Review

I Heart Sex Workers: A Christian Response to People in the Sex Trade

by Lia Claire Scholl

A Christian book titled I HEART SEX WORKERS? Really? Yes, and if you think it's impossible for any good and decent Christian to love those who trade in sex, think again. Author Lia Scholl is a pastor who advocates for the rights of sex workers, and she's not alone in her efforts to create an effective Christian response to sex work and fight what she sees as injustice in that work.

A few things you need to know about this book right away. It's not about sex trafficking or slavery, and it's not about victimization. It's not even about feminism or the "powerless" women who are taken advantage of by "powerful" pimps and johns. In fact, it would be a good idea to empty yourself of any notion you may have about the sex trade and how you think this book may approach the subject.

"This is such an important book that I wish every Christian who thinks sex workers need to be rescued --- and everyone who has a judgmental attitude toward them --- would read it.... No matter how informed you think you are about the sex trade or how open-minded you are about it, be prepared to have your eyes opened even further."

It's very likely that Scholl will demolish those notions anyway. She successfully pulls back the curtain and shows that the reality of sex work bears little to no resemblance to the illusion most people, especially Christians, have about it. Scholl examines the many factors --- some expected, some unexpected, some surprising --- that lead women into prostitution as well as the reasons why they stay. She also offers a thoughtful, and again surprising, analysis of why legalization will ultimately hurt sex workers while decriminalization may help many of them to make the decision to leave the lifestyle. The issues she discusses are the kinds of things that most people would never associate with sex work, and she occasionally writes about them in such detail that those who are squeamish about sex talk may consider a few sections to be uncomfortable to read. 

Scholl's discussion of "harm reduction," which she describes as minimizing the harmful effects of (in this case) sex work, is brilliant. Harm reductionists, she writes, neither condone nor ignore the detrimental results of sex work but instead share information and suggestions to help sex workers avoid danger and become more empowered in making choices about their lives.

The book includes chapters about biblical women who traded in sex or were presumed to have done so. The author's insights into these women and how they were perceived and treated by the culture in which they lived are fresh and enlightening, far beyond the usual teachings about so-called fallen women in scripture.

This is such an important book that I wish every Christian who thinks sex workers need to be rescued --- and everyone who has a judgmental attitude toward them --- would read it.  I'm confident that it will find its way into the hands of most of those already ministering to sex workers, and I'm equally confident it will be of enormous benefit to both those doing the ministering and those being ministered to. No matter how informed you think you are about the sex trade or how open-minded you are about it, be prepared to have your eyes opened even further.

Reviewed by Marcia Ford on March 14, 2013

I Heart Sex Workers: A Christian Response to People in the Sex Trade
by Lia Claire Scholl