I recently overheard a conversation between two young girls (about 12 or 13) in Target. They were pointing out all the things they loved and hated about whatever celebrity was on the front of a certain magazine, and occasionally they threw in a side note about the things that magazine suggested you can do to satisfy your man.
Being as young as they were, I was totally shocked at how blatantly willing they were to have a (very) public conversation with some of the things they were saying. Not only were they criticizing the woman on the cover for not meeting certain criteria, they were comparing themselves to her and the other women in the magazine in ways I never would have imagined when I was their age.
Our world is full of unattainable standards of who you’re supposed to be.
As a woman, you’re supposed to be sexy but if you’re too sexy then you’re labeled as easy or a tease. You’re supposed to strive to be skinny, but also have a bigger butt and bigger breasts. You’re supposed to accept any advances from men, but when you do you are shamed and if you don’t you’re a prude. If you’re a virgin, you’re stuck up. If you sleep around, you’re any of the numerous degrading words culture has come up with for promiscuous women.
As a man, you’re supposed to be a charming, but if you take it too far, you’re a jerk. You’re supposed to drink and party and flirt with every girl you come in contact with, but if you do that too much you’re labeled a partier and an alcoholic. You’re supposed to “be a man” and stand for something, but if that causes you to show some form of emotion you’re weak… or worse.
The world has this funny way of telling us all the contradicting things we need to be without giving us a way to achieve this level of “perfection” they claim to have the secret to. We are now left feeling confused, insecure, and vulnerable in all of the ways we don’t fit the image of perfection. Here is where we’re left with the question: who am I?
If we continue to search the world for something that we can place our identity in, we will always have these feelings of doubt. If we allow society to dictate who we’re meant to be and how we’re supposed to behave, there will be a constant crisis of identity that results in the misguided behavior we so often see in our culture today.
When we as people are frantically searching for identity, for something or someone to tell us “This makes you matter,” we fall into dangerous traps. Anything that gives us satisfaction and a sense of meaning hooks us immediately. Statistically, many women who leave the sex industry end up returning. Many people find this fact appalling, but it isn’t too surprising if you take into account the identity crisis. Once we find identity in something, it seems practically impossible to let it go – it has literally become a part of us. Even if a woman was enduring horrible conditions before, it can be even scarier at first to gain a new life without it.
Taking all of this into account is crucial when we talk about rescuing and restoring the lives of trafficked humans. In order to prevent reentry into the industry, we have to address the identity crisis. We were created to find our true identity in Christ – an identity that never leaves us wanting, doubting, or striving. When we start believing that He alone has the power to define who we are in this world, we can shrug off those old identifiers. When a woman truly believes that she is not disposable or worthless, but rather highly valued and treasured in the eyes of the Father, she can start to have real freedom from the industry.
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