Bits I DON’T like: Hype & Misinformation around Human Trafficking


Former prostitute speaks her heart out on why men shouldn’t buy women OR girls. Period.

By Trisha Baptie | Twitter: @trisha_baptie

I can see one of the great things about having my own little space in cyberworld is I get to talk about what I want at all times and right now what I want to talk about is Demi Moore and Aston Kutcher’s new campaign called Real Men. They have what I suppose are clever PSA vid’s, a call for men to take pictures of themselves holding a sign that says “Real Men Don’t Buy Girls” and apparently everyone in Hollywood is tripping over themselves to join the campaign. Many are applauding this campaign, saying how amazing this power couple is for taking up such a worthy cause.

I. am. not. clapping.

It’s a common sight these days: anyone who can retain a few facts, have a  story or two to throw in the mix, say a combination of “What about the kids?”, ”27 million human trafficking victims” or other platitudes. Add a few  graphic verbs like “chained,” “shackled,” “forced,” etc …  and suddenly you are an abolitionist.

Too many people talk to academics or other specialists who learned what they learned from a textbook or some other reading materials and are so far removed from the people they claim to be fighting for, they do not understand the complexities, the intricacies and the subtle discourses that can make or break an argument or entrench some very wrong analysis.

Language Matters

They also have no idea how and rarely talk to us. You know? Us. The very group they are passionate about. I find people using words about my life I am not comfortable with, like pimp … I called him my boyfriend. My lover. Yes, he is a pimp–in the traditional sense–but to NOT understand the complexities behind the relationships that women find themselves in, can mean just by your vernacular you alienate us.

Words like “victim.” I was doing the absolute best I could with the resources (or lack thereof) I had. I am no victim; I am a survivor. Words like “save” and “rescue.” The word should be empowerment and the phrase should sound something like: “We should end all forms of systemic oppression that work against women and children’s equality, safety, financial security, mental, physical and spiritual health, and stop commodifying the female body.” Not “Girls need to be rescued.” What we have to do is identify, and dismantle some very large systems, like patriarchy, to end it.

Exploitation at any age

To committed abolitionists (and men who do or want to buy sex) what that aforementioned sign says is: “Men do buy Women”  or “Men can buy women” as if the age on their ID card makes all the difference.

In the words of my wise friend Mikael Bingham: “It’s so easy to say trafficking is bad and child prostitution is bad but adult consensual prostitution doesn’t have anything to do with those things and really isn’t that big a deal.’ It’s the most self-preserving, non-controversial thing you can possibly say with regards to prostitution and trafficking. There are no risks in this statement, no courage, no boldness, no analysis, no wisdom. Just a bandwagon to jump on–one that’s crowded enough as it is and that’s rolling backwards down a steep hill.”

I often hear (usually from others who also have no involvement directly with the sex trade) I am too intense about this, but I’m pretty intense about my friends I have buried, and will bury, as we try to be nice/polite/ palatable about a subject that has no room for niceties. I hear (lots): “Trisha you are far too critical; be happy, they are at least bringing awareness to it now. People are talking.”

I am critical  because they are talking, saying and buying into a lot of the straw man arguments associated with this struggle, that in the end just makes everyone’s job harder.

The market?

Another dear friend, ally, and EVE admin volunteer Jess Martin said on my Facebook wall (you should friend me, seriously we have some cool convos on that wall): “It will be very difficult for any of us (rookies or veterans) to do anything helpful in the human-trafficking/prostitution arena if we’re not able to acknowledge that child exploitation, child-trafficking, trafficking of people over 18, and adult prostitution are all interlinking parts of a well-oiled system that cannot be compartmentalized. Johns use us all interchangeably … (S)omeone recently brought the following point to my attention: there is no specific market for trafficked women, just a market for women’s bodies. While there may be a more specific market for children, the lack of choice that contributes to prostitution doesn’t arrive as a special gift on your 18th birthday. Desperation also occurs in childhood.”

Which is why we cannot draw a line in this struggle and also why we must keep coming back to the same point: There is NO reason for men to pay for sex. There is no law that guarantees it. There’s no human right that protects it. None.

One woman, all women

Whether with a child, and adult, online, in person, via phone or however–the purchasing of one woman’s body degrades ALL women.

Let us throw this whole conversation on its head as the abolitionist movement does and ask: “Do we see men being able to pay for sex as a sign of an egalitarian society?”

Learn from the Grassroots

MANY beautiful people are talking, doing  and making a difference, so if you want to get involved in the glorious revolution, be willing to talk to grassroots & front line groups more, and not only listen but take your lead from them. I think it is just as vital for us all to have the same starting points like this simple but powerful sentence that can unify us all: “Prostitution is violence against women & children and a direct impediment to our equality. Prostitution is the end realization of many diverse and intertwined oppressive systems and issues women and children live under today.” If we can all agree on that (or something to that effect) we are well on our way. However some are not willing to draw hard lines, some people don’t want to interfere with adult prostitutes, yet don’t realize many sold adults were sold children. Or people want to make some distinction between human trafficking and prostitution. It’s simple: trafficking is the movement, prostitution the end result.

Abolition is about boldness. About speaking truth, and not being willing to back down for one second on any of the large and systemic issues. One cannot flinch in this debate. People’s lives, my life, my friend’s lives, our global sisters’ lives are on the line.

The sign needs to say: “Men don’t buy sex.” Now that’s a statement to get behind.

About Trisha
Trisha Baptie is Executive Director of Honour Consulting and founding member of EVE (formerly Exploited Voices now Educating). In 2008 she won BC’s Courage to Come Back Award for her bravery in transitioning to a healthier lifestyle, for giving the murdered women of Vancouver a voice through her trial coverage of Vancouver’s serial killer and for her ongoing activism. Follow Trisha’s tweets at @trisha_baptie or friend her on facebook. She recently founded EVE (formerly Exploited Voices Now Educating.)

Idelette McVicker
I like soggy cereal and I would like to go to every spot on the map of the earth to meet our world’s women. I dream of a world where no women or girls are for sale. I dream of a world where women and men are partners in doing the work that brings down a new Heaven on earth. My word last year was “roar” and I learned it’s not about my voice rising as much as it is about our collective voices rising in unison to bring down walls of injustice. This year, my own word is “soar.” I have three children and this place–right here, called–is my fourth baby. I am African, although my skin colour doesn’t tell you that story. I am also a little bit Chinese, because my heart lives there amongst the tall skyscrapers of Taipei and the mountains of Chiufen. Give me sweet chai and I think I’m in heaven. I live in Vancouver, Canada and I pledged my heart to Scott 11 years ago. I believe in kindness and calling out the song in each other’s hearts. I also believe that Love covers–my gaps, my mistakes and the distances between us. I blog at and tweet @idelette.
Idelette McVicker

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  1. Kelley Johnson Nikondeha says:

    You are a powerhouse with a strong voice that rattles me in the best way! I celebrate your advocacy and outright velocity – not letting niceties slow you down. You are a force for good, for gospel, for God’s justice in this world. I just am in awe of your courage! Keep speaking – we need you!

  2. The more I research it, the more I see it. The whole sex industry, is an abusive force. Period. It’s so deceptive, and so sad that people take it all so lightly. I guess the biggest problem I have with the DNA psa’s is that they take sex trafficking and make it seem like a light issue.

    “Real men are distrustful of robots”
    “Real men don’t buy girls.”

    Is this supposed to be funny? I got involved in speaking against trafficking because of the horrific things I heard about it. Then I heard some of the same horrific things about prostitution, whether folks consider it trafficking or not. Then I heard horrific things about prostitution. And society apparently thinks it’s nothing more than a simple taboo. It’s not. It’s a cataclysmic destructive force more commonly known as “the sex industry.”

    The women and girls caught up in this industry deserve better.

  3. Thank you for your article. It is sadly ironic that the same Hollywood that wants to protest this issue is the same Hollywood that are mass contributors to our culture’s obsession with the sexually perverse. When I look at what is coming out in the mainstream media, I wonder how this is encouraging young men to respect women, and young women to respect themselves? We are going back in time as it relates to devaluing women…it just looks different than it did 50 years ago. For a great organization fighting against human trafficking that I support see:

  4. Something that I find really interesting about ‘Real Men Don’t Buy Girls’ is the ubiquity of the campaign coupled with the complete lack of critical thinking about it. I’d love to applaud Demi and Ashton but DNA is sending some crazy mixed messages. For example, there is a photo on the campaign’s FB page in which Ludacris is holding a ‘real men don’t buy girls’ sign- this is the man who recorded ‘Pimpin’ All Over the World’ and was featured on Nate Dogg’s ‘Real Pimp.’ Kind of a mixed message, eh? He doesn’t buy girls but he’s happy to control and sell women? There’s something wrong with this.
    Also, Jamie Foxx’s song ‘Straight to the Dance Floor,’ features the line, ‘turn tricks on the bitch’- sounds a bit like he’s talking about pimping… And, according to the campaign, he’s a real man.

  5. Trisha,

    I’m a former sex-addict who was deeply involved as a consumer of sex-for-pay. I was exposed to pornography at the age of four and over the next 26 years my addiction grew to the point of using and consuming women as objects, in ways I had never imagined. In 1994 I found healing, freedom, and the beginning of a new life.

    You can watch this video to hear my story:

    When I read the news about Ashton and Demi, I too thought “you’re kidding, right?” I’m glad for the attention given to trafficked children, but in their silence against any form of sex for pay, the tacitly endorsed the seemingly harmless acts of men who pay for sex like paying for a shoe shine or a haircut.

    To women everywhere, and through all time, to those who have been used and abused sexually as men have paid for your bodies: I ask for forgiveness. I have been part of the problem. I have sinned against God, and against you.

    Forgive me that I have not treated you with the respect and honor you deserve as sisters in humanity. Forgive me that I was so preoccupied with my own selfish needs that I turned you into an object, looking right past your soul.

    To women everywhere, and through all time, to those who have been used and abused sexually as men have paid for your bodies: I bless you. I bless your personhood. I bless your feminine souls. I bless the wounds that you have received. I bless your strength.

    May you each one not only survive, but thrive into wholeness. May each one of you find a deep sense of being the Beloved of the One who delighted in prostitutes, taking nothing away but shame, and offering only tenderness and mercy.

    My hope is that a movement does grow across our global village that says, “Men Don’t Buy Sex.” In fact, I think I’m going to start a Facebook Page tonight.


    Michael John Cusick

  6. I have to admit, that while my heart yearns to do something about the large, overwhelming, dense, cloud of Human Trafficking…there is SO much I have yet to learn. So much education about the language, the laws and the stories of the women, boys and girls involved.

    I’m really hoping to get a better sense of this global heart cry of so many women through your posts.


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