Currently there are more people in slavery than any other time in history. In response to this, there are hundreds of anti-human trafficking organizations throughout the world. People are working tirelessly for justice and restoration for the victims.
There are the men and women who are rescued, some are just children. There are also the rescuers, the judges and lawyers who bring justice, and the psychologists who help to rebuild wholeness. Countless numbers of people support the end and rescue of those enslaved by trafficking – especially sex trafficking. But where are the “Johns” - the men who play the role of Demanders in the Supply and Demand economics of this billion dollar international industry? I’d like to put some money toward restoring them.
Aren’t they an important aspect to this equation? Women and girls would not be victimized sometimes 40 times a day without those who pay for it. The captors would move on to more lucrative business ventures if there weren’t men willing to fork over money again and again for something that the world has decried as both illegal and immoral.
I’m surprised that this plays little to no role in our larger conversations about being serious in ending the sex slave trade. What is it that these men are seeking? Why are they paying for sex? Why are they choosing to have sex with someone who is clearly not there willfully? How much is power at play in this situation? What about the men’s ability to be in stable relationships? Why is there still a demand for enslaved persons?
Buying sex from enslaved people does not happen in a vacuum. There is a progression that includes various aspects. If we are serious about ending the sex slave trade we will need to address some serious issues within every nation in the world, particularly those with male-dominated societies that promote male aggression, provide women with limited or no educational and economic opportunities, and deprive men of solid and symbiotic relationships where they can find genuine intimacy and self-expression for their feelings.
Might I suggest 10 ways we can fight sex-trafficking:
1. Stop supporting masculine-centric ministries.
When our faith excludes women, we are stating that men are entitled to more than women are. If we do this in ministry, we create a hierarchy that sets men above women and that creates an environment where men can easily abuse women because they are seen as less valuable. We can counteract this in multiple levels such as: supporting women in ministry; using inclusive language in our hymns, sermons, and Scripture translations; and speaking out when ministries relegate women to certain lessor roles.
2. Support mental health opportunities.
In our fallen state, we struggle with loving and being loved well. Mental health care, that which includes both mild and severe psychological care, provides opportunities to bring healing to our lives and restore broken relationships. When we shun counseling and therapy or claim that “real men” don’t have feelings or should go it alone, we isolate them and refuse to offer any support systems. Instead, we should be great advocates for mental health care – both preventative and for restorative treatment.
3. Provide spaces for 12-Step Sex Addiction Recovery Groups.
When men* admit they are powerless to their addiction and seek help, we should do everything we can to support their efforts by providing physical meeting space, resources, mentoring, opportunities to advertise their group, and also invitations those who are willing to share their stories on a broader platform. By keeping addiction apart from our faith and our fellowship, it only festers shame. When we invite men into the light and to be welcomed in, even in their sin (which is just their form of sin, as we have our own forms of sin), they will be able to find healing.
4. Hold men accountable for their actions.
This can be in a multitude of arenas: personally, relationally, communally, legally, etc. When men are aggressive, violent, abusive, or disrespectful, each of us needs to be involved in the process of justice. This can range from telling a man that he made an offensive comment to advocating for laws that involve punishment for crimes and enforcing those laws (which is IJM’s main focus). When we value the humanity in men and in women, we seek to care for women by not tolerating disrespect from men and at the same time we are honoring the humanity of the men by keeping them from harming others.
5. Mentor men.
This may be an area that only other men can offer (though women can certainly support their efforts). Without individual guidance and support, each of us is left to fend for ourselves as we seek to understand what it means to be a healthy adult. Older men can seek out younger men to teach them how to have their deepest needs met in healthy and appropriate ways. Just as Christ incarnated himself in our world to be a model amongst us, so to can we do the same for others.
6. Economically support those who hold up holistic views of men and women.
In addition to refraining from supporting the sex industry (i.e., porn, adult entertainment, and strip clubs), we can choose to buy or boycott music, movies, television shows, books, and stores based on how they treat men and women. By purchasing from artists or organizations that celebrate violence, we are financially supporting a culture that disregards the humanity in others.
7. Talk about sex in the church.
While there has been more talk about sex in American churches over the last few years, we still have a long way to go. Without conversations about Scripture and sex, Christians are left to turn to culture to inform and care for them with choices regarding desire and intimacy. The Church could be a leader in discussions about the goodness of love and sex; in how to make moral decisions that respect others; and in raising up articulate, critical-thinking persons. When we shed light on sex, we are eliminating the need for it to be in the shadows, where distortions lie.
8. Talk about intimacy too, not just sex in the church.
Sometimes we use intimacy to be synonymous with physical sex. Yet while intimacy includes a physical aspect, there are other aspects to intimacy as well, including emotional, spiritual, and intellectual. As we seek to be loved and to belong, to know and to be known, we need tools for how to do this well. The Christian faith focuses on grace, forgiveness, self-sacrifice, repentance, honesty, the fruit of the Spirit, and intimacy. By engaging our faith, we can find deeper, more meaningful relationships with others, with God, and with ourselves.
9. Be healthy women and men who care for our brothers by facilitating growth, healing, and grace.
By taking responsibility for our own emotional well-being, we become people who can care better for others, including our brothers and male loved ones. When men come to us with pain, anger, disappointment, or joy, we can create space for their emotions and engage them well. We can do this by seeking our own healing with mental health issues, addictions, and past abuses. The healthier we become, the healthier they can become.
10. Be a support to men.
Listen, encourage, and uplift. Do not berate, demean, or discourage. When men are exploring who they are and their own identities, we can be honest with them and accept them. Our culture sometimes makes statements about what men do and do not do. These are not always true. Men excel in cooking, cleaning, fixing cars, chopping wood, inventing things, listening, nurturing, and much more. Our gender dichotomy is often not big enough to handle the gifts and skills that God has given our male brothers. Let us celebrate their unique gifts and help them flourish.
When we support men well through boundaries, care, listening, and space for their emotions, we will unleash their talent and potential, as well as eliminate the drive for sex from enslaved people. We may also eradicate domestic violence and sexual abuse in the process.
Stacey Schwenker is Advertising Sales Associate at Sojourners and has a Masters of Divinity from Fuller Theological Seminary.
 Though I am dealing primarily with men, women also play a role in sex trafficking with some women being traffickers and holding other women as slaves. They also need support and care, sometimes suffering from the same afflictions as men who enslave and patron those who are trafficked.