Human Trafficking: From the Objectification and Commodification of Women in Advertising to the Global Sex Trade

In 1620, Sir Francis Bacon, appalled by the degree to which contemporary society had embraced several intellectual and cultural fallacies, wrote a classic piece entitled, The Novum Organum, in an effort to thwart any further devotion to what he deemed to have become ‘The Four Idols’. The first of these, he described as Idols of the Tribe, which are deceptive beliefs inherent in the mind of man, therefore belonging to the whole of humankind. They arise from common tendencies toward exaggeration, distortion and disproportion. Idols of the Cave refer to those fallacies, which arise from within the mind of the individual and are variously modified by temperament, education, habit, environment and accident. Idols of the Marketplace are ways in which human communication can become an erroneous medium, either from rhetoric or a legitimate misunderstanding of the definition of words. Finally, Idols of the Theatre refer to those fallacies, which are false teachings or interpretations disseminated by scholars. These idols are built up in the field of theology, philosophy, and science, and because they are defined by learned groups are accepted without question by the masses. In his essay, Bacon provides greater detail as to the characteristics of each of these idols and outlines the deterioration of certain truths that occurs within a society where these idols are either accepted, or their influences go unnoticed.

Such deterioration is occurring today within contemporary western society, particularly within the United States. We have become one of the world’s most creative social entities through our ever-advancing contributions to the sciences, technology, humanities, the arts and virtually every aspect of life and thought. Unfortunately, we have also created some of the most socially accepted forms of discrimination that have existed. With all that we have experienced, learned and attained, our culture has lost, in an unimaginable way, the ability to recognize the social ills being perpetuated by our use of beauty and female sexuality to advertise and sell products, and pornography and prostitution to serve our fleeting fantasies.

We in 21st century America have objectified and commodified the female form and sexuality – things, which have no mind or soul, and have begun to define the worth of women solely in terms of superficial characteristics usually associated with this socially constructed ideal of sexuality. In those women whom we have chosen to idolize, it is rarely for the genius of their mind, the strength of their character or the triumph of their spirit but for the shape of their body, the color of their hair, or some other attribute pointing towards youth and sexuality. It has been through our culture’s relentless effort to define, emulate and embody that which we have defined as beautiful and sexy, that we have mastered worshipping these idols – beauty, pornography and prostitution.

Similar to those idols in Bacon’s time, these idols and their effects go almost completely unnoticed by the masses, allowing them to look closer like truth every day. Unlike those of Bacon’s time, these particular idols have become so embraced by our culture that they encompass the entire spectrum of fallacies he addresses, from the inherent beliefs of the tribe to the teachings of the theatre (today’s most scholarly and learned professionals). Evidence of the extent to which these idols have progressed and become engrained into our culture is the fact that this slippery slope has led – in a very real way – to the proliferation of sex trafficking in women.

It’s essential that we develop a clearer understanding of the idols of beauty, pornography and prostitution, examining the extent to which each has infiltrated our communal and individual landscapes, the detrimental effects they have had on our culture and to identify their insidious connection to the global sex trade. I will begin with a presentation of the components that represent the demand side of the global sex trade, followed by a discussion of why it is important to focus on this cultural element. Next, will be an outline of the how the unattainable, socially constructed ideal of beauty, pornography and prostitution have come into the mainstream, their effects and how they have resulted in the objectification and commodification of women. Following this, will be a discussion of how this cultural element, when intersected with a market economy, contributes to the proliferation of the global sex trade. I will conclude with a brief list of recommendations to help combat the cultural contributions the United States is making to the proliferation of global sex trafficking, in effort to mitigation of the effects of the demand component.

The Demand Side of Human Trafficking

Broadly speaking, there are four critical components to the demand side of sex trafficking. First, there are the johns – the men and women who purchase commercial sex or sexual acts. These are the consumers and a major driving force of the trade as a whole. As we will see, johns are not the stereotypical perverted, social outcasts one might imagine. They represent every demographic. Second are the exploiters which include traffickers, pimps, corrupt officials, brothel owners – virtually anyone making money from the sale of sex as a commodity. Like johns, exploiters – though all are criminals – may look a lot like anyone you know and many of the issues surrounding those who are trafficked also apply to those doing the trafficking. Third is the state. By tolerating or legalizing prostitution without proper regulation, the state, at least passively, contributes to the demand for victims and in states where prostitution is not legal, a lack of enforcement contributes as well. The fourth and final component of the demand side of sex trafficking is culture – in particular mass media. The American media has played a significant and influential role in presenting and thus normalizing destructive messages of beauty, the objectification and commodification of female sexuality, pornography and prostitution, all of which have contributed to the proliferation of the global sex trade. It is this component of the demand which I seek to illuminate, better understand and produce recommendations for effectively addressing.

The Significance of Understanding the Cultural Piece

There are three reasons why striving to fully understand the cultural component is an essential task in our efforts to combat the global sex trade. First, and most generally, it is important that we understand every aspect of this phenomenon in order to better address it. The extent to which sex trafficking destroys lives necessitates every card being on the table when considering and identifying ways to address the issue. Second, and more urgently, the current tactics being utilized have not proven effective. This means that root causes of the demand that have gone virtually unnoticed – one of them being culture – need to be reassessed.

Although sex trafficking in persons is illegal in every country in the world, the industry continues to thrive. That is, despite state laws, there remains little risk in conducting this business, so people do. Strategic response to the global sex trade thus far, has been heavily weighted towards addressing the state and exploiter components of the demand. This is because trying to eliminate prevalent and elusive human and cultural factors such as the ill effects of the degradation of women, pornography and prostitution on individuals and society or the wants of the johns, have been repeatedly portrayed as fighting human nature and as an uphill battle. Despite the difficulty in addressing these types of issues, it is the johns and the cultural components that represent the most fundamental root causes of the sex trade. Strategically speaking, it is more effective and more efficient in terms of funding, to address the root causes at the operational level (cultural and johns components) – than it is to deal with those at the strategic level – those at the end of the causal chain (laws and enforcement).

Finally, since culture is an elusive, ever changing and socially constructed phenomenon, addressing this component can potentially provide an opportunity not offered by addressing the more static aspects of the sex trade. By understanding how current and past cultural characteristics and phenomena have contributed to its proliferation, we may be able to take action to reverse some of those effects, and develop cultural norms that mitigate rather than encourage pornography, prostitution and the global sex trade. The United States has a relatively small, but ever-increasing, number of victims of sex-trafficked individuals within its borders. However, though it is not currently contributing by way of numbers, it has, and continues to contribute by way of cultural imperialism – the spreading and glorification of a sexualized ideal of women both within and beyond its borders.

As a proclaimed leader in human rights and as a twenty-first century, first world country that has eradicated racial slavery, empowered women, and actively pursues freedom and equality for all citizens, the United States cannot afford to accept the presence of even one victim of sex trafficking within its borders. Likewise, it ought not to be contributing to the problem in any way, either through its economic policies (the subject of another paper) or culturally, by normalizing the objectification and commodification of women, pornography and prostitution. Beyond these cultural elements, thousands of U.S. citizens (driven by cultural elements) participate in sex tourism each year, traveling to countries such as Thailand, Costa Rica, Brazil, Sri Lanka, and Kenya to victimize women abroad rather than at home. For these reasons, understanding and addressing the cultural component is an essential feature in our efforts to combat global sex trafficking.

Socially Constructed Beauty in Advertising

Beauty is the desire of all tribes. Irrelevant of time or place, individuals throughout the world have defined beauty in contrasting and varying ways. Historical and anthropological literature has shown that, throughout human history, people have scarred, painted, pierced, padded, stiffened, plucked, and buffed their bodies in the name of beauty. It has been determined that as far back as the first civilizations of ancient man, beauty has played a role in the social interactions of peoples and tribes. In that period of history the sole purpose of male and female interaction was an innate, survival-of-the-fittest drive, attracting healthy, strong, able-bodied men who would be able to provide protection and food towards young, physically healthy women who were able to bear children. Certain African tribes have used scarification and the stretching of their skin and neck for centuries as a means of representing status or beauty.

In ancient China, the 4-inch “lotus foot” was considered a sign of perfect beauty. The practice of foot-binding involved breaking the bones of the forefoot and folding them forward, then tying the misshapen appendage to prohibit growth. Foot-binding caused severe pain, imbalance, and falls, and eventually osteoporosis, because afflicted women were unable to bear weight and ambulate correctly. For ancient Egyptians, Romans, and Persians, sparkling eyes were considered beautiful and they applied the heavy metal antimony to make their conjunctiva sparkle. A woman with a high forehead was considered beautiful during the Elizabethan era, and upper-class Elizabethan women plucked or shaved their frontal hairs to achieve this look. These women also covered their skin with ceruse (lead-based) makeup, which caused peripheral neuropathy, gout, anemia, chronic renal failure, and disfiguring scarring, requiring the application of more ceruse makeup.

Although many of these practices may seem primitive, naïve or extreme, the appalling degree to which people will go in search of “beauty” has only progressed. It is 21st century America, which has crossed all lines in the name of this search, and despite a valid acknowledgement that all cultures have created this practice in some form or another, it is one that we haven’t even begun to acknowledge or conquer. To date, it has conquered us, for we have perfected the art of worshipping a repulsive, dangerous illusion and allowed it not only into our society but also our homes, minds and souls.

Beauty has taken over the cave. The degree to which we, as a culture, are desperately seeking “beauty” has matriculated down our social structure and has had devastating effects on the individual – particularly women. Naomi Wolf, in her book entitled The Beauty Myth, wrote,

“During the past decade, women breached the power structure, meanwhile eating disorders rose exponentially, cosmetic surgery became the fastest growing specialty and 33,000 American women told researchers that they would rather lose 10 to 15 lbs. than achieve any other goal. More women have more education, more money, more power, more scope and legal recognition than we have ever had before, but in terms of how we feel about ourselves physically, we may actually be worse off than our un-liberated grandmothers.”

The effects that this predominant idol of beauty has had on women in our culture are vast. The impact it has had on adolescents and small children is tragically just as grim and just as prevalent. “Barbie is the highest grossing doll in history. The average American girl age three to ten possesses more than eight Barbie dolls, despite the widely known fact that her figure is an anatomical impossibility — if she were a real human being, because of her proportions she would not even be able to stand”. One fourth of preteens aged nine to thirteen have a poor body image and 80% of 10-year-olds have tried dieting”. A March 1999 study by researchers at Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Public Health found that girls in grades 5 through 12 who read fashion magazines are considerably less satisfied with their bodies than are those who do not. Those who read such magazines at least twice a week are between 2 and 3 times more likely to diet to lose weight. The same report found that “the number one wish among girls in high school is to be thinner.” According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, since 1997, the number of American teenagers 18 or younger who are undergoing cosmetic surgery has quadrupled while the number of breast implants performed on the same demographic, tripled.

Beauty is our Marketplace. The messages and information communicated to us by virtually all forms of print, music, media and such industries as advertising, beauty and fashion, are laden with images, words and implications that award worth to anything associated with our corrupt definition of beauty – regardless of what that may be. This inevitably implies a weakness or lack in those things that we do not define as beautiful. We are told every day, in a thousand different ways, that we are not good enough, smart enough or worth enough if we are not thin enough, fit enough, tall enough, if we don’t have perfect hair or teeth, or if for any reason we don’t consider these things desirable characteristics. Ironically, the images presented to us, and the “beauty” we strive for, has become more and more bogus. Many, if not most, models undergo cosmetic surgery; most have enlarged their breasts – thus manufacturing an anomalous body type virtually unknown in nature – a tiny waist, no hips and large breasts. The photographs that drown the visual landscape are perfected by increasingly sophisticated technology; what used to be corrected by airbrushing is today corrected with the use of digital computer techniques. So, in effect, women now aspire not to look like other beautiful women of their generation but like an invented, manipulated idea of beauty – a product of camera, darkroom and computer technique. Because the devious manner in which society chooses to communicate with us has enormous economic advantages for many industries, the message of this idol continues, and has begun to be sent beyond our borders, as have the effects.

A recent study performed in the Fijian Islands by Harvard University Anthropologist Anne Becker, provided exceptional insight into the impact of American advertising and its idea of beauty. “Fijians have traditionally valued larger proportions among women. More than four-fifths of Fijian women are overweight by American standards. But after television was introduced to the islands in 1995 – along with popular U.S. shows – Fijian girls became more concerned about their weight. Becker found that 38 months after television arrived in Fiji, five times as many girls were trying to control their weight by vomiting. Those who watched the most television were a third more likely than their peers to be on a diet”. Because the communication medium in our society is so comprised with the message of this idol, it is easy to see how the cultural tendency to value beauty has become greatly exaggerated and how individuals have become consumed with attaining bits of it.

Beauty is our Theatre. The prevalent ignorance towards the effects of our idol of beauty is the strongest piece of evidence supporting the extent to which it has become engrained into the fabric of our society. Even some of our most educated and scholarly professionals have misjudged the effects of this idol. A number of today’s prominent Evolutionary Psychologists have determined that based on the fact that virtually all cultures throughout time have developed their own ways to give honor to what they deem beautiful, the praise of beauty is a natural, harmless occurrence. Similarly, many intellectuals would have us believe that beauty is inconsequential. Since it explains nothing, solves nothing, and teaches us nothing, it should not have a place in intellectual discourse. And we are supposed to breathe a collective sigh of relief. After all, the concept of beauty has become an embarrassment. But there is something wrong with this picture. We can say that beauty is dead, but all that does is widen the chasm between the real world and our understanding of it. Pretending, that because caring about appearances is superficial, that it is not an important enough issue to discuss, is a self-defeating, and dangerous attitude for ourselves or society to have. On the other hand, suggesting that the media, advertising, clothing and beauty industries completely dictate women’s preferences and choices is virtually the same as saying that women are not only powerless but mindless. Besides, many of the editors, photographers and almost every model in the magazines pushing this ideal are women.

One prominent company within the fashion industry made a bold attempt to take a stand against the image of beauty being presented today. In June 1996, “the Swiss watch manufacturer Omega, announced that it would pull its advertisements from the British edition of Vogue, saying the magazines ‘skeletal’ models encouraged women to develop eating disorders along with poor body images. However, the company caved in to pressures from investors and revised its position a day later, citing the magazine’s editorial independence”.

Change will not be something that occurs from the outside in despite what the tribe seems to believe, what the media is telling us and what we fear within ourselves. We have to take responsibility and make a choice to worship or not worship the image of beauty that we have aided in creating. We must do this, because we have seen that even something as innocuous and elusive a concept as beauty can influence the psychology and behavior of individuals. Why wouldn’t the same be true then for pornography and prostitution?

Pornography and Prostitution

Pornography and prostitution are the desires of all tribes. From the walls of Pompeii to today’s Internet sites and personal blogs, irrelevant of time or place, individuals throughout the world have spent both time and energy creating and utilizing pornography. Likewise, prostitution has been deemed the ‘oldest profession.’ Since the sexual etchings of Pompeii and the ancient temple prostitutes in Babylon, immense moral and intellectual growth and change has occurred within human civilization as a whole and within human beings as individuals. Despite these changes however, evidence suggests that we have yet to understand and more responsibly control how we relate to our most basic sexual desires. Just as we have created an idealization and worship of a specific and narrow definition of beauty, allowing it to evolve to the detriment of our collective psyche, we have also created a certain brand of messages to be promulgated through our pervasive use of pornography and prostitution. Today, more thoroughly than at any other time in human history, pornography and prostitution have taken over the cave and have quite literally, become mainstream phenomena.

In contrast to even fifty years ago, when the dissemination of “representations of sexuality in most western societies were largely a private and surreptitious activity, ostensibly away from public view,” pornography has become mainstream rather than the fringe of society. Consider the following:

The pornographic industry produces a larger revenue than that of the following top technology companies combined: Microsoft, Google, Amazon, eBay, Yahoo!, Apple, Netflix and Earthlink. There are 4.2 million porn websites (12% of total). Daily, 65 million pornographic search engine requests are made (25% of total) and 2.5 billion porn emails are send; 42.7% of internet users view porn; US Internet porn sales alone are $4.9 billion; 40 million US Adults regularly visit internet porn websites (72% male-28% female).

The money spent by Americans on pornography in all of its forms is larger than the annual revenue accrued by the N.F.L., the N.B.A, or Major League Baseball combined. Numerous American corporations have begun to cash in on this booming financial opportunity, reaping immense revenues from the sale of pornography. Among such companies are the household brands of AT&T, MCI, Time-Warner Cable, Comcast, Echo Star Communications, GM’s Direct TV, Hilton, Marriott, Sheraton, Radisson, VISA, MasterCard and American Express. With Americans spending considerably more than they do on Broadway theater outings, with Wall Street in on the game, and at $10 billion spent each year, the porn industry can now officially be deemed as having gone mainstream.

Likewise, and in perfect synchronization with the exponential explosion of pornography, prostitution has moved into the mainstream and its prevalence has had devastating effects on both women and society. Each day, $40 million dollars is spent on prostitution in the United States alone, with 1,500,000 men (a conservative estimate) each week paying for sex (this is not including the number of women). In a survey conducted by ABC Primetime Live, 30% of single men over the age of 30 admitted to having paid for sex at least once.

Pornography and prostitution are our marketplaces. The manner in which American mainstream media and advertising communicates with its citizens is representative of the exploitation of female sexuality more seriously exposed in pornography. Evidence of this, is the fact that media scholars have coined the term ‘porno-chic’ to refer to the advertisers’ beliefs that they have to “produce even more arresting and stimulating images in order to get consumer’s attention.” In terms of suggestive, sexual advertising within the United States, content research shows that “women are dressed in revealing clothing, or none at all, in up to 40% of mainstream magazines and up to 12% of prime-time network commercials.”

Redtube.com, is a pornographic site deemed the Facebook of porn today. Each day, new videos are posted and there is no charge to view any of them. Upon opening the homepage at noon on a Tuesday, the following five videos were presented with the following number of hits: Blonde Slut Taking Over, 146,987 hits; Brunette Teen Gets Banged Mercilessly 145,023 hits; The Wife is Out so Fuck the Busty Blonde 247,411 hits; Using Both Holes of a Well-Bred Chic, 195,433 hits. Not one of these videos had been posted for more than 12 hours yet each had over one hundred thousand hits. With over 20,000 new pornographic sites posted to the internet daily and with the vast majority of these videos depicting women and sexuality in the aggressive and degrading manner presented here, can anyone be so naive as to say that exposure to this ‘harmless’ entertainment is not having a negative effect on the collective psyche and our depiction of women and sexuality? On the contrary, research has shown that exposure to specific types of pornography can result in an increase in aggressive-sexual fantasies, aggressive behavior, acceptance of anti-female attitudes and, specifically, in male aggression against females. In the extreme case, the fusion of sex and violence is such that, among some rapists, sexual arousal is greatest in response to images of nonconsensual sex.

Much of mainstream pornography today disseminates discrimination and the subordination of women. The depictions of male force almost always demonstrated in pornographic videos and images, equates male domination with sexual arousal and desirability. “Pornography is the key to making sexual subordination into a system – to creating and maintaining sex as a basis for discrimination.”

Likewise, mainstream media has played a significant role in the normalization and glorification of prostitution. Pimps receive free advertising through the media. Sitcoms, websites, video games, and Hollywood movies glamorize stripping as a way to earn inordinate amounts of money while being worshipped by adoring men. American citizens flock nightly to bars and clubs around the United States that continually advertise events such as ‘Pimps and Hoes Night.’ This form of communication with the public both serves to normalize prostitution and recruit women into the industry through the glorification of this warped sense of sexuality.           

The linkages from pornography to prostitution are pervasive. Prostitutes are caricatures of women fashioned from a pastiche of pornographic films and magazines that feature prostituted women acting like porn stars. The process of becoming a prostitute entails the systematic destruction of an individual woman’s ideas, beliefs, feelings, and desires, which are replaced with a compilation of values lifted from the texts of various pornographic paperbacks.

Pornography and prostitution are our theatre.  There are many feminist theorists that deem pornography and prostitution as liberating for women, and assert that they are harmless forms of entertainment. Along side of everything I’m stating, I happen to agree, with a string of strong caveats. Pornography and prostitution can be liberating and harmless if they involve or contain consenting, of-age individuals and do not promulgate a derogatory depiction of women and or sexuality. If a woman or man willingly, without having had numerous risk factors leading them to the decision, choses prostitution (which is hardly ever the case), and it is legalized and regulated, neither or these are harmful to individuals and society. In deed, sexual gratification is as basic a need as that for food and fresh air. However, as it is today, the vast majority of prostitution and pornography do not embody these idealized characteristics, and are far from being either liberating or empowering to women.

Sex Trafficking

We have neared the end of the causal chain of cultural influences that has produced a greater demand for trafficked women. The insidious messages and lies that weave their way into our collective subconscious begin in the seemingly harmless messages urging society to strive for idealized beauty. They continue deeper as we obey them and begin to objectify women and turn their bodies and sexuality into commodities. As this occurs, there is more and more of a demand to view and experience the sexual exploitation of women personally via pornography or prostitution or both. And finally, as the sexual fantasies and desires of johns continue to increase, and are intersected with the economic desires of the exploiters, women are trafficked into the United States and the desires of the johns are appeased – if only until the day. This is how the culture of the United States has a hand in the trafficking of women for sex.

This is not to say that culture is the only cause of sex trafficking – of course it is only one of the four root components of the demand side as was previously outlined. Likewise, this is not to say that the only victims of sexual exploitation within the United States are those women trafficked in. On the contrary, the vast majority of women being sexuality exploited through pornography and prostitution are American women. However, the demand for women being trafficking in comes into play when the cultural characteristics presented within this paper intersect with our market economic and our drive for profit. This semi-cultural, semi-economic piece is mentioned here within that context.

As any purveyor of economics knows, the best way to maximize profits is to cut down on costs. For many businesses, the largest operating cost is labor. By utilizing trafficked victims from other countries, exploiters are able to skyrocket profits by virtually eliminating labor as an operating cost. Furthermore, within the United States, women have moved out of being economically marginalized through job discrimination and educational deprivation. Because of this, demand for women is up – and women are subsequently trafficked in from other countries to meet this demand.

Whether for entertainment, violence or other purposes, male sexual demand drives men into sex establishments in almost every country in the world. Beginning in the 1990’s, those establishments were increasingly filled with slaves. The reason for this is sex slavery is the profit-maximizing version of prostitution.

Recommendations

However ironic, it has been our quest for and attempt to define beauty and sexuality that has blinded us from it. Our quest has also greatly disfigured us – both literally and figuratively. It has weakened our minds, strangled our creativity, simplified our thinking, limited our imaginations and separated us from the divine within each of us. There are very few truths and ideals in this world worth doing all that we can to sustain. The reality of intrinsic human worth is one of these. It is our responsibility to challenge the erroneous ideals and messages about female identity and sexual worth by unlearning what it is our culture gilds into our minds, flashes in front our eyes, screams into our ears and attempts to steal from our very souls.

A century ago, American women were lacing themselves into corsets and teaching their adolescent daughters to do the same. Today’s teen girls shop for thong bikinis on their own, post sexual videos on you tube mimicking the movements of strippers and porn stars for fun, unbeknownst to their middle-class parents. These contrasting images might suggest a great deal of progress, but “American girls at the end of the twentieth century actually suffer from body problems more pervasive and more dangerous than the constraints implied by the corset.” In addition, society as whole has promulgated the destruction of female sexuality and worth through pornography and prostitution and played a hand in the proliferation of the global sex trade. If we want to continue to liberate women everywhere, create a better world, facilitate change within society, and stop global sex trafficking, we must strive to heed three recommendations.

First, we must continue to strive towards a thorough understanding of the relationships between advertising that places worth on superficial ideals of beauty and sexual appeal, pornography, prostitution and the sex trade. However insidious and harmless these culturally accepted phenomena may appear, they influence in a very real way, our collective psyche towards women. In essence, educating ourselves and each other about how certain forms of advertising, pornography and prostitution proliferate a demented view of women and sexuality will help address this root cause of sex trafficking.

Second, each of us must take responsibility for the roles we play in driving and normalizing these messages, pornography, prostitution and ultimately, the sex trade. The most effective way to stop idolizing this warped idol of male dominated, female sexuality is to stop idolizing it. We need to stop putting our time, our attention and our money into the machine that is driving this message. This may mean avoiding sexual advertisements on television, the internet and in print, and not purchasing brands that utilize inappropriate sexual advertising. It means not purchasing or viewing pornography that depicts women in a degrading manner or being exposed to violence or domination. And finally, it means not purchasing sex or sexual acts. If the immense demand begins to diminish, so will the global sex trade. The millions of men and women purchasing sex each week need to question the forces that are driving them, and learn to deal with them in a more constructive manner – in essence make healthier decision for themselves and the sake of society.

Finally, more research needs to be done to analyze the cultural aspects that contribute to the global sex trade. Along with the issues discussed here are the effects of our being a market economy. Socio-economic issues such as poverty and a lack of education must also be addressed. More research needs to be done to assess what long-term effects sexual advertising, pornography and prostitution have on the sex trade. Because these issues are so elusive and so engrained into our society, they seem more like the natural than they are. These are not normal, healthy processes of human beings in the twenty-first century – we are better than this.

The only thing in this world worthy of trying to idolize is the wonder of the individual. The true worth of a human being – that part in each of us capable of immense creativity, strength, love, forgiveness and healing is by far the most profoundly beautiful, misunderstood and untapped resource the world has ever seen. Once we begin applying these recommendations, and understand the deeply engrained weaknesses created by these faulty idols, our collective future will be much freer and the global sex trade, as well as U.S. contributions to it, will decrease.

Again, working towards eradicating the root of any problem is always the most effective, the most difficult, and also the most efficient. Despite the daunting nature of the cultural components that help drive the sex trade, we must try to eradicate them. Human beings have evolved enough in mind, body and spirit to understand that the “you can’t change human nature” argument is no longer valid. We must demand more from ourselves and from each other. The healthy future of women and men, and the end of global sex trafficking depend on it.

 References*

*As this was entered in my blog site, I removed citations from the body of the text. If you’re interested in seeing them, email me and I’ll gladly send you a copy of the original.

Bacon, Sir Francis. (1629). The Novum Organum. http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/b/bacon/francis/organon/chapter1.html. Accessed October 23, 2009.

Dines, Gail and Bob Jensen. (1997). Pornography: The Production and Consumption of Inequality. London: Taylor and Francis Inc.

Dobson, Roger. (2006). Skinny Barbie Blamed Over Eating Disorders. Times Online. May 14, 2006. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article1083049.ece. Accessed November 13, 2009.

Field, Alison, Bryn Austin, Carlos A. Camargo, Jr, C. Barr Taylor, Ruth H. Striegel-Moore, Keith J. Loud and Graham A. Colditz. (2005). Exposure to the Mass Media, Body Shape Concerns Among Male and Female Adolescents. Pediatrics. Vol 116. No.2. pg 214-220.

Goode, Erica. (1999). Study Finds TV Alters Fiji Girls’ Views of Body. New York Times. May 20, 1999.

Hughes, Donna M. (2009). The Demand for Victims of Sex Trafficking. Paper Presented to the U.S. Department of State by Women’s Studies Program at the University of Rhode Island. http://www.uri.edu/artsci/wms/hughes/demand_for_victims.pdf. Accessed November 2, 2009.

Ibroscheva, Elza. (2009). Mainstreaming the Porno-Chic: Media Portrayals of Sexuality, Young Women’s Perception of it and Sex Trafficking in Bulgaria. Executive Summary Presented to IREX 2009 Regional Symposium. http://www.irex.org/programs/symp/09/IBROSCHEVA.pdf . Accessed October 11, 2009.

Jarett Martineau. (2008). $13.3 Billion U.S Porn Revenues Exceed Combined Sales of ABC, CBS, and NBC. May 27, 2008. http://www.nowpublic.com/tech-biz/13-3-billion-u-s-porn-revenues-exceed-combined-sales-abc-cbs-and-nbc. Accessed November 13, 2009.

Kara, Siddharth. (2009). Sex Trafficking: Inside the Business of Modern Slavery. New York: Columbia University Press.

Lange , Gary. (2004). POLL: A Sex Survey, A Peek Beneath the Sheets. ABC News Oct 21, 2004. http://abcnews.go.com/Primetime/News/story?id=156921&page=1. Accessed November 12, 2009.

LaRue, Janet. (2003). The Porn Ring Around Corporate White Collars: Getting Filthy Rich. http://www.cwfa.org/images/content/wcp-report.pdf . Accessed October 20, 2009.

Malamuth, Neil M. and Edward Donnerstein. (1984). Pornography and Sexual Aggression. New York: Academic Press, Inc.

Rich, Frank. Naked Capitalists. New York Times. May 20, 2001.

Reichert, Tom. (2002). Sex in Advertising Research: A Review of Content, Effects, and Functions of Sexual Information in Consumer Advertising. Annual Review of Sex Research. 2002. Research Library. 241-273.

Spector, Jessica. Ed. (2006). Prostitution and Pornography: Philosophical Debate About the Sex Industry. Stanford CA: Stanford University.

Taylor, Ian and Ruth Jamieson. (1999). Sex Trafficking and the Mainstream of Market Culture. Crime, Law and Social Change. Oct 1999. Vol. 32. No. 3. 257-277.

Tim Soloman. What is Beauty: A Brief Look Through History. Web MD. http://www.webmd.com/skin-beauty/what-is-beautiful-a-brief-look-through-history. Accessed November 15, 2009.

Wolf, Naomi. (1992). The Beauty Myth. Maine: Anchors Publishing. Pg. 87.

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