"Real Men Don’t Buy Girls" - Much ado about nothing?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Hats off to the Demi & Ashton Foundation for their just launched creative advocacy campaign “Real Men Don’t Buy Girls.” One would think that raising awareness around commercial sex trafficking and exploitation is a no-brainer, but there are detractors. While most everyone would agree that the involvement of minors is wrong, there are those who would see campaigns such as this one as going to far in condemning the “commercial sex industry” as a whole.

Here are two common approaches to defending prostitution as a valid institution:

“It’s the World’s Oldest Profession.” I would call this the romanticized view of prostitution. It views the prostitution of women as simply a necessary way the world works, a role that sultry women are destined to fulfill so that boys can be boys. In this view, prostitution is to be winked at and those who oppose are merely opposing a valid profession to fit their Victorian era ends. When one thinks of prostituted women in this way, one thinks of the naughty-but-happy saloon girl who’s partial to the “good guy” in a Western movie.

But the reality is far from romantic. The reasons the vast majority of women end up in prostitution are exploitative, demeaning and oppressive. Naming an oppressive institution simply the “World’s Oldest Profession” dignifies that which robs people of dignity. Slavery and misogynic practices can also be traced to the beginning of human culture. Would we want to defend those as simply “the way things are”? Some words hide the truth rather than reveal it.

“It’s just Free Enterprise at work.” Recently, Lawrence Taylor defended his practice of soliciting prostituted women as, “It’s all clean, you know. I don’t have to worry about your feelings… It’s all clean.” I’m not simply picking on Taylor (and I’m not just saying that because he could crush me). His reasoning unfortunately represents the attitude of many men: “Hey, I’m just a customer. This is a free market exchange. I don’t get entangled in relational and emotional demands, you get your money and it’s all good.” But is this a true portrayal of what’s really going on?

I have some friends that run a “John school,” which is a program for men who are arrested for soliciting a prostituted woman. In exchange for reduced sentencing, these men can choose to attend a Saturday session at the John school. It is there that these men learn the real world of the women they solicit and the transaction they often think of as a “clean exchange.”

To quote from the Renaissance Male Project Inc:

“Many men view prostitution as a “victimless crime.” But it is not. For example, women who are involved in prostitution are at a greater risk to be murdered than women in the general population (Potterat, 2004). Research trafficking. Men can educate themselves about the issues also shows that women involved in prostitution suffer tremendous physical and mental trauma associated with a significant amount of time

Viewing prostitution as a victimless crime or something that women “choose” allows men to ignore the fact that the average age of entry into prostitution in the United States is 13 years old (emphasis mine), and that the vast majority of women engaged in prostitution would like to get out but feel trapped. Men should stop viewing prostitution as a victimless crime and acknowledge the tremendous harm and suffering that their participation in prostitution causes.”

Stories upon stories of tragedy as well as a conglomerate of statistics could be added here. We are at work partnering with others both domestically and internationally to address the commercial sexual exploitation of women and children and have seen these stories first hand. No doubt, the exceptional to the rule can be found and “success” stories of women who choose to participate in industry and then choose to walk away without major harm can be found. But for the vast majority of women and children, lives of abuse, exploitation and oppression at the hands of pimps, traffickers and Johns is the real world for them. Yes, Demi and Ashton, you are correct, real men don’t buy girls.

[Warning: Content may not be suitable for children.]

Lance Robinson


Equitas Group

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