Austin is fairly lucky in that street youth aren't terribly exploited in the local sex trade. I hear a lot of stories from peers and clients that it's different in other parts of the country. Some of that may have to do with the fact that the deep south is "runaway unfriendly"--that is, all licensed people are required to turn in an underaged runaway if they become aware of their full name and birthdate. Many of my peers in other locations have a lot more young teenage youth living on the street. In Austin, if you're under 17, you are likely to be picked up by authorities. As a result, those folks tend not to stay here. But they do congregate in other cities. These most vulnerable young people apparently often fall prey to sex work.
We meet sex workers right where they are. We address the positives of their work (allowing them money to take care of themselves, allowing them to care for others, etc) without tearing them down. And we talk about the negatives. Often sex work is accompanied by the need to self-medicate or numb-out with drugs. Often sex work is accompanied by a very brittle emotional state--maintaining until something comes along and then reacting very strongly to some seemingly little thing. And sex work often completely messes up ability to enjoy human touch and close relationships. Most of our clients know these things and we just check in with them to see how they are coping.
I had a client come forward who is actively engaged in straight porn filming. He is a 19 year old Christ follower and it's tearing him up to do this. He feels so alone and hopeless. He has a long term girlfriend but he feels himself isolated from her. He confesses his sin after every shooting session, but feels trapped and goes back because the money is so good and he doesn't know another way to support himself and his girlfriend.
We discussed the nature of forgiven sin. We discussed the nature of ongoing sin. We discussed how he is hurting inside and how little he brings to the relationship with his girlfriend because of it. In addition, we talked about how he's hurting other people... people he doesn't even know who watch his film and grow apart in their relationships because porn is a poor substitute for intimacy. He knew it all, but was grateful for having someone to talk with about it.
At the end of our session, I asked if he wanted a hug. I expected him to say no. But he said yes. And hugged me for all he was worth. He struggled to say, "It's been so long since I've been hugged." I reminded him that he was a beautiful child of God and that he could not do anything to make God love him more than he already does. But change was coming for him... it was very obvious to me. He agreed. I asked if he wanted another hug, and he once again leapt at the chance.
I pray for this client. I pray he sees that he is talented and worthy. I pray he finds a way to say no the allure of this exploited way to make a living for himself. I pray for his healing. I pray he finds a support group that will accept him just as he is. And I pray for all those who find that the only thing of value they have to offer is their body. It hurts them so much and they deserve so much better.