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What You Need to Know About Sex Trafficking

By Pam Strickland

Why does sex trafficking exist?

Sex trafficking is a business like any other, in that the two components are supply and demand.

Where demand exists for a product or service, someone will profit by supplying that product or service. There is demand for sex with “no strings attached.”

Some men prefer sex with no need to develop a relationship, and no need to be concerned with another person’s pleasure. There is demand for sex in which his desires and pleasures are the only consideration – when, how and as often as he wants.

Where does this desire come from? Why would men think that sex should be available all the time, any time they want it and however they want it?

That is the concept of sex that pornography has normalized.

The Relationships in America data reveal that 43% of men report watching pornography in the past week.

Most porn is produced by men for men. The acts portrayed are designed with men’s sexual desires and fantasies in mind.

People who watch porn regularly often believe that these portrayals of sex are normal, and they can expect these acts from their partner.

When their partner won’t comply (or if they don’t have a partner), they look to have this need supplied from another source.

Because research indicates a strong relationship between consuming pornography and buying sex, educating the public about this relationship and reducing access to pornography, especially by minors, could make a positive impact in reducing demand.

According to Dr. Melissa Farley’s research, “Frequent sex buyers use pornography much more often than men who don’t buy sex.”

How many men purchase sex?

According to a survey by Demand Abolition, 6.2% of their survey respondents have bought sex within the past 12 months, while 20% have bought sex in their lifetime.

“’High-frequency’ buyers purchase so often that their actions account for a disproportionately large share of the illegal sex trade,” Demand Abolition found. “About 25% of active buyers report purchasing weekly or monthly, and their activity accounts for nearly 75% of market transactions.”

Demand reduction efforts need to be focused on these high-frequency buyers.

Who are these men that purchase sex?

Yes, women purchase sex, too, but that number is fairly insignificant.

They are husbands, fathers, pastors, doctors, lawyers, judges, elected officials, law enforcement officers, teachers – there is no single profile of a sex buyer.

And high-frequency buyers are often earning $100,000 or more annually, according to Demand Abolition.

How can we reduce demand for sex trafficking?

Efforts have been made to reduce demand across the country. One of the more popular strategies is to require convicted sex buyers to attend a buyer education school or “john school.”

Often, sex trafficking survivors speak at these schools and explain that they didn’t choose this “job” and that they don’t enjoy it.

One problem with this model is that only 6% of sex buyers are arrested, according to the Demand Abolition survey. There is also disagreement in the field about whether these educational efforts actually reduce sex buying.

Executing reverse stings in which sex buyers are arrested, but the prostituted people are offered services, is one strategy. However, these stings require much planning and resources, and result only in misdemeanor charges.

Other strategies include impounding the vehicles of sex buyers and/or suspending their driver’s license, printing photos of sex buyers in the newspaper, online or on billboards, and levying serious fines, which are used to provide services for sex trafficking victims.

Still others send letters to the owners of vehicles found in high-prostitution areas, warning them of the consequences of buying sex.

Online deterrence methods include placing decoy ads selling sex. When a person responds, they encounter a real person, a bot or a static text message with a deterrence message.

A legislative remedy is to make purchasing sex a more serious charge. In most places, it is a misdemeanor and, as the 6% number above demonstrates, it’s not charged very often.

There is movement in some states to make buying sex a felony with significant consequences in hopes that men will not be willing to risk a large fine or jail time. Law enforcement agencies may also be willing to devote more resources to enforcing laws that result in felony charges.

What can you do to help? Most importantly, don’t be part of the problem.

When others around you perpetuate the myth of the “happy hooker” and the “victimless” crimes of pornography and prostitution, correct them.

When “everybody does it” and “boys will be boys” are used as excuses for consuming porn or buying sex, stand up and say, “No! Everybody doesn’t do it” and boys need to mature into men who understand women are to be partners, not objects to be used.

And if you are one of the 80% of men who don’t buy sex, hold your friends and colleagues accountable.

If you are a parent raising boys, have a zero tolerance for porn and 100% accountability for treating women and girls with respect.

If you are a parent raising girls, have a zero tolerance for porn and teach them that they are worthy of respect and they are not objects to be used.

The demand for sex drives the market for exploitation. Without demand, there is no market.

Join the movement to end demand for sex trafficking victims.

Editor’s note: This article is a part of a series this week to call attention to January’s National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month in the U.S.

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