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Redeeming “Sweetie”

She was moving in a sort of revelry. I watch as her tawdry, make-upped eyes catch her unfamiliar reflection in the dim, persistent mirrors lining the smoky room. The pole she precariously grips seems to be all that is holding her up. She is young, but she still refers to the adulterating customers as “hun” or “sweetheart.” Her job title comes with unending stereotypes forming a thick barrier of assumptions in front of who she really is. I noticed her masquerade fading between a brash, invincible woman to a lost little girl. I observed the flood of water accumulating behind her eyes and rushed to apprehend her racing back to the employed girls’ dressing room.

The house mother had graciously allowed a few of my friends and I to bring gift baskets to the girls that work at this “gentleman’s club” on Fulton Industrial Boulevard. Girls were strutting in and out in mile-high stilettos, applying and reapplying layers of makeup, adjusting hair extensions and peeling off clothing. One of the girls compliments my comparatively frumpy, fringed knee-high boots. The atmosphere reminds me of college. All my roommates getting ready for a fancy night, closets dismantled with shared clothes exploding all over the floor, hair dryers and curling irons strewn about and makeup of every shade and color scattered around every visible mirror. Another girl peeks in the dressing room and calls for another: “Sweetie! Charlie is lookin’ for ya!” “Sweetie” objects and puts down her french fries, protesting the lonely regular.

It all seems so familiar, maybe even fun, until the harsh reality sinks in: This is no game. These girls are feeling the pressure of trying to make ends meet and feed their kids. My young friend quickly changes into her everyday jean cutoffs and lime-green T-shirt. She could be my little sister. She explains in a matter-of-fact Southern drawl that she only dances when she and her boyfriend need a little extra money. I can’t imagine what circumstances have brought her to this establishment for a little extra income or that her boyfriend is so nonchalant. It’s so easy to picture her folding clothes in a Gap store. She quickly toughens up and promises herself she won’t be back here, almost more of a statement to melt my concerned gaze away.

But the statistics that state one in four girls are sexually abused before the age of 18 make me wonder if there is a story in her past that has given her the permission to subject her body to paying customers. The quandary is that this is America, and the assumption is she is a dirty girl for choosing this profession—but the reality is someone has taken advantage of her innocence at an early age, sending her the message that she is worth little more than an object to be used at someone else’s propensity. The magnificent consequence that our words and actions possess in directing the course of one another’s lives is a great responsibility. Not to mention the people along the way who perpetuate the falsehoods we have come to accept as truth.

It’s a great mistake to assume the majority of girls who work in the adult entertainment industry have chosen that specific path voluntarily with a clean conscience. Of course the money is substantial and there are plenty of paying customers, but the majority of girls will tell you that deep down, if they could fiscally manage another source of income, it would be a no-brainer to work elsewhere. Before you or I ever assume individuals who sell their bodies dreamed up this lifestyle as ideal, it is crucial to look at them the same way Jesus approached the promiscuously scandalous woman at the well.

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There may be seemingly impossible walls to scale, constructed carefully around a broken heart and soul, but it is crucial for all of us to transcend the lines society has drawn so severely between us. We are not all so different. There is purpose in his or her story, and he or she is worthy of unconditional love. A real love they may have unfortunately never encountered until one person who took a risk to be socially awkward reaches out to spread some of their overflow. Everyone, including those who work in the adult entertainment industry, even voluntarily in the United States, is dying to know God has not forgotten them and their life is valuable. There is still opportunity for their dreams, for provision for their families and self-respect. That he or she has a voice that has the potential to start a movement to change the world and help end the objectification and usage of others in ways their endearing Creator did not intend.

A single conversational interaction might not be an immediate revolutionary extreme life makeover, but that initial contact filled with a voice of love and concern may be the seed of life planted in that girl’s or guy’s path to change their direction of eternity forever. 

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