Well would you look at that, here for just a few days, and I already have a guest post–feelin’ the love ya’ll! Below is a post to all of the men who have ever said “yeah, exploiting children is wrong, but I don’t do it so what else can I do to stop it?” Thanks to my good friend, JohnPaul Morton who resides in Portland, OR and spends his free time mentoring a high school student, teaching sexual violence prevention classes in middle schools, and having a ridiculous amount of fun with his own three kids & fabulous wife!
April is sexual assault awareness month and so I’d like to spend some time answering the question, “What can men do to help end the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC)?” Men, if you want to make a difference but don’t know how I have a few ideas for you.
Starting with STEP 1:The first thing and the most important thing men can do to help end CSEC is to stop buying children for sex. No, seriously. If we could do this one, seemingly simple 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. Many of the young boys and girls involved in CSEC are also manipulated into the world of porn. 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.
Keep this thought in mind: “SHE’S YOUNGER THAN SHE LOOKS”. Experts across the country say the average age of entry into the sex industry is 12-14. So if she looks young… well…imagine how young she may actually be.
Ok, so now we need to move further out to step 3 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 women’s sexual needs the same as men’s? 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.
Also, 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 hear 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.
1. Men can work to change the laws around CSEC. Change the laws and create harsh penalties for those buying sex from children.
2. Men can raise money to help fund current programs that are doing direct service work.
3. Men can be mentors to young children. I can’t emphasize this point enough. Try being a Big Brother. 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.
4. Adopt or provide foster care. I know it’s a huge task but can you imagine the difference that would make?
5. Speak up and Speak Out. Use social media to spread the call for change. Men, we need your voice.
Here are some more resources for you:
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 (**TRIGGER** warning) 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