If there were no demand for commercial sex, sex trafficking would not exist in the form it does today. This reality underscores the need for continued strong efforts to enact policies and promote cultural norms that disallow paying for sex.
-2013 Trafficking in Persons Report, page 27
The 2013 Trafficking in Persons Report goes on to give concrete suggestions to end sex trafficking as we know it:
Government Policies to Address Demand for Commercial Sex: Zero-tolerance policies for employees, uniformed service members, and contractors paying for sex -- even if legal in the country where these individuals work -- and commensurate training for such individuals can help raise awareness regarding the subtle and brutal nature of sex trafficking and how individuals subjected to this crime are victimized through coercion. Moreover, by implementing these policies in procurement activities, governments can have an impact on a wide range of private-sector actors as well.
Beyond Government: Cultural Leadership in Addressing Demand: Rejecting long held notions such as 'boys-will-be-boys' and sending the clear message that buying sex is wrong is not just a task for governments, but will require partnerships throughout society, including the faith and business communities. Business leaders can adopt codes of conduct that prohibit purchasing sex. And leaders in civil society -- from teachers to parents to ministers -- must foster the belief that it is everyone's responsibility to do their part to reduce the demand for commercial sex. It is especially important to reach young men with a strong message of demand reduction to help them understand the exploitation that permeates the commercial sex trade.
It is every person's individual responsibility to think about how their actions may contribute to human trafficking. Laws and policies, partnerships and activism will continue to be critical to this struggle, but it will also be the day-to-day decisions of individual men and women to reject exploitation that will bring an end to modern slavery.
Sadly, our culture has grown increasingly comfortable with the X-rated industry. To expect an end to prostitution and pornography -- if such an endeavor is even possible -- seems absurd to them. While you'd be hard pressed to find people who are okay with sex trafficking in any form, many believe that treating sex as a business exchange between two consenting adults (whether on-screen or in-person) is perfectly acceptable.
The Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons makes it clear that it is not at all acceptable because it perpetuates modern-day slavery. In a very real sense, when you are paying for sex you are enslaving people.
I hold personal beliefs that make consumption of commercialized sex in any form unwise, unhealthy and unacceptable on a moral level for many reasons. If you happen to be one of many who disagree with me, I would hope the realization that contributing to the industry also contributes to the bondage of women (and men) and children would be enough to compel you to abstain.
I did some very uncomfortable -- and at times, nauseating -- research on this.
This 11 page fact sheet on prostitution, pornography and trafficking blatantly states the undeniable dangers of commercial sex. Consider these statistics (all taken from the link):
- 85 - 95% of those in prostitution want to escape it, but have no other options for survival.
- 70 - 95% were physically assaulted in prostitution.
- 65 - 95% of those in prostitution were sexually assaulted as children.
- Early adolescence is the most frequently reported age of entry in any type of prostitution.
- The death rate for women and girls in prostitution is 40 times higher than the average death rate for females.
- Countries with legalized prostitution also have a greater inflow of human trafficking.
According to researcher Donna Hughes, the average age of girls in prostitution has declined each year for the past decade.
For those who believe viewing pornography is a different and maybe even more acceptable act, I must emphasize that pornography and prostitution are inextricably woven together. Both are equally contributing to the human trafficking problem.
According to that same fact sheet from above, more than half of all prostitutes in one study reported that pornography was used to teach them what was expected. And more than 80% were shown pornography by customers to illustrate the types of activities they wanted to engage in.
In a 2005 report in the Michigan Journal of International Law, Catherine MacKinnon effectively posited that when you make pornography of a woman, you make a prostitute out of her. Not to mention countless studies are reporting that pornography is increasingly showing activities in which women are slapped, beaten, tortured, raped and degraded in a variety of ways.
Here's the scary part about that: While I was in college I attended a guest lecture by a man who said he lost everything to pornography. He had an addiction which most people who view pornography do not suffer from. But he still spoke candidly about the dangers of viewing pornography. He, and others I have heard since (including a Men's Health article I found when researching for this post), talk about a "mirror neuron" effect that happens when men view pornography. They then are inclined to act out what they watch. You can see how the connection between more violent images and mirror neurons is frightening. For all women.
I will conclude by quoting a columnist, Amberly McAteer, whose words I stumbled across in my research. After reading just two of her posts I learned that we disagree on the monogamous, marital relationship, but we are both firm, firm believers in the grave dangers -- to men and women -- of prostitution:
Yes, I write this from my middle-class pedestal. I’ve never fallen on life-threatening hard times, but I know this: Women, every single one of them, are worth more than their bodies. In an ideal world, everyone would see that.
And so, it really is that simple. Stop consuming commercial sex. Pornography and prostitution in any form. No exceptions, no excuses. Stand for that.
Sex trafficking will end. Women will be valued. And society will be much, much better off for it.
If you or someone you know suffers with inappropriate sexual urges or desires or would like help managing abstention from pornography or prostitution, contact a professional trained to help.