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The Sex Trade


"The sex trade is like a slave ship. You use and re-use the body so much while it's able, down to the point where its energy is completely depleted, then toss it away like a useless rag doll, replace it with a new body and repeat. I was that rag doll and I was never empowered." – Melanie Thompson, Survivor Leader

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The multi-billion-dollar sex trade is the end-point of sex trafficking, with the vast majority of victims sold into prostitution — a lucrative, unflinching system of sexual exploitation and abuse. Without a vibrant sex trade, where the bodies of women and girls are consumed for the entertainment of men and the profit of exploiters, there would be no sex trafficking. Sex inequality, histories of childhood sexual violence, displacement, dire economic circumstances and a lack of viable choices create vulnerabilities that can lead to trafficking and sexual exploitation. The traffickers and pimps who sell women and girls and the men who buy them don’t care whether she was trafficked or not. No sex buyer asks the age or origin of the woman he just bought.

Whether legal or illegal, the sex trade functions because of the commercial sexual exploitation of marginalized women and children for third-party profit. It is rooted in patriarchy, histories of colonialism and a marketplace system of paid sexual violence. It also perpetuates the objectification and sexualization of all women and girls.

If we hope to end sex trafficking, sexual exploitation and other forms of violence and discrimination against women and girls, including sexual harassment and assault, we must address the sex trade.

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