I'm really grateful for people like Rachel Lloyd, who transform their suffering into service. Lloyd herself was commercially sexually exploited as a teenager. When she was free, she created GEMS--Girls Educational and Mentoring Service, an organization that helps girls and young women in the same position.
Two splinters from the Forbes interview with Rachel Lloyd lodged themselves in my mind, and a sharp, un-ignorable pain shoots through me every time they're brushed against. First, that "In the United States, the average age of entry into prostitution is 13 years old." Thirteen. So painfully young. Average. There are girls even younger being exploited.
Second, this Q&A segment:
"A recent study cites that 20% of men who’ve bought sex know that they are buying someone or something trafficked illegally against her will and over 40% believe it causes psychological and physical harms. So why do they participate in it?
The truth is that they don’t care.
They’re getting their sexual gratification met. And to them, that’s your job, that’s what they see. That’s what you’re there for. A lot of those men feel like there will always be a population of women who may have had horrible lives or whatever, but they’re there to meet your sexual needs. The lack of empathy is really appalling.
One of my girls was recently in a situation with a pimp on the west coast where she wanted to escape but she couldn’t. We’d gotten her a plane ticket, and a john came, so the pimp left the hotel room. And the girl said to the john, “Look, I really want to leave, can you help me get to the airport?” And he said to her, “Well can’t [your pimp] drive you?” She was like “No, that’s the point, I need to get away from this.
In the end he did end up taking her and she made it home. But I wonder if, after this experience—he’s just bought a girl who after they were done said “ I don’t want to be doing this, and I need you to help me get away from the man you just bought me from”—does that change his mind? Or does he just go and buy a different girl the next week?
So who is a bigger problem? Who’s the bad guy? The pimp or the john?
I think in terms of business, the demand side of any industry is what keeps it going and what keeps it profitable.
We’ve started seeing pimps slowly being held accountable and being prosecuted, but we have so far to go towards seeing johns as a part of the problem. People get that pimps are violent, but the idea that these regular men are villains… These are fathers and brothers and husbands, we know them, we work with them, we go home to them, and yet they’re going out and buying girls and women for sex." (End excerpt).
This is the study that Megan Casserly, the interviewer, refers to. It has a fairly reader friendly format, unlike some study reports. But I couldn't read it all. Grazing through it, I felt my body stiffening, tears forming, and nausea rising. I am not a man hater. I love men, and I think they are capable of so much good. But just as much as I know there is a God in heaven, I know there is a devil. And I know that he twists the minds of men and women as much as he possibly can. I know that sex is absolutely sacred. When I read over that study, I don't see evil people. I see dark, twisted counterfeits of love and intimacy created by the adversary of all humanity.
I think the influence of pornography in this issue cannot be denied. It's seen as normal, socially acceptable, for a man to look at pornography. As long as it's normal for sexual pleasure to be bought, to be severed from any meaningful relationship at all, then men will continue to seek out prostitutes. Why would they be satisfied with fantasy when they can shell out a few dollars and make it real? And why would it matter that a woman, a human being, is being raped when she has become just a product to them? A box of cereal, as one man in the study said.
And of course there's the idea that every adult, every man especially, needs to be having sex or he's not really "a man." What's a guy supposed to do if he's not in a relationship, or if he can't find some willing woman who's as desperate for sex as he is? Maybe he can masturbate, but how long will that really be enough? Why not just pay for sex?
There are such poisonous ideas about sexual need. I know from experience that it is possible to have a long and fulfilling relationship with someone with no sex. Nick and I dated since we were sixteen and married when we were 22. We were even completely separated from each other for two whole years, and our love just grew stronger. Is our relationship different, deeper, even more fulfilling now that we're married and intimacy is a part of it? Yes, of course. But for us, marriage was the tipping point, the lowest common denominator of commitment and closeness in our relationship that was required for sex. Maybe for animals sex is just this intense, selfish need that they must have met as soon as they are physically mature. But I think human beings can and should do better than masturbating, porn, and prostitution. I'm sorry, but I don't think sex outside of a committed relationship is an awesome thing that ought to keep going forever in our culture. I don't think sexual need should be seen as such an uncontrollable part of someone that they've got to go out and exploit a sex worker.
Are there women who choose to be prostitutes? Sure. But the concepts of sexual need in our culture make it so that for most men, it doesn't matter whether the woman has chosen to be a prostitute or not. It doesn't matter if she's being abused and held captive. All that matters is that he has the need and the money, and she has the body.