by Shelbe Gibson
Isn’t it cool when school projects are relevant? When they become something you WANT to do, rather than something you HAVE to do? I was blessed with a project like that this semester. It all came together today, leaving me feeling accomplished, productive, and ready to shout what I’ve learned to the world!
For my Senior Seminar 2 class, my partner and I were assigned to put together a men’s training event for End Slavery Tennessee. We had to coordinate the speaker’s travels to Nashville from Chicago, find, invite, and take care of the male attendees, and get everything for the daylong seminar in order. The event was intended to equip men with the knowledge to present to young boys about the dangers of trafficking, exploiting women, and what it really means to be a “man.” The curriculum was written by Caleb Probst from the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation. (CAASE). I was told beforehand that Caleb’s presentation was impressive, but he blew me away with how engaging and interactive he was while getting across his very powerful message.
My favorite exercise was simple, but impactful. Caleb asked the men to shout out words that would describe a man who has a lot of women, a man who sleeps around a lot. Words like “pimp”, “player”, “stud”, and “lucky” were put on the list. Next, he asked them to list what words society uses to describe women who display the same behavior. The words didn’t seem to have the same positive connotation—words like “whore”, “slut”, “skank”, and “tramp” were written on that piece of paper. It was much longer than the males’ list, too. Seeing the differences in the two was eye-opening. They were partaking in the SAME acts, but one gender is praised while the other is given the scarlet letter.
This demonstration started engaging and vibrant conversation that lasted the whole day. Caleb defined sexual exploitation, human trafficking, pimping, and gender-based violence. Through popular advertisements and Top 40 song lyrics (YouTube the lyrics to Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke), he showed how much the media is contributing to the sexual exploitation of women and how warped our view of “manliness” has become. Why is it manly to objectify women? To consider them an ends to a selfish means? Sex outside of marriage, especially sex with random women for money, may provide instant gratification, but it just adds to the awful cycle of brokenness and loneliness in the lives of both parties.
No little girl dreams of growing up to be a prostitute. In a HUGE majority of the cases, prostitution is NOT a choice. That widely used excuse needs to be thrown into the trash. Girls become prostitutes because they are forced, coerced, or lured. They have been told over and over by society that they aren’t good enough; they start to believe it. Sometimes, they feel too inadequate or under-educated to have any job besides prostitution. It is an act of desperation, but still not a happily made choice. When women are failed to be shown real, true love, they are easily manipulated by pimps. If WE (the church, society…) don’t start showing them love, then you better believe that plenty of pimps out there will step up and take our place!
The Church is a body of broken people made whole by Christ. We are all broken and messy and not good enough. There are no “pretty” sins and there is not “sin scale” that makes some better than others. As the body of Christ, we need to welcome and love prostitutes and even pimps. It’s not okay to be scared of words like sex, prostitution, porn, or trafficking in the church. If we aren’t equipping our young people, the world will do that for us.
I, then, sat back and listened as these professional, Christian men talked about their struggles with pornography—how the porn industry has hindered their own relationships and how they see it destroying the lives of youth. They conversed about the unrealistic standards set by society for both men and women. What does it REALLY mean to be a man?? Are men controlling, dominating, and forceful? Is that what you want your son to grow up to be?
When fighting human trafficking and forced prostitution, it’s vital to include men in the conversation. Those conversations don’t always have to be stories of victims or hard-to-grasp statistics, either. This is a huge problem that can seem daunting and overwhelming. Where do you even start to “fix” this worldwide epidemic? Well, you start with trainings like these. You open the lines of communication, raising awareness and brainstorming ideas to help.
Fighting the culture of sex in our society will help halt human trafficking. It’s basic business—with no demand, you don’t need a supply! If we watch our language, are pro-active about not consuming songs, movies, or books that feed this industry, and share what we know with others, then we are active in this fight!! I’m positive that the men present at the training today will impact the lives of many young boys. They will prevent future johns and pimps. These volunteers will be mentors, role models, and safe places for teens who need just that.
For a more personal look into the lives of girls who are lured into prostitution, watch the video below. The narrator, Rachel Lloyd, is the founder of GEMS Girls, an organization helping girls leave the industry in New York City. Rachel, a survivor herself, is one tough cookie. I can only hope that one day I can be as impactful and bold as she is in this crucial fight against human trafficking.