The Economics of the Erotic

It is estimated that sex trafficking earns nearly nearly 100 billion dollars per year, according to Human Rights First, an organization focused on the ills and prevention of human rights abuses.  The recent arrest and subsequent suicide of American business man and billionaire Jeffrey Epstein shed brought more attention to the scourge of human trafficking particularly as it pertained to minors.  2017 figures suggest nearly 30 million people are trapped in human trafficking worldwide.

But human trafficking, prostitution, pedophilia and other ails are not new to the world.  While rape is illegal in the U.S. today, during the barbaric transatlantic slave trade, thousands of Africans were trapped in sex trafficking through sex farms, buck-breaking (homosexual rape of heterosexuals) and pedophile rings.  It is important to note, in the politics of sex and culture, both homosexuality and pedophilia were prominent cultural features of Greek civilization on which the United States sought to pattern its society.  The emergence of many kinds of sexuality in the West are reflective more of culture, more than moral change.  Despite certain laws on the books in “modern” western civilization, such sexual variants were never truly gone–as they flourished under legalized human trafficking through colonialism, apartheid, and chattel slavery.

Like the illicit drug industry, sex trafficking is difficult to eliminate, because it ties so deeply into the cultural, psychological and physical paradigms of the unfortunate “human condition” and its profitability is handsomely rewarded.  And the prosecution rate is abysmally, low according to the U.S. State Department’s 2017 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report.  In fact, women and child sex-trafficking is the fastest growing crime in the world according to the World Labor Organization.

Humans like sex and often go to great lengths to obtain it, even if illegally.  But, let us give it context.  According to the National Center on Sexual Exploitation,  Black Americans comprise 40 percent of human trafficking victims, in the US, but make up only 14 percent of the population.  Statistics and studies also tend to show that the demand for African American sex is higher than that of other races.  And while men are also a part of the sex-trade, women make up the vast majority and that number is growing.

Data from a 2017 Briefing Paper released by the Institute for Women Policy Research revealed that sex trafficking generated roughly $21,800 per person, while other forms of human trafficking (labor-related) yielded just under $5000 USD/per person.  Also, while Black women and girls represent only 7.2 percent of the U.S. population, 40 percent of confirmed cases of sex-trafficking involve black women and girls.  Additionally, women experiencing domestic partner abuse are often most at risk for sex-trafficking than those who do not

It is not yet clear how much sex-trafficking costs countries, cities and towns in crime, manpower and medical-related expenses (from pregnancy and STIs to mental health and incarceration costs).  But it is imperative to understand how these unfortunate human behaviors are impacting society, business and commerce.  More research is needed to determine its impact on economies and its connection with the pornography industry among others.   Hope International offers tips on how to spot sex-traffickers and victims. Click here to learn the Signs of Trafficking and How to Report Suspected Trafficking.

If you or someone you know is involved in sex trafficking, below are numbers to get help.

1 (888) 373-7888

National Human Trafficking Hotline

SMS: 233733 (Text “HELP” or “INFO”)
Hours: 24 hours, 7 days a week
Languages: English, Spanish and 200 more languages


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