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Is Prostitution Work? Christian Today

This weeks Christian Today Article

Is prostitution work?

Language matters. Last week a young woman, Michelle Dunn, was stabbed to death in Sydney. This young woman was described as a ‘sex worker’. This is now the ‘correct’ terminology for prostitution. Does that matter?

The Sydney Morning Herald carried a revealing series of reports on the nature of ‘sex work’ in the city.

Michelle was a student who also operated as a sex worker. There are a significant number of female students who share her lifestyle – some start working in brothels even before they leave school. Taylor Tara, a sex worker who is also an author has described why some, and how, some get involved with this.

One brothel owner declared: “I’d say around 20-30 percent of our girls are uni students, working to pay the rent, HECS and whatever a girl needs, because it is a materialistic world in which we live.”

Another area of concern is that of ‘sugar daddies’ where older wealthy men essentially purchase young girls. There are websites dedicated to promoting this ‘business’.

But, as Christianity declines, Christian values are no longer the foundation on which society is built and so as new values and norms are being established, new language is needed to help with that process.

This is a problem throughout the world. In the West it has largely been the case that ‘sex work’ is known as prostitution – not work. But, as Christianity declines, Christian values are no longer the foundation on which society is built and so as new values and norms are being established, new language is needed to help with that process. All of this is a process which has consequences.

In 2016, at the Cheltenham Science festival, two academics presented the idea that working as a prostitute was no different to working in a bar. The professors had been granted half a million pounds of National Lottery funding to conduct a three year study of 6,773 students. They found that a significant number of sex workers were male students and that 22% of students were considering sex work.

At the 2016 Lib Dem conference, councillor Dennis Parsons suggested that schools’ careers officers should be allowed to promote prostitution as a viable career. In comparing prostitutes with accountants, Mr Parsons went on to say “even in this room full of liberals we have got a huge cultural problem that we do see sex work as different, and we see it as something a little bit tacky, and not quite nice, and not the sort of thing that we would want our sons and daughters to get involved in.” Delegates at the conference were also told that decriminalizing prostitution would raise £1bn per year for the treasury in taxes.

abuse-adult-beautiful-1435441This is where our culture appears to be going. Young people selling their bodies for sex is now being promoted as ‘work’ and a career. We talk about the exploitation of women and applaud the MeToo movement, while at the same time permitting and encouraging young women to be purchased and exploited by older men. We abhor slavery and yet our obsession with sex and sexual ‘freedom’ has resulted in the re-introduction of the slave trade in the UK – with some estimating that there are 20,000 sex slaves in the UK alone. The Christian politician William Wilberforce fought over many years for slavery to be abolished – now our de-Christianised society is reintroducing it.

Does it have to be this way? Sometimes there are glimmers of light. In 2017, much to some people’s surprise, the SNP conference voted to change prostitution laws by criminalizing those who pay for sex, not those who sell it – following the Swedish and Northern Irish models. The SNP’s decision drew criticism from some sex worker organisations, who said that full decriminalisation was the only way to ensure the safety of sex workers. The Scottish government has yet to follow up on this motion, but it is at least a proposed step in the right direction.

How should the Church respond?

Christians, following Christ’s example, should care for those engaged in prostitution, rather than despise them. It is because we care that we must refuse to go along with the new terminology that seeks to excuse and justify prostitution. Christians have a high and holy view of sex. We do not regard it as work – nor are our bodies to be sold to the highest bidder in order to satisfy the lusts of those who have more money and power. Sex is not work. Prostitutes are not sex workers. Prostitution is not a career option that should be taught in schools or practiced in universities. Prostitution is a form of slavery – one that often leads to other forms of slavery. It should go without saying, (although sadly it appears as though it still needs to be said) that Christians should be opposed to slavery and especially to those who purchase sex slaves.

We also need to consider how we live in a society where sex, money and power are the idols that are worshipped. It is shocking to hear of middle-class students who become prostitutes in order, not to provide for basic necessities, but to fund a materialistic lifestyle, an illusion sold to them by culture and advertisers. If you really believe that life is not worth living without lots of money, then you will do almost anything to obtain that money.

Then we must realize that we too are in a sense, slaves – “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your bodies.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20.

We don’t sell our bodies because we have already been purchased by Christ. This is the servanthood of sonship…raising us to a level that we cannot even imagine! The great news we have for those who have sold their bodies is that there is also redemption for them. Surely rather than justify prostitution by using the language of the deceivers, perverts and exploiters, we should use the language of the Gospel – to preach the Good News to those who as yet do not know their own infinite worth!

David Robertson is Director of Third Space at the City Bible Forum in Sydney, Australia. He blogs at The Wee Flea

Sydney Stabbings

Sampson’s Samson Post – Losing His Faith

Decriminalising Prostitution – Press Reports

Note:  Often when articles are written about prostitution they are accompanied by glamourous photos.  I struggle with that because prostitution is not glamourous – indeed the very opposite – it is degrading and demeaning.  ‘Pretty Woman’ is a delusion.


  1. Great article, David. Thank you.

    And your note at the end, I think, almost needs to be front and centre. Even though that movie is now quite old, the sound track is still played fairly regularly (it’s a catchy song!). And because of that, the movie is brought back into people’s consciousness.

    I’ll be sharing this article for my thinking friends to consider.

  2. William Wilberforce fought over many years for slavery to be abolished – now our de-Christianised society is reintroducing it.

    And how many years did these ”Christians values” accept slavery?
    In fact it was accepted – and sanctioned – as a norm in biblical times.
    The last thing the world needs is a more Christianized society.

    1. I suggest that instead of just repeating memes you actually do some wider reading on the subject of slavery. Whilst there were some professing Christians who practiced and defended slavery – it was Christianity that got rid of slavery – and Greco/Romanpaganism which largely supported it. As Christianity is being removed from society it is little wonder that slavery is being reintroduced.

      1. Yes, I am well aware of Wilberforce, thank you. Yet the Abrahamic religions and their texts were used to justify slavery for millennia just as Christianity was used to justify Apartheid.
        Such justification was behind the largest loss of American life (to date) – the Civil War.
        Your argument is as ridiculous as it is factually incorrect, so perhaps you ought to do some wider research yourself, David?
        It is no wonder people walk away from Christianity when ill-informed people such as you are its torch bearers.

      2. Yes – lots of people will use anything to justify their beliefs – as you do with your atheism. But that doesn’t mean they are justified in doing so. You have a rather simplistic view of history and the Bible…you certainly know nothing about the Civil War. I have done a great deal of research on slavery – would you like to tell us where you studied the subject and who were your teachers?

    2. It’s Quixotic, Ark,
      the way you keep tilting at windmills, ignoring the growing evidence that you are constantly seeing something other than what is really there. The windmills have never turned out to be the giant lies that you have imagined them to be. One thing that would help you not to do that is to recognise that people doing something bad often try to justify themselves by linking their actions with something generally considered to be good. It might seem like a good idea to try and use this trait to criticise Christianity but sooner or later someone will do the same thing with Atheism whenever that is generally considered to be a good thing. (C.f. how recently Kevin Spacey tried to defend himself against allegations of rape — universally condemned — by coming out as gay: generally considered to be a good thing in liberal society.)
      You say that slavery ‘was accepted – and sanctioned – as a norm in biblical times‘ but fail to recognise that Christianity — operating since Bible times, of course — has been the driving force in making sure that it is no longer the accepted norm. Funny you don’t see that.

    3. “And how many years did these ”Christians values” accept slavery?”

      There could be an argument made for that being the case. ” Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart” Eph 6:5. That might have been used by some to argue the case for slavery. In fact the church has made some bad teaching at times. I’m thinking here od the time of the French revolution and fearing the same here the gentrified clergy preaching that poverty if you are in it is your lot and “heaven” as such in s not for now but later.

      I think there is something in the word “accept”. Of course it would be to deny reality to not accept that slavery exists. And since it does exist then what is to be done about it?

      “Do not become slaves of human beings” 1Cor 7:23. Seems pretty clear. And in context it was not uncommon for some slaves to have a better life if in a high status position than be freemen. So it seems that there may bave been some selling themselves into slavery to that end.

      I don’t think, Arkenaten, that the “values” you talk of (in the absence of your evidence) are active in advocating the kind of slavery we are talking about here. But I think they dont’ avoid the reality of it existing. Elsewhere equality is promoted. I think you need a convincing argument to make your claim about this valid and you haven’t, clearly, been forthcoming with that yet.

      Have you considered that the instruction given to slaves to be obedient to masters could have been in the context of a potential slave uprising against more powerful “masters”. And could it be that by following this instruction, slaves may have been better off than suffering the consequences of such uprising – floggings, crucifixions and the like?

      Sometimes, tough as it is, the choices available are between two outcomes with neither being desirable. The bible doesn’t shy away from that reality.

      Some people might.

  3. The obvious next step is for the DWP to deny women (and possibly young men, too!) benefits if they have turned down a “job” offer in the sex trade.
    Funny how you never see the daughters of the rich “choosing” this so-called career, isn’t it?

  4. If prostitutes may Income Tax then their practice of “the oldest profession” may be deemed work.

  5. Thank you for this post. In part, it has inspired my latest story in my parody of police dramas. (My daily posts are Christian thoughts, but the police dramas are for fun.) This one is less humorous than most. The victim in the story is a ‘sex-worker,’ but I have been listing “Credits” at the end and the last contains a link to this post. I guess my toned down humor on this story is a result of the serious subject matter.

    I love the Wee Flea and try to read each post. Thank you for your encouragement and thought provoking commentary.

  6. Peter is , of course, correct. But here we are. My comment was legalistic and not reflective of moral approbation.

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