A Rant Against the Defense of Johns…

You Call that a Defense?
If Jim Norton thought he was going to be an advocate for the legalization – or even decriminalization – of prostitution or sex work in literally any country with his article in Time magazine, he has not only fallen short of the mark…he has made a strong case for why we should encourage law enforcement to focus even more efforts to arrest the buyers of sexual services and insist that they attend one of the many John Schools that are popping up throughout the country.

Before you dismiss my comments as that of a sex-work-hating-rhetoric-spewing member of the anti-trafficking movement that has become drunk on the fear mongering liquor they liberally dispense throughout the country, understand first that I speak from both the experiences of the sex industry worker and the advocates for the women who want out of the sex trade. I supported the concept of John Schools long before they regained popularity and mutated from efforts to educate and inform to an agenda to shame and penalize. I also understand – as Mr. Norton clearly does not – that the reasons for a woman to engage in Sex Work range from those that truly enjoy the work and the financial remuneration the receive, to those who are forced into the trade by circumstance, perceived cultural norms and a lack of opportunity to support themselves in any other way.

Additionally – the National Day of Johns was indeed a parade of sorts – for law enforcement to crack down on juveniles who were being prostituted, multiple cases of physical and psychological abuse and the ever present abuse of power – including a border patrol agent trying to buy sex in full uniform as well as a mother who was selling her 15 year old daughter for sex. The issues of sex addiction, and ritualistic compulsions – as Mr. Norton proudly claims to be paying a therapist to address – are also paraded in this 15 state sweep where they arrested a “daddy” soliciting the services of a prostitute with his new baby in his back seat. Wow. Who is exactly is your therapist Mr. Norton? If tallying the dollar amount is the only recommendation this therapist has to make to have you account for your behavior, you might want to check the validity of their license.

Mr. Norton also claims to be “extraordinarily loving and comfortable” towards the prostitutes he charms through the passenger window of his car. And he worries about violent behavior like rapes and homicides but did nothing when – during one of his “gentle and intimate” sexual service shopping expeditions he witnessed a woman bounced across the hood of his car and tossed into a van filled with more women. How exactly would he recommend this – or any other – pimp get thrown down an elevator shaft” if Mr. Norton didn’t take a single action to alert authorities that he personally witnessed a violent kidnapping and did nothing?!? Way to take a stand Mr. Norton! I’m sure sex workers everywhere are taking up the mantle of legalization based on your action in hopes that they will be protected from violence in this manner. Perhaps you should volunteer to attend a local John School curriculum so that you could gain some understanding of how far off the mark your defense of johns actually is. It is not the legalization of prostitution that needs to be addressed here – it is the attitude created by those such as yourself that the woman who was bounced across the hood of your car didn’t deserve an anonymous call to the police with the license plate of the van in question. You display – by your lack of action – that this woman was of No Worth. Disposable. An antidote for a comedy bit.

Mr. Norton goes on to self-righteously claim that it is the society who is at fault for the prostitute being put in dangerous situations and quote studies that suggest that Rapes and STD’S would be reduced across the board if legalization of prostitution were to be signed into law when in fact this action would only legitimize the pimp and do nothing to protect the prostitute. Legalizing prostitution would not provide health insurance and a retirement package for the prostitute nor would it encourage her to report a violent crime against her person. Just exactly how do you see the “security” being “adequate” in places of legalized prostitution when the majority of violence would occur by the very providers of the security? It is the short-sighted, self-centered point of view of the john that continues to trip up the criminal and social justice system where sex work is concerned. You are not entitled to buy sex out of the passenger window of your car as if it were a Happy Meal of sorts and “giving johns a break” has never really been the central issue when the subject comes up.

Prostitution and Sex Work are complicated issues that demand sensitive and prolonged thought when considering solutions. Prostitution and Sex Work is not the same as Sex Trafficking but there is no clear delineation that both sides of the issue can agree on to make a law – or series of laws – that provide for the variety of needs that arise from the men and women – and indeed children – who work within the sex trade whether by free and fully informed choice or force, fraud and coercion.
Johns like Mr. Norton, who troll for paid sex indiscriminately in neighborhoods where poverty, hunger and homelessness are the primary economic factors that drive this facet of the sex trade can and should expect to be demonized and arrested posthaste. They are a danger to the community and they have no dog in this fight. There is a gap the size of the Grand Canyon when it comes to the difference between a john who discreetly seeks out the company of an independent responsible sex worker who is informed and over 21 and is willing to undergo a certain amount of screening and what Mr. Norton describes as his ritualistic addictive behavior to entice whomever might be working a corner under a streetlight.

Mr. Norton’s call to “give johns a break” is enough to confirm the need for education and information about sex work, prostitution and sex trafficking through a john school format. And if they have to be arrested in order to receive this information and behave in a socially responsible manner, then so be it.

Dedication and The Handlebar Mustache

This past Sunday’s service was about Hearing and Seeing in the will of God and knowing that when you hear his voice calling you and when you turn and listen to his guidance and then follow through with the things he directs you to do…you will find yourself walking in Grace and Peace and – when you are walking under the blessing of God – the things that God has brought forth no man can put asunder. 

All good…and I was very inspired, but the first part of the service – after the praise part – was a baby dedication. 

There were probably 20 babies that came to the front with their parents and were prayed over and dedicated in the traditional Assembly’s of God tradition.  It was very sweet and I did say my own prayers for those babies and their parents – in my own way – and as the whole congregation of believers reached their arms towards the new lives brought before the platform – I started to think back about the stories that were told to me about my own dedication at the National General Counsel by the President of the Assembly’s of God, Brother Lowenburg.

I remember how my mom and dad all used to tease me about how fascinated I was with Brother Lowenburgs thick and lush handlebar mustache – to be envied by any respectable biker…and I do remember him very well.  Not from the dedication of course, but from being with Dad in his home office and playing on the floor while he and dad talked about far greater things than my little imagination could understand.  When I close my eyes – I can remember his office smelling like leather and my interest into interior design was probably started by trying to remove the heavy brass rivets that held together the heavy dark red leather upholstered chairs in front of his massive cherry desk.  He was a very big man, tall and strong with a deep powerful voice.  He a man that commanded respect…never any need to demand it.  He oozed dignity and authority from every pore and wore well tailored suits and spotless white shirts and always had a soft perfectly ironed cotton handkerchief in his pocket. 

I know now that Brother Lowenburg was my fathers’ boss, but more than that, he was his mentor and a counselor they maintained a very close relationship with until Brother Lowenburg passed away a little more than a year ago.  Out of that respect and the fostering relationship he had with our family, my father had wanted to have Brother Lowenburg be the one who dedicated me to God and they waited until the Assembies of God General Counsel – only held every other year – and I was about 14 months old. 

During the prayer, in front of that massive crowd in the auditorium filled with Pastors, Missionaries, and the leaders of the entire Assemblies of God and their wives from all over the world, Brother Lowenburg took me from my parents arms and lifted me up towards the heavens and lead the entire congregation in a prayer that asked God to take my life and make it work to his glory – to protect me from the evil that was in the world and to give my parents the wisdom and strength to undertake the tremendous responsibility of raising a child that would bring glory to God.

And this was my chance.  I had waited so long.  I had watched so carefully.  I grabbed the tail end of his well groomed handlebar mustache – very groovy in its day – and pulled it with all the strength a 14 month old could muster. 

And I didn’t let go.

He completed his prayer only being able to really speak out of one side of his mouth as he tried to extricate his facial hair – and probably some of his dignity – from my little fingers to no avail.  The audience was amused and my mother was both embarrassed and moved through her tears.

At the time I’m sure no one could anticipated how important it was to dedicate me to God or to have such a respected and honorable man such as Brother Lowenburg be the one who performed the 3 minute ceremony or that I was going to really need the supporting prayers of this large group of spiritual leaders.

But it made me wonder…

God must have known on that day that may parents gave my life to him to manage that I was going to put myself through some tough times and that they were going to face some challenges that they were probably not expecting and certainly not hoping for.  But I think there was more of a purpose to that dedication than we all might have known about at the time.

If God truly doesn’t give us more that we can handle and promises that we will come through those challenges stronger and better than before, I think he must have known all along that my purpose for being gifted to him was going to require bigger challenges and greater grace than we expected.  His intention must have always been that my life was going to be an example he would use – when the time was right – that redemption is his greatest gift.

Society always goes through a series of growing pains as it evolves.  In just the last 100 years, our society has granted freedom to slaves of every type.  Women and the Right to Vote – Freeing the Slaves brought over from Africa – the acknowledgement of the horrific crimes played out against the Jews during the Holocaust – the Civil Rights movement – the abolishment of Apartheid – even the abuse and mistreatment of animals…Social Change requires a process and that process seems to be the same – no matter what the cause.  It identifies the problems, gives them a name and a voice, raises the awareness of the rest of society and then slowly puts the pieces in place to bring about change.  It’s never easy and its never quick.  Sometimes it’s painful and sometime it requires great sacrifice.   Most of the time they don’t get it right the first time and they have to take several unsuccessful stabs at it before true change is achieved.

Prostitution and Human Trafficking (one and the same) are the result of a society that has lost its moral compass and some of the results of our determination to be free to do what we like has brought about the kind of people and the kind of evil that can bring down a society.  But it takes awareness and it takes the fall of a celebrity (more than one usually) to bring us to a point where we just don’t accept the bad behavior anymore and we demand that change take place.  Unfortunately the new buzzword is Sex Addiction and I can already hear some of the perpetrators of this crime trying to use it as a defense.

I say a silent prayer for Tiger Woods and Ben Rothlesburger for putting themselves on the national stage as they compete for the poster child of depravity – both as men and as human beings and forcing the American Media to say the words “Sex Addiction” over and over and over because it will make it easier for us to bring up “Sexual Slavery” and – in turn – to raise money for the Safe House and the make victimizers of these women look even worse when we finally get them off the street.

So – Brother Lowenburg – I know you have moved on to a better place but I wanted to let you know that the prayer you prayed over me and my parents worked after all!  There have been dark days and we have all suffered, but it was all because the time was not right and I was not ready…but God did as he promised and protected me throughout and brought me out stronger and better than before and with a purpose that couldn’t have even been imagined when you were trying to hold on to your facial hair.  I hope that – if you get to have a trophy case in your home in Heaven – that you save a place for the one you get for dedicating me to God.

Just don’t keep it at lip level!