Across the globe there is waxing hot the blazing fires of a sordid industry: sex-trafficking. The Price of Sex is a documentary project my Mimi Chakarova which spans over two continents, six nations and ten years of investigative work. It focuses specifically on the migration of eastern European women to southern countries where sex tourism is booming, and exposes some of the lurid darkness. Chakarova combines investigative journalism with dramatic narrative and social commentary. She does an amazing job at painting for us the reality of the situation, morose and grave and yet manages to maintain an air of dignity when dealing with the young women.
At the end of the showing Chakarova spoke with the audience and took questions. In that time she spoke very bluntly about what “needs to happen.” She showed us in the film how little NGOs can do in such corrupt environments and how financial aid in places ransacked by the industry only begets more corruption. She explained that what is needed at the root is a fundamental change in how we view women and a fundamental change in how we view men.
This makes sense right? What would cause world leaders to shrug at the idea of selling a young woman into slavery to be used and abused by 30-50 men a day? How depraved have we become to make stupid locker room comments about hookers and heels? As Mimi pointed out, it begins in the heart, level. Granted, we live in a time when the awareness about the issue is rising now all around. Many of my friends work bravely exposing this business where they can, but they all agree on this point, social transformation is needed.
It can be so easy to bleed in a theater over poor women in broken former soviet states. But, it is another thing altogether to follow that line of thinking to it’s end. It is easy to demand justice when it costs you little more than tears. But to change things we have to look in our own backyard: in Kalihi, in Chinatown, and on Kuhio in Waikiki. For the truth is that it happens here. We own slaves. We must change.
This changes the way you view the women lined up in colorless heels along the corners of the tourist areas. It also changes the way you view the adult shop or the strip club down the street. It even changes the way we handle the massive availability of internet pornography. Here some might argue that pornography is a different matter altogether than slavery. I agree. But as different as it may be, the thoughts and feelings that fuel them are the same. One is just free.
What movies like Chakarova’s demand from us is responsibility. We cannot continue on pretending like we don’t know how mean the pimps that run our clubs and prostitutes are. Or how dark mankind can be if we let him. We must change the soul of our society if we are to win in this epic struggle for the worth and value of our brothers and sisters. Some may call me a radical, a moralist, and a fanatic. Well, then in the words of William Wilberforce I say that “if to be feelingly alive to the sufferings of my fellow-creatures is to be a fanatic, I am one of the most incurable fanatics ever permitted to be at large.”