Two weeks ago I read an article in the London Telegraph that has eaten at me ever since. The reporter, Cole Moreton, was writing about the 2011 death of 13-year-old Chevonea Kendall-Bryan and the culture of pornography surrounding our children.
Although the events happened in the spring of 2011, Chevonea’s case was just wrapping up in January of this year. The court was told Chevonea claimed 18-year-old Benn Miebaka had forced her to perform a sex act on him following a half-term party. She said a second boy, known to the court as E6, threatened to smash the windows at Chevonea’s home if she did not repeat the act on him the following day. When she complied, he made a recording of the act and later texted it to his friends. Chevonea accidentally died while hanging out of her fourth-floor window begging him to delete it, and not surprisingly, when she fell, the boy ran away.
One of the many things that disturbed me was that Chevonea (only 13!) reported both assaults to teachers at her school, only to have it dismissed. Teenage boys do these things and boys will be boys, and all that. Yes, they will if someone doesn’t teach them that it is not only inappropriate to coerce sex but illegal. In both cases Chevonea was forced or threatened into complying; she was not a willing participant. It seems she was also filmed without her knowledge and exposed to who knows how many others. Even if the boy had deleted the video, once it entered cyberspace, no one can stop it.
What this article and several others in the Telegraph (links below) mention is the culture of pornography that fuels a lot of these behaviors. Kids have access to hardcore porn 24 hours a day, and this is where many are getting their sexual education and ideas. One boy mentioned that all of the stuff on the internet is staged; he likes the “real” stuff that guys he knows post.
In his article, Moreton talks about boys encouraging their girlfriends to send them explicit pictures of themselves (sexting) and the boys trading them with each other like boys used to trade baseball cards. I wonder how many of the girls are aware that they are being swapped. I wonder how many of these images will pop up in later years to haunt them.
When I think about how a man evolves into a trafficker of women and children for sexual purposes, it seems to me he must first be taught to objectify women. Surely, women are something to be used like he’s seen in the readily available pornography (the more hardcore, the more objectification). He is duped into believing that this is how women and girls want to be treated, i.e., they like being degraded. It is also not likely he will be aware that some of the pornography he is watching comes about through manipulation, coercion and threat.
Evolving from there, women are not only objectified but go on to be seen as a commodity, an item to trade. Wait, isn’t that what these boys are already doing with the pictures of their girlfriends? Sharing them, swapping them? Are they thinking of the girls as people with feelings, who might be embarrassed or ashamed by others seeing them naked? Are these boys showing concern for their relationships with the girls or how this might affect the girls in the long-term? No, the culture of pornography does not teach them to think in such terms.
It is only a step further for the entrepreneurial one to realize he can make money doing this. Rather than trade, sell!
If this behavior is not stopped, if boys are not taught that this is wrong, they are well on their way to becoming men who will sell their girlfriends (or any girl for that matter) to other men, in person, online, or on the streets. And once the lure of money is added to the mix, where will it end?
I will grant that most boys will not grow up to be traffickers. They may develop into normal, healthy contributors to society. But these kinds of things lay the groundwork for the making of a trafficker.
In 2013, many kids have unlimited access to computers and cell phones at younger ages, long before they are capable of controlling and understanding the world of pornography, or their own sexuality for that matter. Pornography is a seductive labyrinth that can swallow them whole. Curiosity is natural, but without some guidance and limits from adults, it can become an addictive and maladaptive force. 11, 12, 13-year-olds are often blinded by hormones when it comes to rationally thinking through the consequences of their behaviors. They need instruction, healthy models, and accurate information. Like Cole Moreton who fears for his two daughters growing up in this culture, I fear for my four granddaughters and my grandson. The pressures on them are immense.
This means that the dreaded sex talks are becoming more and more necessary as well as more difficult. These are not easy topics to address, but the health of our young people depend on it. We don’t want to minimize or be dismissive of the issues like Chevonea’s school at the price of more children’s lives.
We also need to be willing to be models of what is healthy sexually and relationally. We need to help young people learn what it means to be a good man or a good woman. This is one more thing we can do in the fight against sexual trafficking.
You’ll notice that I put a question mark at the end of my title to this piece. I did so because I’m not sure anyone knows how a man evolves into a trafficker, if anyone has studied this side of the issue. These are my speculations on the subject and certainly not a scholarly treatise. If anyone knows of a study. I would be interested in the information.