Human sex trafficking is driven by the demand for commercial sex. This demand is comprised of both a) men who buy women and girls for sex, and b) a culture that tolerates or promotes sexual exploitation. The demand for commercial sex is strongly related to male privilege and sexual entitlement, and is part of a continuum of sexual exploitation and discrimination against women and girls. Strip clubs, violent pornography, exploitative massage parlors, and other venues and/or forms of sexual exploitation drive the demand for commercial sex and contribute the normalization of degradation and violence against women and girls. As a society, we have allowed and perpetuated pervasive messaging and images that portray women and girls as sexual objects and dehumanized commodities purposed for male consumption. Our children are bombarded with this toxic message every day through media, music, movies, video games and pop culture that reinforce this message and normalize the hypersexualization of America’s youth.
In order to effectively address sex trafficking in Minnesota, we must consider tougher penalties for the traffickers and the perpetrators, or buyers of commercial sex, who are driving the demand. We must also study the effect that commercial sex has on communities and the local economy to determine which businesses are profiting from it, including the marketing vehicles used by traffickers. Communities, by way of tolerating this activity, actually contribute to continued exploitation. When working on these issues, it is important to remember that these social norms/perceptions and beliefs about women and sex are something we create, and are, therefore, something that we can change.
Addressing the Demand
A number of community organizations across Minnesota recognize the need to address social and environmental factors that promote and foster attitudes contributing to sex trafficking and other forms of sexual violence against women. These organizations not only acknowledge men’s role in sex trafficking, but also provide opportunities for men to combat the exploitation of women and girls.
Minnesota Men’s Action Network: MNMAN is a statewide organizer of men working towards ending sexual violence against women, including ending sex trafficking.
Gender Violence Institute: GVI offers training and consultation throughout Minnesota on the causes of and solutions for addressing sexual exploitation demand.
Men As Peacemakers: Fostering and developing peacemakers through modeling, mentoring, storytelling, and dialogue.
Demand Change Project Conference: Hosted by Breaking Free, this bi-annual event focuses on addressing human trafficking in Minnesota. Significant focus is placed on prevention, through engaging men, through looking at the causes and contributors to human trafficking, and through understanding and combating the societal norms and privilege that create, promote, and protect men’s violence.
Beyond Tough Guise: Beyond Tough Guise is a program serving boys in Winona County, Minnesota. BTG works to mentor boys into a positive vision of masculinity that embraces respect towards women and girls.
Breaking Free’s John School: In partnership with the Ramsey County Courts and St. Paul Police Department, the Offenders Prostitution Program (John School) addresses the underlying attitudes and assumptions that enable and encourage offenders to participate in prostitution. This restorative justice program is designed to hold offenders accountable, while raising awareness about sex trafficking and providing resources to the women and children victimized by prostitution.
Prevention Committee of the MN Human Trafficking Task Force: The Prevention Committee is working to develop a comprehensive trafficking prevention agenda for Minnesota. For more information, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Additional Resources on Demand:
Human Trafficking & Demand Fact Sheet
Research on Demand on “John’s”
Law Enforcement Fact Sheet to learn more about local efforts to combat Demand