We often catch the 123 or 124 bus at the bus stop across the street from our apartment bloc. Last week, we caught it almost every morning at 7am because our whole family went to Universitate to pray in the morning for the university students that were returning to classes this week. One afternoon following one of those mornings, my oldest daughter Naomi pulled me aside and said, “Mama, I saw this yucky picture at the bus stop this morning. A woman had almost no clothes on.” My heart sank. I’d noticed all sorts of those posters and flyers all over the place, anytime I went out, anywhere I walked, but I was hoping they would escape the eyes of my three young daughters who never saw much of that kind of stuff back in Milwaukee, or at all in Oconomowoc before that.
My response was a question, “Have you seen lots of those kinds of pictures around?” She had. I told her to make sure she looks away from them, because they are not good and shouldn’t be up, especially all over the place where kids can even see them. The rest of the day, I had this kind of angst rise up in me against all the strip clubs, night clubs, erotic massage parlors, and bars that post these kinds of signs up all over the place, in plain sight of everyone. I remembered a day recently where we were on a bus stopped at a light, and right out the window I saw a wall, about a hundred feet long and seven feet high, completely covered with posters of a woman, suggestively posed with very little clothing on. It was an ad for some club, I’m sure. I didn’t look long, because I began praying that my family wouldn’t turn their heads and see it.
Now, I know most of the “western” world sees America as prudish and puritanical (in stark contrast to the Muslim world which sometimes teaches that we are the great satan–see Jake’s post here), but I think there is something valuable in that. I was thinking how, if one such poster showed up in Anytown, America, the moms of that town would band together, form a coalition, sign a petition, protest whoever put it up, and crowd town meetings until it came down. But in Bucharest (the only city in which I’ve seen such signs here in Romania), it’s ubiquitous and everyone has learned to just deal with it.
I think of the age-old debate of whether or not pornography should be censored and how pro-pornography folks just say, “Well, don’t look at it if you don’t like it;” but kids don’t really get a fair chance with that kind of reasoning. They shouldn’t have to avert their eyes all the time. Once, my youngest daughter Illiana, who’s three, was walking to the store with Jake and kept looking down in an odd way, saying, “I don’t want to look at that sign; it’s bad.” She saw a big sign at the bus stop of a woman in a bikini posed seductively. Curious about what she was thinking, Jake asked her, “Why is that bad?” She didn’t know why; she just knew. Kids are innocent and their consciences are hard at work until they just get desensitized to stuff like that. No one had to tell Illiana that sign was immodest; she just knew.
Girls are learning at a young age from these posters that men only want women who look like those on the signs, whether or not it’s the truth. And when we pass the multitude of magazine stands, many of them display their porn magazines, uncovered, at about kid level. and when the kids grow up and go to university here in Bucharest, the area where much of the student housing lies is inundated with the kinds of places that post up all these posters and flyers. And one woman’s magazine encouraged young women students to take up part time work in the sex industry in order to pay the bills. What kind of message does this send to women about what they are worth? That they are mere eye candy, easily disposable and replaceable, valued only for their sex appeal and appearance? What about the women who are trying to live godly, feminine lifestyles or the guys who are trying to stay pure and holy?
Now, don’t get me wrong, I still love Bucharest and the people here, because God loves them and created each of them in His own image for His glory…even the women on those posters, even those who put those posters up, and even those who visit those places. The day before yesterday, I wrote about something I love about Bucharest and Romania. Today’s post is about something that breaks my heart for this city. However, the Bible says, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined” (Isaiah 9:2). In the greatest darkness, God’s light shines brightest. And I can’t wait to see it shine here ever brighter and God be glorified more and more.
In the meantime, Jake and I have joked about creating stickers that say, “bubonic” and sticking them over top of “erotic” on all the erotic massage flyers. Somehow, I think bubonic massages seem a little less enticing. 🙂
Romania is largely a “post-Christian” nation. Most people call themselves Romanian Orthodox in terms of religious affiliation, but that usually means little more than they were baptized in a church building as an infant, they attend weddings in a church building, and their funeral will be conducted by a Romanian Orthodox priest one day.
Under Communist oppression, the church prospered, with men of God like Richard Wurmbrand refusing to surrender to a Godless regime.
Now, in the freedom of democracy and a free market economy, God isn’t outlawed but ignored – not crushed beneath the feet of an iron dictatorship but trampled by the suede shoes of a generation of self-interested Black Friday pleasure-seekers.
That’s about as poetic as I’ll get here, so relish that line for a moment everyone. Aaaah, OK, now let’s move on.
When God is pushed out of society, morality follows suite. In Bucharest, a city of 35 colleges and universities, there is a growing trend toward student prostitution, whether it be in the form of massage parlours, escort services, or web cam girls. Many of these students (men and women) make good money. Some work out of their homes, others gather in collectives, and still others work as employees of video studios or modern-day pimps.
I’ve been reading some articles and interviews with the guys and girls involved with the business, and while there are some who cry “human trafficking” and “sex slavery,” and it may be true that there are elements of both of those, what has alarmed me the most is that the majority of participants (mostly women), view their business as a decent way to make an income. Prostitution and web cam work in Romania can net anywhere between $400 to $4,000 a month depending on how often you want to work and what you’re willing to do. Prostitution, according to some studies, is by far the best paying job available to women in Romania.
Due to the flexible schedule and decent pay, students are flocking to it. If there is no God beyond money, and your body is just a bunch of tissue and bone and blood, and sex is just something that feels good like cracking your back or letting out a good sneeze, then why not make a decent salary selling yourself?
I know stuff like this goes on all over the world, and the situation is actually (from what I’ve been reading) much better in Romania than some other places, but it breaks my heart that people can degrade themselves so much that they’re willing to sell their bodies for the pleasure of some random guy who really only cares about himself.
We bear the image of God. Our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit. We were created for His pleasure, not for our own selfish pursuit of money or for some random guy who’s willing to pay for sex.