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Pornography and Sex Trafficking: Is There a Link?

104:365 - a little justice
 

I’ll be the first to confess, I never realized how big of a problem human trafficking was.  I thought it was one of those rare crimes cooked up for NCIS and similar crime shows.  That type of stuff didn’t happen in real life.  What kind of people would kidnap young girls (and boys) so they could be sold off, raped, and tortured?

Last summer, God turned that little part of my world on its head.  I went to a Women of Faith conference and heard Christine Caine speak.  Chris is an Aussie (Aussie! Aussie! Aussie!…) who started up this thing called the A21 campaign.  The mission of A21 was to rescue girls from the sex slave trade.

Still, it felt like something that was out there, somewhere.  Like the starving children in the commercials, it wasn’t something that was close enough for me to truly impact.  There are so many ‘humanitarian’ causes in the world.  I just can’t be part of all of them.  I have my calling, and it isn’t sex trafficking.  It’s porn.  There’s a difference.

Well, over the last several months, I realized that maybe there isn’t much of a difference. God kept making my paths cross with sex-trafficking ministries (rephrase: ministries to the sex-trafficked?).

Earlier this year, I stumbled upon Guilty Pleasure, an anti-pornography group (also from Australia) who were speaking at a Trafficking in America seminar about the connection between porn and sex-trafficking.

Trafficking in where?!  Connection with what?

Trafficking in America.  Well, that started to get my attention.  We had sex traffickers here?  In the land of the free and the home of the brave?  More than that, there was some kind of connection between sex trafficking and pornography?

That piqued my interest in many ways.  If sex-trafficking is truly a problem in America, and there is a link to pornography, then sex-trafficking just became part of my mission.  It just became something about which I needed to be concerned and educated.

I began to follow the A21 campaign and other anti-trafficking ministries.  I had a meeting with Dawn Hawkins, the Executive Director of Morality in Media, and we talked at length about our very different approaches to the same cause.  Dawn has lectured on the connection between porn and sex trafficking and her video about catching a guy watching porn on a Delta flight went viral.  You can watch that here, at your own discretion (it isn’t bad; just the comments and the ‘watch next’ videos get a little exciting).

Responses to Dawn’s video have, obviously, been a little controversial.  People who support pornography are going to have problems with people who find problems with pornography.  Duh.

One of those responses, which tore the transcription of her video apart bit-by-bit, said that it was stupid for her to be lecturing about a link between sex trafficking and pornography.

“That’s funny, because there isn’t one,” he said.

I admit, I’ve taken a spectator-stance on the issue, just trying to understand the scope of this and get a better feel for where my place is in all of this.  There are some who will come straight out and say that porn itself is sex-trafficking.  There are others who stand and deny any link at all.  It’s a messy blurry legal moral gray matter battlefield.

Earlier this month, I was able to hang out with Micah, the creator of the TOK Project, yet another mission to free women caught in sex slavery.  I started to have one of those, “Ok, God, I’m listening” moments.

Then, the FBI “Cross-Country’ sting happened.  (One news story here).  Sex-trafficked girls (ages 13-17) were rescued from all over America.  Some were right here in Ohio, where I am currently staying.  I live in DC, and, sadly, expect it from DC, but Ohio?!

In my subsequent research, I came across this mind-numbing statistic:

So back to the original question, is there a link?

I say ‘yes’ but not in the way that most people are reading the word ‘link.’  Do I think that all pornography is most definitely sex trafficking?  No.

The reason I say that is making a broadsweeping, decisive statement like, “Porn is sex trafficking” belittles the plight of women who are kidnapped, raped, and sold for sex.  It puts women who choose this path on the same level as women who are tricked into it and stolen away from their families.  It’s a bad path for either of them, but certainly not the same.

Pornography is the exploitation of women’s bodies and it is the selling of sex.  The theory is that pornography is consensual and a job.  Could some of it be illegal, the result of sex trafficking?  Certainly.  Are there women in pornography who are there against their own will?  Yes.

Let’s just pretend for one moment that there aren’t though.  Let’s just pretend, for a second, that every woman in pornography loves being there, chose to be there, and is well-taken care of.  Let’s pretend that they don’t have to worry about STDs.  Let’s pretend they don’t get abused.  Let’s pretend they aren’t hurt, are never forced into scenes they don’t like, and that pornography is just as normal a job as being a cashier at the grocery store.

Even if that were the case, there would still be a link.  Why?

The supply of pornography creates the demand for sex.

People think that when we talk about a link between pornography and sex-trafficking that we’re somehow making the two the same, as if pornography is a front for sex-trafficking and that the same people who make porn videos are also responsible for exploiting children.  Not the case.  (Could there be instances where that is the case?  Sure).

Instead, what we have is pornography creating, in people, the demand for sex- and not just any sex.  Every person has a desire for sex.  It’s hormonal.  It’s part of who we are.  Porn mutates that desire.

Everything about porn goes against everything about sex.  Porn is on demand.  Porn is rapid-fire.  You don’t like that image?  Click for the next one.  You think that girl’s ugly?  Move on.  No connections.  The scene is constantly changing, and (for the most part) the women bow to the man’s every whim.  She’s not just there for him, though, she’s there for every guy watching.

So, there is this rewiring that occurs within us that makes us want sex on demand, the way we want it, how we want it without regard for the other person.  We simply want their body.

Good luck finding someone like that in real life, who will just let you walk all over them and do whatever you would like to them.

Enter: the sex slaves.  As young as you want them, the way you want them, and you own them.  Nameless, faceless, bodies who exist only to serve you.

Supply and demand.

Is that to say that without pornography that there would be no sex trafficking?  No.  There would still be sick, twisted people out there who would get a rise out of kidnapping and raping children.  But it is my opinion that without pornography, there would be a whole lot less of them.

—————

So what can you do?  Check out these groups:

The TOK Project

A21 Campaign

International Justice Mission

Rescue 1 Mission

Not For Sale

Trafficking in America

Morality in Media

The new Beggar’s Daughter site will feature a section devoted to raising awareness on the problem of human trafficking.

Do you know of any groups helping in this fight?  Leave a comment!
Photo: orangesparrow / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

9 comments

  1. http://abolitioninternational.org/

    This ministry was started by Natalie Grant, a Christian singer, and also combats human trafficking.

  2. Hi Jessica,
    Thank you for this post. Have you considered the connection between contraception, porn and sex-trafficking? Contraception disconnects the act from the potential for new life which enables sex on demand. And, when contraception fails, abortion is needed on demand. I plan on spotlighting this post on my blog this Friday. Again, thank you for highlighting this tragic problem. God bless, Cindy

    1. Cindy, no, I hadn’t. I know this might offend some people since there is a strong Catholic presence here, but, as a Protestant I never considered contraception a bad thing. (Before y’all get in a twist, let me explain). You might say that Protestants are very uneducated when it comes to NFP (Natural Family Planning- understanding a woman’s body and avoiding intimacy on those days when pregnancy is most likely to take place). I had never even heard of it until a Catholic told me about it. After I researched it, it was a “well, duh! That makes perfect sense!” moment.

      The proper use of NFP requires a pretty significant understanding of a woman’s body and how it works. When most Protestant circles aren’t even willing to talk about sex, I don’t know how many of them actually understand ovulation and fertility. For those people, contraceptives make sense, not as an excuse for sex on demand, but as a method of family planning. They don’t want to have kids, so they use contraceptives. When practicing Catholics don’t want to have kids, they don’t have sex. Coming from a Protestant perspective, I see both sides of the argument.

      As a woman who understands her body, and has had adverse reactions to hormonal birth control (used to regulate my cycle years ago), and who has heard not-so-rave-reviews about sex with condoms, it is likely that if/when I do get married, I would want to practice NFP. It’s just healthier and it makes sense. But again, if you aren’t raised with that as an option (and Protestants aren’t), then contraceptives make sense. We don’t see them as an excuse for sex on demand or inappropriate sexual activities.

      However, I do agree with you that the availability of contraceptives coupled with the casual sex attitude of society does result in an acceptance and increase of abortion. I think the relationship between contraceptives and casual sex is a chicken-egg argument more than a cause-effect one. Am I going to stretch it so far to say that the use of condoms promotes sex-trafficking? No.

      I look forward to reading your post!

      1. Hi Jessica,
        Thank you for your reply! It is hard to see the connection between all these things (porn, sex trafficking, contraception and abortion) but once it is seen, it is hard not to see. I think you have done a great job here of describing how porn leads to treating the human person as a ‘thing’ to be used (lust).

        “…there is this rewiring that occurs within us that makes us want sex on demand, the way we want it, how we want it..”

        This truth is beautifully explained in the Theology of the Body and Humanae Vitae. My point is that the same above characteristic (sex on demand) can be said about contraception.

        Either way, it is wonderful that you will experience the fruits (Superabundance) of a chaste marriage (remaining open to life with the aid of NFP).

        God bless and again thank you for your powerful ministry! Cindy

  3. Sally and Lowell Senitz, the founders of Wings of Shelter in Ft. Meyers, FL are doing great things for girls who are victims of Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking and are very dear to my heart! I met them 2 years ago at the Florida Anti Human Trafficking Summit and had the opportunity to spend a weekend with them and their girls this past March.

    They operate a long term safe house for young girls who are coming out of trafficking as well as educate/train prosecutors, law enforcement agencies, social workers, DJJ and the FBI (in Florida and throughout the nation) on all things Human Trafficking.

    Here’s their website if you want to take a deeper look! http://wingsofshelter.com/about-us/

    I’m so glad the connection between porn and sex trafficking is finally making it’s way into our conversations!

    1. Lindsay, thanks for that connection!

  4. Greetings! I was excited to find this article Jessica. I will write my opinion here as a man who has been celibate for the better part of 8 years. I feel very strongly that women are meant to be honored, respected, and sought out for their wisdom. After all, we all have had (or have)sisters and mothers of some fashion. And strictly speaking of those of us who have been blessed in that part of our life, I understand it’s not applicable to everyone. I definitely see a connection between these two topics. As a man (who understands the physical, and mental drains of a celibate male, to which I will add, is not at all easy)that decries, and laments the poor treatment of women in our culture, and in greater scope the world; I find it is almost without effort, that the belittling of women and young girls, is all to often coupled with the viewing of, or positive attitude towards’ pornography(at least in most of my experience with male friend’s, or in casual conversations between men, and even women who approve of it). It’s is most certainly an epidemic of perception in the eyes of those involved. The idea; that a particular type of girl, or woman is only good for lusting after, with no thought, or even consideration of who she is, or what she can offer in an intellectual capacity is staggering. And as such, other situations will develop as well. It is increasingly difficult to even meet women who have not been affected by these society standards. All to often I myself have been kept at bay, (as far as a real relationship is concerned)by women who believe my respect, and chastity, equate to not seeing them as worthwhile. The fact that I can create a friendship with them, but not need to sleep with them, will inevitably create what society call’s the “friend zone”. A situation that is not at all bad, (don’t get me wrong, this is just an example)but translates most times to never giving men like myself a chance to truly love them. It’s easier to take a woman home for sex, that to prove to her that you find real value in her, all because she equates love with sex first. And unwilling men; waiting for the friendship to be solidified (not always being confined to the religiously,or morally motivated man either)find themselves at a daunting disadvantage. It also creates a seething stereotype, and ridicule from friend’s and acquaintances, making the charge’s that we are strange, or closet case’s of depravity. Too “self righteous” to do what all guys (and gals’) are supposed to do. “It’s just sex” is a saying heard all to often, and not in kind references to those it necessarily is targeted towards. Which will usually lead to even more demeaning comments, and damaging rumors. In any event I hold out hope that the LORD will bring someone to me who will accept the love He has put in me. But until then I have been reignited in my Spirit, to do what I can to fight this problem of slavery, and recruitment of young, and older women alike, into these horrible situations. I’m only beginning, and don’t know my way yet, but I know I must learn as much as possible, and do as much as possible to combat these issues. Thank you for letting me post my comment, may G-D Bless you and your work!