“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” –Albert Einstein
Imagine a world where slavery is okay; a world where culture supports the buying and selling of human beings; a world where the majority of people either openly advocate for it or at least passively tolerate it: that was our Western World only 200 years ago.
Then William Wilberforce came along. For 50 years, he and his team of abolitionists led the campaign to end slavery, and in 1833 that campaign led to the Slavery Abolition Act. This act abolished legalized slavery throughout most of the British Empire and remains one of the greatest social and legal victories in all of history.
Why? Because in order for Wilberforce to change laws, he had to do something far more insurmountable: he had to change the collective mindset of an entire culture.
He did it by exposing slavery for what it really was. You see, the institution of slavery operated under a cover narrative that went something like this, “Slavery is a good institution. It has been around since the beginning of time. It’s just the way things are. After all, it’s accepted by culture and legal. On top of that, things are good for slaves, slavery actually benefits them, and slave masters are kind.” 1
Such thinking seems unfathomable to us, but how else do you think slavery flourished for thousands of years? People wholeheartedly believed this. Lawmakers believed it. Culture believed it. And not just a few people on the fringes of society, but major political leaders and influencers.
But William Wilberforce had the courage to rise up against the grain of his time and expose slavery for what it really was. The pro-slavery arguments that had been ingrained and rooted into society for thousands of years removed the moral conflict from the conscience of society.
So Wilberforce brought the moral conflict back. He did this by shining a light into the darkness of what slavery really was. If society wouldn’t draw near to the reality of slavery, Wilberforce would bring the reality of slavery to them.
So what did that look like? Wilberforce and the abolitionists would literally take the slave chains that still dripped with blood and bring them before people. They would do whatever it took to wake people up to the reality of slaves’ suffering. That’s what awareness building looked like to them.
As Benjamin Nolot, president and founder of Exodus Cry, states, “Here is the key thing: they brought the palpable injustice of slavery to the forefront of people’s conscience, and as they did that they began to change the way people thought about and understand slavery. And this cover narrative began to collapse” (Lessons From History).
But today, believe it or not, we are confronted with the need to abolish that cover narrative once again—not in the area of institutionalized slavery, but in the area of the commercial sex industry.
Just consider a few facts:
- In 2016 alone, just one pornographic website got 23 BILLION visits. That’s 729 people a second, or 64 million a day. (See our previous post, An Inseparable Tie: Pornography and Sex Trafficking).
- Entertainment media and pop culture propagate the idea that it’s empowering and liberating for women to conform to an idealized sexual image and become little more than commodities. Just consider Robin Thicke’s song Blurred Line whose music video displays prancing topless models and whose lyrics read, “Just let me liberate you. You don’t need no papers. That man is not your maker. And that’s why I’m gon’ take a good girl.” (10 Songs That Take Objectification Way Too Far).
- Thousands of people are going out on date nights to watch the “Fifty Shades of Grey” franchise that twists true love to be a romanticized relationship characterized by sexual bondage. (There’s No Room For “Fifty Shades” in A #MeTooWorld).
- The most common word used in porn site comment sections is “love.” (Oh, The Irony: Can You Guess the Most Common Word in Porn Site Comments).
- Movies like Pretty Woman glamorize and glorify stripping and prostitution.
- Articles by the New York Times advocate for a “a growing movement of sex workers and activists [in] making the decriminalization of sex work a feminist issue.” (Should Prostitution Be a Crime?)
- There are 1.5 million sex purchases in Germany’s legal sex market every day. (Inside Germany’s Sex Supermarkets).
- Sex trafficking alone generates 99 billion dollars per year. (Profits and Poverty: The Economics of Forced Labour).
I could go on and on, but all these points beg the question that many are asking: “What kind of society is producing so many men willing to buy a woman or child for sex?” (Exodus Cry).
What kind of society—knowingly or unknowingly—permits or advocates for an industry that supports sex trafficking through its underlying attitude that it’s okay to buy women’s and men’s bodies?
You see, this is the mindset that permeates our culture. In the end, this is the root. It is the root of pornography. It is the root of stripping. It is the root of prostitution. And it is the root of sex trafficking. And here’s the problem: if we attack sex trafficking, society is with us; if we attack pornography, stripping, and prostitution, society attacks us.
And so we find ourselves knowing this: we cannot hope to fight sex trafficking unless we fight the underlying mindset that permits and advocates for pornography, stripping, and prostitution.
Once again, like Wilberforce, we are called upon to bring the moral conflict to the forefront of society’s conscience. We are called upon to change the way people think about the commercial sex industry. We are called upon to uncover the false narrative behind it (Ten Big Myths About Prostitution; Telling the True Story About Porn). Wilberforce succeeded in shifting the mindset of a culture. Together, we can too.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Today, on SHINE A LIGHT ON SLAVERY DAY, LIKE and SHARE this post to shine a light on the mindset of our culture that permits slavery in the commercial sex industry.
“The destiny of the world is determined less by the battles that are lost and won than by the stories it loves and believes in.” –Harold Clarke Goddard
Change the story today.
*This blog post was inspired by the first 5 episodes of The Exodus Cry Podcast*