I recently did a post about women addicted to pornography. Christianity Today has an article about faith-inspired efforts to minister to other casualties of the commercial sex industry: girls who are victims of domestic sex trafficking in the United States. What I found most interesting about the article was descriptions of the efforts of men to address this issue:
"The research on the U.S. reveals a well-established business model for illicit sexual services. It mimics a shopping mall in offering the buyer variety, flexible pricing, and individualized service. Multimedia and Internet technology is the single greatest facilitator driving growth; pimping, for example, is frequently glamorized in popular music, films, and videos, and prostitution is treated like a recreational activity. "The only way to impede sex trafficking is to end demand—to stop buyers from buying," the report concludes.
Toward this goal, on Father's Day 2006 a group of men from the Pacific Northwest started a campaign, "She Has a Name." Its goal is to raise awareness at truck stops, sporting events, and tourist areas about sex trafficking. The group created a website, TheDefendersUSA.org, that invites men to commit to not have any part in the commercialized sex industry. Outside truck stops, they demonstrate with signs that read Real Men Don't Buy Sex."
This reminded me of a previous post, "Educating John" about the emergence of "John Schools" that seek to diminish demand for purchased sex by educating the men whose appetites provide fuel for the industry.
Sex trafficking is one of the more egregious examples of how harmful attitudes and behaviors among men perpetuate gender oppression and inequity. The social consequences are greater than many realize:
"The emancipation of women, the achievement of full equality between the sexes, is one of the most important, though less acknowledged prerequisites of peace. The denial of such equality perpetrates an injustice against one half of the world's population and promotes in men harmful attitudes and habits that are carried from the family to the workplace, to political life, and ultimately to international relations. There are no grounds, moral, practical, or biological, upon which such denial can be justified. Only as women are welcomed into full partnership in all fields of human endeavour will the moral and psychological climate be created in which international peace can emerge." (The Universal House of Justice, 1985 Oct, The Promise of World Peace, p. 3)
In addition to the social implications of these attitudes and behaviors, there are spiritual, moral, and mental implications as well. The long, sad legacy of sexism has not only had a negative impact on women, it has also left men in a state of arrested development. We have no idea what a "real man" looks like because men can never be fully human while they deny the humanity of women.
"Women have equal rights with men upon earth; in religion and society they are a very important element. As long as women are prevented from attaining their highest possibilities, so long will men be unable to achieve the greatness which might be theirs." (Abdu'l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 133)
Not engaging in 21st century slave trading, the buying and selling of women, is the least that men should do. But we must do more. Ultimately our own humanity is at stake.
"Be as a lamp unto them that walk in darkness, a joy to the sorrowful, a sea for the thirsty, a haven for the distressed, an upholder and defender of the victim of oppression. Let integrity and uprightness distinguish all thine acts. Be a home for the stranger, a balm to the suffering, a tower of strength for the fugitive. Be eyes to the blind, and a guiding light unto the feet of the erring. Be an ornament to the countenance of truth, a crown to the brow of fidelity, a pillar of the temple of righteousness, a breath of life to the body of mankind, an ensign of the hosts of justice, a luminary above the horizon of virtue, a dew to the soil of the human heart, an ark on the ocean of knowledge, a sun in the heaven of bounty, a gem on the diadem of wisdom, a shining light in the firmament of thy generation, a fruit upon the tree of humility." (Baha'u'llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 285)