I asked former john, Jay (read his interview post here), to compose a guest post on the topic of the rise of college students selling their bodies for money. He sent it to me and I read it and was blown completely away. The insight and unique perspective he provides is invaluable to my research and should be a must-read for anyone working to bring about the demise of the sex industry.
Buy My Books
That’s the title to an ad that frequently runs in the W4M section of craigslist in Chicago. I’m sorry to say that I did, indeed “buy her books.” She’s 20, and she’s a college student, cute, personable, smart, and probably quite successful in her academic pursuits. So, why is she soliciting as a prostitute on the internet?The only answer I can come up with is that it’s easy money. In her mind, why work a job for maybe $10 an hour when you can make $100 in twenty minutes performing oral sex? If you meet three men in one day, you will make more than you would in two weeks working part time at McDonald’s, and it’s tax-free.
I’m “Jay,” the (now former) john from Chicago that was interviewed a while back. I’ve been asked to write a guest blog and this is the result. The topic is prostitution in colleges, specifically college girls who are augmenting their income as sex workers. I’ve paid for sex probably 40 times with fifteen different girls, and I’m guessing that two-thirds of them were college girls. As first blush, it seemed like a good thing; a 42 year-old man gets to have no-strings sex with girl who is less than half his age. I got my needs fulfilled, she got money, nobody got hurt, right?
Not so much. I can tell you from personal experience that paying for sex has warped my sexuality in ways that I would not have predicted. I can only imagine what it’s done to the girls I’ve paid over the course of several months. The most haunting words I’ve ever heard are, “That was the easiest $100 I ever made,” uttered by a 20 year-old engineering major at a large university. I was her first ever john, I was her introduction into the world of prostitution, and I can only imagine what she’s doing now. It frankly scares the crap out of me. I picked her up near her school and drove her over fifteen miles back to my place where we had sex, then I drove her home. Thirty miles in a car with someone is a long time, and of course we talked. I’m very gregarious, and she was very sweet. I mean, she’s the kind of girl I would hope my son brings home some day. I’m sure that nobody would ever guess that she engages in prostitution.
The very first time I paid for sex was when I answered an ad from a girl offering “French lessons.” Of course, not being entirely naïve, I knew exactly what she meant. I wasn’t really intending to go through with it, it was mostly curiosity on my part, but when I saw her pictures I decided to “treat” myself. She’s 21 and a graphic arts student here in Chicago. She could be a model, she’s that beautiful. When she came into my apartment, took off her coat, walked into my bedroom and took her clothes off. I was hooked. I saw her three times altogether.
The college girls I’ve seen are usually smart, very attractive, and easy to talk to. I’m a manager at my company and I would have hired any one of them had they interviewed for a job. And yet for some reason, they all made a decision to pursue prostitution as a means of income over legal employment (though most of them did have “regular” jobs as well).
In my opinion, if one man who engages as a john for a period of three months or so can meet perhaps ten college girls for paid sex, there is most likely an epidemic of prostitution in colleges all over the country. It’s not like I tried very hard to target these girls, there were plenty of ads on craigslist (and I posted a few of my own after a while). They are easy to find. “Buy My Books” ran an ad today so I know she’s still doing it. I receive at least three e-mails a week from girls I’ve paid to have sex with asking me if I’m interested in getting together. I politely decline, telling them that I’m no longer paying for sex, and I mention that what they’re doing is not safe and that they should be careful. I wish I knew what else to say to them. I know in my heart that I can’t get them to stop (I’m a recovering alcoholic, nobody could have said or done anything to me to get me to stop drinking until I was ready and even then I made the decision on my own).
But I’m a problem-solver by nature, which (despite my lack of a college degree) makes me very good at what I do for a living. So, if prostitution among college girls is the problem here, what is the solution? I wish I knew. This one is throwing me for a loop.
In the meantime, all I can say is, don’t buy her books.
When people think of anti-human trafficking work, they typically think of rescue and shelters. Rescues are exciting and shelters are needed and everyone easily understands why they are essential. But neither really does anything about ending slavery. If a victim is rescued, a trafficker brings in two more. And shelters are for after the fact. They are needed, like emergency medical workers are needed in an epidemic. But at some point, we need to cure the illness itself as well as identify those who have it; or leaving our analogy behind, to address the systemic causes that allow slavery to flourish, as well as identify victims so they CAN be rescued and restored. And that’s just what we at End Slavery do. Here’s an overview of our current and "in the works" initiatives:
- IDENTIFY THE VICTIMS: Distribution of posters, bookmarks, bumper stickers and other materials that help people identify victims/ web page with victim ID red flags
Community Watch type programs to enable neighbors to spot trafficking in their own neighborhood. Speaking to community groups. Fielding calls, e-mail, and Facebook messages and advising community members who suspect trafficking and are unsure what to do about it.
- PROTECT OUR YOUTH: Presentation and materials for schools, inner city and immigrant service providers and other youth venues, warning youth, and those who care for them, of the tactics of traffickers.
Teen oriented web site warning of trafficking tactics with ways to share info easily with friends and to report, anonymously if desired, what is happening within peer group.
- OPEN PROFESSIONAL’S EYES: Training for professions likely to make first contact with victims (teachers, pastors, medical workers, social workers, legislators, apt. managers, maintenance workers etc.)
- SUPPORT THE SURVIVORS: We work with the FBI to provide help as needed for rescued victims and we hold events and home parties to increase venues for sale of goods made by rescued victims.
- SLOW THE DEMAND: We teach at each session of the local John school (a school for men arrested for soliciting prostitutes), educating the attendees on how their choices feed human trafficking and slavery. Other initiatives are currently under consideration such as billboards, ads, flyers and/or other media targeted to the people buying the slave’s services or goods
- LOOK TO THE FUTURE: We teach in numerous college classes each semester so the next generation, the leaders of tomorrow, will not be ignorant of human trafficking and modern slavery.
We hold regular events on college campuses, spreading awareness and encouraging/equipping student involvement in ending slavery while they are still in school.
We have interns each semester who learn deeply about the issue and ways to work to end it. In every case thus far, students continue to work with us after their internship is over and make career choices focused on ending slavery/aiding victims.
- EDUCATE: Through a monthly newsletter, blog, twitter, Facebook cause, and regular speaking engagements. This not only leads to victim identification, it is our belief that we can create a groundswell of outrage that will affect change makers in the media, legislators etc.
- REPLICATE: We were instrumental in connecting people who started a coalition in Knoxville and an anti-slavery group in Memphis and look to spreading anti-slavery work throughout Tennessee. We also train churches, and other groups, in Tennessee and other parts of the country, how to engage in ending slavery in their own communities.
This is a grassroots movement using ordinary people in all walks of life. We have two monthly volunteer groups, one in Nashville and one in Franklin. These groups further educate themselves on the issue and break into action groups focusing on various initiatives.
In March 2010, an organization working among oppressed people in over 60 countries, asked End Slavery in Tennessee’s Director, Derri Smith, to help them establish teams around the world focused specifically on slavery and human trafficking. While taking on that non-paid director’s position with International Teams (ITeams), she remains committed to the work in Tennessee, as well. In fact, she is working on establishing ITeams’ first full-time domestic anti-slavery team in Nashville, which will serve as a training base for other teams in the US and around the world.
- Derri is also currently engaged in starting/ expanding/considering anti-slavery teams in Uganda, Brazil, Thailand, Bulgaria, Ecuador, Australia, Cambodia, India and Russia.
End Slavery TN abolitionists recently completed participation in a project that epitomizes the grassroots nature of our work. The fruition can be found in the song “Stolen” and accompanying music video: WARNING. POTENTIALLY DISTURBING IMAGES. NOT FOR CHILDREN. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QnK5mOgYI4c&feature=player_embedded]
The process, in microcosm, looked like this:
I shared some of my Power Points, information and the story of a local victim with a local pastor.
The pastor, Michael Reddish, talked to his congregation about Human Trafficking, and told the survivor’s story.
A musician in the audience, Brian Terry, heard the story, talked to me afterward, and bought the book “Not For Sale.”
The story inspired Brian to write the song “Stolen.” Reading the book burned the issue into his heart, inspiring determination to do whatever he could to cripple slavery.
3 Minutes to Live band members joined Brian, who is their lead singer, in performing and recording the song. Some who heard “Stolen” encouraged the group to create an accompanying music video.
I sent word out to our network of area abolitionists and:
- An apartment manager, Diana English, arranged for us to use one of her show apartments as a location.
- Bill Harding, a student and colleague working with Stop Child Trafficking Now, took on the role of videographer and was able to use his school’s equipment because he made this his class project.
- Marla Shelton, who works in the Service Learning Dept. at Volunteer State Community College, got the word out to students about volunteer needs. (Marla, and many of the students involved also heard me speak to their classes about Human Trafficking and were informed and eager for a chance to engage. )
- These students, along with Marla and other area activists and some of Brian’s friends and family, and the band members of 3 Minutes to Live, played the parts of victims and traffickers, made signs, took out trash, created bruises and black eyes from make-up , took down and set up furniture and props and did everything else needed for this work-intensive weekend. Other team members included: Kate Harris, Jamie Burton, Tina Newman, Amber Terry, Adam Wolfe, Brittany Bertolli, Isaiah White, Jerry Martinez, Megan Mitchell, Kiersten Joyce Butler, Leslie Zellaya, Raymond Wolfe, and Samara Williams.
- (I don’t want to brag, but I actually had the most important role as “Official String Cheese Provider” for the cast and crew. I did make people string their own cheese. Can't do everything.)
So now we have a powerful tool for raising awareness of this heinous crime and raising funds for anti-slavery work.
But the grassroots effort is not done. Now it is YOUR turn. You determine the effectiveness of all the work done thus far. Please send this blog or the link to www.3MTL.com to everyone you know. Or send them to our website where recipients will find the link and ways to become further informed and involved. If you have media connections, send the video to them. Rate it on YouTube to help it get more exposure there. Post it on your social networks.
Don’t wait for “someone” to do “something!” WE are the “someones” who can make ripples—and waves—with far reaching consequences for good. Take 5 minutes to pass this on, and be part of the grassroots movement to end slavery in our lifetime. Thanks, team!
While we will ever continue to work to rescue and aid victims here in Tennessee, to make real progress we must address the demand side of the sex slavery equation. As a start, this month I will be visiting and speaking at the local “John’s School” for men arrested for soliciting prostitutes. The thought is, frankly, unnerving. These are men, after all, who buy women, not so much for sex but to have power. Who are inept at developing real relationships and so pay for fantasy ones. Victor Malerek, award winning investigative reporter and author of The Natashas, has a new, must-read book called The Johns: Sex for Sale and the Men Who Buy It, and in it, he reveals the kind of men—and the organized crime syndicates—that drive the commercial sex trade, from America to Romania, Brazil to Cambodia, Phnom Penh to Moscow. “The Johns is a chilling look into a dark corner of the world that these men have created at the expense of countless women and children."
Ultimately, the worldwide, multi-billion dollar industry of human trafficking into forced prostitution is fed by the demand of the men who buy bodies to rent. They are the fuel that drives the monster machine. Please watch the CBC interview with Victor Malarek for an overview of what he exposes in his book. Be forewarned that it is graphic but informative and well worth your time.