There’s little that makes me want to run out and change the world as much as stories about victims of human trafficking. These stories dig their little hands deep into my soul and twist with a force that refuses to be ignored. Unfortunately, I am not an ex CIA agent with resources or knowledge to organize sting operations like Tim Ballard. No, my contribution is going to be a little more indirect, but it is still an important piece of the puzzle. Rather than rushing into red light districts or trying to start a safe house, I want to share how meeting the emotional needs of our boys will decrease the demand for human sex slaves.
Sex buyers are overwhelmingly male, but clearly little boys are not born desiring illicit sex. Rather sex buyers develop this preference over time as a coping mechanism for emotions they don’t want to feel or because it offers a simple, exciting alternative to emotionally complex and challenging relationships. By improving how we meet the emotional needs of boys, we can decrease the demand for sex services in 3 ways:
1. By Decreasing the Need for Emotion Numbing Activities:
When we encourage and validate boys who reach out for support during difficult emotional times instead of expecting them to “man up”, we teach them to cope by relying on friends and loved ones instead of addictive substances or activities like drugs and pornography.
2. By Promoting Empathy:
Empathy is a skill that can be learned, but boys who experience little compassion from people around them, and boys who are taught to ignore their own feelings have fewer opportunities to learn it. Research has shown men who pay for sex feel little if any empathy toward the prostitutes they patronize (Prostitution Research). By recognizing the emotional experiences of boys and validating their feelings, we can increase opportunities for them to learn how to empathize with others and make prostitution less appealing.
3. By Making Committed Relationships More Satisfying:
A committed relationship will always bring with it complex, emotional challenges. Partners who successfully work through these challenges forge increasingly deeper connections and commitments. The physical expression of those ever increasing connections is a big part of what keeps a long term, monogamous relationship satisfying.
Partners who are unprepared or unwilling to work through emotional challenges often respond by “checking out.” As soon as the novelty wears off, a relationship with one or both partners emotionally checked out becomes unsatisfying. When that happens, some people suffer in silence, some move on and start new relationships, and others try to manufacture the lost excitement with things like pornography or prostitution.
Men who learned and practiced emotional connecting when they were young will have an easier time meeting the complex emotional requirements of a mature relationship and be able to find more satisfaction at home with less need to manufacture excitement elsewhere.
**NOTE: If you want to do something to actively fight human trafficking in the more immediate future, I love this organization. Check them out and consider getting involved.