As an avid activist against human trafficking and sexual slavery, I am all for any campaign that exists to raise awareness about these issues and get people to stand up and fight them. I’ve run a few of these campaigns myself, such as the “Give Human Trafficking the Red Light” Campaign at YouthNoise, where we had different actions for people to take against the practice every day. It was a great campaign for youth, made sense, and received national media attention—all good things for the cause.
However, I have to question some of the weird PSAs that have come from the DNA: Demi And Ashton Foundation, an organization that exists to eliminate human trafficking and child sexual slavery (why it doesn’t bother with adult sexual slavery, which is very much alive and well too, I don’t know). They discuss things that real men do—such as have a sense of direction, start a fire, do their laundry, and make their own meals—and highlight celebrities doing these things. Then they say that real men don’t buy girls.
I have a number of problems with these ads. For starters, most men that I know do get lost when they go to new places, can’t start a fire without a match, don’t make their own meals, and don’t do their own laundry. In fact, I do half of these things in my home, at least—not my “real man.” So if that is the case, would real men still buy girls, since all of these stereotypes are pretty much jokes?
Then there’s the whole issue of the mood of these ads. They feature good looking men and a “sexy” tone, which seem as if they are comical. Here is the thing: there is NOTHING sexy nor comical about human trafficking and sexual slavery. Instead of loading this campaign with meaningless celebrities and stupid PSAs that either mean nothing or negate what they imply to begin with, why doesn’t the DNA Foundation do what really needs to be done and take on the cause seriously?
People need to know that millions of people are trafficked every year—including in the United States. People need to know that it’s not rare; that it is a thriving industry, and is in fact considered the second largest “business” on the globe. People need to know that it’s not just “the bad guys” with sinister faces who make it happen, but actual businesses, traveling men, and governments—most who have their own children, even—behind it as well. They should also give better “Take Action” opportunities than just sharing their website and reporting suspicious activity on Craigslist (the latter is definitely important, though).
Other organizations make this known. They also give you better resources on how to help. Places like the Polaris Project actually help raise awareness about the issues in their entirety rather than regurgitating these bland platitudes and meaningless messages; they also help rehabilitate former slaves and give them opportunities for new lives. Free the Slaves even works on the ground, actually freeing people—you can pay $132 to fund a raid to save a child from a slave location. If you’re going to fund a campaign or volunteer with something meaningful, these would be much better bets than the whole “real man” thing—though I do agree that we need more campaigning to target men, since they are the ones who continue to buy, sell, and use slaves the most.