I was recently asked by someone who has known me for a very long time: “Why are you so angry?” I was shocked at the question but it led to a good, long conversation. I do get angry, and it has been known to come out in my writing, but I don’t think of it as a bad thing. As a matter of fact, I think more people should be angry with me. Let me explain:
I have 6 beautiful children, 6 talented, very smart, loving, playful, sometimes funny, and deeply complex girls. My life is full of excitement, wonder, and love. I have been happily married for 18 years now to my best friend, the person I fell in love with, a love that continues to grow and grow. It boggles the mind how I could possibly have all this and be angry about anything. How blessed I am! Why on earth do I get so angry? Because just last month my 15 yr old was sexually harassed by a couple of men on her train ride home from ballet, wearing her trash bag pants (it’s dance wear, and looks just as attractive as it sounds, as if a black trash bag was sewed to look like pants). But who cares what she wore? She wasn’t asking for attention, and yet those men felt that they were entitled to share their arousal and entitlement with her. Entitlement to her body.
Neither was my wife, Jessica, who was propositioned by a man who then also lewdly demonstrated what he wanted to do to her with his pelvis, while she was out shopping. This was also in the last month. Her reaction was to be afraid of what this man might do to her if she ended up away from other people. She felt forced to make decisions to protect herself from this predatory man when all she wanted to do was a little quiet shopping.
As a man, I rarely have to worry about my safety. This fact is particularly real for me because of the 7 people I live with who will have to worry about it every single time they step out the front door; all because they are women. Unless something changes in our culture and men are taught to respect women and value them for more than their sexual desirability; where objectification becomes the exception, not the cultural norm.
This is why I come across as being so angry toward men. I believe that they are the primary reason that objectification continues to be acceptable and normal, media supplying them daily servings of female eye-candy for their viewing pleasure because the demand continues to be there. Because that’s what all men do. That’s what all real men do. To make things worse, I also believe that this normalization of objectification for men (and more and more for women too!) contributes directly to other forms of appropriation and acts of violence against other people, primarily women – and girls, young girls. Acts like sexual harassment, groping, slut-shaming and prude-shaming, rape, and the demand for pornography and prostitution (which includes kidnapping, physical and emotional abuse, psychological torture, not to mention work with no pay, primarily involving girls who started out in the “business” when they were 12-14 yrs old) and let’s face it: pedophilia (doesn’t “barely legal” imply that it would be so much better if they were still minors?). If objectification is normal, then so are all of those other things.
To put it differently, if I believe that women’s primary purpose in existence is for my pleasure as a man, why wouldn’t I evaluate each woman based on her sex-appeal? Why wouldn’t I give her a hard time about holding out on me when she doesn’t respond to my sexual advances? Why wouldn’t I take offense at this and just take what is rightfully mine? Why wouldn’t I spend time fantasizing through the online catalogue of female specimens coerced into sexual acts for me, their rightful audience? If women exist for my pleasure, then what is so wrong with me treating them like they belong to me?
Why am I so angry? Because I have 6 girls and a wife whose family history is riddled with sexual abuse, and I take personal offense that the prevalent attitude that men are permitted to have in our culture is that any of my girls is the rightful target of unwanted sexual attention, and that they deserve to be “owned” by men simply because they are female.
As a result, every time I hear a story about a girl or a woman who has been enslaved into the human trafficking industry, I feel it on a personal level, a gut level, like I’m being punched in the stomach.
Every time I hear about a 13 yr old girl who was forced to be on meth, and then sold for sex in the back room of a strip club, I imagine my own 13 yr old girl, her face a drug-induced watercolor wash of blues and grays, with dark under eye circles, a vacant look in her once-bright eyes. I know my daughter, and though she’s interested in boys and has several crushes on cute guys any given day, she shudders at the thought of sex at the moment. She doesn’t think she’s ready. And so I imagine my 13 yr old daughter, drugged with a meth-cocktail, and then forced to dance naked and used for sex acts with despicable strangers, all so that a couple of vile creatures can pocket some cash and have a turn of their own with her abused not-ready-for-sex-yet body, and I get angry. Yes, I have dark, angry, let-me-at’em and I-will-rearrange-their-faces thoughts.
It’s not that I’m an angry person. I’m not. I am generally a kind, warm, thoughtful person. It takes a lot for me to get truly upset about anything. It’s just that every time I hear about women and children becoming sex slaves in war situations, (like this 17 yr old), I have several people in my family that match the ages of the victims in the news, and I can only imagine the kind of physical, emotional, and mental brokenness that leads to begging your captors to please end your life. And imagine it I do, and I want to throttle the sick war-righteous monsters who justify the abuse of fellow human beings they happen to be able to overpower. I get angry and want to force them to have sex, with themselves, after I’ve castrated them. Without anesthesia. Of course, given the opportunity, I doubt that I could follow through with it, but that’s the kind of anger I have when I hear about the horrific war crimes done to women and children.
And every time I hear a story of a 4-5 yr old being groomed as a prostitute by her parents and sold for money a few years later, using the powerful tool of the internet as advertising, and controlling her quality (meaning, her appearance) by shutting her up in a metal trunk until she passes out from the heat as a way to enforce consequences to control her behavior (because beating her up proper might devalue their product), I have my own 4 yr old’s face and tiny body come to mind, and remember my 6 yr old’s outgoing personality with her 4 missing teeth and imagine what that kind of situation would do to them. The idea is so repulsive to me that I cannot actually imagine what would motivate parents to do such a thing to their own child.
I understand that many such situations are driven by desperation, such as extreme poverty and hunger, but that’s not always the case. I understand that the promise of a brighter future for their children is what tricks parents all over the world to allow strangers to take their children and turn them into prostitutes and sex slaves. I get that. And I do get angry about that, and I am also deeply saddened that those parents were tricked in such a vile way. But not like I get angry when I hear about the parents who intentionally invite this sexual destruction on their own children, and stay around to witness and control it. And not only once, but over and over again over the course of many many years. This kind of abuse makes me extremely angry, some-people-really-shouldn’t-have-kids angry; I get so angry with them I can’t even imagine the type of cruelty they deserve that would even come close to being just and fair.
Maybe you’re thinking that these are random, isolated, incidents. Google “sex trafficking” and click over to the “News” option. I’m pretty sure you’ll change your mind.
I am not an angry person, but there are some things that do make me very angry. But I have come to determine that anger is not a bad thing. It’s what you choose to do with the anger that matters. Doing nothing does no good to anyone. So what do you do with this internal rage? For now, I have personally chosen to write. I believe that without awareness, there is no perceived need for change; that awareness leads creative people to find solutions to problems. I have no elaborate solution to end sex trafficking and I understand that there is no easy fix for it. But I also believe that if the right people get angry with me, and enough of us do, we can turn the tide on this epidemic, for the sake of my daughters, and your children too.
And maybe take care of that anger management problem you’ve just developed from the Google search you just did.
Practical step: Talk about sex trafficking with those you know, in particular the men you know, because if we can stop the demand for human sex toys, the offers will naturally have to decrease. No one chooses prostitution. There is always a story of someone driven to make a decision when they felt they had no alternatives; no real choice.
For further reading, here’s an informative article with numbers from this week: http://time.com/3089219/jim-norton-johns-prostitution-sex-addiction/
Ok, and I do have ONE idea on how we all can make a difference in the world.