Too often when we think about human trafficking, and sex trafficking in particular, we think of it as a problem "out there." But this year, for the first time, the U.S. State Department included the U.S. in its annual report on trafficking, admitting that it is a grave problem in the U.S. as well.
Jewel Woods, Executive Director of The Renaissance Male Project, is trying to combat that myth. Woods recently began promoting RMP's efforts to address the role of the US in trafficking.
They recently produced a brochure: "Ten Things Men and Boys Can Do to Stop Human Trafficking." Woods co-chairs the Ohio attorney general's "Ohio Trafficking In Persons Study Commission Demand Reduction Sub-Committee." I asked Woods why the RMP, located in Columbus Ohio, has made this a major focus of its work these days:
"Toledo, Ohio has the dubious distinction of being one of four cities to lead the nation in the number of domestic minors involved in human trafficking...we realizes we need to deal with the demand-side of human trafficking because no one was dealing with it. We started working with the Lucas County Human Trafficking Coalition about a year ago, and RMP just started our first John School in Toledo."
The reality is, as Woods succinctly puts it, "there would be no human trafficking if there were was no demand for it!" That is why we need to target boys and men. Woods charges "we need to turn male spaces into circles of accountability where men learn about non-violence, social justice, and ending violence against women." And that is just what the RMP is doing.
The following list has been adapted from the RMP brochure, and suggests specific actions that men and boys can take to end this atrocity that is occurring here in the United States and around the world. (Contact RMP for the brochure and other resources)
1. CHALLENGE THE GLAMORIZATION OF PIMPS IN OUR CULTURE
Mainstream culture and the music industry have popularized the image of a pimp to the point that some men and boys look up to pimps as if they represent legitimate male role models and view "pimping" as a normal expression of masculinity. In reality, pimps play a central role in human trafficking and cause tremendous harm by routinely raping, beating, and terrorizing women and girls to keep them locked in prostitution.
2. CONFRONT THE BELIEF THAT PROSTITUTION IS A "VICTIMLESS CRIME"
Many men view prostitution as a "victimless crime." But it is not. For example, women who are involved in prostitution are at greater risk to be murdered, and suffer
tremendous physical and mental trauma. The average age of entry into prostitution in the United States is 13 years old.
3. STOP PATRONIZING STRIP CLUBS
Strip clubs in the United States and abroad may be a place where human trafficking victims go unnoticed or unidentified. Men rarely consider whether women working in strip clubs are coerced into that line of work, because to do so would conflict with the pleasure of participating in commercialized sex venues. Strip clubs--like brothels-- are the most popular venues where the purchase of sexual services from women occurs the most.
4. DON'T CONSUME PORNOGRAPHY
Pornography manipulates male sexuality, popularizes unhealthy attitudes towards sex and sexuality, and eroticizes violence against women. Pornography leads men and boys to believe that certain sexual acts are normal, when in fact sexual acts that are non-consensual, offensive and coupled with violent intent result in the pain, suffering, and humiliation of women and children. In addition, a disproportionate amount of mainstream pornography sexualizes younger women with such titles as "teens", "barely 18", "cheerleaders," etc. Victims of human trafficking have also been forced into pornography. Men can stop the voyeurism of sex and sex acts that fuel human trafficking by refusing to consume pornography and encourage others to do the same.
5. TACKLE SEXISM ONLINE
Men spend a significant amount of time online discussing their sexual exploits. The internet provides many men with the ability to mask their identities while indulging in racist, sexist, and violent diatribes against women and girls. Choosing to be a critical voice online is an extremely important way to educate and inform men and boys about their choices.
6. END SEX TOURISM
Men in the United States routinely travel overseas and have sex with women in developing countries. When men engage in these practices, they do not acknowledge the fact that many trafficked women and children come from developing countries-- even in countries where prostitution is "legal."
7. TALK TO MEN AND BOYS ABOUT MEN'S ISSUES IN MALE SPACES
The only way to change men is by engaging spaces where men and boys talk and develop their ideas and attitudes towards sex and sexuality. Males spaces such as barbershops, locker rooms, fraternities, and union halls are the real classrooms where boys learn to become men and where men develop most of their ideas about how to interact with women. If men do not feel comfortable talking about these issues in male spaces, they can drop off informational brochures and make themselves available to talk with other men and boys when they have questions
8. SUPPORT ANTI-HUMAN TRAFFICKING POLICIES
One of the most important acts men can do to stop human trafficking is to support
anti-trafficking legislation at the local, state and federal level. Many states have no anti-trafficking legislation.
9. SUPPORT CREATION OF "JOHN SCHOOLS"
Strategies aimed at ending human trafficking must focus on eliminating the demand. "John Schools" are education programs designed to educate customers apprehended by law enforcement who attempted to purchase sex. By teaching the legal and health effects of buying sex and the realities of prostitution, such schools impart knowledge that can reduce demand, making men consciousof how their actions can spur on human trafficking. Learn whether or not your local community has a John School. If not, encourage your local prosecutor's office or city counsel to start one.
10. RAISE SONS AND MENTOR BOYS TO CHALLENGE OPPRESSION
No boy is destined to be a "john", a pimp, or a human trafficker. Raising young men in circles of accountability, to be respectful and protective of all women and children is one of the most important things men can do to stop human trafficking.