Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Connecticut: Media and the Sex Slave Industry


This Gucci ad, provided by the Gender Ads Project, depicts the image of men in control. The group's goal is to provide gender studies educators and students with a resource for analyzing the advertising images that relate to gender.

EAST HARTFORD, CONNECTICUT - Federal prosecutors have said one-time East Hartford “pimp” Brian Forbes sold two young women to another “pimp” for a promised payment of more than $1,000 in late 2003.

The sale — for which Forbes never actually received payment, according to prosecutors — came after Forbes had already held the two women in an East Hartford apartment, raped them, and “shared them” sexually with friends, federal authorities charged.

Forbes denied the human-sale allegation, but pleaded guilty to a variety of sex-trafficking crimes, including the use of child prostitutes and threatening serious bodily harm to keep two 18-year-olds in his service after they started working for him voluntarily. He was sentenced this year to 13 years in prison.

“Pimp” is here marked by quotations because, technically, a pimp is a person who solicits clients for a prostitute, and in its most positive interpretation prostitution is a voluntary act entered into by individuals who choose to exchange their bodies for money.

Forbes, in this particular case, was not a pimp, but a slave owner.

The case in East Hartford is by no means unique. According to a 2004 report by John Miller, then director of the federal Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons in Washington, D.C., modern slavery plagues every country, including the United States.

Not an easy question to answer is why our country, considered by many to be a progressive nation at the forefront of securing individual human rights, is one of the principal destinations for 14,500 to 17,000 women and children trafficked annually for the purposes of slavery.

In a 2004 Trafficking in Persons Annual Report, Miller noted that information on slavery is inexact, “but we believe that the majority of slave victims, in the neighborhood of 80 percent, are of the female gender.” He added, “We believe the largest category of slavery is sex slavery.”

Ms. magazine reported in the summer of 2007 that sex trafficking is one of the most profitable crime industries in the world — second only to the drug trade — and that U.S. trafficking victims are most prevalent in New York, Texas, Florida, and California. The question now becomes, how is it females have come to be considered a viable, and apparently an even somewhat palatable, commodity, particularly in the United States?

While it’s not possible to blame the use of female slaves on any one factor, it’s difficult not to question the effect media and advertising could have on a society’s perception of women.
Mabelle M. Segrest, Fuller-Matthai professor of Gender and Women’s Studies and chairwoman of the Gender and Women’s Studies Department at Connecticut College, says that to be objectified is to be turned into an object, and to be commodified is to be turned into an object for sale.

“The sex slave is the ultimate of a commodified body, which I think we are numbed to with all this advertising,” she says. “We’re so used to the female body being commodified.”

Women can be used to sell anything from insurance to perfumes to vacations, Segrest says. Even a phone book advertisement uses a young woman in a tight yellow shirt to draw attention to the publication, and an Internet domain registration Web site uses a large-breasted woman in a tight shirt to lure online customers.
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READ THE FULL ARTICLE AT JournalInquirer.com

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