Why Participate?

Cursing and condemning wrong-doers is always the easiest way. It's the tendency of the human heart. Yet Jesus commanded His disciples to pray for their enemies.

As the New Testament example of Paul makes clear, and the more contemporary cases of John Newton, Mitsuo Fuchida and Donnie Andrews show, God seems to delight in transforming lives bent on destruction into means of great blessing. Why would that be less true today?

Who 'johns' are

"Johns" is a commonly used American term for the men who pay for sex.
  • They're probably men we know and even love.
    • They range in age and profession, according to journalist Victor Malarek, the 2006 report "American Sexual Behavior" and other sources.
    • Men who pay for sex are often keenly secretive about it, discussing what is often a habit only in Internet chat rooms like the ones Malarek studied as part of research for his book.
  • Many are married or in a relationship.
    •  The 2006 report found that "paying for sex during the last 12 months is strongly related to low marital happiness" (see p. 24 of the PDF cited above).
    • Almost two-thirds of sex-buyers in a small 2011 study of Boston men were in a relationship.
  • Johns can be particularly demanding and violent.
    • By paying for sex, Malarek reports, men often think they should be able to do whatever they like -- especially more degrading sex acts that their wives or girlfriends refuse to do. (see especially ch. 7 of The Johns).
    • The above-mentioned Boston study, which compared johns with men who didn't pay for sex, found that "Sex buyers engaged in significantly more criminal activity than non-sex buyers" (see p. 4 of the report).

What people in prostitution face

Prostitution in the United States is frequently viewed in terms of sexual freedom, yet studies consistently find that those selling access to their bodies:
  • Have a very high likelihood of childhood sexual abuse.
  • Frequently demonstrate symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • Would leave if they could (in some studies, as many as 92% wanted out).
Many engaged in prostitution are victims of sex trafficking, which frequently targets children. 
  • The Polaris Project reports that runaway and homeless youth may be particularly at risk.
  • Victims of sex trafficking may be forced to have sex with a certain number of men a day (journalist Victor Malarek reported daily quotas of 20 to 30 men in his book The Natashas).
Read one woman's account of what she experienced before her escape.

The problem of demand

Sex trafficking is increasingly connected to organized crime networks. And as any basic economics course would explain, suppliers would not be attracted to the market if not for the insatiable demand (see, for instance, Not for Sale's report on the sex tourism boom in Asia). This owes both to the nature of sexual desire itself and policing approaches to prostitution in most countries. Only Sweden, which has established tough john-prosecution laws, has succeeded in reducing sex trafficking and prostitution.

Until recently, Sweden was the exception. Many organizations addressing this issue are still working with local police forces to help them better recognize victims of sex trafficking. Led by the example of International Justice Mission, much of current efforts to address demand are focused on prosecution and changes in the legal system.

These are important, practical and much-needed responses. But they cannot change the hearts of the perpetrators and exploiters.

The spiritual reality

Evil, according to the Bible, is never just a social reality, but has a spiritual component as well.
"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms," Paul says in Ephesians 6.

This does not reduce human responsibility for our sin, but it does mean that holistic responses to evil must be more than just programmatic. And the record of history shows significant turning points in past battles against injustice and slavery when the church has entered the struggle.

Holistic responses also entail the restoration of both the exploited and the exploiters. When men participate in the systemic injustice that is sex trafficking, they are not just harming others (a sin of commission) but not doing the good works for which they may have been created (a sin of omission).

But who's to say a trafficker in your city could not be the next John Newton? Couldn't a local brothel's regular client yet become another Augustine? If God got hold of such men's hearts, and they turned from their sin, who's to say how their full potential for good and blessing could yet be released despite all that they have done and may be doing even this minute?

In many cases, we would probably be satisfied with justice. Yet God is not just big enough to end the curse behind all sin and evil, He's good enough to completely restore the world to the good state that was in the beginning. What would it look like for His kingdom to begin to come in the lives of those who participate in the sexual exploitation of others?

This February, join other believers in asking for that to happen.

Why not pray?

Though prayer is not a formula, and does not wrangle God under our control, the Bible continuously connects it to God's relationship with His people, and frequently to His intervention and redemption of broken circumstances. Almost every significant revival has had its roots in a movement of prayer.

So why not commit even a few minutes on Sunday, Feb. 14, to pray for the johns?
"For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth;
And the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind.
But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create;
For behold, I create Jerusalem for rejoicing,
And her people for gladness.
I will also rejoice in Jerusalem, and be glad in My people;
And there will no longer be heard in her
The voice of weeping and the sound of crying.
No longer will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days,
Or an old man who does not live out his days;
For the youth will die at the age of one hundred
And the one who does not reach the age of one hundred
Shall be thought accursed.
And they shall build houses and inhabit them;
They shall also plant vineyards and eat their fruit,
They shall not build, and another inhabit,
The shall not plant, and another eat;
For as the lifetime of a tree, so shall be the days of My people.
And My chosen ones shall wear out the work of their hands.
They shall not labor in vain,
Or bear children for calamity;
For they are the offspring of those blessed by the Lord,
And their descendants with them.
"It will also come to pass that before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear. The wolf and the lamb shall graze together, and the lion shall eat straw like the ox; and dust shall be the serpent's food. They shall do no evil or harm in all My holy mountain," says the Lord. — Isaiah 65:17-25
Citations reviewed and updated Feb. 6, 2016.