Mixed Messages

Ricky Martin is trying to carve out a new vocation as modern day “hero.” The hip-swaying, loca-living superstar is lending his fame to the anti-trafficking movement by appearing in ads designed to educate the public to the horrors of modern-day slavery.

Martin is rightfully disturbed that 27 million people are currently enslaved in forced labor and sex-related industries. Close to 80 percent of trafficked victims are female and 50 percent are children. He probably heard testimonies of young girls who are kidnapped or coerced into brothels, robbed of all their rights, and forced to service men, sometimes 15 to 20 times a day.

“Human trafficking is one of the cruelest and craziest problems in the world today,” Martin said. Preach it, brother.

But as I reflected on the goodwill of the former Menudo heartthrob, I filed through my mental Ricky Martin file cabinet, trying to recall his exploits prior to his new work as humanitarian. There was his music video from the groundbreaking release “Livin’ La Vida Loca.” Martin depicted the “crazy life” as an existence of wild dancing and even wilder bedroom activity. I vaguely recall a scene involving hot wax, candles, and a young woman who could have been exaggeratingly referred to as “half-dressed.” I realized that every hazy recollection of Martin involved sex, lust, or some kind of heart-pounding, dance-related promiscuity.

This guy has been peddling sex! He’s made his fortune on a kind of R-rated, MTV-sanitized pornography.

I doubt Martin sees any connection between his career as international sex symbol and the fact that the modern world is as overheated as the Roman Empire on a rowdy night. After all, he is overshadowed by a North American industry that produces truckloads of pornography for domestic shelves and international distribution, blanketing the globe with increasingly raunchy sex acts.

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Sojourners Magazine February 2006
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