Mr. Anybody: He’s the customer of underage prostitutes. And these types of johns are numerous in their search for fresh meat, making child prostitution a flourishing business. That’s what the in-your-face documentary Trafic told us in the fall of 2019.
How come so many men participate in the sexual exploitation of minors? What can we as a society do stop these sex offenders and make sure they never reoffend? Even more importantly: how do we stop the proliferation of all these aggressors?
By Martine Letarte
Therapy programs for treating sex offenders give results. “Individuals who have committed a sex offense have a re-offense rate of around 13% five years after having rejoined the community,” says Jonathan James, professor of psychology at the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières (UQTR). “But if we only take into account those who have received treatment, that rate is cut in half.”
If we can treat offenders, we can also intervene preventively to make sure that people never become aggressors. “Trafic began when a pimp told me how much his customers like them young,” says the documentary’s director, Catherine Proulx. “He wants fresh meat to satiate his desires, period. That’s no longer a human in front of him. It’s a sex object who is only good for that. I think the important thing is to come back to the fact that these girls are human beings, and not objects.”
Sex ed courses have a role to play. Last December, Quebec’s Select Committee on the Sexual Exploitation of Minors made several recommendations, including that content be created for both primary and secondary students on the subject of the risks of minors being sexually exploited. “That’s fine, but beyond prostitution, it’s fundamental to educate young people on questions of consent, self-esteem, equal sexual relations, and healthy relationships,” Proulx thinks. “I find it aberrant that we ask regular teachers to discuss these complex, heavy subjects with young people, as we do today. It takes trained people to do this.”
The director dreams of a great awareness campaign, something like we’ve seen with drunk driving. “The customers avoid taking responsibility. They’re offered a service to respond to their fantasies and they don’t ask questions. The customer doesn’t want to be arrested by police. The customer doesn’t want to get beaten up by a pimp, but he doesn’t care about the girl. It would be nice if he could think of the girl.”