How the Rise of the Internet Has Affected Sex Trafficking and How to End It
Trigger Warning: This episode contains frank discussions of sexual abuse and sex trafficking. Listener discretion is advised.
Taina Bien-Aimé is the Executive Director of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW), one of the oldest international organizations dedicated to ending trafficking in women and girls and commercial sexual exploitation as practices of gender-based violence and discrimination. Speaking from 30 years of experience in women’s rights and equality, Taina discusses how the rise of online pornography has affected sex trafficking and sexual exploitation. Taina draws the links between pornography and gender-based violence, how the majority of sex buyers are men, and how porn teaches girls to be submissive and boys to exert power over girls. Taina helps us understand the increase of online sexual exploitation and what we can do to end it.
FROM THIS EPISODE
Fight The New Drug (00:01):
Taina Bien-Aimé has been working in the field of women’s rights and equality for 30 years. She was a founding board member of Equality Now, the largest international women’s rights organization, which focuses on all forms of violence and discrimination against women today. Taina Bien-Aimé is the executive director of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, one of the oldest international organizations dedicated to ending trafficking in women and girls and commercial sexual exploitation as practices of gender-based violence and discrimination. Taina discusses how the rise of online pornography has affected sex trafficking and sexual exploitation. Taina draws the links between pornography and gender-based violence, how the majority of sex buyers are men, and most victims of sexual violence are women and girls. Taina helps us understand the increase of online sexual exploitation, how the survivor-led movement is helping change attitudes and policies, and what we can do to help end sexual exploitation. With that, let’s jump into the conversation. We hope you enjoy this episode of Consider Before Consuming.
Fight The New Drug (01:13):
Thank you so much for being here with us today and giving us some of your time. I have to tell you, the last time I was able to speak with you was at a Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation Summit several years ago, and I think it was one of my favorite interviews we’ve ever been able to do, but we were so short on time, so I’m so excited to have more time to speak with you today.
Taina Bien-Aimé (01:34):
Oh, no, thank you so much. Thank you for having me. It’s such an honor to be part of this youth movement to, and online sexual exploitation and to really make people aware of how, how harmful pornography is, so thank you so much for your work.
Fight The New Drug (01:49):
Thank you. Well, before we jump in too much to kind of some of the specifics, do you mind telling our audience, our listeners a little bit about the breadth of work you have done over these past few decades and kind of how you got involved in this work?
Taina Bien-Aimé (02:07):
It’s a, it’s a long story cause I, thankfully I’ve been around for a very long time. I’ve been doing this work for about 30 years, officially. But, I mean, my background is I’m a first generation New Yorker. My parents came from Haiti, and, you know, I’ve always had a sense of how important women’s rights were, girls rights, girls education. My grandmother was a suffragette in Haiti. And so from a very young age, it was very clear to me that I had a responsibility to continue the struggle, for equality for women and girls and to obviously use my privilege and, and the education that, they sacrificed to give me in order to improve the situation for women and girls and to seek justice, and equality for all. So, you know, I just went on my merry way until, I graduated from, from graduate school in international studies, and then I was traveling with, a dean from, from a graduate school in, in Alabama, and he said, you should try to go to law school.
And I was like, law school? No, I wanna do a PhD in comparative literature. And lo and behold, I went to law school, after which I was at a Wall Street law firm where I met, this, colleague named Jessica Newk, who had just come back from Amnesty International, or had left Amnesty International, I should say, had started what is now the Women’s Rights Division of Amnesty. And this is 1992. So this is before the whole concept of women’s rights or human rights was coined. It was before anything that happened to women and girls because they were born females such as female gention or, or prostitution or child marriage or even domestic violence or sexual violence. So Jessica said, we should start an organization that is based on sort of the Amnesty International Framework, but just for women and girls. And, didn’t even have a name for it.
She said, let’s call it Equality No, I said, that’s a terrible name. And so that’s how really, I started officially as a board member, as a founding board member of Equality Now, which is now the largest international women’s rights organization. and we focused on all forms of violence and discrimination against women. And when we wanted to focus on sex trafficking, because the, the issue of sex trafficking is so complex, it’s so broad. We’re dealing with many, many countries with complex situations, with organized criminal networks and corruption of governments, et cetera. We thought, what can a tiny organization do to, bring awareness about the commercial sexual exploitation and the trafficking of women and girls? And we looked to the Coalition Against Trafficking and women who at the time was four years old. So CATW was formed in 1988. And so, that’s how it all started.
Fight The New Drug (05:07):
It’s so interesting to hear how you got into this work. And I’m so curious to know how, throughout the years that you’ve been doing this work, what is the evolution of this sexual exploitation look like? You were just talking about what happened pre-internet, but now with the internet, what is, what is the landscape that you’re kind of navigating today in the work that you are doing?
Taina Bien-Aimé (05:25):
So, people often ask me and my other colleagues who started this work in the late eighties, early nineties, like, how do you compare? And there is no comparison really, because when we started our work, it was pre-internet. the concept of human trafficking wasn’t even, an established legal term. I mean, yes, there were international conventions on, on trafficking, but there were no US federal laws on trafficking that happened in 2000. The Palmer Protocol, which is the international, covenant that defines what human trafficking is, is also, a 2000 law. And so people really didn’t understand what human trafficking was. And even when we started working on the New York State Human Trafficking law, what the legislators would tell us is, we have rape laws, we have coercion laws, we have kidnapping laws. Like why would, why would we need a human trafficking?
So you had that whole sort of, period where there was a lot of education. now with the internet, it’s a totally different ballgame where I don’t think anyone anticipated. In 1996 when the Communications Decency Act came and said that basically websites can do anything they want at all times with no accountability for third party, materials, that we would now be in a world where pornography was ubiquitous, that any eight or nine or 10 or 12 year old child with a phone or with a friend who has a computer could have access to pornography. you don’t need to go to a sex tour agency to, to have a sex tour organized. You just go online and hook up with a local pimp and you could just go and exploit and rape the most vulnerable human beings on the planet who are mostly, young women and girls.
And so now we are dealing with a situation that is almost, I don’t wanna say insurmountable, because we wouldn’t do this work unless we, we had the hope that things could change. But law enforcement cannot keep up with the level of, of, sexual exploitation that is happening online, the level of grooming that is happening online. And it’s not a situation now that we can, get out of by prosecuting traffickers or, or pimps or third party exploiters. It really is a cultural issue. It’s a, it’s a cultural war, and it’s extremely diffi difficult to put the, how to say it, to put the, the, the horse back in the barn where I stand anyway. And I’m sure you feel the same way. It’s just, it’s, it’s almost ground zero when it comes to, a culture of quantification, of objectification, of commodification, particularly of girls. But why are we in a situation where the fastest growing, group of detected trafficking victims are girls at 23% versus 7% boys?
Fight The New Drug (08:29):
I mean, so much of what you said is so important. A lot of people don’t realize how inseparably connected pornography is to all of these, this broader lens of sexual exploitation. Right. And as you just mentioned, there are ways people are exploited through pornography. There are ways pornography is teaching people to exploit other people. So can you speak a little bit to first maybe specifically how people can be exploited in the pornography industry, including people who may be willingly enter the industry?
Taina Bien-Aimé (09:02):
So I usually like to start with vocabulary, like what does pornography mean? now we, now it’s become a, a, a synonym to sort of erotic pleasure or sex positivity, which is a term that was coined by the pornography industry itself. People don’t really know that. So in the seventies, the people who wanted to promote the sex trade, and by sex trade, I mean this multi-billion dollar global industry that includes pornography, prostitution, escorting, sugar, daddy, the, the, the works. So pornography literally means taking the word from a Greek, origins, the depiction of a female slave. So porn a means a prostituted woman, an enslaved female in prostitution. And then obviously graphs is it’s depiction, which is radically different than erotica, which comes from the, Roman god of love arrows. And so now we’ve combined both. And so people get confused that pornography is something other than, prostitution on screen.
I mean, I think with, of all the survivors I’ve spoken with, rare are those who didn’t say that there was a camera in the room. if you look at who is in pornography, who were the producers, were the exploiters. They are the same as the pimps and traffickers, you know, quite tragically, this was before my time, but in the seventies when feminists were trying to get pornography to be recognized as a, as a civil rights violation against women in particular and failed. And I think if those debates came up now, I think we would probably have better arguments to show. and it’s not too late.
Fight The New Drug (10:52):
In your work where you’re dealing with prostitution, is pornography used within prostitution often to groom individuals for what a sex buyer wants? Or in what ways is pornography being used on that side of, the exploitation of individuals?
Taina Bien-Aimé (11:11):
There’s so many levels. I mean, we say pornography is just prostitution on screen. There’s really no difference. but what we’ve been seeing in the last decade, and, and you are probably much more of an expert on this than I am, is sort of the, what people call revenge porn, which is a horrible term, but I think, the, the ability to film anyone in, in a sexual, interaction, whether, whether the purpose was pornographic or not, then becomes pornography once you, once you upload it, and then the whole fear and the coercion and the threats, the ability of an exploiter to, or, you know, just a friend or somebody you thought was your friend to then start, blackmailing you. But again, I think we are now at a crossroads cause it is, it’s such an epidemic and it has deadly consequences or, you know, lifelong, pervasive harmful consequences that, legislators are starting to think about it.
Educators are starting to think about it not as much as we’d like them to. again, I remember when my sons were in high school, especially my youngest son, and at every PTA meeting, I would bring up the issue of porn when they were in high school, because inevitably you always had a boy who would send what was known as dick pics or they would threaten girls. they would take pictures of them and then say, if you don’t date me, I’ll hurt you. And parents were just not willing to talk about it. The educators of the school administrators were not willing to talk about it. And, you know, 20% of the boys of that 10th grade class were expelled for, for something or other, that had to do with sexual harassment or, or threats of sexual violence. And yet there was still this, this incredible reluctance to talk about the effects of pornography on these children.
The Center for Disease Control just came out with a report this week, two days ago, on February 12th or 13th, saying that one in five girls will have experienced sexual violence or has experienced sexual violence, which is an increase of 20% since 2017. And that three in five girls feel persistently sad and hopeless, which is a exponential increase, from just, you know, less than 10 years ago. And what the CDC numbers show us is that girls at our particular risk, because as we know, what pornography teaches, our kids is for, for girls to learn how to so-called enjoy, subordination and, and, and enjoy sexual dominance. And, for the boys, it’s just a very warped sense of how do I exercise my power and, and control over another human being for my sexual pleasure. It’s a very, very concerning time for parents of young children to try to navigate, what is happening right now online, and not just online, I mean in, in Hollywood as well.
Fight The New Drug (14:22):
I think it, it is so interesting because we do hear from parents who don’t know how to address these topics with their kids, but I think the bigger issue we see is the gap in knowledge between what parents think pornography is and what it actually is today, or what this exploitative content is today is the, the gap is just getting wider and wider. And you mentioned quote, revenge pornography. You mentioned sort of to an extent sexting or issues that so many schools are dealing with right now. And earlier you spoke a little bit about how pornography is influencing some of these behaviors, but I know a lot of your work focuses on gender-based violence, and can you talk a little bit about how pornography perpetuates this gender-based violence and encourages some of these things to happen?
Taina Bien-Aimé (15:12):
I say if a martian came down and knew nothing about the sex trade pornography, prostitution, like nothing, and you showed it just one cartoon, and on one side you’d have, 99.9% of sex buyers as men. And then on the other 99% of the people who are bought and sold are, are being women and girls. Now, you know, there’s a sprinkling of men, boys, you know, transgender and gender nonconforming youth as well, but that cartoon is one side men and one side women. What’s wrong with that picture? You don’t need to have any type of ideology on anything, but there’s, there is, the picture is worth a thousand words, right? If you look at how pornography is portrayed or done or executed, it really is about sexual dominance and sexual violence primarily, by a male figure over a feminized figure, right? A female body.
No one talks about sort of the direct medical impact or physical consequences of getting, triply, you know, penetrated, anally, vaginally, orally, how that woman’s body is destroyed. I mean, just physically destroyed after three months of filming, or where this woman came from. and then the, the, the other part is adding to sort of the, the pure, it’s pure misogyny is what it is, because what it does is that it reduces, women in particular to a commodity that can be consumed with no regard for anything. Not her dignity, not her health, not her life story, not the future of of, of her life. Nothing, it’s, she’s just an absolute object that is, worse than a doll, actually. So that’s, that’s one aspect of it. And then the compounded element to that is the racism in it. You go on PornHub and it, everything is classified by race or ethnic groups in the worst racist stereotypical ways.
And this is aside from sort of the sexist , attributes, and you just think how like no other industry would be allowed to define people in the worst, racist stereotypes like none other. When I talk to my colleagues who are, working in domestic violence shelters, they will tell you that the, the women who come to them will say that their batterers watch porn before they beat them, or they beat them because the women couldn’t, duplicate or replicate what the mentors saw on screen in pornography. I think it’s very hard when you have shows like Euphoria or, or White Lotus, I mean, the list is long, whether it’s, HBO or Netflix or movie theaters where pornography and prostitution are glorified and mainstreamed. And it gets very, very difficult for sort of the average, average person, let alone the, the average adolescent to figure out what, what is it that they’re selling me and should I buy it? And if I buy it, why is it that I feel so awful, mentally, physically, psychologically? but I, again, I think it’s, it’s up to us and us, you know, the collective movement to end sexual exploitation online and off to, to really get people to start asking the right questions.
Fight The New Drug (18:54):
Well said. I think, you know, this world we live in today, there’s so much technology around us. There are so many different ways people are being exploited. There are so many different ways that young people are accessing this content and, and places it’s being normalized. And I think it takes a lot of us to keep educating and raising awareness so that people can make informed decisions because especially young people don’t have the information that they need to make these informed decisions as, as you’ve said. So it’s only becoming more and more challenging, but I do feel hopeful that we can continue to make some progress. And I guess with that, I wanna ask you, what progress have you seen on these issues and what hope could you give to people to know that it is worth continuing to, to do this work and to fight exploitation?
Taina Bien-Aimé (19:43):
You know, EN is primarily a legal advocacy organization, so we have seen tremendous progress in legislation. Again, as I mentioned before, we can’t prosecute ourselves out of this mess. There aren’t enough, resources to go after every pornographer and every trafficker on the planet. So we have to use other means, than the law. But I would say, you know, obviously since, since I started 30 years ago, we now have strong international laws, strong US federal laws. Practically every state has laws against human trafficking. I know it’s a highly, highly controversial, piece of legislation for reasons I don’t understand. I mean, I do, but they’re ridiculous. But there’s Fosta-Sesta, which is a surgical amendment to the act that I had mentioned before, the Communications Indecency Act. So there’s a section called 230 that basically this was in, this was passed in 1996 when the internet was first, born.
And so nobody could predict where the internet was going, but it was clear that the internet was going to be an incredible source of revenue and business development. And so website developers did not want, any liability for third party content. So like, if I’m Google and or if I’m Craigslist and, you sell to somebody, a broken chair or a a a bad car, I’d wanna be responsible for it. So, of course was the explosion of, of online sexual exploitation and porn because of 230. And so what Fosta-Sesta, which was passed in 2018, it basically says, yes, internet service providers, you are still not liable for third party content, but if you knowingly promote, prostitution and you knowingly facilitate sex trafficking, so very, very narrow, knowingly is a very high standard of evidence in a court of law. But if you do those two things, then you are liable, right?
Because you profit from the sexual exploitation of others. so that was the shutdown of Backpage, although Backpage shut down before foster assess passed, right now, if you look up false assessed online, it’s just pages and pages of misinformation and disinformation. You know, it doesn’t prevent people from sling their bodies online. It does prevent people from exchanging information about their so-called clients, et cetera. It it really is a law that should be applied and could be applied to online sugar dating because they knowingly facilitate, sex trafficking and promote prostitution. but again, I think the political will sometimes isn’t there. So I think from a legal perspective, we have a much better understanding of online sexual exploitation and how to end it. and then I would say the second most hopeful, phenomenon because it is a phenomenon, and it that is the survivor-led movement, which we didn’t have 30 years ago, where now it’s, there’s, it really is global.
There’s a strong survivor-led movement in the United States and in Europe it’s growing in, in across Africa and Asia and Australia. And I really do believe that the more, people with lived experiences of sexual exploitation online and off, the better we will understand the, the harm. I always say our conversations around prostitution and pornography are what are the conversations we had 40 years ago on domestic violence where it was a harmful cultural practice, like men could beat their wives. It was law people thought, you know, maybe she should have ironed his shirts a little better or cooked a little faster, whatever it was. And it took 5,000 years for our representatives to understand that this was a crime of power and control and abuse. and I think that’s where we have to go with, prostitution and pornography. Like that’s, that’s, yeah, that’s the road we’re, we’re on.
It’s, it’s a long road, but I have great faith in the next generation , in, in sort of having the right, it’s really like having the right language to communicate with people that, this is just unacceptable in, in any society that is, that is seeking to attain equality for all injustice for all and, and to give people tools to reach their full potential as opposed to destroying their lives. And that childhood isn’t something that, you should survive. Like childhood is something in which you should thrive and, and, and really grow and become the full human being that, that you’re entitled to become.
Fight The New Drug (25:03):
That’s well said. And I think, I mean for even for someone maybe in our society who isn’t personally consuming pornography, I think it’s really important to note that pornography is influencing our society and the way our society functions regardless of whether or not an individual is consuming it. So it really does take all of us, consumers, former consumers, non-consumers, to address these issues together to make some of this progress. And I’m so grateful as well for all of the survivors in this movement that are leading so many incredible, initiatives to combat this as well. I think we need those voices, and we’ve spoken with several survivors and it’s, can be different for everyone to speak out on these topics. But for those who might be listening, if we have survivors listening, could you share any advice you have with someone who might be looking for resources or for help?
Taina Bien-Aimé (26:03):
Well, if they go on our website, Coalition Against Trafficking and Women, I think it’s catwinternational.org, we do have a resource page, or without exploitation. Another group that works very closely with Survivors has a great website. There are a number of survivor-led organizations, frontline service providers, whether you’re in Massachusetts or Arizona, Texas, Nevada, just just look up those, those places there, there are amazing survivor leaders who are now frontline service providers who can help.
Fight The New Drug (26:38):
And for someone who’s maybe a porn consumer who after all of the information we’ve shared today, maybe still isn’t convinced that maybe consuming pornography could be harmful to themselves or to others, what kind of, what’s the most compelling information or advice you think you could share that would convince someone to maybe reconsider
Taina Bien-Aimé (27:01):
The fight against pornography has been a feminist fight for decades and decades. And you may remember when, maybe it was a few years ago when Time Magazine came out on the negative effects of pornography viewing on men , and then all of a sudden it was a concern, right? Because we were talking about erectile dysfunction and addiction to porn and peop men losing their jobs because they were watching porn at work or not doing their work, you know, having to separate or getting divorced or because of porn addiction. So I would say even if it’s something that you believe gives you joy and pleasure or whatever else you tell yourself to justify, your porn watching, just take care of your health. Like if nothing else, if you don’t believe that pornography is a deadly industry, where, where, where people, especially women and girls actually die or are named for life, then take care of your own health because it is very, very, very bad for your health.
Fight The New Drug (28:07):
Yeah. And that speaks a little bit to how and why so many are calling pornography a public health crisis. Right? Do you have any additional thoughts on the way that message is being communicated and why, why so many people are kind of raising the alarm about this being a public health crisis?
Taina Bien-Aimé (28:23):
You know, again, the sex trade is so vast and it permeates every aspect of our culture and our lives that it, it really requires a very broad community of thinkers and doers and policy makers, right? So I say it’s like this big balloon with many strings and everybody needs to take their, our string is really looking at issues of equality and human rights and an end to sexual violence and sexual exploitation from an equality perspective, but equality for women and girls. But I think it’s also critically important for, our, our medical institutions to look at it from a public health perspective. you know, our, our, our educators to look at it as, as, as sort of, if you, if you really want to prevent all of the harms that are listed in the CDC report that just came out, then it’s important to talk about and the cost to society, right?
We don’t, we haven’t even touched upon the cost to society, the emergency room caused the absenteeism cause to corporations, et cetera. So, yeah, it takes a village to, raise awareness about the harms of pornography and prostitution. And, and, and we all need to be together and come with our string and come to the table and try to hammer it out until everybody understands what is happening and, and how it’s, it’s, it’s really destroying our society. I mean, if, if there was an increase of 60% of, of hopelessness and suicidal ideation and sexual violence among youth, what will it be in another 10 years if we don’t address this?
Fight The New Drug (30:02):
I think that’s something that we’re thinking about all of the time. And I think parents and young people, it’s starting to catch up, right? These, these young people who are experiencing this in a way that no other generation of youth has experienced in the past. I think it’s important that we keep fighting and we keep doing this work, and, we keep asking these questions, you know, what are these larger societal harms to creating and normalizing this content? I think it’s really important. Before we wrap up, is there anything else that you wanted to share or any topic you wanna cover specifically that you think would be beneficial to our audience that we haven’t talked about yet?
Taina Bien-Aimé (30:43):
I would add something on the whole issue of adults and consent, because very often, when we have these conversations, the responses are, well, adults can do what they want, and they seem to enjoy it, and they probably consented to this. And we have to be very careful with the ideas of consent or agency when it comes, especially when it comes to sexual exploitation or gender-based violence, right? Because it has always been sort of the term to not deal with something, again, you know, domestic violence or sexual violence and rape, it was always around whether or not she had that red skirt, she went to his house, she didn’t listen to her husband, right? So that, that is one thing. And then the second thing is the difference between a 17 year old sex trafficked child, whether that child is in pornography or on the street, and an 18 year old, so-called consenting adult is 60 seconds.
And consumers, or you know, sex buyers do not care quite the opposite. So now we find ourselves in a situation where, like if you look at countries that have legalized or decriminalized the sex trade, they have the highest rates of child sex trafficking compared to com to countries that have not. where now we talk to federal agents who say they only have resources to deal with, child sexual abuse material of toddlers and four year olds, that they can no longer deal with 12 year olds or 13 year olds because they’re older kids. I don’t even have words to express sort of the urgency of all of us dealing with the situation because it is so atrocious that what happens when, we hear about such atrocities is that we shut down and we pretend that, it didn’t happen. Or because there’s only so much, we can take given the, the news and the state of the world these days. But for parents out there, it is really, a 10 fire alarm. And, we cannot hide between this, this really artificial and detrimental separation between adults and, and, and children are so-called adults and children.
Fight The New Drug (32:57):
Thank you so much for adding that. And I did wanna ask you, with your work focused internationally, do you have difficulty where the age of consent varies, between countries in some cases regarding these issues? How do you navigate that?
Taina Bien-Aimé (33:11):
Well, I mean, it, it’s a legal question. Even here in the United States, the age of consent varies at the international level. You know, we, there’s a convention called the Convention on the Rights of the Child, where a child is defined as a person under the age of 18. So any of those laws would violate the convention on the rights of the child. Unfortunately, the United States did not ratify the convention on the rights of the child. So we’re really the outlier. but you know, we have federal laws that recognize, adult and other laws that recognize, human beings as children until they’re 18. And so it would, it would not align itself with sort of our understanding of what an adult is.
Fight The New Drug (33:51):
Yeah, absolutely. And as you said that 60 seconds is a small window. So I think that’s really important to note and really well said. So I did wanna ask you, oftentimes when we talk about sex trafficking happening within the pornography industry, it’s really difficult for people to grasp that concept because what they see on a screen looks consensual. We’ve talked about consent. They believe that it is someone over the age of 18 performers or individuals in these videos sometimes even have to be recorded on video, giving verbal consent on video. And so for a consumer, they believe kind of what they see, but based on the legal definition of sex trafficking, can you explain to people a little bit how pornography can happen through force power or coercion or an individual under the age of 18 in the porn industry? Based on that definition?
Taina Bien-Aimé (34:44):
When we talked to survivors, and these are conversations we had very often during the whole back page craziness. And they would all say like, their pimps were right there next to them, or their pornographers or their traffickers. And they were the ones, like the ones who were being exploited were the technically savvy ones. And so they put up the ads and they refreshed and they found new outlets online to make sure that, that their traffickers were go going to profit from, from their exploitation. So in order for a prosecutor to prove sex trafficking, they have to show force fraud coercion, which is a very high level. And it, and it’s why, there are so few trafficking convictions, cuz obviously the force fraud and coercion will happen in the first 24 hours or 78 hours, three months down the line, six months, two years down the line, you’re already so destroyed and you know, you’re traumatic.
You could be traumatically tied with your trafficker, he’s the father of your children. I mean, there are many, many reasons that you’re still in the situation that does not require any force whatsoever. But there, the actual definition of sex trafficking, in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act says, it says anybody who entices or procures or obtains or patronizes or solicits someone for purposes of a commercial sex act. And so, yeah, that’s the definition of a pimp. It’s the definition of, a sex buyer, of a trafficked victim. And again, it’s not whether or not she consented or whether or not she knew what she was getting into, it really is about who are the driving forces that are making this production happen. and then the other important part, and this is a, this is not only in under international law, but also it’s a very fundamental human rights principle that no one can consent to their own exploitation. So even if you know what you’re getting yourself into, supposedly, right, you know that you’re going to sign up to dance in a strip club because hey, you know, I know how to dance and I’ve went to a goal class at Equinox and I’m pretty good at it. What happens to you once you’re there, does not eliminate the harm and the violence and the sexual exploitation that, that you are suffering. Your consent is irrelevant.
Fight The New Drug (37:06):
Thank you. I think that was very well said and a very helpful perspective for our audience. You mentioned that sometimes, when something seems too big, we kind of shut down and, and we pretend it didn’t happen. I think that happens a lot in the United States with people thinking, oh, issues of sex trafficking or sexual exploitation just happen in other places, not here. Can you illuminate, the situation a little bit, speak to that a little bit for what that really looks like in the United States?
Taina Bien-Aimé (37:40):
The United States is one of the top five largest producers of pornography, if not the top three, the largest number of detected sex trafficking victims in the United States are, homegrown US-born kids, mostly girls and mostly girls of color. So yes, trafficking is an international phenomenon. There’s not one country in the world that’s not a source, transit or destination country. but yeah, you don’t need to leave your neighborhood or even leave your building to be a victim of trafficking, or victim of exploitation or wind up on, on on a porn side. So yeah, I think, I think it’s, you know, people have that sort of the Hollywood movie taken or, you know, all those, all those movies that show Cambodian people being, you know, tied to a radiator in somebody’s basement. But, and that happens, for sure, it happens, but that is, that’s not the story.
It’s sex trafficking. You know, everybody who’s listening to this podcast probably in their town has a so-called massage parlor with red neon lights and strip clubs. And it’s, it’s part of our decor. You know, we don’t ask ourselves who’s profiting from it, who’s being exploited, who’s suffering, who’s, who’s gaining sexual pleasure from, from the, from the exploitation of others. We, we don’t ask ourselves that because I don’t know, maybe can’t say what could I do? But I I do think we have gone through a lot of, periods throughout history where harmful cultural practices were overturned and, and dismantled. And I think this could also be one of them.
Fight The New Drug (39:25):
So you’ve mentioned a few times it’s important that we focus on the sex buyers and on the people perpetuating these systems and also profiting from these systems. And I think for anyone who might be questioning the emphasis of, of this work on focusing on women and girls as victims, I know you gave the, the analogy earlier of a finale came down and saw victims versus perpetrators. But can you speak a little to why males are the predominant sex buyers in this country and what we know statistically about sex buyers and, just talk a little bit more to that.
Taina Bien-Aimé (40:05):
Hmm. Well, that’s the $50,000 question, but yes, the, the 99.9%, or I would say maybe 99% of sex buyers are men. And that’s across the board and in every country in the world doesn’t mean that you don’t have women or others who are sex buyers, but that’s, those are the statistics according to the United Nations. Again, from my, from my perspective, the way I see the world is that the story of patriarchy is the story of prostitution. If you look at, there’s a, there’s a Dutch law and there are many, many laws on, on prostitution across Europe and, and elsewhere that kind of show the reason why red light districts and brothels were created. But it was basically to separate, the so-called good women from the bad women. So women are seen either, or were seen and still to some extent are, you know, you a good girl becomes a good wife and a good mother, or you can not be a good girl .
You’ve got one class of women who deserve certain rights. And again, they didn’t have rights then, but it’s even set in this Dutch law in the 15th century that says that we need to establish a red light district to protect the good women from rape. And so that is the vision that most of our governments had for women. You either got raped in the, commercial sex district, or you got raped for free. and it goes to, you know, I mean if you look at the women’s movement, which is where I live, it’s only been 50 years, 50 years ago. I mean, in, in my lifetime, like my grandmother, she couldn’t buy property or have a credit card or, even when I was in law school, there were certain judges that wouldn’t allow women to wear pantsuits in court, right? So women are still second class citizens, and we know that once we objectify a particular group, once we dehumanize them, once we categorize them as as second class citizens, then anything can happen to them, right? So, and again, as a mother of sons, we also traumatize our boys, right? We teach them to dominate. And so how do you undo that? And, and that’s a 5,000 year journey. It really is. so, so yeah. So when people say, well, it’s happened, you know, prostitution is the oldest profession, first of all, it’s not true. Agriculture was, or midwifery was . prostitution is something that was invented for a specific social purpose and to remind society that men controlled and women needed to be controlled.
Fight The New Drug (42:48):
Well, I could ask you questions all day long, I’m quite sure, because you have so much wisdom on these topics and, and I’m so interested in your perspectives, but I know we’re almost out of time. Is there anything else that you wanted to add that you haven’t, that we haven’t talked about yet?
Taina Bien-Aimé (43:06):
No, I just wanted to thank the youth movement. You know, people like you fight the new drug and other youth groups who, who are really on the front lines of this, cuz we don’t, our my generation doesn’t have the language and we can’t keep up with all of the developments online, on social media, in, in shows and series and all that, that are really, really, really competing our progress, toward dignity and yeah, helping people be who they’re supposed to be . And so I just, it, it, it brings me great joy and hope to see this next generation, really tackle these, these, enormous, enormous dilemmas that we weren’t facing. We were facing other challenges, but we’ve never seen anything like it. And so, you know, I salute you, we support you and, and thank you so much for all of your frontline work.
Fight The New Drug (44:05):
Well, thank you. I think I could speak for all of the youth in this movement when, I say we’re really grateful that so many people care about this issue and have been doing this work, and are doing this work with us. I think as you’ve mentioned several times throughout this, it really does take all of us and it takes a, a multifaceted approach to address such severe and significant issues. So thank you so much. I’m sure we’ll speak again soon. I hope we speak again soon. Take care.
Taina Bien-Aimé (44:36):
Anytime. Bye. Thanks.
Fight The New Drug (44:44):
Thanks for joining us on this episode of Consider Before Consuming. Consider Before Consuming is brought to you by Fight The New Drug. Fight The New Drug is a non-religious and a non legislative organization that exists to provide individuals the opportunity to make an informed decision regarding pornography by raising awareness on its harmful effects, using only science, facts and personal accounts. Check out the episode notes for resources mentioned in this episode. If you find this episode helpful, consider subscribing and leaving a review. Consider Before Consuming is made possible by listeners like you. If you’d like to support Consider Before Consuming, you can make a one-time or recurring donation of any amount a FTND.org/support. That’s f-t-n-d.o-r-g / support. Thanks for listening. We invite you to increase your self-awareness, look both ways, check your blind spots and consider before consuming.
Fight the New Drug collaborates with a variety of qualified organizations and individuals with varying personal beliefs, affiliations, and political persuasions. As FTND is a non-religious and non-legislative organization, the personal beliefs, affiliations, and persuasions of any of our team members or of those we collaborate with do not reflect or impact the mission of Fight the New Drug.
MORE RESOURCES FROM FTND
A database of the ever-growing body of research on the harmful effects of porn.