Today in the United States, literally thousands of young girls and boys are trafficked and sold into prostitution. Worldwide, the number of children being raped for profit (purchased mostly by rich, Western men) is in the millions. While this has captured the attention of the world’s most powerful people, including President Obama, I believe the methods proposed for combating this global atrocity will fall short of their goal unless we rethink our culture’s blatant permissiveness of sexual promiscuity.
On Tuesday morning, the Washington based think-tank, Center for American Progress, hosted a conversation on combating child sex trafficking in the United States. Participants in the conversation were US Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), human rights advocate, Malika Saada Saar, and from New York County District Attorney’s Office Human Trafficking Program, John Temple. Discussion focused on a new bill co-sponsored by Senator Klobuchar which seeks to improve the effectiveness of the States in combating the sex trafficking of children.
Articulated by all panelists, but notably Ms. Saar, was the need for states to prosecute not only the traffickers, but the men who purchase sex from them. The motivation behind this is not ideological, but economic. As long as there is demand (i.e. men seeking to purchase time with young girls) there will be suppliers at the ready. If we target the demand by prosecuting the men who pay traffickers for the opportunity to rape young girls, then demand will fall, and supply along with it. This is very sound economic thinking, and the Republican and Democratic Senators who support this bill are right to think that best the solution is in reducing demand for sex with children. Where, however, the discussion around this issue falls short is in the total failure to recognize, or even contemplate, ways to limit demand outside of legal prosecution.
If the panelists at Tuesday’s discussion are correct in their assertions that the core of this issue is demand for sex with young girls, then it is absolutely necessary to consider all of the ways in which our culture encourages unhealthy sexual indulgence. Unfortunately, we have reached a point in our culture where honest discussion of sexual morality is completely tabooed in public policy making decisions.
On Wednesday night I attended a local government meeting in Washington’s Dupont Circle. I watched as the members of the Advisory Neighborhood Commission struggled to find substitute terms for “strip-club”while they debated when to allow a new strip-club to open in their neighborhood. At the highest levels of government, terms like “prostitution” are being substituted for terms like “sex-work” in order to sound less judgmental towards women who engage in prostitution. (see Friday Fax published by C-FAM last month). We have decided as a nation, for reasons good and bad, that personal sexual behavior is completely outside the realm of public discussion, and publicly, we cannot pass anything close to a judgment on matters related to sexual morality.
We are constantly being fed messages that actively encourage sexual promiscuity. Since my internet browser knows I am a 20 year old male, every time I log onto Facebook I am bombarded with advertisements featuring half-naked women. Every time I use the internet I’m never more than a few clicks away from a porn site. As an unmarried Christian, I have never had sex before, but as a college student, I am embarrassed to admit that. Sexual conquest is a mark of manhood in our culture, and even as a devout Christian, I am effected by those pressures.
Sex is addictive, just like a drug. In the same way that the body reacts to addictive drugs, the body craves more sex the more the sexual impulse is indulged. When Christ said that “anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart,” he was attempting to hold the men of Israel to a higher standard of sexual morality than explicitly dictated by the Mosaic law. I believe he was also giving us a warning against sexual indulgence, because of how easily we can become consumed by it.
In what world do we expect to effectively dissuade men from seeking the only sexual behavior we find offensive, sex with trafficked children, when we actively encourage men to seek out any other sexual behavior that suits their fancy? To clarify, I am not saying that sexual promiscuity is the root of all evil. What I am saying is that policy makers are shooting themselves in the feet when they pretend that one form of sexual promiscuity is completely unrelated to another.
We have a very serious problem on our hands in this country and in the world: millions of children are being raped for profit. We owe it to these children to think critically, and honestly, about how we encourage sexual promiscuity, and maybe completely reorient how we look at sex.