Empowering Citizen-Consumers to End Commercial Sexual Exploitation

There have been several movements over the past few decades characterized as “citizen-consumer” movements, wherein individuals change their consumptive behavior at some “cost” to themselves in order to engage as good citizens. Underlying these movements is the idea that two seemingly contradictory identities, that of the citizen and that of the consumer, may be reconciled when individuals use their citizen-oriented values to make consumptive decisions. Importantly, this type of engagement can increase or decrease demand for public policy and for goods and services.

I wonder whether and how a citizen-consumer framework can decrease consumptive decisions regarding commercial sex, and what the implications of this would be. Sex trafficking of women and children constitutes eighty percent of all human trafficking globally, and in 2008 alone, 2,800 children were advertised on Craigslist for commercial sex acts. The demand for commercial sex is very high, and Internet pornography is facilitating its growth.

But what would happen if consumers of pornography heard the truth behind the industry? What if porn consumers connected the dots between their actions and the trafficking of women and girls? What if porn consumers were empowered as people who can make a difference, rather than shamed or guilted for being exploited themselves? What if one-by-one thousands of porn consumers began to exit the industry? This would be a citizen-consumer movement at its finest, people freely choosing to change their consumptive behavior based on a clear understanding of the potential harm that choice causes others and the benefits that a different choice can have on society.

-Vanessa Bouche, TCU Faculty

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