This is the first of a mini-series of posts focused on socially acceptable things that make me fear for the future of girls everywhere. I recognize some of these topics are not the most popular to bring up, and in fact, many friends or readers may not agree with what I have to share. But the thing is, my desire to bring light to things that hurt women is greater than my fear that you may not like what I say. Here’s hoping we can still be friends.
If you live in the Austin area, and have ever driven south on IH-35 from Round Rock to Austin, then you know exactly when you cross from Williamson County to Travis County. You don’t need the road signs to tell you – the sudden appearance of “XXX”, “DANCING GIRLS” and “CABARET” clues you in pretty loud and clear.
Strip clubs and porn shops litter Travis County along the highways, on back roads and even on the way to the airport. Advertisements for these places are in our magazines and on radio stations. It’s all around us. For those people who struggle with sex or porn addiction, the triggers are endless.
But what I want to focus on today are the women who work in these establishments.
Now, I’ve heard all of the excuses: strippers get paid well; they have such “power” over men; they’re not objectified because they control men with their sexuality (which doesn’t even make sense, seeing as how you don’t have control over who objectifies YOU); these women feel empowered, yadda yadda yadda.
That’s all a bunch of bologna. But before I start ranting about the lies, let me paint a picture for you:
You walk into one of these clubs. It’s dim and loud and there are flashing lights. The first person you are greeted by (after the guard at the door), is a beautiful woman. She is tall and curvy, with brown eyes and long hair. She smiles at you, but if you really pay attention, you notice the smile doesn’t reach her eyes.
Then you wonder, what really makes her smile? What makes her laugh?
The truth is, most people who wander into these clubs don’t think these things. They are distracted by other things, motivated by desires other than trying to learn about a girl’s heart.
And that’s just it – this woman, she is a person with heart, a soul, a history. She was once a little girl, who believed in fairy tales and loved animals. She played with dolls or blocks or bikes. She may have had caring parents, or maybe abusive parents, or maybe no parents. She had friends, she went to school and doodled hearts on her assignments. She dreamed of being a vet or a teacher or a doctor. She was happy and hopeful at times, and scared and lonely at others. She had a whole kaleidoscope of stories and dreams and ideas.
Then she grew up, and somehow ended up in this place. Men pay her for her body, nothing else. They don’t see how precious her body is, that it contains a beating heart, a soul. They don’t know her favorite color, or favorite food. They don’t know her fears. They don’t know that she loves her Grandma more than anyone, or that she lies to her kids about her job. They don’t know, and they don’t ask. Even if they were to ask, she’d probably lie. Why would she be vulnerable to men who want nothing but the fantasy she presents?
And maybe by now, she’ll claim that she enjoys her job. Maybe she thinks it’s good money. But statistics show that compared to the average population, strippers experience higher rates of depression, PTSD, drug abuse, violent assault, rape, and domestic violence. Many of these women claim that they use drugs to get through the work day. An overwhelming number of women (66-99%) were sexually abused as children.
Their spirits were broken as little girls, then they found their way into a profession where there isn’t any healing.
What can we do about it?
First of all, don’t tolerate it. Do you have friends, family or love interests who think strip clubs are okay? Let them know how you feel about it! Tell them you don’t want them to go – but do so in a gentle way that could invite a conversation about it. One of the huge deal breakers for me when dating was going to strip clubs or other “adult shops”. If a guy thinks it’s okay and isn’t willing to give it up, he’s probably not in a place where he can respect you – or any women.
Secondly, educate yourself on REAL feminism. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Louisa May Alcott, to name a few. These ladies started it all, and knew what it meant to truly respect and defend womanhood. Feminism isn’t about making women into men, since doesn’t that imply that men are the standard? Feminism isn’t about wiping away all gender stereotypes. No, feminism is about respecting the uniqueness, beauty and diversity of women from all backgrounds. It’s about standing up for our right to be safe from sexual harassment, abuse, rape, and other sex crimes. We are to be cherished and seen with dignity. We are to be loved.
And love does not harm. But the sex industry harms – there is no love in it, only lust and objectification.
Thirdly, recognize that strip clubs hurt men, too. By allowing them to exist in our cities, we’re saying it’s okay for men to objectify women for money. We’re saying we’re okay with letting men sink deeper into the sink holes of addiction and poor relationships. I don’t care if “How I Met Your Mother” thinks strip clubs are funny (even Barney can’t make it look laughable or okay), or that it’s “fun” to go to a strip club for a bachelor party – they both contribute to the normalization of abuse and misuse towards women. Don’t be afraid to speak out against this – men and women deserve better. And don’t be afraid to pray about it, either! In addition to bringing these needs to God, praying chaplets, and asking our Blessed Mother for prayers, look into St. Margaret of Cortona and St. Mary Magdelene, as they are great intercessors for this cause.
Finally, volunteer as a mentor for school age kids. Give them an adult to look up to, someone that has hope in their ability to grow up and make healthy choices.
What other ideas do you have to bring awareness and healing to this cause?
“Twisting and turning
Your feelings are burning
You’re breaking the girl
She meant you no harm…”
– Red Hot Chili Peppers ‘Breaking the Girl’