Reading the Social Body: Between Desire and Demand

Reading the Social Body: Between Desire and Demand

In my last article, I wrote about Juvenile Domestic Sex Trafficking (JDST) and how it might appear in our communities, everywhere. Here I will be speaking about the global conditions that JDST arises out of. I have been working very hard to gain a more balanced, less judgmental understanding and insight, into the astronomical rise in the adult male population’s selection of very young children as sexual objects. The United States Department of Justice’s statistics on child pornography bears this out, for instance identifying over 100 million internet URL’s, each containing thousands and even millions of files with each file containing thousands of images showing severe forms of sexual abuse of children. 25 million of these URL’s originate from within the United States. While the addresses change constantly to stay ahead of the law, customers who purchase the downloaded images of child sexual abuse seem to easily find them. This highly-organized recognized consumer market spends billions of (untaxed) dollars annually to private and commercial sex industrialists at the inexorable expense of human life. The rise in international child sex tourism is born out here as well, as defined by the Department of Justice:

“Sex tourism with children, or the extraterritorial sexual exploitation of children…is the act of traveling to a foreign country and engaging in sexual activity with a child in that country. Federal law prohibits an American citizen or resident to travel to a foreign country with the intent to engage in any form of sexual conduct with a minor (defined as persons under 18 years of age).  It is also illegal to help organize or assist another person to travel for these purposes.  This crime is a form of human trafficking, also referred to as child sex tourism. Convicted offenders face fines and up to 30 years of imprisonment (For more information, see “Citizen's Guide to Federal Law on the Extraterritorial Sexual Exploitation of

The law of our land is clearly stated, yet, travel to countries for sex with children is well and openly advertised in the United States to Americans for travel to; Cuba, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Russia, Ukraine, Thailand, and Burma. Four million tourists visited Cambodia in 2014, where each year more and more predators and preferential buyers travel. Vietnam, Italy, The Netherlands, Jamaica, China, India, Kenya, The Gambia…and on and on, are also experiencing a drastic rise in child sex tourism, where sex with children will cost the eager tourist less than a Venti Starbucks.

The ‘Protect Act’ of 2003 resulted in 8,000 arrests, not prosecutions, of American male sex tourists. But this number is small given global tourism and the systems in place to protect traffickers, corrupt police, hotel workers and taxi drivers who procure children for tourists. It has become impossible to track the hundreds of thousands of US citizens who leave the country each year for these purposes. The same can be said of tourists from every other country. In Thailand, a favorite destination country for sex tourists and predators from all over the world, there are estimated to be one million children entrapped in sex commerce each year to fill the demand of tourists. Day after day, every year. While tourism may be good for economic growth, think of the sorrow, hopelessness, and violence each one of these children experiences on a day-to-day basis. Sex tourism is destroying the hope and health of enormous populations of the world’s women and children.

We all start out in the world with the same basic needs to be protected and nurtured. If we are fortunate in our experiences of having our primary needs met, we may later come to see how we were nurtured as expressions of love and loving-kindness. Then again, when these essential needs are not provided from the beginning, the gap in places where love and safety would have optimally been are experienced as longing. When longing actively takes hold of us, it is felt as a painful feeling of emptiness; a part of ourselves and the longed for others that are perpetually missing. Our longing to be held arises out of our physiological need for sensitive, attuned touch. It is the stimulus for the sense of security we need to grow and develop into our original selves, the person of potential we are capable of becoming “from before our parents were born.” It’s natural to wonder about who we might have been having been born into different circumstances.

These bonds of love are part of our complexity. The story of how we experienced being loved or not being loved often becomes how we narrate the story of our lives, how we see others and ourselves. While love binds us to one another because of primary dependency, so do abuse, betrayal, and neglect also bind us, like slaves who make slaves of others. From our first breath to our last, we rely upon the bonds of love for our survival and pleasure in life. But pleasure is a complex thing, isn’t it, not reducible to agreed upon mores. There are those who take pleasure in the suffering of others, who mistake pleasure with a feeling of power.

When the subject of human trafficking comes up in conversation with reference to the drastic increase in enslaved populations around the world that correspond to sex trafficking and child sex tourism, I’ve heard too many people impute, “Oh, but prostitution has always been with us throughout the history of the world….it’s really no different now, is it?” I find it most important to recognize a thought-trap before I step into one, by not chasing after the “is it, or isn’t it?” dilemma. Something most primary and human is missing from the equation that permits us to normalize entitlement, abuse, appetite, and demand. The sex tourist always holds the power over an impoverished child. Giving impoverished families money in trade for sex with their children is not benevolence, it is rapacious greed. It’s time we understand that sex tourists also have unmet primary needs for love that distort their views of the lives of others, and their needs for integrity, safety and security. Confusing one’s own desire with the desire of others is a distortion that results in enactments of demand for fulfillment. It is a primary motivator of what drives this vicious crime against children. Everything that happens in the world depends upon the condition of the human heart.

For more information see The Global Study on Sexual Exploitation of Children in Travel and Tourism 2016,




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