When discussing sex trafficking, there are three things that are not up for debate. Sex trafficking is a dehumanizing crime, it needs to end, and to make it stop permanently, we need to fight the demand.
Easier said than done, right? Human trafficking, child exploitation, and women’s organizations regularly campaign to stop the demand with perhaps the most famous slogan being #RealMenDontBuyGirls (an unintentionally shaming phrase, we might add). Awareness is raised, minds are changed, but trafficking increases.
We live in a world that needs to see concrete numbers to legitimize an issue. Unfortunately, since sex trafficking and sexual exploitation are underground businesses, 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 porn was largely connected to or included in their trafficking or exploitation.
Here are just a few broad stats taken from a recent Business Insider piece.
10 quick stats about sex trafficking today
1. Human trafficking wasn’t illegal until 2000, when the Trafficking Victims Protection Act was passed, which made it a federal crime.
2. The United States, along with Mexico and the Philippines, was ranked one of the world’s worst places for human trafficking in 2018. In the US, there is no official number of human trafficking victims, but estimates place it in the hundreds of thousands.
3. Since 2007, more than 49,000 cases of human trafficking in the US have been reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, which receives an average of 150 calls per day.
4. The most human trafficking cases have been reported in California, Texas, and Florida, according to the hotline. Las Vegas is also a hot spot due to the city’s culture and high rates of homelessness. But every state in the US has reports of human trafficking.
5. It is estimated that between 18,000 and 20,000 victims are trafficked into the United States every year.
Source: Women’s Center
6. Children are more vulnerable than adults. They’re easier to control, cheaper, and less likely to demand working conditions, researchers explained. More than 300,000 young people in the US are considered “at-risk” of sexual exploitation.
Source: US Department of Health
7. Children raised in foster care have a greater chance of becoming victims. In 2013, 60% of child victims the FBI recovered were from foster care. In 2017, 14% of children reported missing were likely victims of sex trafficking, and 88% of those had been in child welfare, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reported.
8. Native American women are at particular risk. In 2016, a reported 506 Native American women disappeared or were killed in American cities. In Phoenix, another of the top trafficking jurisdictions in the US, it was estimated that 40% of sex trafficking victims in 2015 were Native American.
9. In 2016, after US Immigration and Customs arrested 2,000 human traffickers and identified 400 victims, airlines started training staff to spot signs of human traffickers. Some of the signs that someone is a victim are not being in control of their own boarding pass or money and if they seem “disoriented and lost.”
10. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children said 73% of 10,000 child sex trafficking reports it received per year involved ads from Backpage.
Source: Washington Post
If you or someone you know is a victim of human trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.
Porn is part of trafficking, too
As you can see from above, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 was a major move in US legislation that identified different forms of human trafficking, set harsh criminal penalties for offenders, and provided support for victims. It defines sex trafficking as a situation in which “a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age.”
This definition allows for many different sex trafficking scenarios that may not get as much news coverage to be prosecuted. Those unfamiliar with this issue, may imagine the Hollywood situations, such as a girl or boy kidnapped in a foreign country, chained and forced into prostitution. Or boys and girls from a foreign country smuggled into the US and similarly abused.
These stories do exist. They are real, but they aren’t the only scenarios.
Because of the variety of circumstances in which sex trafficking occurs, there are many contributing causes subject to differences in cultures, economies, political influences and legislation to name a few. For example, Europe has seen a rise in sex trafficking of refugees whereas the child cybersex industry has grown in the Philippines.
Issues of poverty and power are commonly intertwined in sex trafficking, not to mention porn.
It is a controversial argument, we know, but we hope to change that as more research points to porn as a hugely fueling factor to this existing issue.
How porn affects the supply and demand for exploitation
Porn directly influences the supply and demand of sex trafficking. Studies have shown that exposure to porn can make a person less compassionate toward victims of sexual violence and exploitation. Then from there, consuming porn can increase a consumer’s desire to seek out and perform their fantasies. This is most clearly demonstrated in the “teen” porn genre, which has ranked within Pornhub’s top ten most searched for terms since 2009. A common storyline involves a teenage girl (or woman who appears younger) being taken advantage of by an older male. It glorifies and encourages a toxic fantasy.
Building on the consumer’s desire to act out what they’ve seen is the “training manual” connection, in which sex buyers have their victim watch a video in preparation for a reenactment to fulfill porn-inspired fantasies. Ultimately a porn director’s fantasy becomes a trafficking victim’s reality.
Of course, not only does porn influence the demand and behavior of sex trafficking, the sad truth is that sometimes porn is a record that sex trafficking took place.
Consider all the facts before consuming
There is no easy call to action to end sex trafficking. Tackling this industry would need the full help of governments all over the world to enforce laws and protect the vulnerable, just to get started.
How do you kill an industry? Well, if no one wants to buy a product, then it doesn’t sell. Stopping the demand for sex trafficking starts with each one of us. If you hate the idea of sex trafficking, if it is shocking and horrible to you, then consider what millions of people visually consume around the world every day.
And ultimately, does porn drive the demand for sex trafficking? Hopefully, now you know the answer.