Buyers of trafficking victims can be anyone. Here is why we need to hold them accountable.
The law of supply and demand requires both a buyer and a seller in order for a transaction to occur. The same applies in the sex industry.
We’ve already discussed the typical demographic of sex traffickers––romantic partners, deceitful bosses, and anyone that has convinced victims that they can be trusted––but what about buyers of sex? Who are these people that purchase other people for their own greedy, lustful desires?
The horrible truth is buyers can be anyone. Truck drivers, businessmen, co-workers, doctors, professors, pastors, neighbors, your sibling, your own partner. Demand Abolition reports that as of 2004 16% of American men were reported as having paid for sex, and these numbers have only increased. The average buyer of sex in America is a 49-year-old, married, Caucasian male with a graduate degree, but buyers range from ages 18 to 80 and may be married or unmarried, any race, male or female, and of any socioeconomic status.
As mentioned above, these buyers are often middle-aged. With middle-age typically comes a time when careers level out, romantic relationships reach a stalemate, and children develop into young adults. Sometimes this redundancy in life sends a person looking for adventure to shake things up - it is commonly recognized as a mid-life crisis.
As a result, buyers often turn to sex to comfort themselves. Sometimes, it is because they are looking for sexual intimacy that they do not receive from consensual partners. While other times, it is because they are looking for sexual acts without intimacy, a greater variety in sexual acts in partners, more thrilling sex, or they are coping with personal sickness or mental instability.
The problem here (among many problems) is that only 48% of buyers fear arrest for buying sexual services, and only 1% of buyers are ever actually arrested. Even less than this is the number of buyers who are sentenced to time in prison because programs like “john schools” exist to provide an alternative to a criminal charge.
“John schools” are intended to address the health and legal responsibilities and consequences of johns –– the buyers of sex ––should they continue engaging in commercial sex. Of all john schools, two-thirds are structured as diversion programs, meaning that going through classes dismisses the john’s criminal sentence. The other third are structured to be partial conditions of a criminal sentence, meaning that johns must undergo the john school program adjacent to prison time. And to top it off, john schools are inexpensive –– ranging from $0 to $1,500, averaging around $400 –– and no longer than ten sessions long.
Now, is the time for you to reread the above paragraph, get angry, and return here.
Yes, johns sentenced to criminal charges are only required to sit through up to ten “treatment” sessions before they are released back into society. This means we are letting them go for a very small price without holding them responsible for their crimes.
Buyers may believe they are purchasing sex from adult prostitutes who have chosen the lifestyle, but in fact many of these “prostitutes” are forced into prostitution, making them victims of sex trafficking. And many are not even adults (Two million children are exploited in the global commercial sex trade). For every child, there are up to ten johns buying their sex services daily.
It is not okay for us to sit idly by while criminals are dismissed by “educational programs.” In order for us to stop this kind of criminal activity, we must become informed citizens that share the news with the people around us. We must call our local and state legislators to ask what they are doing to combat human trafficking. We must choose to read the hard articles, the ones that break our hearts, because these stories are still going on around us. We must share these articles so that the individuals who are buying or contemplating buying sexual services will see the damage that sex trafficking causes. We must call out skeptical activity or people we believe to be involved in the sex industry because every tip builds to form a case. We must hold each other accountable because we hope someone would fight this hard for us.
About the Author
Emily James is currently a junior at Azusa Pacific University, pursuing an English degree with a concentration in Writing. She has big plans to travel and see the vibrant colors of the world, and to write of the marginalized and unheard people she meets along her nomad journey (Dressember is fitting!). When she is not in class or working as an elementary reading and writing tutor, she loves to rock climb, hike, read, and watch romance movies with the girls.