Sunday, February 17, 2013

How You are Fueling the Sex Trafficking Industry

Act # 48:  Stop buying sex.

You’re not going to want to hear this.  If you are like me, the thought of your own child being abducted, swept into a dark underground world, and made to have sex with adults day in, day out, threatened to be killed every day if he tried to leave – makes you sick to your stomach, and is just too unfathomable to comprehend.  Surely this can’t be happening here.  Surely this is a twisted Hollywood plot.

The shocking truth is that sex trafficking is a thriving industry – the second most profitable illicit business globally.   In the U.S. it is estimated that 50-75,000 victims are trafficked into America for sexual servitude, not including the 100,000-300,000 American children that are forced into prostitution. 

There are a million recommended solutions to this problem:  Educate your children about strangers, about sex.  Reach out to vulnerable children and provide them with support so they are not easy targets to traffickers.  Be mindful of possible victims, and unspoken cries for help.  Don’t prosecute victims.  Report suspicious businesses like massage parlors, etc.  Speak up and raise awareness on this issue.  Rally your lawmakers for stricter penalties for perpetrators, more money for victim services.  Millions of dollars, thousands of people, unimaginable hours are dedicated solely to fixing this pervasive and complex problem.

 I offer you one simple solution:  Stop buying sex.

This industry would cease to exist today if there wasn’t a market for it.  If people were not willing to pay for sex.  If people did not see sex as a commodity that could be bought and sold.  I know you are sitting there thinking, “Well, I would never buy sex!”  It’s those people who are the problem.  How do we get them to stop?  What if I told you that you and I were the problem.  That our own actions help to create a cultural norm where it is acceptable to view sex as a commodity.  Where it is normal for someone to pay for sex.

I’d like to call your attention to the latest issue of Sports Illustrated, the Swimsuit Edition.  See for yourself.  Not a swimsuit in sight.  Unless of course you swim in your underwear and a long-sleeve furry hoodie.  In 1997, the Swimsuit Edition grew so exponentially that it became a stand-alone entity, separate from Sports Illustrated, and has brought in more than $1 billion dollars in revenue.  Someone, somewhere (lots of someones actually) is buying this publication and a multitude of others, not because they want to know the latest swimwear fashion, but for its sexual content.  Obviously, buying a magazine is not quite the same as pulling up to a dark street corner and offering someone money in exchange for sex, but at the end of the day, if you purchase this magazine, you are subscribing to the notion that it is OK for you to trade your hard earned cash for the chance to sexualize and objectify someone.

Throw in pornographic internet sites, strip clubs, Playboy magazine, massage parlors, Hooters, scantily-clad cheerleaders at football halftimes, the movie, video game, and music industries.... the sex-for-sale industry is massive and hugely profitable.  And every day people like you and me, and our husbands, sons, and yes, even our fathers are fueling its very existence.

So if you want to do your part to ensure that your children aren’t lured, kidnapped, or coerced into having sex with strangers for money, if you want to eliminate societal norms that sex, sexiness, and sexuality are commodities of trade, if you want to help stop sex trafficking once and for all, the simple answer is right in front of you.   Stop thinking that it is OK to pay to see someone take their clothes off while they slide down a pole.  Stop buying beer, cars, and crunchy corn chips that use half-naked women to sell those products.  Stop frequenting restaurants that have mediocre food, but gorgeous waitresses in skin-tight hot pants and tops that barely contain their breasts.  Stop watching music videos and playing video games that objectify women.  Stop perpetuating an environment where it is the norm to trade money for sex.  Stop buying sex.  If we don’t buy, there will be no demand to sell.  If there is no demand to sell, sex trafficking will cease to exist.  Over-simplified?  Naïve?  Wishful?  Maybe.   With 100,000 – 300,000 American children currently being trafficked, isn’t it worth a shot?

1 comment:

  1. You know what's totally awesome? A wide variety of thoughtful activists and feminists, all who share the same goal of eliminating sex trafficking and exploitation of vulnerable populations, but all having different perspectives on how to go about doing so. My most recent blog post has elicited some responses both private and public and I wanted to encourage us to keep talking, keep thinking. The New York Times provided a provoking platform to do so with expert opinions from both sides. If this is an issue near and dear to your heart, I encourage you to visit the site below.