(AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)
When I saw the AP article entitled Bikini-clad strippers protest church in rural Ohio, I immediately had to read it. It seems that members of a fundamentalist church were negatively impacting a strip club by taking down license plates, and gathering in the parking lot. Nine miles separate the Fox Hole Strip Club and the New Beginnings Ministries, but the difference is larger than the geography implies. The church members feel that they are doing a good service by encouraging these women to seek out another from of employment and the women are just trying to support themselves and their families the best way that they can.
The dueling demonstrations play out in central Ohio, where nine miles of cornfields and Amish-buggy crossing signs separate The Fox Hole strip club from New Beginnings Ministries.
Club owner Tommy George met with the preacher and offered to call off his not-quite-nude crew from their three-month-long protest if the church responds in kind. But pastor Bill Dunfee believes that a higher power has tasked him with shutting down the strip club.
"As a Christian community, we cannot share territory with the devil," Dunfee said. "Light and darkness cannot exist together, so The Fox Hole has got to go."
The members of the New Beginnings Ministries are more than entitled to their opinion on sex work, but their actions are not helping the women that they claim to be so concerned about. According to the AP, "Meske — a tattooed mother of four — said she made $30 instead of a couple hundred dollars last Friday with the protesters outside." When you have four kids to feed, house, and clothe, this is not a small sacrifice. Essentially, what this church is doing is economically punishing these women for their choices or lack thereof. The men that choose an alternative location, are in no way punished for their behaviour.
The church sees these women as sinners and victims, however these women have shown great independence and agency by protesting the church. In God's name they have decided to condemn these women as though they have the moral authority to judge them. Their desire is not to truly help them but to "other" them and force them to conform to a strict moral code. Sex work is not going to disappear by shaming the women involved and this is a long established fact. It will only ever end when we stop living in a patriarchal world and women are not reduced to sexual objects for men's satisfaction.
No matter the circumstances, forcing conformity will never bring about a change. Help is not demanding these women stop sinning or telling them, "If you or your kids ever need a haircut, give me a holler."And it most certainly not helping to attempt to feed them fucking noodles and chocolate cake, even if you bake better than Sarah Lee. To help, you need to start from a place of basic human respect and that means acknowledging the agency of these sex workers. It means asking if they want your help in the first place and what kind of aid they may need. I know it is a novel concept to treat others with human respect but it seems that these fundies can't seem to manage even the most basic human courtesy because they are to focused on forcing others to conform to their beliefs.
I find it interesting that fundi Christians always seem to want to focus on what others do sexually. With all the various ways in which humans hurt each other, it is sex that most often draws them out. I personally think that they are gaining a vicarious thrill from it, even as they condemn it, because a strip club 9 miles away from their church is not impacting them at all.