Pretty Woman vs The Real Woman
I was recently ordering take-out and waiting for it at the bar of Chili’s when a man sitting there struck up a conversation with me. He asked me what I did for a living so I told him I worked with Rescue Houston. I briefly gave him some basic trafficking statistics thinking he’d hear it and leave me alone, but then he said something odd.
“So, let me get this straight…you help hookers?”
Wait… what did he say? He actually used the word “hooker”. I didn’t think anyone’s used that word since the 1990’s. I sat there for a second and thought of my options:
- I could argue how often women are forced into being prostituted out of a lack of choice.
- I could thank the man [who was on his third adult beverage since I’d sat down] for his time, politely take my food that had just been placed before me, and simply walk away.
I chose option #2. Now, this was an uncharacteristic move for me. If you know me, you know I like a good argument, especially when I’m right. But, in this moment, it would have been wasted breath.
I got my food and sat in my car for a moment and thought, “He actually said ‘hooker’.” That word still ringing in my ears. It made me wonder how many other people look at the ladies we mentor and assist as ‘hookers’?
Being out and around hundreds of people a month through all types of outreaches to brothels, to the street, to truck stops and strip clubs, I wondered again, “How many people think like this?” And I thought, “What’s the difference in a woman who is a ‘hooker’ and a woman being prostituted?”
Then I thought of the movie Pretty Woman. And I came to some conclusions.
Julia Roberts played this award-winning roll that was released in March of 1990. If you haven’t seen it, then spoiler alert! The plot goes something like this: High-powered businessman Edward Lewis has broken up with his girlfriend and he takes his lawyer’s sports car, and accidentally ends up on Hollywood Boulevard in the city’s red-light district, where he encounters prostitute Vivian Ward (Julia Roberts). After some shenanigans with the car he offers to hire her for the night; later, he asks Vivian to play the role of his girlfriend, offering her $3,000 to stay with him for the next six days. Edward begins seeing Vivian in a different light. He begins to open up to her, revealing his personal life and business affairs. Edward takes Vivian by private jet to see an opera, where she is moved to tears by the story of the prostitute who falls in love with a rich man (ironic). Vivian tells Edward she loves him, but he does not respond. Edward offers to put her up in an apartment so she can be off the streets. Hurt, she refuses, says this is not the “fairy tale” she dreamed of as a child, in which a knight on a white horse rescues her. Because Vivian has shown him a different way of looking at life, Edward asks her to stay one more night with him—but because she wants to, not because he’s paying her. She refuses. Edward re-thinks his life and has the hotel chauffeur detour to Vivian’s apartment building, where he leaps from out the white limousine sunroof and “rescues her.”
This movie made $463.4 million dollars and sold over 41 Million tickets nationwide, it was the third highest grossing movie in 1990 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pretty_Woman).
One of the most famous scenes in the movie when Edward “borrows” millions of dollars in diamonds from a jewelry store that Julia’s character can wear to the opera.
A photos of when they first met. She appears very happy.
This is when he “rescues her” on the balcony.
I have to admit, I LOVE this movie. It has some laughter, some fist fighting, romance and a fairy tale ending.
Let’s now see what the reality of a prostituted woman looks like:
Images of women arrested in a Houston-area sting.
Women arrested for prostitution are there for many reasons, but as explained in this video by Exodus Cry, “Nearly without fail, women enter prostitution from a position of vulnerability”.
And many are under the control of a pimp of trafficker. Some women, when released from jail, call their pimp or trafficker to come pick them up, or their pimp or trafficker is the one that bails them out of jail. Unfortunately, they’re not riding up limos to “rescue” these women from their situations. Most of the time they are put back out on the street within the same day to work off an even bigger debt after being bailed out. Regardless of the cold or extreme heat, these women are working, oftentimes with food and sleep withheld from them until they reach their quotas. Some must serve up to 20 consumers a day to meet that quota. They suffer from psychological manipulation, and traumas associated with diseases, forced abortions, physical violence such as rape and assault, and on. Most are not taken to fancy dinners and given a credit card to purchase thousands of dollars worth of clothing for their company, unharmed and protected from others by the men who want their company as Julia Roberts was in Pretty Woman. These women are victimized and exploited.
This video by Exodus Cry speaks to the “choice” of prostitution, and helped me better understand how to communicate that with others.
Exodus Cry, one of the front runners in the anti-trafficking movement recently added some amazing information on their site at https://exoduscry.com/choice/. I was relieved when I watched it because it spoke so much truth and it gave me more information to be able to share with others who think prostitution is a choice. There are so many “real” women out fighting against this injustice such as Rebecca Bender (http://www.rebeccabender.org/rebeccas-story) who was once a victim of trafficking but now is a strong voice to bring justice to other women. These are the real faces of prostitution. These are the real women who fight daily for their lives.
So no, we don’t help “hookers”, we help women who, because of their life circumstance have no other option but to walk the streets, work in Asian brothels, cantinas, be sold online or forced to sell sex services by a pimp, trafficker, or family member. Women who have lost count of the number of tricks they turn daily and have to hand over the money they’ve been given to a pimp or trafficker. Women who think they are “independently” working without a pimp, but are in bondage to addiction or severe financial distress. Women who get their children taken away, women who are suffering from PTSD and severe trauma at the hands of pimps and consumers. Women who have been working in the “the life” since they were 14 yrs old. Women who don’t know what their true value is. Women who just like you and me, Christ laid his life down for. This is who we help.
I see the hearts of hundreds of outreach volunteers monthly reaching out to these very women with words of hope and life. I see how they clothe them, feed them, bring them gifts and even visit them in brothel and cantinas. I hear the prayers and the singing over these women and hear the testimonies of survivors. I see the volunteers hard work all around me and think, “this is what being Christ-like is all about.”
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King (Jesus) reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” – Matthew 25:35-40