The DEMAND for Love And Human Trafficking

Airports are remarkably stressful, even for the most experienced traveller.

They can be so taxing that you’re consumed with frustration, lose all sense of zen, and just…forget all that’s good in the world (I really hope that’s not just me). I was having one of those days, and whilst waiting to board my flight, I was amassing a list of things I needed to land at my destination in a good mood — a coffee, a magazine to read, lunch, a nap, a hug — and then something stopped me in my tracks. I looked up at the couple in front of me, two people deeply in love. They couldn’t keep their hands off each other. She stared at him with adoration as he took her hands and gave her another soft kiss. The flight could be further delayed, or the world might fall apart. They could lose their luggage, or they could lose their jobs and all of their belongings.  It was apparent to me that any inconvenience or trouble, big or small, meant nothing to them as long as they had each other. Their brains were completely hijacked by hormones, which meant they had everything they needed; each other. 

It might seem a big jump, but, I would argue that if we all had a sufficient amount of what we most wanted, for example, LOVE, the demand for human trafficking for sexual exploitation would fall sharply.

…and here’s why…

First of all, what does the couple in love 

have to do with the scarcity of resources and demand?

Well, I’d assume that we only have a demand for something we need or want, whether that desire is created by ourselves or marketing forces, and that if we add habits and addiction to the picture, it is a no-brainer to see that our desire for our favourite Caffè Latte awakens our demand for more coffee shops and makes us experience scarcity of goods  (READ: bad coffee) when travelling to a place without a Starbucks.  

The couple at the airport did not experience any scarcity of love, which I suspect made them feel like they had no scarcity of anything. They would eat what was available to satiate themselves, but they probably wouldn’t make extravagant meals with exotic, hard-to-source ingredients, it would only take time away from being in each other’s arms.

We rarely hear about people happily in love, or in good homes, who commit crimes or abuse, and this is likely because positive social influence and a good support network are protective factors of criminal behaviour (meaning they reduce the risk of offending). I am convinced that if all the people in the world felt that they had enough security — be it food, love, or finance, there would be less demand for human trafficking. I know it isn’t that simple, but I truly believe that if the entire population of the earth had received a satisfactory dose of love and empathy, the demand for human trafficking for commercial, sexual exploitation would decrease significantly, both directly and as a result of a trickle-down effect. 

I’m going to get a bit technical for a moment, bear with me – it’s important: The scarcity principle is an economic theory in which a limited supply of a good, coupled with a high demand for that good, results in a discrepancy between the supply and demand. According to the scarcity principle, the market equilibrium price occurs where the demand and supply curves meet. Consequently, the price for a scarce good or service should rise until an equilibrium is reached between supply and demand. However, this would result in the restricted exclusion of the good only to those who can afford it. If the scarce resource happens to be grain, for instance, individuals will not be able to attain their basic needs.

Now that’s out of the way, you’re probably wondering why I brought it up — don’t worry, I’ll explain. I believe the scarcity principle can feature in our discussions about porn and human trafficking. In economics, market equilibrium is achieved when supply equals demand. However, the markets are not always in equilibrium due to mismatched levels of supply and demand in the economy. When the supply of a good, let’s say children for exploitation on porn sites (and yes, this happens), is greater than demand for that good, a surplus occurs, which drives down the price of the good, resulting in disequilibrium. Disequilibrium occurs when demand for a commodity is higher than the supply of that commodity, leading to scarcity and, thus, higher prices for that product. Let’s imagine we successfully convince 50% of child porn consumers to quit, we awaken them to the harsh reality of their addiction, adequate treatment is provided, and they no longer have a compulsion to view the exploitation of children. In this scenario, the number of child-porn footage available online wouldn’t immediately reduce, and so the market price for images of children’s naked bodies on the internet would go down (due to over-saturation of the market). As a result of this, traffickers will be less inclined to maintain the supply of pictures to the market, since the price may be too low to cover their marginal costs of production — that is, abducting, manipulating, or purchasing children. In this case, traffickers will supply less children for the porn site owners to photograph, or for themselves to photograph to upload for revenue, causing the quantity supplied to fall below the quantity demanded. In a free market, it is expected that the price will increase to the equilibrium price as the scarcity of the good forces the price to go up.

As I said, technical, but important.

When images of naked children are scarce, paedophile porn consumers are faced with conducting their own cost-benefit analysis, since a product in high demand but low supply will likely be expensive. The consumer knows that the product is more likely to be expensive but, at the same time, is also aware of the satisfaction it offers. This means that a porn consumer will only purchase the product (remember, we’re talking about child pornography, here) if they see a greater benefit from having the product than the cost associated with obtaining it. Hopefully, they deem the cost too high and the demand ceases entirely, and, hopefully, this only leads to good things.

Unfortunately, the child-porn example used here isn’t the only unethical footage on porn sites. Documentation of rape, videos of people forced to engage in intercourse, and so much more, often featuring victims of trafficking and abduction, can be found on the web.

What I’m saying is, porn sites are part of a huge market system that is greatly affected by our demand for what they offer.  The more people that are enlightened to the fact that porn is explicitly linked to human trafficking and exploitation, in far too many cases, and make the conscious, ethical decision to STOP WATCHING PORN,  the lower the market price for this content will be, and the less content will be produced.

If people know about this, as many do, why would they choose to continue to watch porn? It is no news that marketers use the scarcity principle as a sales tactic to drive up demand and sales. The psychology behind the scarcity principle lies on social proof and commitment. Social proof is consistent with the belief that people judge a product as high quality if it is scarce or if people appear to be buying it — that’s why those jeans always look soooo good on someone else, especially when they don’t have your size. On the principle of commitment, people who have committed themselves to acquire something will want it more if they find out they cannot have it. This is true for physical goods and services. This is also true for psychological constructs such as satisfaction and happiness. 

So many times I have been persuaded to start using a new product or service, to reach another level of happiness. I’m constantly under the impression that contentedness will envelop me when I, full of hope, re-vamp my old wardrobe with new items – the model in the picture has it all, who’s to say these new clothes won’t bring me the same? It is within human nature to wish and to dream that getting what need or desire is simple. Our need for touch and love is so deeply rooted in us that we cannot survive without it. This is where the pornography sites get us, they direct their advances towards our primal need for love and touch, and when they offer fake tenderness, affection, and love, simply and through our computers, it is like dropping dopamine right at the receptor. 

Love cannot be ordered via a click,

nor bought, even though many have tried and will surely continue trying, but we can offer it to each other and hope this dissuades people from searching for it in the wrong places. It’s definitely not the only fix for this problem, but it sure is the easiest place to start.

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