Carol’s Challenging Question – Prostitution – Power or Pressure?

In Great Britain (England, Wales and Scotland), the act of engaging in sex as part of an exchange of sexual services is legal. However, soliciting in a public place, kerb-crawling, owning or managing a brothel and pimping are crimes. Most women, and it is usually women who become prostitutes, would not choose it as a good career choice.

There are many reasons why people choose to earn money this way but it is often due to their drug or other addictions or, in many cases, as basic as needing to feed their children. It is easy to take a moralistic view of prostitution, and maybe not even to feel pity for those who choose that path, but there are many inherent dangers involved, not least from the violent actions of some of their clients which can also include rape, beatings, theft and even death. In addition, there is a constant threat of getting a sexually transmitted disease.

Many sex workers become exploited by pimps and human traffickers who see them as just a commodity to sell. Prostitutes themselves often become desensitised to their situation, feeling they have no alternative. Indeed, some of the higher-class call girls and escorts make massive amounts of money from selling their bodies or, particularly as they themselves get older, running brothels and exploiting others. 

Thanks Raphael

Many prostitutes are under the legal age of consent but feel they have little choice but to earn a living by this means, especially if they did not have a good and secure family background or had a poor education and cannot get a well-paid job. Having said that, some prostitutes are students who choose this line of work as a relatively easy way to pay off debts by making lots of money short-term. Sadly, in some very poor parts of the world, even young children get dragged into this sordid world to earn an income.

The internet has encouraged more people to get involved in the sex trade, not least by being paid for online services, and human trafficking of desperate girls from abroad has made the situation a lot worse. There is a lot of pressure on policing to clear vice off the streets and there is even demand in some corners to legalise the sex industry which would then make prostitution a legalised, medically-inspected and taxed enterprise.

Graham, I know they say prostitution is the oldest trade in the world but what do you think Jesus would make of prostitution today?

Rev Graham replies:

Thank you, Carol, for another very relevant question and one that is not normally discussed openly as it can be easily dismissed morally and with a judgemental perspective. However, if it is understood from a personal point of view, there are arguments against its practise alongside suggestions to try and contain it as you have outlined with all the power and pressure points that are at work within the oldest profession in the world!

Jesus lived in a very cosmopolitan society which was dominated by Roman authorities, Greek and Jewish religious and philosophical practises which promoted Godly and ungodly lifestyles. Jesus understood all the daily dynamics which existed within Jerusalem and throughout Galilee. He went about healing, preaching and teaching within the local synagogues and was aware of all the religious and worldly practises which took place within the temples and shrines including prostitution. He was aware of hospitals, doctors’ surgeries and shops, places of entertainment and many houses and brothels where prostitutes offered their own unique service which would have been discreetly accepted and in the main publicly frowned upon.

Jesus in his ministry spoke with all the relevant leaders within society. He commented on people’s behaviours and invariably encouraged them to sin no more as witnessed in his meeting with the women at the well in John 8. In that encounter he showed compassion and taught the religious leaders about how they judged others while having sinful attitudes and actions themselves. He told his followers to repent and change their lifestyles, for even the tax collectors and prostitutes could enter into the kingdom of God (Matthew 21: 28-32).

As you have clearly outlined, Carol, the practise of prostitution is where women and men engage in sexual activity for the exchange of money and goods. For some there will be an element of self-power in what they earn as opposed to many who are under pressure from a pimp or others who control them or supervise their activities within the confines of a brothel.

The bible is very clear that the act of prostitution is forbidden because it affects their health: body, mind and spirit in the short and long term. “The body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.” Your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! (1 Corinthians 6: 13-15). In Luke 8: 1-3 we read of Jesus travelling with his twelve disciples and a number of women which included Mary Magdalene who has, within tradition, been known as a prostitute and possibly the woman recorded in Luke 7: 36-50.

Here we read of Jesus who had been invited to the home of Simon a Pharisee and, as was custom when a local Rabbi was speaking, people were able to enter the home to listen to the Rabbi. In this account the woman was considered to be a very sinful person. In accordance with custom, she washed Jesus’ feet with her tears, wiped them with her hair and shared a kiss of peace on them and also poured perfume on his feet.

Simon recognised that the woman was a prostitute and felt Jesus should not have allowed her to touch his feet because she was unclean. Jesus went on to share about two men who owed 500 and 50 denarii respectively to their master and both were unable to repay the debt which was then kindly cancelled by the caring master. Jesus asked Simon which of the men would be most thankful for the cancelling of their debt?

Simon replied the one who owed the most and Jesus confirmed that it was the right answer. He then compared Simon’s actions to those of the woman who gave him water to wet his feet and then dried them with her hair as well as sharing a kiss of peace which Simon had not done. He concluded that the many sins of the woman had been forgiven, because she had repented of them, as compared to those who hadn’t repented of their sins. 

In Joshua Chapter two we read of the mission of the two spies who were sent to check out the city of Jericho before its capture. The presence of the spies had been detected and so they had to find shelter and Rahab the harlot, was the one to offer them a place of safety. Rahab was asked to hand the spies over but she lied to them saying that the men had moved on but they had been hidden on the roof of her house.

Rahab believed in the God of Joshua and asked that when they came to take over the city she and all her family would be protected as a result of her kindness to the spies. Rahab was told that if she hung a red rope from the window the spies escaped from, then she and all her family would be saved. In the genealogy of Jesus, Salmon was the father of Boaz by mother Rahab and in the book of Hebrews 11: 31 it is recorded that by faith Rahab was protected because of her faith and actions.

As you outlined Carol many male, females and children are forced into prostitution. On the other hand many see it as a recognised profession and look at it as a good career choice for a period of time, so as to make lots of money which they can reinvest in a future career outside the profession. In 2018 Pope Francis condemned forced prostitution as torture in a speech at the Vatican, describing men who frequent prostitutes as criminals with a “sick mentality”.

When we think about how power and pressure are at work for those engaged in prostitution I think it is worth observing that the process of supply and demand is at the heart of prostitution. If nobody wanted sexual activity with a prostitute then there would be a limited demand for them! It is often held that women are held hostage to working as a prostitute and in many cases that is true. If men and women could resist the temptations to solicit the services of a prostitute then the pressure would be reduced and all its adverse effects upon society. However, it is a historical fact that the demands for the services of prostitutes will always be in existence and in so doing a supply will exist either willingly or coerced! 

There is an argument Carol, that you have touched on, that all those who want to work as a prostitute become registered which will require regular health checks and provisions for safe practice that may include protected working conditions in which they faithfully pay tax for their services rendered like other working people. In some countries they try to work towards such practices but in reality it is hard for politicians and religious groups to advocate such measures as it can be seen as encouraging the profession rather than trying to outlaw or contain it! 

In life it is so easy to judge people and in so doing right them off spiritually and morally. As we have noted in the life of Jesus he saw all people as sinners with none better or worse. So therefore, whatever profession people are engaged in they may exercise power or feel that they are under extreme pressure. As a Christian we are grateful for the possibility of a new start as outlined in 2 Corinthians 5: 17 if anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation, the old has gone and the new has come.

So as we think about Rahab, the women at the well and the one who visited Simon’s house, I think Jesus would want us as individuals and as a church to be for and supporting all working prostitutes and those trying to come out of the profession. We should be against those who seek to use and abuse men, women, boys and girls for financial gain and seeing them as a commodity to be bought and sold. Outlined below are a number of agencies both in and outside the church who are geared up to help and make a practical difference to those caught up in prostitution and those wanting to find a different career path.


The Pearl Project Manchester – Contact – Tel: 07772 906136

Orchards – orchards  

Hookers for Jesus – hookers for Jesus

Rahab project  Phone: 02073703901 Email:

Women on the Frontline Ministries

Beyond the Streets – Tel: 0300 302 1122 email:

Manchester Action on Street Health (MASH) Tel: 0800 1830499/0161 273 4555 or

LGBT Foundation Tel: 0345 3303030

The Survivors’ TrustTel: 08088 010818

Urban OutreachTel: 01204 385848

The SamaritansTel: 0330 0945717 or 116123 (24hr – free calls)

The Men’s RoomTel: 0161 834 1827.

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