Sex trafficking has become a topic of interest for many people. From the government to human rights activist, individuals and organizations are doing what they can to stop sex trafficking around the world. Most often people associate sex trafficking with women. Americans see this is a problem that only takes place in areas like Russia, the Ukraine, and throughout Asia. However, this is a problem that affects men and women worldwide. Everyday people are forced into the sex trade. Not only are women forced into sexual exploitation, men and boys are entered into the trade. Many of these males are silent victims of the epidemic. They are often too afraid and ashamed to admit to sexual servitude. Furthermore, many governments and organizations fail to realize male sexual exploitation as a social issue. By identifying the problem of sexual exploitation of boys and men it will provide increased awareness to generate change.
“Sexual violence against males is a taboo subject”, (Male Victims, 2011). It is known as taboo for many reasons. Most likely, people associate human sex trafficking with females. Although females are more likely to become victims of sex trafficking, males are increasingly victimized by the sex trade. It occurs all over the world, from Central and South America, to the US and Europe. When questioned about the human sex trade concerning the country, the representative of Homeland Security failed to mention this phenomenon. Not addressing or recognizing the issue will only keep the problem hidden. Consequently, “this lack of concern renders male victims invisible and quite often what cannot be seen gets treated as if it does not exist”, (Male Victims, 2011).
Although Homeland Security failed to identify this problem, other government affiliates do. A representative of the U.S Department of Health and Human Services indicated that the rate of male sex trafficking as increased throughout the country. Of all human sex trafficking incidents reported in 2008, 17% of victims were male (Carroll, 2009). Despite the rise, human trafficking concerning men continued to be centered around labor. This can especially be seen in men trafficked for labor from Central and South America to the United States and other parts of the world. On the topic of human trafficking, FBI agents only accounted for male human trafficking victims stating that, “the majority of the cases… involve forced labor at construction sites or in agriculture”, (Carroll, 2009). Although federal agents and organizations recognize the scope of human trafficking of men, they fail to acknowledge male trafficking involving sexual exploitation. This discrepancy only increases the need to increase awareness of the male sex trafficking.
Associates in other parts of the world have recognized this occurrence. They acknowledge the sexual exploitation of men, women, and children equally indicating that everyone is at risk. In areas throughout Europe, male sexual exploitation is more common than one would expect. Making this incident a cause for increased concern, it has spurred groups to surge assistance to all who are victimized. Through social services programs and organizations, they offer help and assistance to male victims of trafficking. This can especially be seen in Europe. Although parts of Europe recognize the event of male sexual exploitation, they do not provide sufficient data concerning the rise of sexually exploited men throughout the region. One reason for this is because the country does not indicate the number of men victims’ weather for sexual exploitation or labor. Hence, “in distinguishing the two, a problem is created in the identification of trafficked men. Whether talking about trafficking or forced labor, the people involved are equally victim to having their human rights violated”, (Trafficking of Adult Men, 2013).
Due to the lack of recognition and acknowledgement of this occurrence, men are less likely to receive resources and services. Therefore, “many trafficked men are never identified”, (Trafficking of Adult Men, 2013). Men who are victimized by the sex trade are more likely to be treated without care. If the individual is a foreign national, he is most likely to be deported without rehabilitation or treatment. The use of deportation to assist victims is not effective. Because men are fearful of deportation, they are less likely to report incidents of exploitation. This is especially seen in men who are victimized by the sex trade. Men are not identified and recognized as victims. This is heavily associated with gender identity as men are expected to provide and protect himself without the use of services or assistance. As such, “the profile of a trafficked person is most commonly seen to be that of a woman, transported for prostitution; hence when the authorities are investigating trafficking they will be looking for persons with a profile that matches this description”, (Carroll, 2009).
When it comes to sex trafficking of men, men are discriminated against due to their gender. Men are associated with masculinity. The “concept of masculinity and the related notions of male identity, manhood, manliness, and men roles”, (Gutmann, 1997). As such, the title of “victim” is a threat to male identity. He is no longer a man if labeled a victim of sexual exploitation. When sexual victimization is associated with men, he loses more of his male identity. This is the same for governments, organizations, and activist who want to provide resources and services for victims. Many of these groups have the same ideas of masculinity and gender identity. Furthermore, they are unable to provide the services and resources they need. This is because many organizations do not provide specialized services for men, only accommodating the needs of women who are affected by the sex trade. It relates to gender bias, meaning that men trafficked for sex cannot see themselves as victims of a crime or a trafficked person. “Even if a man is identified as trafficked he will very often reject services, or simply not be in need of the services offered. As most services are designed for women”, (Trafficking of Adult Men, 2013).
Men and sexual exploitation is a combination that does not sit well with most people. Again, this is associated with male identity and gender bias. Men are most likely associated as those who perpetrate and participate in sex exploitation. Men are not seen as victims. Men are associated with things that are aggressive and calculating. They are fighters, providers, supporters, and protectors. Men are not supposed to be exploited and taken advantage of by force or coercion. Thus, when men are victimized, they are less likely to seek help or support. They are shamed by the process of being exploited and then being titled as a victim which is emasculating. The male identity and range of the sex trade makes it easier for male victims to hide without exposure. These men are often used and exploited in a way in which women are not. Men who are involved in the sex industry are more likely victims of sexual exploitation and trafficking. Male sex trade victims work in strip clubs, pornographic videos and images, or even prostitute on the street. In these environments, men are not recognized as victims. “It is not uncommon for men to use pornography or frequent strip clubs without any idea that the people they are viewing could potentially be victims”, (Rieger, 2006). Instead they are viewed as willing participants and not someone sexually exploited. The image of male identity and gender bias only continue to be problematic of male sexual exploitation.
Due to the gender bias associated with male identity and victimization, many wonder how males become exploited in the sex trade. Men are heroes, warriors, and hunters. They are also known for strength and might. Yet, despite these associations they are victimized and exploited in the most degrading manner. However, men who are sexually exploited are not trafficked by force. “In most cases the men work voluntarily, but are deceived and exploited along the way”, (Rieger, 2006). Research suggests that men are targeted, coerced, and then exploited. These are men who are unemployed and desperate for work. Teenage boys who are sexually exploited and likely to be runaways, some are trying to help support their family. In other cases, men who suffer from drug addiction are also targeted. These men are desperate and need to financially support their drug habit. “Some of the victims knew they were going to work in the sex industry, but others thought they were coming to Spain to work in legitimate jobs”, (Carroll, 2009). Once targeted, they are often coerced by promises of employment. In some situations, traffickers encourage victims to become drug dependent continuing exploitation and victimization.
All over the world, sexual exploitation of men is on the rise, from South America, to Europe, and Africa, men continue to be victimized. Like the trends observed throughout Europe, in this area sexually exploited men work as prostitutes. In areas such as Spain and Brazil, traffickers operate in large gangs to traffic men from overseas. Throughout Europe men are sexually exploited from South and Central America. The prostitution gangs in Europe house men to work the streets for money. Like women, men are not financially compensated for their exploitation. They are further coerced to remain in the trade. Instead of receiving moneys to send home and support their families, they are paid with drugs and forced to take Viagra, (Mason, 2013). However, sexually exploited men are expected to provide more “service” to their trafficker. In some cases, exploited men are expected to work for longer hours and expected to perform more often than their female counterparts.
Men who are trafficked from one country to the next do not know what they are getting into. Most believe they are migrating for work; however they do not know they are entering the sex trade. In a foreign land, these men become dependent on their traffickers. They may not know the language and are vulnerable for exploitation. Once entering the trade, they are not provided the promised wages and most are threatened and physically abused. When the men do get paid, it goes back to their trafficker or gang leader. The vulnerability of boys in this situation is even higher. With no significant data providing information on male sex trafficking, the incidents of boys in the trade are very little. “Therefore, much less is known about the sex trafficking of boys. But reports indicate that especially in some areas of the world like Southeast Asia, it is alarmingly high”, (Inglee, 2010).
In areas throughout South and Central America the topic has been given greater attention. These are areas where homosexuality has gained and continued acceptance and more individuals identify themselves as gay or transsexual. When doing research on sexual exploitation of minors in cities around Honduras, the country found that for every 1000 children exploited for sexual purposes at least 50 of these children are boys, (Human Trafficking, 2013). In parts of Mexico results are more alarming. In this region individuals can buy a boy for personal use for just a few thousand dollars. Consequently, boys are more likely to be exploited sexually than men. Areas across the world are affected by the same problem. Although research was conducted on the exploitation of boys there continues to remain a need for increased research. These areas are also affected by boys in prostitution rings and pornography. As such, “certain forms of sexual exploitation such as pornography, sexual tourism or using young males in public/private erotic shows are not easily documented as they usually occur clandestinely”, (Human trafficking, 2013).
Men and boys continue to become victimized by human sex trafficking. Little research has been conducted and few acknowledge the issue. In addition, the American government and other agencies do not recognize this event. Some lump all incidents of human trafficking together without providing information about sexual exploitation of men. Either way, this country and others continue to be negatively affected. Men do not report incidents of exploitation and do not seek help or service. Thus, it is easy to remain silent and complicit because of shame. Despite this, there is greater influence when men choose to stand against sexual exploitation of other men, women and children. Men are encouraged to have a male identity and display their manhood. They are designed to protect and provide, however men and others should come together to provide further support to prevent this issue. Whether male or female, all people need to be educated about human trafficking, the victims, the perpetrators, and the places it can be found. The power of influential change isn’t solely in the hands of men, but rather men and women need to work together as a united front to address this social epidemic.
Carroll, S. (2009, July 06). Traffickers force more men into servitude. Houston Chronicle. Retrieved from http://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/article/Traffickers-force-more-men-into-servitude-1730660.php
Male Victims of Sex Trafficking. [Web log message]. (2012, October 25). Retrieved from http://toysoldier.wordpress.com/2012/10/25/male-victims-of-sex-trafficking/
Inglee, J. (2010, September 01). Male sex slaves: trafficking victims are not only female. Take Part. Retrieved from http://www.takepart.com/article/2010/09/01/male-sex-slaves-trafficking-victims-are-not-only-female
Mason, A. (2013, February 15). A call to action: the role of men in human trafficking. Retrieved from http://abolitionnow.com/get-informed/stories/item/a-call-to-action-the-role-of-men-in-human-traficking
Human Trafficking and sexual exploitation. (2013, Februrary 22). Retrieved from http://www.ungift.org/ungift/en/stories/trafficking-and-sexual-exploitation-of-boys-and-male-adolescents-in-central-america.html
Rieger, A. (2006). Missing the mark: why the trafficking victims protection act fails to potect sex trafficking victims in the united states. Journal of Law, 30(1), Retrieved from http://www.law.harvard.edu/students/orgs/jlg/vol301/rieger.pdf
Trafficking of adult men. (2013, Februrary 21). Retrieved from http://lastradainternational.org/?main=newsletter§ion=newsfacts&news_id=341