Missionary Positions

A Postcolonial Feminist Perspective on Sex Work and Faith-Based Outreach from Australia

Author: Lauren Mcgrow
Missionary Positions examines the context for Christian outreach to people in the sex industry. Over the last 20 years, faith-based organisations have become more engaged in ministering with sex workers. But what are the methods and desired outcomes that undergird pastoral practice in this field? Most Christians see prostitution as evil, and those who sell sex are considered broken victims in need of restoration. Yet the voices and experiences of sex workers themselves often challenge these assumptions. Using feminist and postcolonial perspectives, interviews with Christian practitioners in Australia and personal narrative, Lauren McGrow carves out a space for the dynamic theological agency and life complexity of sex workers to be more fully acknowledged in faith-based outreach projects.

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Lauren McGrow, Ph.D. (2014), Charles Sturt University, is an independent scholar and pastoral practitioner from Australia. Her work is concerned with diverse human sexualities and the impact of religious structures upon marginalised women. She has published numerous articles about sex work.


Background to This Study
The Ethics of Examining Sex Workers
From the Bedroom to the Page: an Approach
Scope of the Text

1 Sex Work in Australia
Local Context
Convict to Colonial
A Modern History of Perverted Employment
Challenging Stigma and the Myths of Disease
Clients of Sex Industry Workers
Conflict and Confusion in Legal Status

2 Prostitution, Feminist Discourse and Theology
Radical Feminism and Abolitionists
Liberal Feminism and Sex Worker Activists
A Range of Feminist Positions
A Critical Conversation with Casting Stones
Other Voices in Feminist Liberation Theology
Grassroots Christian Praxis
The Space Where Complexity Emerges

3 A New Position: Postcolonialism
Questioning Established Order
The Postcolonial Matrix
Hybrid Identity and the Third Space
Politics of Rescue
Intersections of Power: First Peoples, Colonialism and Sex Work
Further Probing Questions

4 Australian Missionary Positions
Hybrid Identity
Politics of Rescue
The Sexual Values Underpinning Ministry
The Third Space

5 Feminist Theology with Sex Workers
Working It as Subjects
Challenging the Decent/Indecent Sexual Code
Sex Worker Seeks Justice and Liberation
What About the Sin?
Wisdom Woman/Strange Woman
An Invitation

6 Postcolonial and Feminist Christian Practices
Like Flying
Otherness: Where Two or Three are Gathered
Can It be Embodied and Ethical?
Hybrid Identity: Lube My Wheels
Agency: a Faithful Christian Sex Worker
The Politics of Rescue: Places I Didn't Think I'd Go
Here's the Rub

The Reckoning of Postcolonial Justice
Shared Strength and Loss

Pastoral ministers, missionaries, undergraduate and postgraduate students of theology and the social sciences, feminists and sex workers will be interested in this examination of faith-based outreach to sex industry workers.