Kinzah Khan explores the status of women trapped in the drift of the “sex trafficking capital of the world”.
“The woman is a commodity that can be used over and over again”
The above quote was given by a ‘romeo’. A pimp. A sex trafficker. This pimp in particular is from a town called Tenancingo, south-eastern Mexico. While writing this piece, I googled Tenancingo with the intention of finding something positive to say about the town; perhaps marvelling at the scenery it has to offer, or the fresh fruit that is grown there. Unfortunately, Tenancingo is known for one thing and one thing only: being the heart of the sex trafficking trade. I’ve written a couple of upbeat, relatively positive articles recently. But I’m afraid to say that we have to return to a harsh reality. Although we’re travelling almost 13,000 kilometres from our last encounter with heart-breaking reality, our subject matter remains frustratingly similar: the unlawful exploitation of undeserving women.
Sex trafficking is a booming business in Tenancingo, where approximately 10,000 residents are part of the trade. Being a pimp is considered to be the ultimate profession in the town, with young boys idolising them and being trained in the trade. Tenancingo is the single largest source of sex slaves, and the US is their biggest importer, so naturally, the industry itself is incredibly lucrative.
To highlight this situation, Alice Brennan created the documentary, Pimp City, which followed the sex trade in Tenancingo, focusing on the case of a woman called Miranda. Miranda was trafficked while sitting in a park, by a man called Rudolpho. He politely introduced himself to her before inevitably kidnapping her. She was exported to Queens, New York, and was forced into prostitution. Now, in the spirit of treating women as commodities, allow me to draw up a make-shift cost-benefit analysis for the ‘commodity’.
Before I start the analysis, I have just one request of you, the reader: please read every single number. It’s so easy to glaze over figures, but it’s the only way you will truly understand the magnitude and horror of this industry. Here we go:
Each commodity is required to provide their service in 15-minute increments to approximately 60 men a day. So, in terms of working hours, the commodity provides their service for 900 minutes each day, equating to 15 hours: 62.5% of their day is spent on providing their service. In terms of profit, each customer is charged $35 per 15-minute session. Therefore, $2,100 is made per day from one commodity providing their service. In a year, around $500,000 can be made, taking the service of multiple commodities into account. But, as this is obviously not a fair trade, the commodities themselves do not make $500,000 a year. Their pimp does.
Instead, the commodity, a real, living woman, is used over and over and over again as little more than a product. As a thing for two parties of men to reap pleasure from: one party for physical pleasure, the other for hedonistic wealth. She is thrown from man to man. I tried to come up with a metaphor to compare the act to, like maybe a rag doll. But there is no metaphor or simile than can be used to compare to this act. Because this act is totally incomparable.
When trying to compute all of that, I think most of us would probably place a grown woman in that situation. Perhaps one of the stereotypical prostitutes we see on TV shows in mini-skirts and fishnets, probably in their late 20s. I’m not at all saying that those women deserve to be treated like that, because they do not. But Miranda was 14 when she was trafficked. Fourteen. She was a child. She was taken and stripped of her identity.
She ceased to be Miranda. She became a commodity.
The US has approximated more than 21,000 cases of sex trafficking since 2007, among which the stories of victims from Tenancingo are known to be the most heartbreaking. The town is the sex trafficking capital of the world. It is common knowledge that the pimp profession dominates the town and that girls are constantly being taken and traded. If an issue is such common knowledge, then surely something is being done to halt this basic violation of human rights? Well, not really.
Victims often use their experiences to help other survivors. Hotlines are being used more often and the public seems to be paying more attention. Citizens are encouraged to understand and recognise human trafficking so they can prevent it when they see it. On the political side, there needs to be more funding for supportive and law enforcement services. The US have recognised the issue but do not seem to be making moves to solve it. Mexico launched a global campaign in 2010 and they have signed international anti-trafficking conventions but it all seems to be empty promises to appease the international stage, putting words before actions, no matter which speak louder. The problem relentlessly persists.
At its core, even if we increase funding, services, awareness and whatever else, that still won’t extract the key ideology that drives this industry: that women do not deserve basic respect. The lack of respect a man has to have for a woman to rent her cannot be fixed by any amount of public funding. It’s a toxic mindset, the origins of which I cannot even being to fathom – although I’m sure we can all come up with some hypothesis.
I often think about why the women’s rights movement is so prevalent and, admittedly, often fall into the trap of believing that perhaps everything we’re fighting for is just upper class, first world rubbish. To be clear, I am not in any way insinuating that any of the causes of western feminism are first world rubbish. But then, when we consider places like Tenancingo, we realise that women are literally still being used as products. We’re currency; nothing more than exchangeable things for men to satisfy themselves with before throwing us back.
The women’s rights movement certainly has a lot demands, all of which are valid in their own right. However, my interpretation of these demands is that they all stem from one central request: respect. Sex trafficking is the art of manipulation and the use of women for the satisfaction of sexual desire. It is the use of living, breathing women as nothing more than a product to be used over and over again. It is potentially the clearest example of the absence of respect for women, on both a micro and macro scale, and in my view there is no possible defence for it.
Sex trafficking is a blatant disrespect for the dignity of a woman – the dignity of a human being. It’s not romantic. It’s not economic. It’s not political. It’s not something to just be glazed over. It is the commodification of a woman, the exploitation of a power dynamic, a disregard for basic respect and a degradation of human rights.
It is disgusting. And it needs to stop now.