Transforming Narratives Through “LIVE”: A Pastoral Model of Care for Women in Sex Work

Nkiruka Okafor Ihm, Luther Seminary


This work, “Transforming Narratives Through “Live”: A Pastoral Model of Care for Women in Sex Work,” seeks to provide the Church with a pastoral response from the narratives of the women doing sex work as streetwalkers in Nigeria. The work uses the four steps of practical theological model of Rick Osmer to describe, interpret, theologize, and strategize on pastoral care of women in sex work. The literature review, both descriptive and interpretive, examines the perception of agency as exercised by the women in sex work through the work of scholars, writings by women in sex industry, the different pastoral models of care and the conceptual framework that shape this study. Research shows that different factors contribute to women being in sex work. Writings by women in sex work demonstrate that the women perceive their agency in different ways. For some, sex work is liberation, while for others it is oppression. Pastoral models of care vary depending on how theologians and pastoral care workers judge the powers that shape the choices women make as sex workers. The most prevalent opinion is that sex workers are victims in many ways and, therefore, cannot be empowered as long as they remain sex workers.

The conceptual framework used for interpreting the data utilizes three major theories to study the narratives of women in sex work. The Karpman Triangle, also called the Drama Triangle, suggests that people normally vacillate between Victim, Perpetrator, and Rescuer roles depending on how they perceive and utilize their agency. This theory iii aims to understand how those roles play out in the lives of sex workers so as to have a holistic view while proposing a pastoral model of care for them. Nonviolent communication emphasizes connection through compassion in every communication. Critical Realist Personalism, a sociological theory, affirms the dignity of every person irrespective of functioning. Both theories help to maintain that female commercial sex workers deserve to be treated with dignity and respect in spite of the way they are choosing to use their bodies. The critical praxis correlation method of theology invites theological reflection to turn to the poor or neglected members of the society.

This work collected data from female sex workers in Nigeria (n=10), using narrative inquiry as the research methodology. The data were transcribed, manually coded, and analyzed. The emerging themes were grouped under three broad categories: self-identity, relationship with God and the Church and relationship with the family and the society. The theological chapter portrays a narrative and ideological reading of the text of Jesus encounter with the women caught in adultery (John 7:53-8:11) to propose “LIVE” Listening, Introspection, Validation, and Emancipation, as a pastoral model of care for the church in working with women in sex work.