Lost Innocence

Posted Sep 10, 2012 by 6 Comments

[Jocelyn is an intern with the Center for Global Impact—World Next Door’s partner organization in Cambodia.
In addition to writing and taking pictures for
CGI’s blogs, newsletters and promotional materials,
Jocelyn is a freelance photojournalist for WND.]

*This article contains mature content.

Virginity is highly valued in Southeast Asia—infinitely more so than back home in America.

Despite being a “conservative” culture, night clubs like this one abound in Phnom Penh.

Generally speaking, here in Cambodia, if you’ve had premarital sex—regardless of whether or not you wanted to—you won’t be able to get married. And if you aren’t able to get married, you need to find a way to support yourself which is difficult in a culture and society that believes you are now defiled.

And if you’re believed to now be defiled, the only real option you have in terms of employment is to continue in what made you this way in the first place.

And we wonder at the booming sex industry.

The Vulgarity

Perhaps what is most unbelievable for me though is the guise.

Before even moving to Cambodia, I was versed in how I should and should not act in such a “conservative” culture. I was told to cover my shoulders, hold my tongue and naturally gravitate toward same-sex friendships.

And while there is definitely a culture of saving face—particularly of not discussing blatant issues—it often feels like sex is driving everything.

Karaoke bars—where men and teenage boys can pay for evening companionship— are also found on most streets.

It’s heartbreaking for me as I bike at night around Phnom Penh—this city I’ve come to know and to love—and witness the injustices I only used to read about surrounding me.

Beer gardens. Karaoke bars. Massage parlors. They’re not hidden like most people think. Rather, I’ve ridden past countless teenage girls in tight-fitting shirts and short skirts—hair and make-up done—sitting outside on plastic chairs. Waiting.

The Victims

At 23 years-old, sometimes I feel insecure about my virginity. Among my friends, I’m quickly becoming a minority. And on more than one occasion, I’ve considered giving it away.

But recently, I’ve begun to reflect on the feelings of victimization many beautiful Khmer young ladies experience.

As a young Western woman, I’m learning first-hand how much I take my freedom to make my own life choices for granted. The majority of the world’s females my age don’t get to do this. When I make bad choices, I deal with the consequences. But many of my global sisters suffer the consequences of the bad choices of others—intercourse is no exception.

In my American culture, I’m praised for the good choices I make—to complete my education, to obtain a salaried job with benefits, to earn enough money to provide for myself now but also to save for the future. And regarding sex, I’ve been taught through music, movies and T.V. shows that I can choose to do whatever I want. Because unlike the potential consequences of my other choices, sex is cheap, meaningless and just a physical interaction.

Men waiting outside a popular nightlife attraction.

But around the world, sex, just like education, work and money, is still costly. It can literally ruin lives—physically, emotionally, mentally, socially and economically—in what American culture shrugs off as drunken mistakes or one-night stands at no price except maybe the cost of self-worth or reputations.

The Value

During my time here, I’ve come to learn some of the stories of CGI Daughters—my students, my teachers, my sisters and my friends—involving international work contracts, nightly part-time employment and older female relatives who didn’t escape.

However, despite their pasts, they’re entering their futures with not only the knowledge but also the belief that they are beautiful. That they are capable and everything God promises regarding hopeful plans is theirs.

They are living proof that the utilization of their minds and their hearts is of unbelievably greater benefit to themselves and their culture than the utilization of their bodies.

And through the good choices they’re making each day, they’re not only respecting themselves but also their families and their country.

They have learned the truth about their worth as not only their parents’ daughters but also God’s daughters, and it is literally setting them free.

While I won’t be here to watch them enter into their own independent, self-sufficient lives, I will always remember them in seasons of weakness when I consider letting go of what they find so valuable. Not just my education. Not just my work. Not just my money. But also me.

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About the Author: Jocelyn is a freelance photojournalist with World Next Door. She studied Creative Writing and Missions at Concordia University Irvine. She enjoys reading, writing and traveling. She also likes butterflies.

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Comments

  1. dan said... 

    Reply

    September 11th, 2012 at 3:04 pm  

    well done Jocelyn

  2. Jocelyn said... 

    Reply

    September 11th, 2012 at 9:51 pm  

    Thanks for reading, Dan!

  3. Nicole Krajewski said... 

    Reply

    September 16th, 2012 at 2:10 pm  

    Hi Jocelyn, Thank you so much for the fragility, honesty and strength in your writing! God bless you! Let me know if you are ever in Indpls. – we can do coffee and caatch up!Love, Nicole K.

    • Jocelyn said... 

      Reply

      September 16th, 2012 at 11:53 pm  

      Hey Nicole! 😀 You’re welcome. I’ll actually be in Indy in a few weeks. Emailing you now…

  4. Tasha Simons said... 

    Reply

    September 25th, 2012 at 2:03 pm  

    “They are living proof that the utilization of their minds and their hearts is of unbelievably greater benefit to themselves and their culture than the utilization of their bodies. They have learned the truth about their worth as not only their parents’ daughters but also God’s daughters, and it is literally setting them free.” Praise God! I’m so glad to hear that the girls understand their belovedness as daughters of the King. They belong to God and grasping that in a heartfelt way is truly transformational. Great article, Jocelyn! Tasha

    • Jocelyn said... 

      Reply

      September 30th, 2012 at 9:26 pm  

      Me too! Thanks, Tasha! 😀

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