“I don’t have sex with the women.” I hadn’t actually asked his intentions but a conversation with a man in the middle of the red light area is likely to end up addressing this very thing. The large extremely buff man was curious about who we were and he had approached as one of our team was doing Thai sign language with the deaf streetwalkers. He made a few signs to the women and then was trying to ask questions of our team member. She was deeply involved in hand signs with the deaf, so I engaged him in conversation instead.
“Thank you. Thank you for respecting the women,” I said sincerely. His response took me by surprise. “I respect myself,” he said. “Why would I do that when I respect myself?”
I’m pretty sure that is the first time I have heard these words in the red light area. It made me stop and think. Self-respect. I have heard it said that anyone who really loves herself would not willingly sell her body in prostitution. The same could, I suppose be said for men; any man who really respects himself is not likely to engage in sex with a prostitute. Prostitution is destructive to both the one in prostitution and the user. Anyone who truly loves and respects self does not wholeheartedly participate in something that destroys both self and others. It is only when someone has lost their identity, their sense of value, and love of self that they give in to the exploitation of others, whether victim or perpetrator.
As we chatted the guy shared that he has lived here for many years working in business until he recently changed to be a personal trainer and lifestyle coach. He wanted to know about us. I told him we come around and make friends with the women. Suspiciously he said, “Surely you are with some Christian organization! What these women need is something practical. If you were doing t-shirts or jewelry or something like that to help them…” “We do that!” I responded. “We employ women we meet who are desperately wanting a way out of prostitution.” “Oh you are the ones? he asked excitedly. I’ve heard about you and I love what you are doing! I’ve heard others come around and say things like, “Believe in God and everything will work out. But the women need something practical to support their families. I love what you are doing!”
The man offered his help should we ever need it. He shared his idea of small businesses that could be set up to provide employment for the women. He was excited about his business plans and eager for me to consider them. It was a lot to take in at once but I gave him my card and said we could talk some more.
We at NightLight, know that not all men are out to exploit and take advantage of women. We still believe that many if not the majority of men are decent and respectful toward women. However, in the red light area we see thousands of men here for sex with a prostitute. It wouldn’t be unusual for people to assume this is the goal of every man in the neighborhood. This was a good conversation and a reminder that not all guys are in the area to exploit the women. Some of them are genuinely kind, caring, and even hoping for ways to make a difference. In the midst of deep brokenness and darkness, it is good to sometimes be reminded of the many decent men still out there. Even at Nana!