In Playground: The Child Sex Trade in America, filmmaker Libby Spears traces the United States’ role in global sex trafficking, while also documenting how prevalent the problem is in the U.S. Becky Garrison, author of The New Atheist Crusaders and Their Unholy Grail, spoke with Spears earlier this year at New York’s Tribeca Film Festival, where the film debuted.
What compelled you to create this documentary?
I was in the Philippines in 2001 doing another documentary when I came across the story of the “comfort women” who were trafficked during World War II to service the Japanese Army. It was the first time I had heard the term “sex trafficking,” which is so appalling and horrific to me. I became obsessed with that topic and began shooting stories about the women who are being trafficked around military bases in Southeast Asia. I realized quickly I was in over my head and there was a lot of personal risk I couldn’t take. When I came back [to the U.S.], I realized this was happening here, which is where the documentary ended up.
How do U.S. citizens influence the global demand and growth of the sex trafficking industry?
It all goes back to U.S. capitalism. Statistically, everyone thinks this is an overseas problem—from the backdoor brothel to the child pornography bit. But the majority of this is happening in the U.S. in terms of where the money is being funneled from ultimately. Most of the victims of child pornography are American.
How does our society’s hypersexualized culture contribute to this problem?