by Laura on May 6, 2012

Heads-Up:  The following is a more mature post about prostitution in SE Asia, potentially inappropriate for younger readers. The girl in the story moved to the city to work in the bars, of her own accord {not being forcibly trafficked}.  She was born into a world of poverty, little education, and a culture that in many ways readily accepts prostitution as a lucrative means of income.  In some ways, you could ask if she had much of a choice, after all.

We both get ready for a night on the town.

I lean over the dresser and brush on mascara, while telling my kids to clean their rooms before the sitter comes.  I straighten my hair for the first time in a week, and I squeeze into that cute strappy-top and those jeans that are just a tish too small but do wonders for my back end– at least that’s what he jokingly tells me.

She peers into the mirror and swipes on lipstick–bright red because it makes her look older, at least the 18 she claims.  The girls crowd for mirror-space and chatter about makeup and last nights and family, back in the villages.  She curls her hair, like every night since she came to the city, and zips up that tight dress, which makes her look sexier– at least that what he’s told her before.

I kiss kids and then ride in the front seat beside a husband that’s put on cologne for me.  We linger over candles at dinner and treat ourselves to coffees afterwards.  We hold hands beside the plates, and brush feet under the table, and think of the Romance to come.

She dances on stage and scans the evening crowd–trying to catch an approving eye, an interested gentleman. She locks eyes with a European, 50’s she thinks, dressed in baggy shorts and a wrinkled t-shirt stretched over a beer-belly.  She watches as he motions for her to be brought to the table.  She’s number 14, the card pinned to her chest.  She sits beside him and rubs his leg and thinks of the night to come.

And I walk through my night as one born into wealth and education and opportunity.  I enjoy my date night as a woman whose husband fights for her happiness.

And she walks through hers born into poverty and survival and the pressure to provide.  She lives her nights as a woman whose parents expect money at the end of the month.

And my people look at her and say, “She always has a choice.  How could she choose that?”

And her people look at me and say, “I can not imagine that life.  How could she ever complain?”

And the night ends.

And I curl up beside a husband that protects me, thankful for my tomorrow with happy kids and peanut butter sandwiches for lunch, again.

And she slips away from the sleeping stranger, glad she made quota for the night, thankful for the food that will be on her family’s table, back home.


The above was inspired by a precious young prostitute we recently met.  Her name is Ariel*.  She says she’s 18, and she works to provide for her family in a remote village in SE Asia.  She is one of over 2 million men, women and children in the sex industry in SE Asia. Pray for them, would you?

*name and some details changed to protect privacy, reposted from the archives

  • Trish

    As tears well up, i’m once again reminded why it’s so important to pray to a God that see’s and cares. Thank you for handing an ugly true part about our world back to me again…to be humbled, aware, and with a little perspective again. My son is snoring, my daughter is snuggled up in bed, and they are both safe…from a life where they are the providers. I wish I could some how protect those other children too. Thank you for being brave my friends. Stepping into an ugly true part of our world.

  • kindra

    wow, i cannot imagine… yes, what two different nights – thank you for sharing with us her story… prayers for sure

    • Laura

      Kindra and Katy,

      Thanks for praying . . . sometimes all we can do. Though it sure feels a bit powerless . . . and yet, to say that anything in the remote sphere of this God we adore is “powerless”– well, that’s pretty silly. Thanks, ya’ll . . .

  • katy

    sigh. praying praying.

  • @ngie

    You know, to assimilate our life with the ones who we live with is one of the most Christlike things we can do. Thank you for this powerful telling of life for these precious girls.

    • Laura

      @ngie, Wow, friend, I agree–
      “to assimilate our life with the ones who we live with is one of the most Christlike things we can do.”
      My trouble is that I don’t know how to really assimilate with these precious girls, or even if that’s specific puzzle piece– ya know? I can tell their stories, but do I have the guts to go hang out with them on a Friday night, in their worlds? Man, that’s where the rubber meets the road for me . . . and I just haven’t done that yet, to be honest.

      Thanks for the reminder that maybe I should . . .

      • @ngie

        To be able to tell the stories requires that you have stepped into their lives to some degree. Let me affirm that you are doing well and you are doing good. You would not have been able to recount such a succinct comparison of contrast and similarities if you had not taken the burden of their lives to heart.

  • Tamara

    First some things I love about this post: he puts on cologne for you! you capitalize Romance! he fights for your happiness!
    Second, I’m one of those who first thinks she has a choice. But then, I realize that’s not the big issue here. The bigger issue is that she (they) is in a situation where this choice is appealing and AVAILABLE. This is wrong on so many levels.
    Thank you for doing all you are doing in this arena. Most especially today for keeping us aware.
    Hugs from here!

    • Laura

      Tamara, loved this comment in a lot of ways. I think one of the reasons I wanted to write about date night with Matt is that the concept of marrying for love, of a man wanting to please a woman is really foreign to the vast majority of this culture. When you grow up in a world of extreme poverty, suddenly money becomes one of the deciding factors in just about everything– from marriage to jobs, etc. The hard thing is that many of these girls have a pressure from their parents to provide, once they get to a certain age– about 15/16. And for so many of them, one of the only means available to them for doing that is prostitution.

      I think we are learning that, like you said, the bigger issues of poverty and cultural acceptance and demand– these are the roots.

      Like so many things, the issues/the stories are much more complicated than we first assumed.

  • Teri @ StumblingAroundInTheLight

    How to see a good God in the dark presence of choices so appalling? Who am I to have been born into light of such opulence? And yet, is it not the same enemy who prowls around like a lion, ever-seeking to devour? Whether freely roaming, roaring brazenly in the cloak of darkness, or stealthy-slinking, hiding in patches of shadow as we walk in light-blinded naivety…the enemy is ever seeking to imprison the choices of God’s children.

    Where is the good God in all that? Perhaps there with you & Matt, Laura – standing just behind Ariel’s shoulder, beckoning you into her life, beckoning you to show life, to help break the chains of her imprisoned choices.

    • Laura

      This is a beautifully worded comment, friend. I loved this idea, especially-

      “break the chains of her imprisoned choices.”

      Yes, praying that for this sweet sister today . . .

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  • Jeremy McKemy

    We westerners are so good at having everything figured out.

    Thank you for this beautiful post, Laura.

    • lauraparkerblog

      Man, right on. ANd our assumption of this causes I think more problems than we will ever, ever know.

  • Cheryl

    Thank you for sharing the story of one night in Chiang Mai through the eyes of two very different people.  How blessed we are to have the life we do (as Christians) and how much I complain about the little things in my life that have no eternal consequence at all! This reminded me to pray for those who are trapped, even if it was a “choice” or not. To pray for those who are trapped in a life of bondage to poverty and to Buddhism. To pray for you and your family as you serve them and save those few girls you can by working at the girls home. Thank you for your work.

    • lauraparkerblog

      Thanks, Cheryl- I think writing this helped me remember how silly so often my complaints seem in light of the intense suffering, literally right down the street. I appreciate your encouragement.

  • Allie

    Thank you so much for sharing!

    • lauraparkerblog

      You are most welcome. thanks for stopping by.

  • Angie Lang

    This was beautifully written, Laura. The contrast between your story and hers is beautifully interwoven. Sometimes I think we tend to see prostitutes as statistics; but they are beautiful children of God, too. They have lives, families, dreams, and hopes. They aren’t really any different, deep down, than you or I.  And you paint that image so very clear here :)

    This past weekend I went to a justice summit, where a former prostitute shared her story. As much as we adamantly claim they have a choice, what kind of choice is that, really? We treat and prosecute them as criminals, but we need to be reminded that they are victims too … somewhere along the line their brokenness cornered them in a place where they felt they had no escape. Thank you for that reminder this morning …

    • lauraparkerblog

      Angie– so neat that you were able to go to the justice summit– love what that says about your heart.

      And so neat that you were able to hear a real story from a lady there, too. I think one of the biggest things in our motivation is in really wrestling with the real people behind the ugly statistics.

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