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Casting New Light on Sexual Exploitation of Men and Boys

The term ‘sexual exploitation’ tends to conjure notions of young girls being taken, a la the Liam Neeson movie franchise, into sexual slavery. This sort of sexual exploitation is indeed a massive problem worldwide, including here in the United States. And while there is still much work to do to end the exploitation of women, there is plenty of global awareness about it.

On September 8, the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) held an inaugural symposium [1] to shine light on a lesser-known aspect of sexual exploitation: that of boys and men. While this focus may seem unusual, if not obfuscating, the speakers compiled by NCOSE made a compelling case that this problem does not discriminate based on sex.

In a press conference preceding the national symposium Thursday morning, Tom Jones of the H.O.P.E. project gave an overview of his organization’s work. Jones, himself a survivor of sex trafficking, uses his story to highlight the epidemic of sexual exploitation of boys and men. “When you mention sex trafficking it’s not normally men and boys who you think of,” Jones said, “But my story is representative of so many men in America.” Jones created the H.O.P.E. project to “establish a fellowship of peer support for [other] men who survived.”

Echoing Jones’s sentiments was Kevin Malone of the U.S. Institute Against Human Trafficking. Malone, who previously enjoyed a long career in baseball as both a player and executive, gave an impassioned explanation of his decision to get involved in combating issues of human trafficking. “I’m outraged,” declared Malone, “Why are we as Americans not outraged about sex slavery of our boys and girls?”


While the exploitation highlighted by Jones and Malone are blatant cases of abuse, two other speakers made the case against a more insidious type of sexual exploitation: the scourge of pornography. Joseph Prud’homme, director of the Institute for Religion, Politics, and Culture at Washington College, emphasized the link between porn consumption and “the new cultural norm of the sexual commodification of men.”

“Twenty percent of women under the age of 25 use porn at least once per week,” said Prud’homme [2], “which is only slightly less than men.” This commodification has offline consequences, as well: “Forty percent of all strip clubs now have men performers,” a rate that has dramatically increased in recent years. All of this has led to an unhealthy concern with physical appearance among young men, so much so that “men in their 20s and 30s…are increasingly prioritizing appearance over health, family, relationships, and professional success.”  

Critics of Prud’homme’s claims may charge that increased pornography use among women and men performers at strip clubs hardly rise to the level of sexual exploitation. In fact, many have argued for continued pornification of the culture as healthy, “sex-positive” progress against old-fashioned mores. The data, however, don’t exactly support this prescription.

Alexander Rhodes, founder of the pornography recovery website NoFap, pushed back emphatically against the “sex-negative” label that occasionally dogs his work during his presentation at the NCOSE symposium. “The Daily Mail called my website an anti-sex group, which is blatantly dishonest,” Rhodes retorted. “Many people who want to quit porn are doing so in pursuit of better sex and more of it.”  Rhodes finds that the users of his site have often experienced a decrease in sexual desire as a result of porn usage, and “it’s hard to be more sex-negative than not wanting to have sex and instead preferring pixels on a computer screen.”

The real exploitative power of pornography stems from its ubiquity and addictiveness. Rhodes, citing a 2014 study, revealed that, [2]“48.7 percent of college-aged students had porn exposure before the age of 13, and only 10.9 percent [of those students] no longer use porn.” Indeed, Rhodes often begins his work by encouraging users of his site to “simply take a quick break [from porn].”  Their inability to do so even for a short period of time allows them to realize the power of their addiction.

Much of the addictive power of pornography is due to an increasingly lowering age of first exposure. Through his work, Rhodes has found that many boys are now “consuming porn long before they have their first kiss.”  To Prud’homme, the childhood-aged introduction to porn demands closing what he calls the “empathy gap.”

“We need to understand that our boys are often victims of our pornified culture.  [Porn] is coming after them at the earliest of ages through pop-ups, through deceptive websites that lead you to the material so a nine, ten, eleven year old boy may enter into the world of pornography.”  

The debate over pornography’s exploitative qualities will continue.  But for NCOSE’s Haley Halverson, the connection is clear.  “Research shows that when someone is being objectified, the objectifier views the objectified person as less than a person, without an individual mind and undeserving of moral treatment. That alone is alarming and feeds into rape myths,” Halverson claimed. “But worse, pornography usage is linked to addictions or compulsive use, increased rates of sexual violence, increased likelihood of child-on-child sexual abuse and it is used as a tool in the recruitment of children trafficked for sex, just to name a few alarming connections.”

Emile Doak is director of events & outreach at The American Conservative.

9 Comments (Open | Close)

9 Comments To "Casting New Light on Sexual Exploitation of Men and Boys"

#1 Comment By Gregory (William) Manning On September 12, 2017 @ 7:33 pm

I long ago fell asleep waiting and waiting for the women’s movement to express their outrage over the objectification of women in pornography. There were a few isolated complaints early on but I hardly, if ever, hear from them about this. Actually, I’ve come to the conclusion that they have, in effect, enabled it by leading women to believe that pornographic sex is somehow liberating.

#2 Comment By collin On September 13, 2017 @ 9:37 am

This article is confusing as there appears to discussion the sale of young boys in ‘sex trade’ and then turns it around to young men becoming legal strippers or sex entertainers. Clearly they are not the same thing here.

#3 Comment By Jack B On September 13, 2017 @ 12:15 pm

“The debate over pornography’s exploitative qualities will continue.”

What debate? You present only one of many sides.

#4 Comment By Steve Waclo On September 13, 2017 @ 1:46 pm

As someone who has struggled with online porn and abstained for over a decade (there seemed to be no “just a little” in my case) I wonder if it is time to stop using weasel words like “using porn” and call it what it is: masturbating in a darkened room in front of a monitor, tissue in hand. That applies to men of course. Do women need a tissue?

Anyway, the observation about early exposure is especially troubling and youngsters need to be told and understand that pornographic videos are not training films.

Spoiler alert here, but people are going to masturbate, and did so long before the interweb provided additional stimulation.

It gets down to one of the classic questions facing humanity: “How much is enough?”.

And no, I don’t have the answer…

#5 Comment By fabian On September 13, 2017 @ 3:36 pm

Fap boys, fap. Because sex in the Western world implies that you sign a contract with the State and this puts you at the mercy of a judge. And this contract is utterly biased against you.

#6 Comment By Conewago On September 13, 2017 @ 9:29 pm

Steve Waclo:

“Spoiler alert here, but people are going to masturbate…”

Sanctifying grace much?

Yours truly:

A slowly recovering porn addict and, most importantly, a convert….

#7 Comment By Olga On September 14, 2017 @ 7:45 am

Does anyone remember the 1980s when feminists worked against porn?

A simple idea is require all porn sites to require a credit card to register. It would make is more difficult for minors to access the sites.

#8 Comment By EliteCommInc. On September 14, 2017 @ 1:42 pm

“This sort of sexual exploitation is indeed a massive problem worldwide, including here in the United States.”

First this is not at all accurate. the data on some massive kidnapping scheme for relational exploration is very sketchy to contradictory to nonexistent.

Second, there are two separate issues here.

one is the business of relations for cash.

two is the business of material designed to expose men or women to explicit or slightly less than explicit material of men and women so engaged.

i could not and would not argue that that technology has made this a booming business. And its booming for two reasons.

a. our society has become less inclined to limit the such behavior in from viewing in the mainstream – it’s more acceptable and

b. the ability of obtaining said material in the privacy (sort of kinda privacy) of ones home.

I routinely fall asleep and wake to to explicit material on a movie channel. And even minus that, the allure of of suggestive material permeates even pg rated films.


I am not going to look at the porn industry for the pervasive of this material. I am going to look a system that promotes relations outside of marriage as normal and healthy and even preferable.

It was once a hold that women had against such material and ethos that actually proved a moderating force. But given that women have abandoned that traditional motif — It’s hard to imagine why young men see no reason to buffer against it. what i hear of health education in schools hardly suggests buffering against explicit material is a goal.

There has always been this material. What there hasn’t been is a society that embraces it. self control takes time and the support of one’s parents and the community at large. While i cling to my vow of celibacy, i have had enough intimate contact to understand why this is an issue. human touch is powerful and desirable because it feels good in so any ways. but managing those desires requires example. And I am not going to be looking at society at large to provide it.

The press to be normal, to be seen as normal to be pressed into normalcy has led me to the place of not even trusting on my housemate on this issue. Having desires is normal. Wanting to act on those desires is normal. But restraining them apparently has become some unacceptable expectation. Unless we return to the idea of restraint and appropriate expression as led by parents and those most in contact with youth —

It seems unlikely to shift.

#9 Comment By hkguy On September 15, 2017 @ 1:50 pm

This symposium seems like it was going all over the place with a lot “kitchen sink” generalizations.

For example, it would be a very good thing if a lot more younger men took pride in their personal appearance, because, despite what these “experts” assert, the ones who are are a very tiny minority.

Most range from very overweight to morbidly obese. And working out and taking pains to eat the right food, far from dragging one away from starting a family, induce the kind of self-discipline lacking in most young men today.

These experts aren’t doing their cause any favors with such silly statements.