Comments by Joyce Simmerman, on Times newsfeed: Celebrity Anti-Sex Trafficking PSAs: Good Intentions Gone Wrong?
Newsfeed By: Megan Gibson
Megan Gibson asks whether the "Real Men don't buy girls" Anti-Sex Trafficking PSA's are good intentions of a campaign gone "wrong". Some critics of the ads say that the ads make light of the serious problem of sex-trafficking of children by poking fun at the choices made by various loser-type-men.
I think that what those critics miss is a recognition of the power of ridicule, shame, and blame to influence better behaviors. Politicians know full well how to use those powers against their opposition. Comedians have used those powers very effectively.
Ashton Kucher and Demi Moore are lending a powerful force for change. When we have both a recognized problem working with recognized powers, the powers are amplified. They are to be commended for recognizing this real power. We all possess it and can exercise it to some degree to help.
But first comes "recognition" of a problem. They saw the real problem of sex trafficking of children. They recognized it as so against human sensibilities that no "real men" (or women) can turn the other way or allow it to continue. It needs to be recognized that it is generally the "losers" of the crowd, those who can not attract "equals", so to speak, that prey on the vulnerable. All need to be "recognized" for complicity in the ruination of children's lives. It also seems that everyone needs to become sensitized to the life-long effects such abuse has on children.
Few want to be identified as child-abusers, or to see themselves as child-abusers. Most people are so used to overlooking the problems of sexual exploitation of children that it is not even recognized as abuse.
Law alone cannot change attitudes and viewpoints on any topic. One cannot mandate morals by "outlawing" it. Child sex trafficking is already "outlawed". Domestic violence is likewise "outlawed". So, why is sex-trafficking becoming more pervasive? One can find dozens of excuses, such as use of drugs, lack of religious upbringing, or perversely, feelings of "entitlement" from money, power, and prestige, among others.
Laws are but the formalization of our "social contract". If one does not have a "meeting of the minds" on our social contracts, our laws, they are not going to be followed as easily as ones which society generally agrees upon. Generally speaking, the more followers that leaders or celebrities have, the more their examples are emulated. Their dress, actions, and attitudes will be followed. They can generate the accumulation of scorn from fellow-citizens. The power of scorn and ridicule adds up. In this case identifying those that are such "losers" that they cannot have sex unless they purchase it, helps to motivate towards less "loser-type-behaviors". After all, they want to BE "Real Men", not "losers".
I see there are choices for all of us. Are we going to encourage "hero-worship" of locker-room jocks or others abusing their powers of prestige even if we know he's a "loser" by his purchase of sex from child sex-slaves? Many flaunt the law openly with impunity.
The handsome Ashton is one example of an undeniable "real man". He has a real-life, happy and healthy marriage to the gorgeous beauty Demi Moore. Will their example along with the other featured "real men" and family lives, spark recognition of the problems? This campaign knows how to use the gifts the celebrities have to help advance and protect the most vulnerable. They have a healthy bravery and self-confidence.
More power to them. I think they can have a lot of influence on what makes a "real man". It may cause some to turn from the "loser" status of buying sex from children. It should cause self-examination, at least among those who are not "real-gone-losers". The campaign will help by identifying them, too, to bring them to justice, and, most importantly, to place them in a position where they can no longer use their losing choices of perversion against children.
It may even help to turn the locker-room jocks into protectors of the children as befits real manhood. No man should be a "hero" who buys sex from children. All can be a hero by standing up for the young against the drugs and sex which enslave them. I would add that we could ALSO stand up with compassion and protection for those who have already been caught in the sex trade, erase the stigmatization branding them, and help empower their freedom to live new lives.