Earlier this month, special undercover agents in Tennessee posed as underage girls and posted fake ads for sex on Backpage.com. Then, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) waited for responses from buyers. It only took 3 days to get 12 responses.
A dozen men had taken the bait, and 11 were arrested and charged with felonies for intending to purchase illicit sex from a juvenile.
The local news station reported that those arrested in the sting included unsuspecting people like a local middle school coach, a church youth leader, a volunteer firefighter, an EMT, and an Uber driver.
“Of the 11 men who showed up seeking sex with a minor, 3 of them wanted to purchase sex from a 16-year-old,” TBI Deputy Director Jason Locke said. “We will continue to conduct these operations across the state and do whatever it takes to bring those trafficking women and children, as well as those supplying the demand, to justice.”
TBI Director Mark Gwyn said, “Many still think this is something that just happens in big cities. The results of this operation prove that’s not the case.”
Shining A Light on Trafficking
We bring this issue to light because awareness is a powerful tool in this fight against sexual exploitation. The fact is, this issue is not only global—it’s local. And we can’t tell you how many people don’t believe us when we tell them one of the negative aspects of pornography is how it fuels the demand for prostitution and human sex trafficking. Or that sex trafficking happens here, in the United States, in communities just like yours.
And on top of the disbelief, we live in a world that needs to see hard numbers to legitimize an issue. Unfortunately, since sex trafficking is an underground business, those numbers are hard to come by. But a lot of what we do know about the current state of the industry comes from survivors, and they have a lot to say about how widespread this issue is, and how porn was largely connected to or included in their trafficking.
– By some estimates, 4.8 million people are trapped or forced into sexual exploitation globally. (International Labor Organization)
– In one survey, 63% of underage sex trafficking victims said they had been advertised or sold online. (Thorn)
– Sex trafficking is big business—it generates $99 billion annually, just from commercial sexual exploitation alone. (International Labor Organization)
Here’s a real life example. In the Netherlands, investigators were able to calculate the profit generated by two sex traffickers from a number of victims. One trafficker earned $18,148 per month from four victims (for a total of $127,036) while the second trafficker earned $295,786 in the 14 months that three women were sexually exploited according to the OSCE.
What does any of this have to do with porn? It means that exploiting vulnerable people for profit in the sex industry is a sure way to make a lot of money. And seeing as the porn industry is worth an estimated $97 billion on its own, it’s clear why many traffickers choose to capitalize on the opportunity.
The Connection Between Porn, Prostitution, and Trafficking
According to anti-trafficking nonprofit, Rescue:Freedom, in 9 countries, 49% of trafficking survivors said that pornography was made of them while they were in prostitution, and 47% said they had been harmed by men who had either forced or tried to force their victims to do things the men had seen in porn.
The reality is that prostitution, sex trafficking, and porn are more closely linked than society would believe. The truth is that sex trafficking is a global issue, and it is only made worse by pornography. Any form of sexual exploitation only fuels the demand for the sex trade as a whole.
In the end, porn fuels prostitution; and porn and prostitution are the products the sex trade exists to deliver.
Now, we’re not claiming that all porn is nonconsensual. We’re just pointing out that some of it is and some of it isn’t, and when you watch it there’s no real way to know which is which.
And because porn is tied to exploitation, we fight to bring awareness to the fact that porn isn’t harmless entertainment, and the porn industry wouldn’t be where it is today without sex trafficking and prostitution.
Why This Matters
If this news story shows us anything, it’s that trafficking is everywhere. It’s in our local neighborhoods, our communities, and even in the people we interact with in regular everyday life. And because of that, each one of us has a responsibility to know the facts, and spot the signs when we see them. Education is power in this fight for love and healthy relationships.
Take up the challenge to be aware and bold in ending the demand for sexual exploitation.
What YOU Can Do
Sex trafficking is a local issue, as well as an international one. SHARE this article and get the word on porn’s connection to sexual exploitation.
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