Negative effects of sex industry
By K’reisa Cox
Our society is plagued by silence.
There are critical issues going undiscussed that are detrimental to the entire community.
It’s important to track the origins of the darkest scars in our culture, and understand what circumstances allow them to continue.
A key example of this is the cataclysm of sex trafficking, specifically in our area of King County.
What circumstances perpetuate this horrific element of reality?
I would argue that the roots of the problem stem from a societally forced silence on people, mostly men, who struggle with issues that directly lead to extreme forms of oppressive behavior.
Men are not supposed to, and therefore do not, express emotions in social interactions and thus these emotions leak out in powerfully destructive ways.
This opinion is shared by King County Deputy Prosecutor Valiant Richey, as he gave a lecture on campus in Demaray Hall on April 17 about the realities of sex trafficking in the greater Seattle area.
He related the issue of why people buy sex to the rampant levels of pornography addiction, and the lack of men seeking help for these issues.
While I sat and listened, I found the statistics disturbing in ways that made me sick to my stomach.
The reality that victims of traffickers experience is heartbreaking.
The environment these kids grow up in sets them up for exploitation.
Richey revealed that 62 percent of youth in prostitution in King County are homeless, and many are in the foster care system.
The median number of times that a trafficked youth has been moved in their childhood is a shocking 27 times.
These numbers translate to an extremely unstable childhood, marked by anonymity and abandonment, leaving these minors vulnerable to exploitation and eventual manipulation into the sex trafficking market.
Richey explained that the King County Prosecution office has moved from a focus on combating the supply of the sex market to working on abolishing the demand.
He summarized the situation as “you can rescue … all you want,” but pimps will always extort the disadvantaged to produce more supply if there is money to be made.
Therefore, we must stop the demand to kill the market as a whole.
One of the most horrifying statistics of this market is that the majority of buyers in our area are 29 or younger.
This means that this terrible problem is not moving towards a solution, because the young men of our generation are perpetuating it.
Richey explained that only 5 percent of the sex-buyers the county arrests are diagnosed as “deviant,” a classification including violent mental illnesses like psychopaths and pedophiles.
In other words, most of the men who perpetuate this atrocious market are not from the dark recesses of society like many of us would like to believe.
Instead, these men walk among us, living secret lives.
The drive to attain sex on-demand is reflective of a decrease in social interaction and a normalization of isolation.
As Richey said, “sex buyers aren’t just diagnosed labels, they are a part of the community, it is prevalent, not the exception.”
If we want to combat the bigger issues of sex trafficking, we have to start with the everyday components.
According to Richey, almost all of the men arrested for buying sex also struggle with heavy pornography use.
This pattern is another representation of the fact that this issue is widespread and prevalent. Studies show that 14 percent of American men have bought sex at some point in their lives, and up to 79 percent of men watch pornography monthly.
At any given second there are 28,258 people viewing porn online.
It is easy to think that this issue is limited to the individual and the screen.
However, it has many drastic consequences for relationships in the real world. According to Psychology Today, 500,000 marriages that fail annually cite porn usage as a direct cause.
The digital age has caused porn to become easier to access and more prevalent than ever before.
In 2015, Porn Hub reported that people had watched 4,392,486,580 hours of pornography, which they claimed was 2.5 times longer than humans have been on earth.
These statistics reveal a greater root problem with sex and pornography addiction in our society.
Porn usage is compulsive, addictive and desensitizing.
While men are much less likely than women to seek treatment for mental health issues, in some cases only half as likely, 78 percent of suicides in the United States are committed by men according to the Men’s Health Forum.
Gregg Henriques, a psychologist and professor at James Madison University, defines this emotional bondage as “normative male alexithymia.”
This is a clinical sounding term for the fact that the traditional socially masculine role force men to channel their emotions in a way that fits with their masculine identity and limits what they are “allowed” to express.
Pornography addiction has been compared to cocaine addiction by neuroscientists and is as serious of an illness as any other addiction.
Our society can no longer let men struggle with this issue in silence. We have to classify and acknowledge porn addiction in the same way we classify other medically acknowledged addictions.
We have to start making safe, comfortable spaces for men to discuss and combat these issues in relational community with support from both men and women.
College campuses are mission fields for these subjects, as young men in their 20s, the demographic most affected, are concentrated there.
SPU ought to take advantage of the opportunity it has to be a voice for change in rejecting a culture that allows for the abuse of sex, and open up ways for those who are struggling in silence to speak out and get the help that they need.
If we provide constructive outlets for these emotions, it will benefit our community and those surrounding our campus in ways ranging from crime reduction to improved relationships.
Set Free Club, for example, is an on-campus organization that seeks to fight sex trafficking by partnering with local and global organizations that fight slavery through caring for foster children, buying clothing from ethical sources, and numerous other ways.
This club is a resource for people looking to become involved in combating sex trafficking in our city.
If you are personally struggling with addiction, please do not wait to seek help.
There are numerous resources waiting to come alongside you to beat the problem.
No matter your gender, find the right resources to attain sobriety and enjoy the true intimacy the real world has to offer.
Small patterns can translate into big movements.
In the same way that an individual pornography addiction can contribute to a large scale movement of the destructive commercialization of sex, so can one person’s decision to speak out.
Having the courage to ask for help is just as valuable as the courage to create safe spaces to do so.
It’s time to answer the call to courage and leave cowardice and silence behind.
It’s time to create a society of authentic community that provides resources to lift others out of dark places, and in turn create advocates for others that need help in turn.
By starting with issues that affect millions daily, we can begin to change lives permanently and address the larger troubles that plague our world.
K’reisa is a first-year studying business administration.