It is morning, in a bakery, somewhere in Las Vegas. In the air, all of the smells one would expect from a bakery…on the menu, an exit strategy.
They say that “sex sells” but they never say why it sells…none of us do. Sex sells because we love to objectify people. This love is not born of a hatred for humanity per-se. We love it because it is easy. It’s a hard reality to face that we all have a tendency to objectify people. We are fascinated with the concept of “objects selling objects”, maybe not so much when it is spelled out like this (it sounds crazy when articulated like this), but there is an unsettling precedent in American (or Western if you like) culture of being sold things by people we treat like things. Recently, my Pastor, name a Jefro, challenged us as a congregation to see past the habit of treating others as objects, and digging deep to find their humanity, a place where love could triumph. His proposal was to help support a ministry called The Cupcake Girls, the name of the ministry possesses the power to invoke innuendo, but not all is as it seems…is it? Or is it? The answer is no.
The Cupcake Girls is an outreach ministry in Las Vegas, whose chief concern, in terms of those unreached by the gospel message, is women involved in the sex-trade industry…an insidiously innocuous term if ever there was one. The reaching is accomplished through cupcakes. The Cupcake Girls bring the cupcakes to the clubs and brothels for the girls employed there to enjoy…no strings…no bait and switch…just cupcakes and a chance for relationships to happen. So far they are involved with 17 strip clubs and 5 brothels across Las Vegas and throughout Nevada. They do this ministry with one of the most astonishingly low budgets I’ve ever encountered, in terms of dollars spent per people affected. That was my pitch…you wanna help? Go to the site (it was those red letters you read a few lines prior). There you will learn that cupcakes are just the beginning; they also help the girls with a myriad of other things like experiencing a family environment through Christmas parties, and having spa days which allow the girls employed by the clubs and brothels to see themselves as people who deserve to be treated like people, not objects.
You see these girls aren’t just objectified by men who look at them as objects of exploitation, they’re also objectified by men and women who see them as objects to disdain, objects that deserve their judgment, as objects who need their pity…they are none of these things, they’re not things at all; they’re people. My point is that these girls are stripped of their humanity by the nature of the work they perform. Their vocation creates a stigma that many never see through and there they die a slow and lonely death. This stigma can be made obsolete with a tweak of our attitudes, we can diffuse its power.
Why would we want to do that? I guess because Jesus did. Annoying savior ain’t he? Whats even more annoying than his example, is the obligation to try to emulate it, especially when seen through the way he treated Mary Magdalene. He didn’t treat her as a sexual article, as had most of the men she’d encountered. Nor did he treat her as a taboo to be avoided at all cost, as the church had. He simply invited her to be his friend, and that they were, and still are as far as I know. This is not a call to married men to go out and begin friendships with sex-trade workers, there is no doubt of the propensity toward disaster that scenario would create. Men could, however, support their wives in the building of such relationships. Families could work together to create opportunities for interaction in healthy familial situations through dinners or Sunday brunches. Women of the church could end the policy of “financial embargo” with concern to so-called “Sexspresso” stands, and take the opportunity to stop in and start a relationship with the people working there. In short the church could begin to love the people who are involved in a trade which society (the churched and the unchurched) finds convenient to forget is staffed by people. A radical premise right? My favorite kind.
I wonder. What do we think as we pass by the espresso stands, strip clubs, as we see pictures, or hear of sites that sell sex at the expense of their employees humanity? Do these thoughts honor the God you say you worship? I know mine rarely do. That can change.
Lastly a hypothetical. There is a girl she has been wrapped up in the sex industry for seventeen years, it has been a long rabbit hole the end of which seems unattainable to this girl, having been disappointed time and time again in a vocation that is known for, and thrives upon disappointment. She needs to get out…but how? She imagines her resume and she almost laughs, it would be funny if life wasn’t so desperate at this point. If only she had a job that looked good on paper. This is one of the possibilities that can happen in a world where strippers are treated like people…chances are taken and lives are changed. These ideas are not my own, like I said these were challenges that my Pastor offered to us, as a community, during a Sunday meeting. I thought I would convey these ideas to people who read my blog who hadn’t the benefit of hearing Jefro’s message (more info about Seaside’s [the church I attend] involvement here). These are ideas that could change lives; everyone’s life involved.
Dear diary, a funny thing happened on the way to the bakery this morning…redemption.