It’s interesting to see how the media pendulum has swung back from 2009’s ‘sex trafficking is a myth’ theme (spearheaded by Nick Davies, who received an award from the sex industry for his efforts), to the current focus on the internal trafficking of children for sex.
It’s not hard to think that this is only being given attention now because of the putative ‘racial’ element, when the perpetrators can be labelled as ‘other’, but as Anne Marie Carrie of Banardo’s puts it here:
“I am not going to say that ethnicity is not an issue in some geographical areas, it clearly is. But to think of it as the only determining factor is misleading and dangerous.”
The charity dealt with white, black and Asian victims, she said – whose voices were being lost. “Profiling and stereotyping is dangerous – we are scared that victims will say: ‘I don’t fit into that pattern, so I’m not being abused’.”
But what I find really interesting about the clutch of reports in today’s Guardian, is what’s not being said, why are the words ‘pornography’ and ‘prostitution’ not being used at all, when a lot of the abusers are clearly doing this for a profit?:
Mobile phones and the internet are increasing used as tools to control children. Tim was given a pay-as-you-go mobile to keep track of him and organise his abuse. At the height of his trafficking his photograph and profile, controlled by his abusers, was posted online to attract new “customers”.
Other teens are being co-erced into sending, or posing for, sexually explicit photos, which are then used to blackmail and control, said Carrie.
“The abuser then sells the images, and threaten to send the pictures to the girl’s parents or school if she does not do x, y and z.”
In one chilling example, the report cited a ten-year-old girl referred to the project for posting graphic, sexualised images of herself on the internet.
These men are clearly not only child abusers, they are also pimps and pornographers.
Why is male privilege and entitlement not being talked about? There is no neat and convenient divide between child prostitution and adult prostitution, child pornography and adult pornography, except that once a child turns 16, they stop being victims and are suddenly making a ‘free and empowering’ choice, or are just dumb sluts who choose to be abused and deserve it.
Suzanne Moore, writing in the Guardian on Saturday, does comment on this very well:
An argument about gangs of men who “groom” young women for sex becomes an argument about ethnicity and faith. Of course, these are issues to be discussed, but the central issue, surely, is the abuse of children. Turning vulnerable young girls into drug-addicted prostitutes is disgusting in any culture. But it wouldn’t be a viable proposition if men did not want sex with these children. As with all arguments about prostitution, the one group we rarely hear from are the men who buy sex. The “punters”.
But otherwise, nothing. Jim Gamble, former chief executive of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (Ceop), in an otherwise very good article, is keen to play down the ‘business’ aspects, saying “Would you rather be considered an organised criminal or a child abuser?” , when of course the perpetrators can be both.
It’s obvious why this is the case. Apart from a die-hard handful of so-called ‘sex radicals’, nobody is going to speak up in favour of sex with ten year olds; however, seeing child abuse in context, the context of a misogynist rape culture where the vast majority of ‘mainstream’ pornography offers depictions of paedophilia, and where challenging men’s ‘right’ to unfettered sexual access to women’s bodies gets you labelled a man-hating, sex-hating prude, looking at the bigger picture is going to make too many men very uncomfortable.
As there is no neat and convenient divide between child prostitution and adult prostitution, the men who chose to pay to rape under 16’s are not neatly and conveniently divided from the ‘normal’ men who consume pornography and engage in prostitution as ‘punters’.