International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers* raises awareness about the harm people in prostitution are too often subjected to—often by the men who buy them. A study of the underground commercial sex industry in America found that 36% of prostituted individuals reported that their buyers were abusive or violent.
There’s no question that the illegal sex trade is dangerous and preys on the vulnerable. Studies show prostituted people disproportionately come from marginalized communities, are often women or girls of color with limited education and work opportunities, and lack family support. Many have been sexually abused earlier in life, which makes them susceptible to pimps, traffickers and sex buyers. The longer a person is forced to endure this type of life, the harder getting out can seem.
So how do we stop it? Providing better opportunities for people trapped in the sex trade and arresting those who lure them there is crucial, but it’s a short-term solution. Survivors could easily remain vulnerable to future exploitation, and for every pimp and trafficker put in jail, there is another one willing to take his place and his profits.
If we truly want to end the sex trade and all its inherent harms, we must hold sex buyers accountable. These men are the primary abusers of prostituted people, as well as the main financial drivers for all sex trafficking. When their money stops lining the pockets of pimps and traffickers, the industry—and all its harms—shuts down. And unlike traffickers or their victims, sex buyers often work full-time jobs, hold places of respect in their communities, have families, and are in committed relationships. These men have much to lose, so they are most likely to be deterred if faced with real legal and social ramifications.
Every man, woman, and child among us deserves a life free of violence, and those within commercial sex are no exception. It’s time to hold sex buyers accountable for the violence they fund and perpetuate. It’s time to demand an end to sex-buying.
*Demand Abolition does not condone use of the term “Sex Work” as it legitimizes the harm prostituted people face on a daily basis. Learn more about why this terminology is problematic, here.