Evangelical antitrafficking efforts thus extend activist trends that have also become increasingly prevalent elsewhere, embodying a form of political engagement that is consumer- and media-friendly and saturated in the tropes and imagery of the sexual culture it overtly opposes—a feminine, consumptive counterpart to the masculine politics of militaristic rescue. A recent photograph from a special issue of the magazine Christianity Today on sex trafficking titled “The Business of Rescue” makes this dynamic quite clear. The image depicts a smiling young activist from a Christian human rights group who is ministering to a sex worker in a Thai brothel (see fig. 1). Although the magazine’s evangelical readership would be likely to interpret the woman’s happy affect as evidence of Christ’s love (see Wilkins 2008), young missionaries’ brothel visits are also situated within the contemporary practices of consumer-humanitarianism, in which touristic adventures in exotic settings serve to reinforce Westerners’ sense of freedom and good times.25
Although consumer-friendly politics have become a stock feature of many forms of contemporary social justice activism, they occupy an especially prominent place in evangelical antitrafficking campaigns in which new abolitionists are frequently summoned to make purchases that will contribute to faith-based organizations (as in the ironically titled Not for Sale Freedom Store; see http://www.notforsalecampaign.org) or by purchasing items that women who have purportedly been freed from sexual slavery have crafted. For contemporary evangelicals, the purchase of consumer goods in the name of fighting trafficking serves a dual purpose in solidifying the distinction between freedom and slavery: on the one hand, “freedom” resides in Western consumers’ ability to purchase the trinkets and baubles that “trafficking victims” produce; on the other hand, it pertains to the practice that new evangelicals call “business as mission,” in which former “slaves” are brought into “free” labor by producing commodities for Western consumers. Ultimately, business as mission can be seen as a global-capitalist refashioning of the nineteenth-century evangelical practice of “rescuing” women from prostitution by bringing them into domestic labor or teaching them to sew (see Agust ́ın 2007).
Elizabeth Bernstein, Militarized Humanitarianism Meets Carceral Feminism: The Politics of Sex, Rights, and Freedom in Contemporary Antitrafficking Campaigns, Journal of Women in Culture and Society 2010, vol. 36, no. 1, p. 63-64