Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Problem With Freedom - Day 3

There is a concept in medicine called "herd immunity."

If you are trying to immunize a population of 100 people against some nasty disease, you don't have to reach everyone with the vaccine. That is hard to achieve. The concept of herd immunity means that if you manage to treat a certain number of the population - for argument's sake we'll say 80 - then the disease does not have enough places to live.

It survives by infecting a host and reproducing, passing itself to the next victim. If one person gets the disease, but doesn't run into one of the other twenty unvaccinated people, then the disease can't continue the process. It will die out in its host whether their immune system takes it out or the host expires. Now there is one less option for spread.

I think the concept of herd immunity is key when discussing sex trafficking and reducing demand.

I've spent the past couple of posts talking about the problem with freedom. (Day 1 and Day 2) To sum up: in Western culture and especially America, we like to say that people should have the freedom to do whatever they want, as long as it doesn't hurt others. The problem becomes that we don't always realize the unintended consequences of our actions, and more people are hurt than we realize.

We may enjoy our chocolate, but the cocoa beans sold to our favorite candy company finance a brutal regime. We may want a purebred puppy, but this supports puppy mills that churns out animals that are unhealthy and contributes to an overpopulation of pets.

Men may think they can look at pornography or solicit sex with a prostitute, and it is only their business. It's not hurting anyone, and they have the right. Right?

My second post on this topic connects the increasing demand for porn and prostitution with the exploitation of children in the sex industry, as does this excellent Newsweek article. I started this whole series because of an article in the Village Voice trying to debunk statistics regarding human trafficking and attacking the campaign by Ashton and Demi's DNA Foundation that wants to eradicate child sex exploitation and trafficking.

I've described the problem. The solution is always harder than identifying the problem.

Men, we have to realize that we are contributing to the exploitation and ruination of thousands of teen girls and vulnerable women. Our lust is providing a disease with plenty of hosts. The young and vulnerable women who are exploited by this industry are the victims, being ravaged by abuse, violence, and neglect. Whereas the DNA Foundation, IJM, Free the Slaves, and GEMS among others work to help these women, the Village Voice continues its defense of its adult services site Backpage.

As the Newsweek article details, the anonymity of the internet has created a huge increase in the demand for sexual buyers. Men think we can do what we want in private without hurting others. Whether downloading items off the net or arranging services at a clandestine location, it is a right. However, it feeds an industry that is devouring more and more of the "herd".

If men would stand up and say "Real Men Don't Buy Girls," if men would realize that these activities are not harmless or private, but contribute to a larger problem, then perhaps we would start seeing some herd immunity develop. If enough men were vaccinated, as it were, then the demand would lessen and there wouldn't be as much exploitation of the vulnerable.

I am not naive enough to believe we can eradicate this problem fully. I do believe we can work to educate men, the demand part of the supply and demand equation, that their actions are harmful and reduce the problem this way. Look at the major public education campaigns in the past:
  • Telling people how HIV is transmitted and how to protect themselves.
  • Reducing CFC's to protect the ozone.
  • Eliminating racist words from being used in mainstream culture.
  • Abolishing the slave trade in the 1800's through William Wilberforce and others.
The problem of men flouting their freedom and fueling a sick industry is real and worsening. People are waking up to this and speaking out, like at the DNA Foundation. The position of the Village Voice is wrong not because I am a religious fanatic or zealot. Their position is wrong because it hurts many people and deserves to be debated and debunked.

Community is not built by everyone having their own way. Community is built by people agreeing to limit themselves for the greater good, by seeing that limits are required to live together and provide true freedom for all.

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