Recently, in an interview to join a group that will go speak on the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) I was asked the question “What can men do to help end CSEC”. After I finished my rant I was asked to write it all out to share with the rest of the group. Here is my rant…yes it is completely off our typical topic of church bashing but I’m sharing anyway.
Q: What can men do to help end CSEC?
A: The first thing and the most important thing men can do to help end CSEC is to stop buying children for sex. No, seriously…just stop. If we could do this one, seemingly simply thing, we could put an end to the commercial sexual exploitation of children. By causing the demand we have created the supply and since we are the problem we are equally the solution. So step one, stop buying children for sex.
But now we need to broaden things a little. Step 2 requires that we look at the sex industry as a whole. How does the entire sex industry relate specifically to the buying and selling of underage boys and girls and what roles do our actions play in supporting this? Let’s look at Strip Clubs and Pornography for example. A Portland Police Officer once told me that he has never investigated a strip club where prostitution wasn’t happening. Now, this is not to say that there is prostitution at every strip club OR that at every strip club involved in prostitution you will find underage children but simply to point out the connection. We should also be aware that there are underage girls who work as dancers in strip clubs….yes, it happens.
Men…and women…I’m not trying to judge, I’m simply asking that you keep this in mind as you make your daily life choices.
The same goes for pornography. I probably don’t need to go into much detail about this. There are plenty of underage children who are filmed having sex. Many of the young boys and girls involved in CSEC have also been video taped and had those tapes sold off to pornographers. Yes, it also happens.
Now again, I’m not trying to pass any judgment on strip clubs or pornography. And so long as all the participants are of consenting age and are involved without force or coercion both are completely legal. I’m merely trying to connect some dots. I would love everyone to simply be conscious and aware of the link between CSEC the Sex Industry as a whole.
A good general rule of thumb when dealing with the sex industry is this: “SHE’S YOUNGER THAN SHE LOOKS”. Experts across the country say the average age of entry of a child into the sex industry is 12-14. So if she looks young… well…imagine how young she may actually be. Again, I’m just asking that you keep this in mind.
Ok, so now we need to move further out and take an even broader look at society in general. How do we, as a male dominated society, treat male and female sexuality? How do we view women? How do we view women’s bodies? How do we view the sexual urges of man? Do we treat male sexual needs the same as women’s sexual needs? Is it uncomfortable for you that I even mention women’s sexual needs?
And let’s talk about the objectification of women. When was the last time you flipped through a magazine and paid attention to the ads? Have you noticed in advertisements how often women are portrayed as OBJECTS? Almost regardless of the type of product (food, drink, clothing, etc) you can find ads where an object in the ad has been replaced with an image of a woman. American advertising objectifies women at an alarming rate.
Have you read any articles lately on any case involving a rape accusation? I say “Any” because unless it was written by some feminist blogger you will most likely here these questions:
“Did she say, No”?
“Did she say, No, loudly and forcefully”?
“Did she try to fight back”?
“What was she wearing”
“How much did she have to drink that night”?
“Why was she hanging out with that crowd”?
“Why did she go out to that bar alone”
Men…do you see how our society acts as though it is the male right to have sex? Its as if we assume that unless the victim forcibly fights back the sex was consensual? I don’t know about you, but personally, I live my life under the assumption that you do not want to have sex with me.
You see, the questions shouldn’t be directed to her but rather to him. For instance:
“Did she say, Yes”?
“Did she say, “Yes”, loudly and convincingly”?
“Was it clear she wanted to have sex with you”?
“Did you assume because her skirt was short that she wanted to have sex with you”?
“Where you trying to get her drunk”?
“Did you and your friends try and intimidate her or manipulate her”?
“When you saw her all alone why weren’t you trying to protect her”?
We often hear tips on how to keep our young daughters, sisters and wives from getting raped but really we should be spending the time in teaching our sons, brothers, and selves to respect women and, to put it bluntly, NOT TO RAPE.
The question, was “what can men do to help end CSEC” and the answer is really broad. Children being sold for sex is a microcosm of the broader issues of sexism, oppression, racism, and male privilege. It’s 2013, people. This is not a new issue. Why have we, as a society, spent so many years ignoring the fact that our children are out on the street being raped? Our CHILDREN? Do we really believe that when a 14 year old takes $50 for giving someone a blowjob that they are just as guilty as the man paying for it? Or that when a 16 year old gets handed $100 bucks after sex that the sex was truly consensual? This is rape. Rape! I don’t care how much she got paid. And until we men, stand up and say something and act like we give a damn it’s just going to keep happening.
As we move forward in fighting this issue it’s important to keep the focus on the demand. We can blame the “pimps” and the “traffickers”, we can blame the “parents” or the “children” themselves. We can blame poverty, drug abuse, bad choices, and any number of other things but until we stop blaming and start taking responsibility for the actions of men nothing will change.
Here’s the catch. Once we begin to address the crime of “buying sex” it starts to become personal. What is going to happen when your boss gets locked up for trying to buy sex from a child? What will happen with your job? What happens when we start changing laws to really go after the perpetrators who are buying sex and raping our children and we suddenly find our doctors, schoolteachers, politicians, co-workers, pastors, friends, and family in jail? Is it still worth fighting for these children or should we just look the other way?
The Chicago Alliance Against Sex Trafficking did a study and found that the #1 deterrent to keep men from buying sex would be public shaming. What if we simply put their guilty faces on a big ole billboard? Are you willing to drive by a picture of your neighbor, brother, father, or even yourself to protect our children? Is it worth that sacrifice? Is it worth the offense, and the hurt of finding out how close to home this issue really is? I think so. I hope so.
Are you willing to take a personal inventory of your life to review how you treat women in general and also how you may inadvertently support CSEC through other forms of the sex industry????
Ok, let’s review: how can men help end CSEC?
Step 1: Stop buying sex from children
Step 2: Educate yourself about the connection between CSEC, the Sex Industry, and our male dominated “rape culture”.
Step 3: Give a damn and be willing to make personal sacrifices.
And then, once you have completed steps 1 through 3 here are some other things that can be done.
- Men can work to change the laws around CSEC. Bang on your local politicians door and demand change. Let’s create harsh penalties for buying sex from children. No more slaps on the wrist, let off with a warning, or diversion training. Let’s make it really hurt.Change the laws around those that are selling sex. Guess what, they aren’t the criminals…they are the victims…and they should be treated as such. But in order to make that happen effectively we will need to have proper victim services in place to help them transition their lives and that takes quite a bit of money so…
- Men can raise money to help fund current programs that are doing direct service work. Places like SARC, The Athena House, Lifeworks, and others.
- Men can be mentors to young children. I can’t emphasize this point enough. Try being a Big Brother or volunteer at the boys and girls club. Read to kids after school. Mentor a kid through life. Invest your time in the life a young boy and you could easily accomplish so much. Your time could keep him from A) Getting stuck in the CSEC life himself. B) Becoming a “Pimp”, or C) from eventually becoming part of the demand problem and buying sex from children. Men are involved in all 3 phases of CSEC so by working with young boys we can affectively cut off the problems before they start.
- Adopt or provide foster care. I know it’s a huge task but can you imagine the difference that would make?
- Join me at SARC in the Education program where we teach middle and high school age kids a CSEC Prevention Course.
Here are some more resources for those interested in learning more:
A short video: The Making of a Girl http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZvnRYte3PAk
A great book: Girls Like Us http://www.amazon.com/Girls-Like-Us-Fighting-Memoir/dp/0061582069
A Powerful Website: Project Unbreakable http://projectunbreakable.tumblr.com
An impactful documentary: Playground http://campaign13.org/playground-the-film/
Get inspired to think outside the box: Exile Poster Project 2011 http://www.exileposterproject.com/posters.html
Men Actually Doing Something: The Epik Project http://www.epikproject.org
Get or Give Support: Sexual Assault Resource Center http://sarcoregon.org
Mentor: Friends of the Children http://friendspdx.org
Seriously go Mentor: Rosemary Anderson High School Mentorship Program http://www.portlandoic.org/rahs/encourage/volunteer