Thursday, December 6, 2007

An Underground Issue? Really?

Billboard off of I-95 in Broward County

When considering the risk factors that lead to a child being commercially sexually exploited, we may think prior history of abuse in the home, poverty and other likely suspects. The greatest risk factor, however - and one we typically gloss over – is DEMAND. Wherever there is an adult sex industry, there are children being exploited within it. The demand for buying sex and societal acceptance of it culminates in a double standard that allows and encourages men (1 out of 7 men to be precise) to purchase (often) a woman for sex without judgment, while the “prostitute” is dehumanized and treated as a morally and legally inferior citizen. This dehumanization of “prostitutes” in general leads us to be desensitized to the fact that children are being exploited in this industry and thus ignore the problem.

Most men soliciting children for sex are not pedophiles. They are situational abusers. They may not necessarily seek out children to buy, but if they are available and they happen to be under 18, they simply don’t care, as long as they meet their criteria for appearance. And in today’s world, we know two things: that sex is available for sale and that young is sexy.

This billboard shouts out from the side of I-95 in Broward County. Prostitution is illegal, but this advertisement clearly shows its acceptance. People often say that child prostitution is hidden underground, and that’s why it’s a difficult issue to tackle. This is clearly not the case. Children are walking the streets being sold alongside all the adults you see. They are listed on Craig’s List as 18 years old when they are not. Their photos are being shown in magazines and sent to entice men to travel abroad for sex. It is clearly not an underground problem. It’s an ignored problem.

We are seeing children being exploited in the sex industry every day, but since we are so desensitized to the adult sex industry, we don’t even stop to consider if that young looking girl is really an adult. Makes you wonder about this billboard.

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