1 U.S. Dept of State. "Trafficking in Persons Report." 2005. (accessed Sept 2016).
2 Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development Office of International Justice and Peace . "Background on Human Trafficking January 2014 ." 2014. (accessed Oct 2016).
3 Shared Hope International. "Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking Child Sex Slavery in Broward and Dade Counties, Florida." 2009. (accessed Oct 2016).
4 UNICEF. "End Trafficking." 2016. (accessed Oct 2016).
5 Shared Hope International. "The National Report on Domestic Minor Sex Traffi cking: America’s Prostituted Children." May 2009. (accessed Sept-Oct 2016).
6 Family Safe Media. "Pornography Statistics." 2006. (accessed Sept-Oct 2016).
7 NBC News. "Things Are Looking Up in America's Porn Industry." January 15, 2015. (accessed Oct 2016).
8 CNBC. "Porn's dirtiest secret: What everyone gets paid." Jan 20, 2016. (accessed Oct 2016).
9 Huffington Post. "Child Pornography: Basic Facts About a Horrific Crime." Oct 17, 2013. (accessed Sept-Oct 2016).
10 Family Safe Media. "Pornography Statistics." 2006. (accessed Sept-Oct 2016).
11 Statistic Brain. "Strip Club Statistics." Sept 6, 2016. (accessed Oct 2016).
12 NHTRC. "Hostess/Strip Club-Based." (accessed Oct 2016).
13 Lombard-Latune, Marie-Amélie. "40 à 42 millions de personnes se prostituent dans le monde." Jan 16, 2012. (accessed Oct 2016).
14 Prostitution Research and Education. "Prostitution and Trafficking-Quick Facts." 2012. (accessed Sept-Oct 2016).
THE SEX INDUSTRY
\’sekx in-des-trē\ The commercial enterprises related to sale or purchase of sex-related services, ranging from individual ‘workers’ in prostitution to the pornographic end of the entertainment industry.
In the last decade, the U.S. Department of State estimates that over 20 million women and children have been sold into sexual slavery throughout the world. It is also estimated that between 600,000 and 800,000 men, women, and children are trafficked across international borders each year. 1 We live under the belief that human trafficking is a problem that only affects foreign countries such as Thailand, Russia, Moldova and India; but that is not true. This criminal activity is also thriving and growing right here in the United States. As many as 17,500 people are trafficked into the U.S. each year; 2 of those, approximately 80% are women and children, 70% of which become a part of the commercial sex industry; in numbers, this means nearly 10,000 women and children are sexually exploited upon entering into the United States. This however, does not account for the estimated 100,000-300,000 American children that are at risk of being trafficked within our own boarders every year. 3 The statistics are staggering- the reality unnerving.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reports that human trafficking is one of the fastest growing criminal activities in the world. It is the second largest criminal industry worldwide reaping an estimated $32 billion in the trade of human beings. 4 The growth of the sex trafficking market is a direct response to the expansion of the commercial sex industry. The increase of this criminal activity can best be explained by looking at the problem from a business perspective. Markets exist because buyers demand a product; without the demand of the buyer, these markets collapse. In the commercial sex industry, women and children are the products for sale. Sex trafficking is driven by the demand for the commercial sex acts they perform, and the supply of women and children in the industry serve as the fuel for this criminal slave trade. 5 Therefore, the buyers of commercial sex services present the demand, the traffickers move the products (women and children) to meet this demand, and facilitators allow the trade to occur. As the demand for these products increases, the sex trafficking market becomes the supplier that works to effectively meet the demands of the buyer by increasing the supply of victims. In the end, it is buyer, not necessarily the trafficker, who creates the demand and is ultimately responsible for the sexual exploitation of millions of women and children every year.
We live under the impression that we do not participate in this injustice. We have failed to see how various actions within our society have enabled us to fall prey to a multitude of dangerous activities. It has led us to accept the unacceptable and unwillingly participate in the objectification of the vulnerable within our society. The sex industry is massive, encompassing various forms of “adult entertainment” including pornography, strip clubs and prostitution. However the objectification doesn’t stop there; it is prominent in everyday advertisements for vehicles, food, clothing, and accessories. As a society we’ve become so desensitized that we often look at these things without actually seeing them. This in itself is a problem and we are all unknowingly contributing to it.
Although often overlooked, pornography is a major component of the commercial sex industry. The notion that watching porn is harmless is an erroneous belief. According to Family Safe Media, in 2006, $13.3 billion could be attributed to the sale of pornographic material; this was an almost $1 billion dollar increase from the previous year. 6 However, with the offering of many free porn sites, the porn industry currently brings in between $10 to $12 billion annually. 7 As a society, we glamorize porn stars that are millionaires and we assume that all the women that are a part of this industry are willing participants that want to make a quick buck. This is a misconception. Female performers are paid anywhere from $300 to $1500 per scene. The amount money she makes is dependent upon how extreme of an act she is expected to perform. 8 In actuality, very few porn stars have made it to the million-dollar status and even then, they can only produce a small fraction of the vast amount of pornographic material that is released. Most of the females entering into the porn industry stay an average of 4 to 6 months; usually only long enough to make one film.
The increasing demand of the porn market has dangerous consequences for our most vulnerable populations. Teenagers and children are extremely vulnerable of becoming exploited by the commercial sex industry. In fact, child pornography is one of the fastest growing businesses online, with estimated revenue reaching $3 billion annually. 9 The Association of Sites Advocating Child Protection estimates that the U.S. has the largest share of commercialized child pornography websites with close to 50% of the global volume. According to a report by Family Safe Media in 2006, 20% of all pornographic images on the Internet were of a minor; knowing this, it is not surprising that among the 2006 top adult search requests were 13,982,729 searches for teen sex and 6,130,065 searches for teen porn. 10 In an effort to meet the demand of the buyer, traffickers must coerce or force minors to become a part of the production of pornographic materials.
Pornography isn’t the only pathway to victimization. Strip clubs also play a considerable role in the sex industry. With annual revenue of $3.1 billion, the 4,000 strip clubs within the U.S. employ approximately 400,000 strippers. 11 According to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC), victims of sex trafficking, including women and minors, are frequently recruited to work in strip clubs within the United States. Although, they may be hired as hostesses, servers, or dancers, all are required to provide commercial sex to customers. 12
We have a tendency to think of the sex industry as a synonym for prostitution. Looking at it in this way is not only misleading but also detrimental because we would fail to recognize the billions of dollars generated by strip clubs and pornography- both of which are factors in the victimization of women and children. Still, prostitution plays a huge role in contributing to the market of sexual exploitation. It is estimated that there are between 40 and 42 million prostitutes in the world with one million of those in the U.S. Of the worldwide estimates, 75% are between the ages of 13 and 25, and 80% are female. 13 Many are victims that have fallen under the control of a pimp or trafficker after being forced or coerced into the commercial sex trade. While 85% to 95% of those in prostitution want to escape it, they stay because they are threatened, beaten, or feel they have no other option for survival. 14
It is important to realize that any purchase, no matter how small, contributes to fueling the demand created by the commercial sex industry. Furthermore, it directly or indirectly promotes the trafficking of women and children to become sexual slaves. This is why FIGHT is taking a stand against the commercial sex industry. By raising awareness regarding the link between human trafficking and pornography, we can work together to bring an end to this objectification of women and children; nobody should be seen or treated as property.