Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Men in the Sex Trafficking Industry

On August 31, 2010 one of the major headlines of the day was the report that police in Spain infiltrated a male prostitution ring. I was just as surprised as the next man because most people equate prostitution and sex trafficking to women and children. Rarely do you hear about men being forced into the sex trade industry. Just because male prostitution is rarely reported doesn't mean it's rarely happening. Male prostitution is much more prevalent that I thought.

I remember during The Unholy Land tour with S2S, Avery told the story of a young male prostitute who refused to come off the streets because he was in such high demand. For some reason, I naively thought that any man that is selling himself on the streets is probably doing so willingly, probably to support a habit or uphold a certain lifestyle. I couldn't believe that somehow a man could be forced into that lifestyle the same way a woman with a trouble passed could be coerced and trapped. The connection just wasn't there for me, until I read the headlines. 14 people were arrested in Spain because of their involvement in a global sex trafficking ring involving 60-80 men. These men were made to believe that they would they would be traveling to other countries for better jobs and a chance at a better life. They were told they would only have to pay back their airfare to Spain. Yet, upon arrival at their destination, their passports were seized, they were given cocaine and Viagra and immediately put to work as prostitutes for male clients. The men were advertised in newspapers and websites to help increase their demand. They were on call 24 hours a day, expected to perform on demand. They were forced to live in tiny cramped house with 6 to a bed. If they complained, they were threatened with beatings and death.

Slowly, the story of these men started to sound similar to the stories of women trapped in the sex trafficking industry. These men were looking for a better life and believe the lies that their pimps told them. I'm certain that they were not told they would be sold to strangers for sex. I'm certain they weren't aware that they would be drugged and beatened. I am certain they did not know that trusting a stranger's promises would have them trapped in what seemed like an endless cycle. You see, whether foreign or domestic, male or female, the deception of the pimps and traffickers is all the same. They prey on the weak and the desperate, those they can easily manipulate and control for their own gain.

Since Atlanta is a hotbed for sex trafficking, I attempted to get some statistics on male prostitution in the city. Although I was not able to find any clear cut numbers, I did come across the vice arrest page for the Atlanta Police Department. This page was comprised of over 270 men and women arrested for prostitution or soliciting. Of those 270+ mug shots, 38 were men arrested for prostitution. 38 men arrested for selling themselves for money. There is no way to tell whether they were selling themselves willingly or by force, but those 38 faces were a wake up call. These were 38 men that were arrested and accounted for but, the number of sites that came up for male prostitutes, escorts, or rent boys as they are called, was astounding. I tried to find if there were any organizations that focused on rescuing and rehabilitating these men and came up empty handed. I understand that the major of the people caught up in sex slavery are women, but where do these men caught up in the same cycle of despair go if they want to break free?

The sex trafficking industry does not play favorites. Though women are in much greater demand, this economically booming industry destroys the lives of men, women, and child. Though progress is being made each and every day to combat this global issue, there is still a long way to go in this fight. The sooner we all realize that no one is immune from being pulled into this lifestyle, the better equipped will can become at fighting back.



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