As a stay at home mom, I’ve often wondered what I can do to help stop human trafficking. Sometimes the task feels impossible, especially since the real issue lies in the demand for sex from consumers, often called “Johns” in anti-sex trafficking lingo.
I think about these men who buy sex from underage girls or enslaved women…and I think about my own four sons, ages 9, 9, 4, and 2.
I never want them to be a “John.”
Although ultimately my sons will grow up and make their own choices in the world (for good and evil), here’s what I’m doing NOW, as their mother, to raise Real Men who don’t buy sex.
1. Talk about porn early
Seeking out an opportunity to buy sex doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Pornography plays a huge role in whetting the sexual appetite of a person who wants to take the next step and create the reality seen on a screen.
As a mom, I want to shield my sons from pornography, but I know that monitoring isn’t enough. I have to actively teach my sons about the unhealthy websites I don’t want them looking at before they ever stumble upon them.
Yes, these conversations are awkward. They can also be hilarious. Here’s our most recent one:
Me: You need to be careful about what you look at online. Some people post bad pictures, like of naked people.
Micah and Benji (9): (gasp!)
Silas (4): Like ninjas?
Yep. You gotta watch out for those naked ninjas. They will get you every time!
2. Teach them to respect women
I want to teach my sons that women are fully human, just like they, as males, are fully human. I encourage this respect in many ways. Recently I had a long conversation with one of my sons after he ran in a ridiculous way and said, “Look! I’m running like a girl.”
He got a stern talking-to and I made him watch this video with me. I want him to respect girls as equals and not mock or create scenarios to feel superior.
Another way teach my sons to respect women is by showing them that a woman’s body is not just sexual. Breasts are grossly oversexualized in our culture but when I had my babies, I openly breastfeed in front of my sons in order to show them that breasts are both beautiful and functional, not simply eye-candy to be ogled or used for sexual pleasure.
As my sons grow into young men, I hope that they will remember that a woman’s body should be respected for all it can do, not just for how it looks.
3. Creative problem solving for uncomfortable feelings
There are complex factors that influence a person to buy sex. Author Teeta Sanders describes them as “push and pull factors”: “‘push factors’ [are] things like boredom, loneliness, or unsatisfying sex life – as well as “pull factors” like availability and opportunity that influence men’s decisions to purchase sex.”
Bring bored and lonely are uncomfortable feelings, ones that my sons are already familiar with. Instead of running to a quick fix (food, screen time) to help them momentarily feel better, my husband and I try to talk our sons through these tough feelings when they arise.
We don’t push them down, but instead, we walk our sons through their feelings, assuring them that what they feel is normal, even if it is uncomfortable, and helping them come up with creative solutions to the boredom or loneliness (play chess with your brother, help mom by washing the dishes, exercise, listen to an audiobook, call grandma).
Helping our sons work through their complex emotions when they are young will hopefully help them to seek out real solutions in the future, instead of quick fixes to these “push factors” like buying sex, using drugs, or abusing alcohol.
4. Teach delayed gratification
Teaching kids to wait for and work for what they want is a life skill that will serve them well in their future jobs, as well as their future relationships.
Sure, if they had enough money, they could buy a girl for an hour of pleasure to stave off loneliness and boredom, but ultimately working hard to build a relationship that has a foundation in mutual respect, beliefs, and affection is what is going to bring my boys true happiness.
In our family, we teach delayed gratification by making our boys work for the things they want, doing chores for screen time (5 chores) or a new toy (50 chores).
Combating the “I want it now” mentality is really hard in this instant-click world we live in, but creating opportunities for my sons to delay gratification is so important to their future character, jobs, and relationships.
There are so many other things I want to teach them as they grow into young men, lessons about consent, self-control, and healthy sex in the context of faith and relationships. But my sons are still young and there will be time for those conversations in future months and years ahead.
But until then, I’m going to keep doing my best to raise my boys to be careful online, to treat girls with respect, to talk through their feelings, and to work and wait for the good things they want in life.
Because I’m raising Micah, Benji, Silas and Eli to be good men, not “Johns.”
When Holy Desire and Motherhood Collide: A story of how God answered my unspoken prayers
Why I openly breastfeed in front of my older kids
Sex and Self-Control: It’s not just for before the wedding night
Photos by Sabrena Carter Deal, S. Carter Studios