I Heart Sex Workers, by Lia Claire Scholl

I Heart Sex Workers: A Christian Response to People in the Sex Trade
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

BOOK DESCRIPTION:   Paying for sex — engaging in “the oldest profession” -- is everywhere, even in your church. The factors leading individuals into sex work are as varied as hair colors, yet sex workers are viewed as powerless individuals who must be rescued. 

I Heart Sex Workers, A Christian Response to People in the Sex Trade offers another perspective, one where the characters defy stereotypes and solutions are hard to find. Author Lia Scholl firmly believes the Christian response to sex work should be one of building agency for women, through education, through fighting injustice, by listening to the voices of sex workers.

I Heart Sex Workers examines the forces leading individuals into prostitution, whether through coercion, choice, or circumstance. And it provides a Christian response, answering the question, “Are you my neighbor?” How do we respond to woman trading sex for a place to live tonight when she asks, “Where will I sleep?” This book discusses these issues and many more.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Lia Claire Scholl believes in the power of real relationships. Whether it’s congregational care, working with individuals in the sex industry, or doing cross-religious and cross-cultural dialogue, she feels that deep relationships help us know ourselves better, provide real economic and spiritual benefits, and chase away rainy days.

Lia has been the pastor of the Richmond Mennonite Fellowship for just over 6 years. RMF is a small community committed to justice, and working towards peace.  In addition to congregational work, Lia has ministered with women in sex work for nearly 12 years. She’s a sex work and harm reduction activist, and believes that people should have choices about their lives.  Lia received her Master of Divinity from Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Alabama.

MY THOUGHTS:  The rescue of human trafficking victims is all the buzz these days.  Christian organizations, private mercenaries, government officials, humanitarian workers--everyone is on top of efforts to rescue men, women, boys, and girls who are forced into sexual slavery.  And this is good.

But sometimes the focus on this area of sex work causes us to make broad generalizations about all people involved in the trade, generalizations that simply aren't always true.

Lia Scholl draws on years of experience to shed light on common misconceptions and how we can minister to sex workers.  She explains how we can increase agency for each person--her ability to make a solid choice based on the options available for her life.  Most importantly, the author educates about respecting individuals and rejecting the urge to treat them as victims.

I particularly enjoyed this book because I am often exposed to people who fit into the category of sex workers, and I'll bet you are, too.  From the transgender hairdresser at the end of my block to the ladies who use conjugal visits to barter with the male inmates across the yard, to the young person who is struggling with his sexual orientation and stumbles into my church.  The more I understand where these people come from and what drives their decisions, the better equipped I am to form a relationship with them.  And isn't that what I'm called to do?

This book is a valuable tool, not only for clergy and those in secular or religious ministry to sex workers, but also for anyone who wants to reach out to those around us and learn how to treat an often misunderstood population with dignity.  As we come alongside them, we empower them to make solid choices.  I Heart Sex Workers is a vital guide to understanding just how we can do this.

WARNING:  Obviously, there is adult content in this book, so you won't want to pass this one along to young readers.   I think this goes without saying, but since I often review books for teens and young adults, I'm including this disclaimer.  That said, Rev. Scholl handles these delicate topics with tact--enough information and explanations to understand a world I didn't fully grasp, but without the gory details that would make me cringe or skip through sections.

**I was provided an advance review copy of this book through netgalley.com, in exchange for my honest review.

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