Free markets without values are simply an opportunity for exploitation. We’ve all experienced the effects of this in the last eighteen months with the near collapse of the banking system. It’s not the rich and powerful who discover there’s no home to return to, no pension for the future and no obvious hope for re-employment. It’s the little guy who was encouraged to live an impossible dream who finds his life on hold. But it’s in the world of goods and services that we find the lack of morality has the most significant human consequences.
Harriet Harman has challenged the free market in the so-called ‘sexual services’ industry. Apparently, there has been a website giving ratings to women by men who’ve purchased sex. As it’s registered in California (where else) she has asked Arnold Schwarzenegger to close it down. Seeing women’s bodies as soulless commodities, to be compared like vacuum cleaners on the internet, is an affront to human dignity. It damages the women forced into prostitution, the men who use them and the families affected. But beyond the immediate casualties, wider society becomes more degraded by further lowering the bar of expected behaviour. And this in turn produces more ‘customers’ ready to exploit women trapped in prostitution.
It’s genuinely puzzling why the church has been so quiet for so long. Perhaps it’s because we know people personally involved are afraid to look judgemental; maybe it’s because we know the church is often portrayed as having a hang-up when it comes to sex and we don’t want to look like prudes. A further reason could be that we’ve believed that most women in prostitution choose the profession as a lucrative career with flexible working hours.
It’s time we put an end to this commercial exploitation. Most women selling sex are ‘controlled for gain’ by others. Many are addicted to substances to dull the pain. They are all somebody’s daughter, many are somebody’s sister, some are a child’s mother. Can we look at ourselves in the mirror if we simply walk by, like the priest and the Levite in the parable of the good Samaritan? Get involved in the campaign to change the law to outlaw the purchase of sex from those controlled by pimps and traffickers. Support the rescue, rehabilitation and reorientation of women in the sex trade by Beyond the Streets. And don’t let anyone get away with thinking that ‘the oldest profession in the world’ is just like any other.