“Imagine my shock when I discovered my own ten-year-old daughter was unknowingly profiting from the sexual degradation of other women”
By Sarah St. Onge
While many people believe in-person sexual performances should be legal - and even celebrated - and that consumption of pornography is a harmless pleasure, as a sexual assault survivor I can only view the sex industry as benefitting from the complete degradation of the women it uses. Allowing strangers to turn women into objects – things to purchase, or products to profit from – hits too close to home for me to remain neutral.
When I was seven, my mom moved into an apartment with a man who would ultimately use my prepubescent body (and that of his son, a year younger than me) to pay for his drugs, inviting pedophiles into our home while my mom was at work, to sexually abuse us. He also filmed us together, creating reels of child pornography [Child Sexual Exploitation Material]. Because of this experience, I hate sexual exploitation of any kind.
I am cautious about spending money, as well as where I choose to earn it. This includes considering where I invest my meager savings, and where I invest for my children’s future.
Imagine my shock recently when I discovered my own ten-year-old daughter was unknowingly profiting from the sexual degradation of other women. What made this discovery worse was that the profits were coming from a church-affiliated investment product offered by Thrivent “the marketing name for Thrivent for Lutherans” — promoted by Lutheran congregations all over the USA.
I feel sick.— Sarah St. Onge ن ♀🦬 you probably won’t agree w/me (@She_Brings_Joy) March 23, 2023
As someone who was sexually exploited as a child I try to stay away from vice in my spending.
My daughter — my 10 yr old daughter (through me)— has a small account with @Thrivent.
This would mean she is making money off of exploited women’s bodies. https://t.co/1JSXUwXTcm
I am Lutheran (Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod), and for years have been the recipient of Thrivent financial education and more recently Thrivent Choice dollars for service projects. Like many other Lutheran churchgoers in the US, I have a drawer full of Thrivent t-shirts from over a decade of doing charity works sponsored by them.
Thrivent began as a fraternal financial organization for Lutherans under the name “Aid Association for Lutherans” and is utilized by our congregations as both an investment/retirement avenue and a fundraising platform which supports our charitable endeavors. Thrivent representatives come to our churches and help us with retirement and estate planning.
They worship with us, often taking the Eucharist at our communion rail — which in the two most conservative synods of US Lutheranism (Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod and LCMS) is closed to non-members. There’s an explicitly delineated understanding of community at that rail, and at minimum the understanding includes not turning my ten-year-old daughter into someone who profits from the sexual exploitation of women.
But here we are.
I am rendered physically ill contemplating my innocent, beautiful daughter – the daughter I have spent the last decade protecting from the sex-drenched culture we have built for our children —using money made from selling sex to fund her education.
As a Christian, I take very seriously my religious tradition’s teachings about the intrinsic value of human life. There is no space for human exploitation in the foundational value system elucidated in the Lutheran confessions. There is no question of exploitation when it comes to sex. Thrivent has an obligation to avoid such entanglements in order to maintain the integrity of its investments, undertaken for its Christian clients.
Some may protest: this is a company with billions in investments. Things get complicated. However, there is no possibility Thrivent was ignorant of what they were investing in. RCI Hospitality Holdings displays its mission on every single one of its tax documents, in its CEO’s posts on social media, and in the imagery they have chosen for their business website.
A quick Google search clarifies that clubs RCIHH has owned for years have reputations for drugs and violence. Dancers have sued them for not paying wages as well as for allegedly turning a blind eye when customers engaged in sexual assault (this suit is still ongoing). They have been the subject of Federal Securities and Exchange investigations for mishandling money. Reading through their list of real estate holdings it becomes clear that throughout their existence they have profited off the sexual use of thousands of women.
So why has Thrivent made this particular, seemingly intentional, investment choice? Is it because they believe investors are too lazy to investigate their portfolios? Is it because they think the congregations they glean a living from don’t care?
My suspicion is that they understand it’s neither laziness or disregard, but trust: previously, we have trusted them to be good stewards of our finances. We have given them a prime seat at our tables, and they’ve taken advantage of a relationship decades in the making.
I know for me and my family, the trust has been eroded, and unless there is an immediate move to divest of these assets, we will be removing our money from our Thrivent accounts. We will also be encouraging others to make the same choice. In addition, I will be discussing this with my pew-mates during our next congregational meeting in an effort to end our church’s relationship with Thrivent. I encourage other congregations to do the same.
My daughter will not profit from the buying and selling of women’s bodies. And neither should you.
If you and/or your congregation is involved with Thrivent for funding your investments, please contact them here and let them know you will be rethinking their investment in RCI Hospitality Holdings.
Sarah St. Onge is a writer and mother who lives with her family in New York. She's also the founder of limbbodywallcomplex.net, a diagnosis specific website which supports parents who continue their pregnancy after receiving the same lethal diagnosis which took her daughter, Beatrix Elizabeth. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.