Movies and TV shows make jokes about paying for sex, like it’s a “victimless crime” that happens “somewhere else.” Considering the cultural climate of our world, it is not a stretch to call these women names; we call them “prostitutes” or “hookers” and not so indirectly, we call them disposable.
Prostitution is defined as an adult who is doing sexual acts, erotic dance or having pornographic images taken in exchange for anything of value, including money, food, shelter, protection or drugs. Sex trafficking is the term we use when adults or children are compelled through force, fraud or coercion to do sexual acts, erotic dance, or have pornographic images taken in exchange for anything of value, (as above, including money, food, shelter, protection or drugs) for the benefit of a third party. The difference between the two definitions is that “prostitutes” look like entrepreneurs, making their own choices and livelihood while those that are trafficked are victims of coercion.
The average age women enter into the sex industry in Minnesota is between 12 to 14-years-old. By law, they are not old enough to consent to a sexual act in the first place, thus taking away any choice the minor has in the matter. An estimated 75 percent of women and girls who are prostituted or exploited are being controlled by a trafficker known as a “pimp” or a “boyfriend.” Also, 89 percent of women and girls being prostituted want out but don’t know where to go for help. These findings alone should be enough to say that prostitution and sexual exploitation are not choices anyone willingly makes.
As individuals, we can turn our backs on pornography and we can challenge practices like bachelor parties and birthday celebrations at strip clubs. We can talk with our children about how the word “pimp” is not funny. The biggest thing we can do is to believe that sexual exploitation happens and to begin looking beyond the disguise. Our women and children are not disposable. We must educate ourselves and take care of each other.
Learn more at Kelly Brevig’s The Bemidji Pioneer article: Prostitution is not a victimless crime.