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How American Culture Promotes Sex Trafficking

Some things are hard to say and harder to hear.

But if we want to end sex trafficking, then we have to know what exactly makes it the fastest-growing organized crime. I believe the current American culture is a big factor. I say “American” because this is the place I’ve grown up in, but you can extrapolate these thoughts to western culture in general (if the shoe fits).

So, without further ado, how do America’s shared beliefs and social norms contribute to the rise of modern-day slavery?

1. Absent fathers

In itself, fatherlessness is also a symptom of other issues, but here, I’ll only address its effects. In America today, 1 in 4 children are being raised without a father. Children who grow up without both a mom and a dad are far more likely to experience a wide range of emotional, behavioral, academic, and social problems.

To be more concrete, 71% of high school dropouts, 85% of youth in prison, and 90% of runaway children are all fatherless. 70% of pregnant teens have absent fathers. Even preschoolers who aren’t living with both biological parents are 40 times more likely to be sexually abused.

Girls especially need their dad. Recent studies have shown that girls who have an involved father go on to develop healthy romantic relationships as adults, are more successful, and have lower rates of depression. More profoundly, as noted in the NY Daily News, girls with a committed dad are more empowered to “refuse unwanted sexual advances and emotional coercion in their relationships.” Trafficking would fall in that category. Many sex trafficking scenarios begin with a boyfriend who first builds trust, and then coerces the victim into doing “favors” for his friends.

In addition, teens with absent fathers will seek male affirmation elsewhere, such as a random man messaging them on Instagram, an older man telling them they look pretty…well, you can imagine the real motives of those men.

a child alone

2. Prevalence of porn

I’ve written about pornography in a previous post, but I would be remiss if I didn’t include it here. Our culture views porn as an expression of sexual empowerment and harmless entertainment, but it’s impossible to untangle porn from sex trafficking. Instead, it creates the demand for trafficking. It often features trafficking victims, and there’s no sure way to know which films are consensual and which are not. What’s more, Americans are some of the top producers and consumers of child porn.

In his book The Culture War, Jonathon Van Maren writes, “Pornography is fueling a new rape culture, wiring the trivialization of sexual assault right into our cultural psyche.”  Today, over 80% of porn contains violence or aggression. Van Maren also states, “Boys used to get taught that they shouldn’t hit girls, but now the culture is telling them it’s actually a turn-on.” Porn normalizes abuse.

Pornography is also turning boys as young as eleven into predators. Medical staff are seeing a disturbing trend of child-on-child sexual assault, and many of the young offenders confess they are acting out what they saw on screen.

3. Social media explosion

Facebook, Instagram, and other platforms have taken over the world–quite literally. Not that these are bad things in themselves, but the inundation of social media has consequences.

Social media is the number one method of exploitation. Some have called it the “digital hunting field.” Predators now have easy access to hundreds or thousands of girls in their area. They can find, groom, and contact the girls directly. After coercing a girl to send them explicit photos, they can blackmail her by threatening to post the photos on social media. And far too much exploitative content is not reported or censored.

scrolling social media
photo by Erik Lucatero

4. Sexual entitlement

When the sexual revolution began in the 1960s, the mantra was “sexual freedom.” Freedom to do what they want, who they want, when they want. Freedom from restrictions. However, the God who designed sex also designed the parameters for it: marriage. When you throw away the marriage boundary and engage in sex with no commitments, two things happen (among others).

First, the children pay the price. They grow up in unstable homes, and are more likely to live in poverty. The fatherlessness I mentioned above is a direct result of this. And who do traffickers tend to prey on? Yes, the vulnerable. The impoverished. The girls with “daddy issues.”

Second, you create a mentality of “if it feels good, it can’t be wrong.” If there is no marriage boundary, where do you draw the line? At consent? That’s a paper-thin foundation. What if the one consenting is fourteen years old? Or eight years old? And what if the consent is a product of manipulation, fraud, or coercion?

5. Over-sexualization

Nowadays, everything is sexualized. And I mean everything. Movies, music, advertisements. Clothes for little girls, beverage names in certain restaurants. Our culture is training men and women to always think about sex, and to make it an idol. Our bodies are constantly objectified, and objectification always leads to dehumanization and victimization.

So, there you have it.

Sex used to be something sacred, reserved for marriage–a committed covenant between a man and a woman. That’s the way God designed it, and he set those parameters for our well-being (Deut. 5:33). Sex is mingling of souls as well as bodies. For that reason, sex with no strings attached leaves you empty, and it is why sexual abuse is the most damaging thing you can do to a person.

Our culture likes to portray sex as something purely physical, because then it’s easier to use for our own purposes. It’s easier to sleep around without commitment. Easier to buy sex from a minor. Easier to sell a girl over and over again. Physical intimacy has become a commodity. But if sex were indeed a purely physical act between two bodies evolved from random chance, then why do trafficking survivors say they felt like they were selling their soul over and over again? Why does sexual abuse ravage a woman’s heart and mind as well as her body?

To end trafficking, we have to swim against the current of our culture. My purpose with this post isn’t to point fingers or stir up anger. I simply want you to see the way our culture is going and motivate you to stand against the rising tide, to swim upstream, and throw a rope to those going over the waterfall. Pimps hardly have to do the work of grooming anymore. Our culture is doing it for them, as well as creating broken children more susceptible to their tactics.

Do you agree? Disagree? Have any additional thoughts? If so, leave me a comment below.




“You shall walk in all the ways which the Lord your God has commanded you, that you may live and that it may be well with you…” Deuteronomy 5:33a


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