“The Super Bowl brings a lot of people, particularly a lot of men. And so trafficking becomes . . . a more heightened issue . . . . Anywhere we find a critical mass of men, we can expect sexual exploitation—we can expect sexual assaults—to increase . . . we have to address this issue of demand.” –Tony Porter
With the Super Bowl coming up, you will likely see the issue of sex trafficking surface more than normal. As I stated in my post last year about the Super Bowl, I advocate raising awareness about sex trafficking surrounding the Super Bowl. But while the Super Bowl comes and goes, sex trafficking continues.
And there’s something else that continues right along with it—the issue of demand.
In 2000, the cornerstone of legislature for combatting human trafficking was born: the Trafficking Victims and Protection Act (TVPA). The TVPA defined human trafficking by three components: the acts, the means, and the purpose.
The Acts described the foundational acts involved in the trafficking process: recruitment, harboring, transportation, provisioning, and obtaining.
The Means described the ways the traffickers carried out those acts: through force, fraud, or coercion.
The Purpose described the reason traffickers exploited victims: for labor or commercial sex acts.
Beyond defining human trafficking, the TVPA criminalized traffickers and sparked measures to provide funding and resources for victims of human trafficking. And yet, despite the progress this act brought in the fight against human trafficking, 19 years later the issue has grown worse.
The question must be asked: why?
There are many reasons, but here’s the answer at its core: the TVPA fell short in combating demand—the principal driver of human trafficking.
The truth is that human trafficking only exists because there is a demand for it. If there is no demand, there is no supply. If there is no supply, then human trafficking ceases to exist.
To be fair, in 2015 the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act (JVTA) was passed. This bill focused on demand for sex trafficking by adding the terms “patronizing” and “soliciting” to the foundational acts of trafficking. This meant that sex buyers could now be considered sex traffickers too.
While statutes like the JVTA exist, the majority of legislation has focused on traffickers rather than buyers.
Again, the question must be asked: why? Why isn’t everyone across the anti-trafficking movement and across society calling for the government to address demand?
Without a doubt, the answer to this question is the same answer to how we can end sex trafficking.
Reason 1: Too many men from all walks of society either buy people for sex, believe that they are entitled to women’s bodies, or are desensitized to the sexual commodification of women.
This claim may sound outrageous, but let’s unpack it.
Studies tell us that 90-99% of men consume pornography. In her book, Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality, Gail Dines reports that 88% of porn videos depict sexual acts of violence against women.
As Gail Dines says, “Pornography, like all images, tells stories about the world. It tells stories about women, men, sexuality, and intimacy. In pornography, intimacy is something to be avoided, and-as I say in the book-‘In pornography nobody makes love. They all make hate.’ The man makes hate to the woman’s body” (Gail Dines: How “Pornland” destroys intimacy and hijacks sexuality).
The man makes hate to the woman’s body. That statement is staggering. But it couldn’t be more true. It’s bad enough that pornography fuels an ideology of objectification, dehumanization, entitlement, aggression, humiliation, and violence against women’s bodies.
What’s worse is that consistent porn use literally rewires your brain to become sexually stimulated and find pleasure in scenarios where sexual acts are combined with violence, aggression, humiliation, objectification, and dehumanization (The Science Behind Pornography).
On top of all that, pornography feeds men the message that women like these acts.
“In pornography, no matter what you do to her, no matter how much you physically or verbally abuse this woman, she loves it. She can’t get enough . . . when of course she has no choice . . .she has to say that.” —Gail Dines
Why does she have to say that? As researcher Melissa Farley points out,
“More than 80 percent of the time, women in the sex industry are under pimp control - that is what trafficking is. Pornography also meets the legal definition of trafficking if the pornographer recruits, entices, or obtains women for the purpose of photographing live commercial sex acts . . . Pornographers are specialty pimps who use pornography to advertise prostitution and to traffic women” (Pornography: Prostitution’s Identical Twin).
If 90-99% of men watch pornography, and 88% of pornography contains sexual violence against women, you can be sure that the normalization of sexual violence desensitizes the consciences of men. You can be sure that too many men from all walks of life hold a mindset that they are entitled to do whatever they want with women’s bodies.
As long as this is the collective mindset of men in our culture, demand for the consumption of sex (either over the screen or in person) will not stop.
Here’s the thing: we can change the collective mindset. Men can change the collective mindset.
Stay tuned for reasons 2 and 3 and how we can change mindsets that tolerate demand.
*This blog post was inspired by Episode 52 of The Exodus Cry Podcast.*