase. A body, whether it is in a hotel room or an open arena with flashing lights and loud music, is not meant to be bought. We buy objects, things, disposable items… not a human.
The truth is that when we throw money at a stripper, you are buying her sexuality and her body. We are paying her for her body, not her talents. Unlike other dancers, strippers are paid for being naked and for showing their bodies. If that were not true, then we would be satisfied with seeing acrobats, ballerinas, and hiphop dancers dance. If that were not true, we would toss dollar bills at ballerinas and acrobats, and openly applaud, value, and love strippers.
Furthermore, if we go to strip clubs and do not throw money at the dancers, sexual exploitation is still occurring because we are using their bodies to satisfy our fantasies, desires, and curiosity. It is easy to forgot the human that is dancing. But like any other person, strippers are not merely their outer human shell. They are a soul filled with dreams, purpose, and life that is inhabiting that particular human body. They are not simply a body to be bought. They are a valuable life. And their purpose does entail selling their sex or their body. She (and everything she is—sex, body, and soul) is not for sale.
2. Stripping is not a career choice. How alarmed would we be if a child told us they wanted to be a stripper? Would we encourage it or realize that there is something inherently inappropriate in a child saying that? Yes, there is a difference between an innocent child wanting to strip and an adult actually stripping. But why is it so shocking to think of a child wanting to strip? Is it the concept of sex at a young age that is wrong? If we were to follow that line of thought, then a child saying they wanted to become a mother or wife, would technically be alarming as well. Wives, mothers, and strippers all require sex/sexuality to come about. The difference between wives/mothers and strippers is that sex is being exploited and abused in the latter. Our sex, sexuality, and bodies are meant to produce life (emotionally, physically, spiritually, mentally). Our sex, sexuality, and bodies are not meant to be sold, exploited, or used for entertainment.
Once again, we forget about the person—the soul—who is dancing because we believe that stripping is a (fun) career choice. We forget that 90% of sex industry workers have been abused as children. We do not realize that these women often show similar levels of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as war veterans. We fail to connect the abused child and the stripper. But they are not unrelated. Many of these women cannot perform without the use of drugs or alcohol in their system to numb away the pain. The sexual abuse they were forced to endure is now a building block for dissociation and disengagement. They continue to use their bodies in the ways they were taught that it mattered: sexually and for other people’s pleasure. In order to survive, these women psychologically and emotionally disconnect with real life as they strip and dance. They strip as a means of survival, not to thrive in their careers or their lives.
3. Strippers are humans. She is a person like you and me. If there is anything in us that causes us to view strippers as less than or to forget they are real people, then that is a clear indicator that something must change (and yes, it is both our mindsets towards strippers and the over sexualization of a career and person that must change).
I want us to remember that strippers are real people with real feelings. She is a daughter, a sister, a friend, a mother. She is valued, and deserves to feel and be treated like she is. It is easy to disconnect from the pole dancer, but imagine how different you would see her if she was your sister, your daughter, or your mother. Would you want to see them there? The reality is that she is someone’s daughter, someone’s sister, someone’s mother. Someone cares for her (and if you think that is not true… I, for one, value and care so much for her). Why is that we go to strip clubs to be entertained, and then we bash the women who are entertaining us? Should we not raise to the occasion and treat each human as valued and purposed? Let’s respect the bodies and the sex of women even if she believes it is her “choice” to show it off.
The problem with stripping is not the strippers themselves, but our mindsets—we are the problem. In a time where over sexualizing women is glamorized and normal, we overlook the necessity of seeing women as humans, as more than what their bodies have to offer. The act of stripping is intrinsically the shredding of the identity of women because they are seen only for their bodies and their sex. Any time we contribute to the over sexualizing of people (like going to strip clubs), we directly exploit their sexuality and, more often than not, contribute to sex slavery.
And then eventually, watching strippers will not be enough. We will want to live out our fantasies with what we are seeing. We will not just throw money at them, but we will become so actively involved in this sensual, glamorized sex performance that we will buy their bodies and their sex for a few minutes—for us to relieve ourselves of the sexual tension we feel. Even if we do not reach this point, the more we engage with strip clubs, the more our real life will feel like it lacks (the temporary and forced) excitement and adrenaline that is offered at a strip club.
The truth is that there is nothing healing and loving about watching someone dance naked, neither to them or to us. It is damaging to our minds to be over exposed to sex, and it is damaging to be the one who is over sexualized. The truth is that we unintentionally add to the oppression and abuse women endure and feel when we attend strip clubs. We fail to respect ourselves and other people when we only see a particular woman for her sexual abilities and contributions. She is more than that. We are more than that.
Dear reader, thank you. Thank you for reading this far and allowing me to share a part of my heart with you. I hope it has reached the depths of your heart. Let us stand together in not contributing to slavery, abuse, and objectification of humans.