Friday, May 20, 2016
BOOK REVIEW: Dancing for the Devil, by Anny Donnewald
"There is a way that seems right to a man,
But its end is the way of death."
Eve's Angels is a Michigan-based ministry that works with women in the sex industry. We've followed their work for several years. Dancing for the Devil: One Woman's Dramatic and Divine Rescue from the Sex Industry tells the story of their founder, Anny Donewald.
Anny is the daughter of a well known NCAA basketball coach. She grew up in a home shaped by the culture of the NCAA and her parents' Faith in Christ (6). As she explains, "[M]y parents were God-fearing, private people who didn't talk about adult things with their children and tried to keep a protective bubble around each one of us" (11). Describing her father, Anny notes "[T]he qualities that kept him successful at IU are perhaps what kept him from giving up on me despite how very uncomfortable I made him" (15). She attended Sunday school where "I was sent to the basement and taught that the way out of the hole was to climb up the good-deed ladder and follow the teachings of the Lord Almighty" (25).
At age 13, Anny was molested by one of her father's players: "I stood there like a puppy stands for a groomer combing out its tangles. I could not scream or make a sound....My body was never the same and my spirit was crushed" (55). That began a downward spiral that became worse following a rape during her sophomore year at boarding school (94). The rape produced a pregnancy that ended in a miscarriage (102). In college, Anny got pregnant and had an abortion: "My soul felt as barren as my womb. I walked out of the building and got into my car and put my seat back. I cried in my seat until I fell asleep" (130).
"I took the stage for the first time at age nineteen" (133). Some girlfriends convinced Anny to do an amateur night at a Michigan Strip club, where "[T]hey knew I was a coach's daughter and if lured into their lair, would be the ultimate crown jewel in their female dig for dancers" (133). The descriptions of the interactions with the male clientele will make any normal person shudder. As one of the tamer examples, "You'll be sweaty and wan the guys saliva smell off your skin" (148). The money and the hustle eventually became addictive, and it didn't hurt that the money could be used to buy drugs (151).
Anny subsequently moved onto clubs in Chicago, followed by Vegas. Eventually, 'dating' customers moved into full-on prostitution. After several years, she bottomed out in Los Angeles where "[T]his isn't a scene out of Pretty Woman, Mr. X is no Richard Gere. He's overweight, bald, sweaty, and oily. He grinds his teeth. He's an especially lonely pervert....When the morning light finally pierced through the corners of the heavy drapes, I saw my beautiful, luxurious hotel room for the dungeon that it was. A wretched smell of stale cigar smoke and body odor clung to the sheets, and a sourness filled the air" (3-4). Narratively, this part of the book felt rushed, but that helped keep the lurid voyeurism to a minimum.
To their credit, Anny's parents never abandoned her. During her worst days, they would watch her daughter for weeks at a time. Describing her mother, "[T]here was something about her unmovable reply. She wasn't fazed by how messed up my life was. Having nothing else, I clung to her faith in me and the innocence of my daughter" (254). Her parents' steadfast and unconditional love gave Anny a place to go when she was ready to leave. The final third of the book details her recovery from the sex industry and the subsequent founding of her ministry.
This book lays bare the squalid truth behind the sex industry. What seems light and carefee brings gruesome consequences if practiced for any length of time. Fortunately, the mistakes one makes need not be permanent. With Christ, healing and escape exist for any situation, including this one. Dancing for the Devil makes both the fall and the subsequent rise accessible to the average person without having to live those experiences.