I just became a new father
As I look at my son, I have the highest hopes for him. Will he be an entrepreneur, a teacher, a musician, an athlete, maybe even President?
But one of the furthest labels from my mind is rapist.
Yet that’s what many boys grow up to be. I use that term inclusively of direct relational sexual abuse, acts of criminal violence, along with the clients of prostituted individuals and sex trafficking victims, and the pimps who control them. On the surface, all these men lead normal lives – they may have families and steady jobs. And at one point, they were young boys who didn’t even know the concept of human trafficking. Yet now they are the very ones perpetuating it.
All Pimps and Rapists Were Once Children
Human trafficking exists because some children were never taught how to grow up. They were never taught how treat women, much less any person.
We have to remember that every pimp and every rapist was once a young child, a baby, full of hope and potential. Most of their parents had high hopes that they would achieve success and do good in the world. They probably never imagined their innocent child could grow up into someone who enslaves other people and uses them for his own gratification. Those parents may still be ignorant or in denial of it.
That’s a sobering thought for me as I look at my baby boy. It makes me even more determined to be intentional in what I teach him about sex, masculinity, women, and human dignity.
Boys Need to Grow Up to Be Men
You’ve heard the phrase “boys will be boys.” It’s often used innocently to excuse childish or inappropriate behavior – behavior that’s not expected of girls, but is somehow ok for boys. Yet it’s the underlying belief in this phrase that enables sex trafficking today.
Boys are given permission to remain boys even as they become teenagers and adults. They never mature into men. And so they seek instant gratification, take what they want, have no regard for others, and see others as objects for their own benefit.
My son will not be allowed to stay a boy. He will be taught to become a man. I’ll teach him that he can’t have anything he wants, that there are some actions that are not acceptable no matter how old he is, and that people have value and are to be respected and treated with dignity.
We can’t continue letting our boys be boys. Our world needs men.
People are trafficked because they are seen as less than human. That’s the only way such atrocious acts can be committed against victims. Pimps and rapists have to devalue their victims.
Yet this mentality grows in very subtle ways in boys. It’s reinforced through bullying, pornography, hookup culture, and all the other ways where other people are seen as less than them or objects to be used for their benefit.
My son needs to be taught that people matter. He needs to see that people are not things to be used, but have dignity and value for simply being human. He needs to learn that his strengths and skills are there to help, serve, and defend others, not take advantage of them.
Though the problem of human trafficking is largely one of how men abuse women (and other men), it comes down to the deeper issue of how people view and treat other humans.
This isn’t meant to exclude the role of women in human trafficking. While the vast majority of victims are women, the vast majority of fighters and defenders are also women. But the burden can’t be theirs alone, and the fight can’t always be reactive to a problem that already exists.
The best way to fight human trafficking is to stop it from even happening. To stop future pimps and rapists, and to save future victims, we have to prevent boys from turning into immature adults who view people as objects. That begins with teaching our boys to grow up into men who respect and defend human dignity.
Steven works on branding and marketing for nonprofits. He enjoys writing articles on his own blog and for various outlets on topics of faith, politics, culture and social justice. He is also married with a son.
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