Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Problem With Freedom - Day 3

There is a concept in medicine called "herd immunity."

If you are trying to immunize a population of 100 people against some nasty disease, you don't have to reach everyone with the vaccine. That is hard to achieve. The concept of herd immunity means that if you manage to treat a certain number of the population - for argument's sake we'll say 80 - then the disease does not have enough places to live.

It survives by infecting a host and reproducing, passing itself to the next victim. If one person gets the disease, but doesn't run into one of the other twenty unvaccinated people, then the disease can't continue the process. It will die out in its host whether their immune system takes it out or the host expires. Now there is one less option for spread.

I think the concept of herd immunity is key when discussing sex trafficking and reducing demand.

I've spent the past couple of posts talking about the problem with freedom. (Day 1 and Day 2) To sum up: in Western culture and especially America, we like to say that people should have the freedom to do whatever they want, as long as it doesn't hurt others. The problem becomes that we don't always realize the unintended consequences of our actions, and more people are hurt than we realize.

We may enjoy our chocolate, but the cocoa beans sold to our favorite candy company finance a brutal regime. We may want a purebred puppy, but this supports puppy mills that churns out animals that are unhealthy and contributes to an overpopulation of pets.

Men may think they can look at pornography or solicit sex with a prostitute, and it is only their business. It's not hurting anyone, and they have the right. Right?

My second post on this topic connects the increasing demand for porn and prostitution with the exploitation of children in the sex industry, as does this excellent Newsweek article. I started this whole series because of an article in the Village Voice trying to debunk statistics regarding human trafficking and attacking the campaign by Ashton and Demi's DNA Foundation that wants to eradicate child sex exploitation and trafficking.

I've described the problem. The solution is always harder than identifying the problem.

Men, we have to realize that we are contributing to the exploitation and ruination of thousands of teen girls and vulnerable women. Our lust is providing a disease with plenty of hosts. The young and vulnerable women who are exploited by this industry are the victims, being ravaged by abuse, violence, and neglect. Whereas the DNA Foundation, IJM, Free the Slaves, and GEMS among others work to help these women, the Village Voice continues its defense of its adult services site Backpage.

As the Newsweek article details, the anonymity of the internet has created a huge increase in the demand for sexual buyers. Men think we can do what we want in private without hurting others. Whether downloading items off the net or arranging services at a clandestine location, it is a right. However, it feeds an industry that is devouring more and more of the "herd".

If men would stand up and say "Real Men Don't Buy Girls," if men would realize that these activities are not harmless or private, but contribute to a larger problem, then perhaps we would start seeing some herd immunity develop. If enough men were vaccinated, as it were, then the demand would lessen and there wouldn't be as much exploitation of the vulnerable.

I am not naive enough to believe we can eradicate this problem fully. I do believe we can work to educate men, the demand part of the supply and demand equation, that their actions are harmful and reduce the problem this way. Look at the major public education campaigns in the past:
  • Telling people how HIV is transmitted and how to protect themselves.
  • Reducing CFC's to protect the ozone.
  • Eliminating racist words from being used in mainstream culture.
  • Abolishing the slave trade in the 1800's through William Wilberforce and others.
The problem of men flouting their freedom and fueling a sick industry is real and worsening. People are waking up to this and speaking out, like at the DNA Foundation. The position of the Village Voice is wrong not because I am a religious fanatic or zealot. Their position is wrong because it hurts many people and deserves to be debated and debunked.

Community is not built by everyone having their own way. Community is built by people agreeing to limit themselves for the greater good, by seeing that limits are required to live together and provide true freedom for all.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Problem With Freedom - Day 2

Your freedom can bring oppression to others.

That's my hypothesis for this series of posts. I started off on 7/20 referencing back to the Village Voice article that set off a lot of discussion. An excellent report of the growing demand for prostitution was posted this week by Newsweek, that also points out some of the problems with the Village Voice piece.

There's a issue that the Newsweek article started to expose that the Village Voice completely ignored. Men say they have a right to seek out sexual services, and feminists say that women have the right to offer said services if they want. The issue is that there are a ton of unintended consequences.

The Newsweek article talks about the increase in demand for prostitution. I talked yesterday about how unscrupulous people will work to meet a demand to make a profit. By offering legal services, adults who consent to a sexual transaction drive the problem of underage sexual exploitation.

Pimps who see a way to make a buck will find a way to get a woman out there. They don't care if the girl is underage and not mature enough to really consent. Pimps (whether male or female, there are women who will control other girls for money) will find the vulnerable to exploit. This can be runaways, kids from broken families, drug addicts, or wounded girls who find someone who pays attention to them.

In the very informative book Girls Like Us, Rachel Lloyd discusses the girls who get drawn into the world of sex trafficking in New York City. Many are recruited by men who claim to love them. Maybe a relative will push them out on the street, or make an internet ad to offer them up. In these cases, they don't realize what they're getting into. So women and girls are getting drawn into this violent, dangerous world. From the Newsweek article:
Prostitution has always been risky for women; the average age of death is 34, and the American Journal of Epidemiology reported that prostitutes suffer a “workplace homicide rate” 51 times higher than that of the next most dangerous occupation, working in a liquor store.
The problem truly does not stem from the supply. Yes, there will always be people who offer themselves for such services, but many more are forced into it due to the high demand.

And men, we need to answer for what we are causing. More on this in the next post.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Problem With Freedom

One person's freedom can be another person's prison.

Modern America loves its freedom. The rise of Western culture is dominated by independence, especially in this country. We have a national philosophy:
As long as it doesn't hurt someone else, you should have the freedom to do it.
Tell that to the commercially exploited sex trafficking victims.

Yes, I'm still fuming about the Village Voice article slamming the campaign of "Real Men Don't Buy Girls" by Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore. The article attacks the statistics used by abolitionists for girls at risk of being trafficked in the U.S. More than this, they suggest the fight against trafficking is driven by the desire for federal grant money.

The Village Voice is not a disinterested party. They run Backpage, a solicitation site for adult services. After Craigslist was taken to task for its adult services pages not screening for underage girls (or boys), the Village Voice is being proactive to protect their profit margins individual freedom.

Really. They make it an argument of the right of people to seek out such services.

I agree. In America they do have a "right" to do so if they wish.

However, this doesn't make it right.

Before I get accused of imposing my morality on others, let's take a step back for a bigger perspective. According to a recent Newsweek article (excellent, BTW), the demand for pornography and sexualized services is so high in the modern Internet age. The demand can't be contained by the services of adult women who voluntarily choose to offer their wares.

Entrepreneurs are going to find a way to meet a demand.

When men indulge their lusts, they are feeding into an industry that is preying on vulnerable women and girls. Certainly there are women who freely choose to enter the oldest profession, but many more (I would wager to say the majority) are forced into it in some way, whether it is due to economic pressures or to the degree of full human trafficking. The Newsweek article was sobering when it described a study and the way they had trouble finding a control group of men who did not pay for sex or pornography in some form.

The Village Voice argued that it was the morality police trying to use the overestimated problem of child sex trafficking in the U.S. to shut down Backpage, the way Craigslist backed down on their adult ads. The problem is that they think that the problem of child sex trafficking is not linked to adult services.

Like a pebble thrown in a pond, it can create ripples across the whole body of water. My next post will look at the connection between men fueling demand and the vulnerable being victimized.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Book Review - Pattern Of Wounds

Sophmore slump?

Look somewhere else.

J. Mark Bertrand hit the CBA scene big-time with last year's Back On Murder. I reviewed it here, and it ended up as one of my favorite books of the year.
His latest book, Pattern Of Wounds, looks to continue the...pattern.

Houston homicide detective Roland March is still battling. A year ago he was on the verge of being booted out of his department. He solved a high-profile case and solidified his position, but he isn't out of the woods yet. His lieutenant is riding him, and his captain is angling for a promotion, leaving March on an island.

When he responds to a woman's body found patially floating in a pool, he sees more than any other investigator. He sees a parallel to a murder he worked 10 years ago, one that was popularized in a true crime book.

He works the leads in the case, but promising trails grow cold. Another detective suggests a serial killer link, one that includes his old case - meaning the wrong person could be in jail.

March presses ahead, determined to prove the doubters wrong, but he may be alienating allies in the process. Even as the killer presses a little too close to home, March struggles to see the pattern of wounds in time.
I said last year that Bertrand was pushing some boundaries of Christian fiction. I hold to that statement this year, but I want to clarify it: he is pushing the borders of quality, not just borders of content.

I don't read a lot of this genre, the hard-boiled detective mystery. However, if I knew it was all like Bertrand's work, I would have to change. He has elevated his craft since the first book. The book is told in the first person view of March. Bertrand keeps March as a character we empathize with, even as he has demons and conflict, and a few views or habits we may not like. He's real, he has the feel of a real homicide detective. It isn't sugar-coated, but it is gritty without being gratuitous.

The plot moves along nicely, not a burning pace, but evenly stretched between action, investigation, and introspection. He paints wonderful detail to place us in March's eyes. I underlined a line mentioning "a puff of [shaving cream] foam clinging to the cap." Such a small detail, but it helped me see the eagle eye March has as a detective.

The book is deeper than a crime drama. The title is a powerful metaphor for the case March is working on and the battles in his life. He's wounded, and in showing us his dirty laundry, it allows for exploration of why evil exists, the power of faith, and the struggle of life.

There was one complaint - a thread that was developed for a time early on seemed to disappear in the end. I like books that don't tie every thread into a tidy little bow, but this wasn't loose, it seemed lost. It wasn't a big deal - I didn't realize until after finishing, but I wanted to temper my otherwise high enthusiasm for this book.

Bottom line: if I wrote crime fiction, I would study Mark Bertrand's novels, because the craft and enjoyment springing from that is so good. If you like this genre at all, you should really check this book out. Even if it isn't your main reading flavor, it is worth reading.
Legal mumbo-jumbo: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in return for promotion via the CFBA Tour, but with no promise of a good review. My thoughts are my own (anyone else wouldn't want them anyway!)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


You'll never believe the invitation I received this weekend.

A man in a black suit, wearing an earpiece and sunglasses, came to the front door. He handed me an official-looking envelope with a presidential seal on it. (He then proceeded to search my property for possible evil-doers, which was creeping me out, but that's another story.)

Opening the seal, I pulled out an embossed invitation, words jumping off the page in a bright red:
Mr. Joyner,

You have been chosen, by the President of the United States, to join him in his work to help the country move forward. You do not need to apply or get approval or clearance. All the work has been done for you. The POTUS would like you to be his ambassador. You will speak in his name, and you will have all the rights and privileges that he enjoys. This is more than a government job. You will not need to face scrutiny or Congressional approval. You have, in a sense, been adopted into his family. It is an executive order, and nothing can change that. You need only to accept what is being offered to you.


The President
Wouldn't that be something? Of course, nothing of the sort happened. I didn't have a Secret Service agent on my steps or checking through my shrubbery. I didn't get a White House invite.

I've received something better though.

Instead of a special message from Washington D.C., I have an invitation all the way from Israel, the Mediterranean, and Egypt. It has been waiting for me for around 2000 years.

The Lord of heaven and earth has asked me to be His child. I didn't do anything to earn it. I couldn't do anything to earn it. But He has adopted me as His son, and wherever I go, I am His ambassador. I speak in His name and try to work for the betterment of His Kingdom. I don't always do my best, but I am working always toward the goal of pleasing my Father. The little story above is a weak analogy to what it is like to have this gift of adoption into His family.

If we were asked to serve our country, most of us would be honored, even if we didn't always agree with the current administration. How then, should we consider this invitation we have from the God of the Bible?

What would you do with a White House invitation? How do you think it compares to what I am claiming the Bible offers?
(This idea was blatantly stolen from my good friend Kerry Neve, who said I could)

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Word of God

 From the prophet Isaiah (ch 55):

10 As the rain and the snow
   come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
   without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
   so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
   It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
   and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
12 You will go out in joy
   and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
   will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
   will clap their hands.
13 Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper,
   and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the LORD’s renown,
   for an everlasting sign,
   that will endure forever.”

Friday, July 08, 2011

Debunking the Village Voice

 Last week I posted about a Village Voice article that attacked Ashton Kutcher - for daring to stand up to men who fuel the sex trafficking industry in the United States. Since then there's been a lot of back and forth about this article and the Twitter feud it launched.

Initially it seemed the most vocal were people eager to pile onto Ashton. Many people on Twitter thought he got his tail handed to him.

There's a problem with listening to the people who spout off first.

There have been some great articles standing up to the Village Voice's so-called "scientifically backed" article. People who were trashing Mr. Kutcher could do it quickly in 140 characters. The authors who spent time writing articles that showed what fools the Village Voice were took time.

Here are two excellent articles, written with a lot more thoughtfulness than what the Village Voice could muster.

Trafficked: The Village Voice Needs to Fact-Check

 An Open Letter from FTS (Free the Slaves) to The Village Voice

Remember that the Village Voice has a financial stake in this "debate," as they host a website for "adult services," without always knowing whether the people offering the services are, in fact, adults or doing it voluntarily. It is nice to see that in the financial arena it has already affected them, as American Airlines has pulled advertising from their website. It is good to see some businesses with a conscience.

I still have more thoughts on some of the root problems for slavery and child sexual exploitation. That will be for another post.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

A Few Good Posts

Amazing how a holiday throws a person out of sync...

I came across a few interesting posts last week I wanted to share. Food for thought. I don't necessarily agree 100% with everything, but I'm always up for seeing people think about issues!

I recently found an old internet pal (old being relative on the net...) was blogging regularly about writing. I'd like to introduce you to Athena Grayson, and she has a great post on evaluating your beliefs as a writer, and trying to understand the opposite perception. We all have messages to share in our fiction, and we don't want them to be preachy. If we can see other views a little more, we can work more realistic and rounded characters into our stories. Good stuff - especially since it references The Schwartz!

Mike Duran, the ever-linkable blogger and author, has done it again. Out of his post "Did Flannery O’Connor Write Christian Fiction?" came another provocative post, "On Taking the Lord’s Name in Vain." I encourage everyone to check out the second post especially, but both are instructive and the O'Connor post led to the second one.

Finally, I saw that Novel Journey was announcing some major changes. It seems they are rebranding somewhat to be bigger and better, and are now known as Novel Rocket! It seems the journey gets a boost here - so check out the new swag!

There's always good stuff out there for the writing world (since if we're not writing books, we're writing blogs. Or tweets. Or cereal boxes...) I'll try to keep the best ones coming to your attention.