Hookers for Jesus is an absolutely real non-profit organization started by Annie Lobert, a former sex worker, in order to save women from the evils of prostitution via the most condescending and judgy methods possible.

Hookers for Jesus wants to “save” women from sex work. Whether those women actually want to be saved isn’t really taken into consideration. There are so many issues with the way this organization, which purports to help women, actually is hurting them.

Hookers for Jesus considers all sex work to be sex trafficking.

Hookers for Jesus’ website makes it clear that they are all about helping victims of sex trafficking. A deeper look though and it’s clear that Hookers for Jesus uses the terms “prostitution” and “stripping” and “sex trafficking” interchangeably. They don’t seem to take into consideration the fact that many sex workers actually like being sex workers. To Hookers for Jesus, any woman in sex work is there against her will. Sometimes that will is her decision to be a sex worker, which she thinks she made all on her own, but Hookers for Jesus knows that women who choose sex work choose it because they are just misguided and haven’t come to Jesus yet, something which they will fix by giving them a gift basket

Hookers for Jesus does nothing to help actual sex trafficking victims.

Although Hookers for Jesus wants you to think they are helping sex trafficking victims, none of their programs seem to do anything to address actual sex trafficking. They seem entirely focused on converting current or former sex workers to Christianity and convincing sex workers to leave sex work. For example, their Keeping Innocent Sisters Safe (KISS) Project is all about bringing bible studies and religious themed literature to women’s prisons. Other programs fund a team of volunteers to give Jesus-themed gift baskets to strippers or prostitutes in order to convince them to quit sex work and convert to Christianity. They also run religious events and support groups for former or current sex workers looking to leave sex work.

The only programs they run that might actually be helpful for sex workers who want to leave sex work is their financial support network and safe house, which provides monetary help and a safe place to stay to sex workers who are trying to leave the industry and need help transitioning. However, this help doesn’t come without strings attached. Hookers for Jesus says they “have developed requirements and criteria for participation that will encourage completion of the program and ensure self-sufficiency in the years to come.” They give no other information about what these requirements are or how stringent they are. Are they required to attend church? Can they go on dates or even have sex with someone of their choosing? Are they allowed to dress however they wish? Are any of the requirements things that are out of the woman’s control, for example a requirement to find a job within a set time period?

Even giving them the benefit of the doubt that their monetary fund and safe house do not have stringent requirements on the women they are purporting to help, not one of their programs addresses actual sex trafficking victims as they claim. Instead, they are focused on converting sex workers to Christianity and convincing them to leave sex work. The fact that they don’t even distinguish between women who are forced into sex work against their will, those that don’t want to be sex workers but economically feel they have no choice, and those that choose to be sex workers because they want to be is telling. To Hookers for Jesus all women in sex work are sex trafficking victims that need to be saved.

Hookers for Jesus shames women for being sex workers.

Hookers for Jesus treats all sex workers as victims and strongly implies that women who choose sex work are making a misguided choice. They say they are trying to establish “positive character traits and increase the young woman’s ability to make responsible decisions as involved members of our community.” In other words, women that choose to be sex workers are making “irresponsible” decisions and don’t get to be counted as “members of the community.” It’s cool though, because Hookers for Jesus will make all their future decisions for them in order to ensure they all meet a standard of responsibility. 

Remember when I mentioned they have a program to give Jesus gift baskets to strippers? It’s called the Diamonds and Pearls program. The reason it’s called that is because “the purpose of Diamonds and Pearls is to let each lady know that her worth and value is above and more precious than the diamonds and pearls.” Hookers for Jesus believes that strippers are stripping because they don’t believe they have any self-worth. Although every individual is different and there is no doubt many women including strippers have a low self-worth, it’s condescending and super judgy to assume that all sex workers have a low opinion of themselves.

It’s particularly odd that they want women to value themselves more than diamonds and pearls, materialistic evidence of wealth. In Hookers for Jesus’ founder Annie Lobert’s memoir, she writes that “she became one of the most sought-after high-class escorts, fielding calls from celebrities, musicians, politicians, and other men with endless supplies of cash.” It’s hard to imagine that when Annie Lobert was an escort she thought of herself as having less worth than diamonds and pearls when she was literally making the equivalent of diamonds and pearls. In fact, if their problem with sex work is the treating of women’s bodies like a commodity, then why the fuck would you then compare women to literal commodities.

Hookers for Jesus doesn’t seem to realize that LGBTQ sex workers exist.

Only one page I could find on the Hookers for Jesus website makes any mention of male sex workers, the vast majority of whom are gay. Additionally, there doesn’t seem to be any mention of transgender sex workers who are disproportionally represented in sex work, likely because they face high rates of job discrimination.

Hookers for Jesus doesn’t seem to want to acknowledge that LGBTQ sex workers exist. Nowhere on their website do they make it explicit that they accept LGBTQ sex workers into their many programs or their safe house. Although it’s possible they just forgot to mention this, based on the paternalistic way they treat sex workers as mistaken non-believers who can’t make responsible decisions, I wouldn’t hold my breath expecting that they will treat queer sex workers equally and give them the same help they provide to cisgender heterosexual Christian sex workers.

Hookers for Jesus cares more about converting people to Christianity than helping sex workers.

It’s clear from everything on their website that Hookers for Jesus does not care about helping sex workers. If they did they would do things that provide actual help to sex workers, such as advocating for decriminalization of sex work, supporting the “ban the box” movement so that sex workers with a criminal history who want to leave sex work will find it easier to get a job, helping pay for lawyers to help sex workers who have been arrested, providing birth control, STD testing, abortion services, and other healthcare to sex workers so they can stay safe and healthy in their work, supporting the passing of laws that make discrimination against transgender people illegal, and so many other things, none of which involve Jesus-themed gift baskets, condescendingly telling women that you can teach them how to make “better” decisions, and requiring them to follow stringent religious requirements in order to get monetary or housing help.

Hat Tip to George for letting us know about Hookers for Jesus

Jamie Bernstein

Jamie Bernstein

Jamie is a data, stats, policy and economics nerd who sometimes pretends she is a photographer. You can usually find her at skeptic events in Chicago or on Twitter or Flickr. She also blogs about music at Notes From Chicago Music Underground.

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18 Comments

  1. May 19, 2016 at 2:54 pm —

    Their usage of the phrase “Sex trafficking victims” was correct. ALL SEX WORKERS ARE TRAFFICKING VICTIMS, AND MOST SEX WORKERS ARE CONSIDERED SEX TRAFFICKERS. Do not confuse sex trafficking with forcing people to have sex for money. It can mean that, too, but it also means voluntary sex work, and it can also mean BEING FORCED to have sex for money, particularly if you are forced to participate by placing ads for yourself or other people.

    The politicians, prosecutors, and police don’t make the distinction between victims and willing participants. They charge everything they can, and those charges stick a hell of a lot better to the women than the people that exploit them.

    • May 19, 2016 at 3:46 pm —

      “Sex trafficking occurs when someone uses force, fraud, or coercion to cause a commercial sex act with an adult or causes a minor to commit a commercial sex act.”

      Funny. I can’t find a single definition that agrees with your definition of it also including voluntary sex work.

  2. May 19, 2016 at 3:26 pm —

    That’s not what “trafficking” means, though. Human trafficking refers to the forced or coerced trade of people. Sex trafficking is a subset where the trade is specifically for sexual purposes. If a sex worker is working voluntarily, whether for themselves or for someone else, they are by definition not being trafficked.

    • May 19, 2016 at 3:47 pm —

      The article seems to agree with you. Hookers for Jesus are the ones saying that.

      • May 19, 2016 at 11:09 pm —

        Whoops, I had meant that as a reply to victoriadashtwenty above. Sorry for the confusion!

    • May 21, 2016 at 4:13 am —

      Well then you probably shouldn’t be getting your definition from a charity like Songs of Slavery that isn’t all that different from Hookers for Jesus.

      The fight to draw that distinction is important, but it is DANGEROUS to talk about the issue without acknowledging that that the police have very different ideas about what sex trafficking is. The rhetorical value of this argument is less important than the danger of giving people a wrong idea of what actions are actually resulting in criminal charges.

      Here’s someone who can better explain what that word means to sex workers:
      http://titsandsass.com/sex-trafficking-a-media-guide/

  3. May 19, 2016 at 3:38 pm —

    Well…SOME ‘sex workers’ are heroic self-actualized icons of Economic Freedom. And some are trafficked slaves. Dueling anecdotes don’t help either group. And at present, its nearly impossible to know how large either group is.

    All of which is sort of moot, since Jesus isn’t any help to anybody. Making a successful professional, or a semi-imprisoned laborer, feel as though they are being (or going to be ) punished for their ‘badness’ is of ZERO value.

    Legal security, public acknowledgment, and protection from abuse and exploitation are going to help everyone involved. And not just when ‘sex’ is making the religious nuts clutch their pearls.

  4. May 19, 2016 at 3:48 pm —

    I always thought Hookers for Jesus was a general proselytizing group making use of sex appeal to draw in men. Thank for correcting my ignorance on the matter.

  5. May 20, 2016 at 1:00 am —

    I think we need “Sisters of Destruction”. Yeah.. not the best name. Too dark, but I didn’t write the book, which is one of a series of murder mysteries, set in a corporate run future, where there is talk of “what to do when the new bill is passed that will privatize the police forces.”:

    Fox Meridian Book 4: Criminal Minds – Niall Teasdale

    Umm. Basically, prostitution is legal in this version of the future, and one of the “major” groups that train and license them are.. Catholic Nuns, of a sort.

    I mean, its not like the church didn’t run them once before, right? So.. why not counter one group of these people with another? I mean, well, other than the fact that most religions with sex involved at all either end up being a) cults with crazy leaders, or b) find themselves being gone after *for* exactly the same thing – selling sex as part of their services. Hmm..

    Still, I got a good laugh at the irony of who ran things in the book, and.. I would love to see such a group show up and really freak out the fanatics.

  6. May 20, 2016 at 1:19 am —

    “I don’t understand why prostitution is illegal. Selling is legal. Fucking is legal. Why isn’t selling fucking legal? You know, why should it be illegal to sell something that’s perfectly legal to give away? I can’t follow the logic on that one at all! Of all the things you can do, giving someone an orgasm is hardly the worst thing in the world. In the army they give you a medal for spraying napalm on people! In civilian life you go to jail for giving someone an orgasm! Maybe I’m not supposed to understand it…”

    George Carlin

  7. May 20, 2016 at 1:26 am —

    Oh, and from what I’ve seen by listening to actual sex workers, legalization is not the answer.

    All that does is change the power from the police and pimp to the the lawmaker. For and example of how that works just look at how minority citizens are fairing under Colorado’s legalized marijuana laws.

    No, the trick is to decriminalize it. That not only returns the power to the sex worker, it helps remove the stigma attached to it.

    It would need to be regulated (as little as necessary, say monthly screenings and mandatory condoms) but it would be a huge step in the right direction of allowing sex workers to own their own future.

    • May 20, 2016 at 7:52 pm —

      Forgive me if I’m missing your point, but what’s the difference between legalizing something and decriminalizing and regulating it?

      • May 20, 2016 at 9:08 pm —

        Well, lets take marijuana for example because I’ve wrapped mind mind around it better.

        If you legalize marijuana, like Colorado and Oregon have done, you make it legal to sell as a product and you make the use of said product okay under certain circumstances. That allows the state to decide who gets to manufacture it and gives those individuals the profit (along with the state, of course) and allows the state to decide who gets to do what.

        Decriminalization would mean making marijuana okay to grow for yourself and your neighbors. It would make marijuana equal to heirloom tomatoes, you could grow them for your own purposes or you can give or sell them to others.

        The government would never go for the second option in its truest form because it would give them no control and no good reason to do it, but the first option is inherently unfair. Just look at how many non-white people are allowed to sell marijuana in Colorado (the answer is one, in the entire state).

        Since legalization allows the state to control the enterprise, decriminalization would work better. But just like the above example it would also create other problems, so it would need to have some rules however keeping those rules to a minimum (and consulting the sex-workers who are affected to decide which rules would be helpful) you could allow the SWs to control their own bodies and destinies while giving them rules to back them up.

        As I am not a sex worker myself, this comes from reading the opinions of actual working women.

        • May 21, 2016 at 5:33 pm —

          I think I have to agree with MarlowePI on this one. It doesn’t matter if you decriminalize it, or you set certain rules that make it legal in certain situations. The former means you *eventually* see those rules coming in, to “protect” various people, for real, or more often imaginary, reasons, and it limits who, when and where its legal. In the latter case, they just set the rules right from the start. Just how “unfair” those rules are will have vastly less to do with how you make it legal, than in other prejudices. The marijuana case is one where there is already a bias, which wasn’t suddenly absent, just because they legalized sales, under specific rules. The same prejudices would have seen those people harassed, arrested, shut down, or new rules created to, “Protect against the scourge of blah, blah, blah.”, in what would have been the same neighborhoods, or run by the same people. Why? Because the bias is already there, with or without any other factors.

          And, there are biases with sex work that would make it, regardless of how the rules came about, close to impossible to do “legally” – rules about closeness to a) churches, b) schools, c) neighborhoods with a lot of kids in them, d) possibly even, in the extreme, the cities “period”. Its almost impossible to know just what BS they would either pull, from day one, in the case of legalization, or over time, in the case of, “Protect X!” (probably the children…), over time if it was decriminalized.

          This is something that would have to be overcome, regardless of how making it legal took place, and full on decriminalization isn’t going to a) stop it, or b) significantly change the trajectory.

          On the contrary, if I was one of the conservative assholes who appose it, I suspect I would be waffling between the need to, “Protect all the innocent people from this horrible thing!!!”, and letting it be decriminalized, knowing that it was only a matter of time that someone would open a brothel, or the like, some place I could raise the hordes to attack, over the ,”horrible evil it is causing, just like I imagined it would!”

          I have no illusions that these people would somehow decide to not, the second they had the chance, push for the same trajectory for sex workers as they have for women’s health organizations.

          • May 26, 2016 at 11:12 am

            Here, this article explains it better than I can.

          • May 26, 2016 at 6:58 pm

            To be clear, the article you linked to references what I would call “false” legalization. We did the same thing during prohibition – you could make and sell alcohol, if you had a government stamp, but the government did not actually issue **any** stamps. What I am talking about is the reality of enforcement. Those apposed will try to screw things up, no matter how you do it. Those for it will try to make it work, but will invariably, in the case of something deemed so problematic, afoul of all the attempts to screw things up, so it doesn’t work. Just look are everything in the US right now dealing with restrooms, gay rights, *and* women’s health. In the former cases, they antis are losing, in the latter case, they are defacto winning, on some scale, and the collateral damage that is resulting…

            Your talking about a semantic faux legalization – making it seem legal, while actually making it more illegal. You can’t make the act legal, and the purchase illegal ,and honestly claim that you legalized any bloody thing, any more than you can tell some brewer that, “You can make anything you like, but you can’t sell it, without a non-existent stamp!” Its legal legerdemain. When you actually make something legal, you **do not** make it impossible, by making everything else associated with it either a) unattainable, or b) illegal.

  8. May 20, 2016 at 12:11 pm —

    Hookers for Jesus has to be some sort of satire. Seriously.

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