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People are actively bought and sold
in our community every day.

Don't Buy It Project

Know what Commercial Sexual Exploitation is and what you can do to help stop it.


First, tell us about yourself.
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Thank you for being here.

If you are here, you are not alone. There is a community of people that want to learn more and understand how to help end commercial sexual exploitation.

Sex Trafficking

Sex Trafficking
Happens Everywhere

It is far too common.

In 2012, the International Labor Organization estimated that there are 20.9 million human trafficking victims worldwide. Sex trafficking is the most common form of forced labor. Source

= 100,000 people

But sex trafficking is part of a bigger problem:

An overall social acceptance of buying and selling people for sexual purposes.


Sex trafficking is only one form of commercial sexual exploitation.

Commercial Sexual Exploitation (CSE) is a broad term. CSE happens when someone abuses their own power (e.g., financial power, physical strength, position of authority, etc.) or the vulnerabilities of someone else to exploit someone for sexual purposes.

Definition One

A commercial sexual activity occurs when anything of value or a promise of anything of value (e.g., money, drugs, food, shelter, rent, or higher status in a gang or group) is given to a person by any means in exchange for any type of sexual activity.

Definition Two

In CSE, a third party (pimp, trafficker, facilitator, etc.) may or may not be involved.

Click the six activities that are
considered commercial sexual exploitation


Street or Internet-Based


Strip Clubs


Escort Services


Cocktail Waitressing


Survival Sex

(trading sex for basic needs)


Erotic/Nude Massage


Webcam Pornography


Speed Dating

That's right. Something can be legal, and still be harmful.

"Sexual exploitation supports a culture where participants view women as objects who are more a 'sum of body parts' than a whole being."
—Women's Support Project, UK

70% of women who are trafficked are trafficked into the commercial sex industry.

This includes porn, strip clubs and massage parlors in the U.S.


Which Means

you can't get rid of sex trafficking without addressing the larger issue: the business of commercial sexual exploitation.

The good news?

We all have the ability to help end sexual exploitation.

We are all

At its best, being part of a community means recognizing that we are all interdependent and responsible for the well-being of one another. Engaging in commercial sexual exploitation is harmful because it limits our potential and separates us from our community. We're not our best selves when we see other people as something we can buy.

Our human potential and the well-being of our communities depend on the way we care for one another. Together, we can help end commercial sexual exploitation.




Commercial sexual exploitation
occurs at the intersection of
harm, power and oppression.

It happens when we separate ourselves from others.

Exploiters look for opportunities to target a person's vulnerability, either through oppression, violence or discrimination. CSE can thrive on the effects of racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, poverty or any other instance of power imbalance. When we tolerate harm caused by CSE, we are saying it's okay for certain people in our communities to be exploited, as long as we are not personally impacted.

Let's take a closer look at how harm, power and oppression are at play in CSE.

Maybe you've heard this before:
"Porn isn't hurting anyone."

This type of statement denies the realities of many in pornography.

A content analysis of best-selling pornography videos found that 88% of the scenes analyzed involved one person, usually a [woman], being physically assaulted (gagging, slapping, etc.). Source

You might also hear:
"Well, everyone knows porn isn't real."

But that's not quite true, either.

A study of prostituted women in Minneapolis found that 80% had experiences where a sexual exploiter asked them to imitate sexual acts from a particular pornographic video. Source

Although pornography is legal, it is harmful. And the effects can be lasting.


of women in prostitution showed symptoms of PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), which were comparable with healthcare-seeking veterans, women who fled to shelters, rape survivors and refugees who were exposed to state-sanctioned torture. Source


to 95% of those used in prostitution want to escape it, but have no other options for survival. Source

We Need to Clarify What Choice is and What Choice Isn't.

What Choice Is: True choice implies that someone is selecting an option from two or more viable, realistic possibilities.

What Choice Isn't: When someone is faced with a lack of options, or if their ability to choose is taken away at any point, they do not have true choice.

Do you recall the definition of CSE?

In every instance of CSE, there is an imbalance of power between the purchaser and the individual being purchased. Often, acting on that imbalance of power is a choice to act on one's own racial, economic or male privilege.

This goes against our own human nature to be caring, respectful individuals.

On the other side of privilege, safety and rights are always at risk for those being exploited.

Cultural norms reinforce the idea that it's okay for men to buy women for sexual purposes.

A 2017 University of Minnesota study found that some sex buyers seek acts that humiliate and harm the provider/victim, such as derogatory language, defecation and urination, rough sex, physical assault, rape, and in rare cases, murder. Source

How did we get to this point?

CSE perpetuates the wrongful belief that the value of people: young boys and girls, transgender folks and women primarily comes from their bodies.

In CSE, human beings are reduced to body parts and valued only as objects that can serve a sexual purpose. They are not viewed as whole, complex individuals who are a part of our community.

Exploitation overlaps with other forms of oppression

  • Racism
  • Homophobia
  • Transphobia
  • Xenophobia
  • Citizenship Status
  • Poverty
  • Sexism

The more a group of people is impacted by oppression, the more likely they are to be targeted for commercial sexual exploitation.

According to a 2011 study of Native American
women in prostitution in Minnesota:


have been physically assaulted, and 72% have experienced traumatic brain injuries. Source


saw a connection between prostitution and colonization, and explained that the devaluation of women used in prostitution was identical to the colonizing devaluation of Native people. Source


of the prostituted women interviewed had been racially insulted by sex buyers and/or pimps. Source

CSE doesn't just happen abroad.
And it doesn't just happen in movies.

It happens here.

One study found that 44% of homeless Minneapolis youth had been approached with money, shelter, food, drugs etc., in exchange for sex (e.g., survival sex). Source

Not only does
it happen here.
It's portrayed
as normal or

In fact, our culture has a history of normalizing commercial sexual exploitation to make the purchasing of people seem okay.

Understanding the way our everyday environments support male dominance and sexual exploitation is the first step in preventing harm.

Click each media to explore how it normalizes exploitation

And we're buying into all of it


adult movies are released per year in the United States—more than 20 times the mainstream movie production. Source


(that's 23,000,000,000) visits were reported by in 2016. That's 3 views for every human on earth. Source


of ALL internet traffic, according to a conservative estimate, is pornography. Source

Stages of




The more we see it in mainstream media, the more normal it seems.

To change this, we need to apply a critical lens to the media we consume. Continue scrolling to uncover the stages of cultural acceptance.

Stage 1: Saturation of Messages

Stage 2: Desensitization

Stage 3: Normalization

Open Your Eyes

You've probably seen movies, TV shows, games and/or magazines portray women, men and LGBTQ+ people as submissive, sexualized or powerless stereotypes. If this makes you uncomfortable, trust your instincts. If you haven't noticed this before, start seeing it.

Don't Buy It: Don't let culture convince you that treating people like this is normal or "ok." It's not.

The underlying message being promoted is that reducing certain people in our community to body parts or stereotypes is normal or "okay." It's not.
Everyone deserves to be treated with equal human value and dignity.

So far, we've learned:

  • All forms of commercial sexual exploitation are harmful.
  • It happens here.
  • It's normalized by society.

It's also well funded.

Across the U.S., men's demand keeps sex trafficking and CSE profitable industries.

$0 Billion

or approximately $200 per U.S. man, is spent annually on CSE. In comparison, the U.S. music industry only makes $16 billion per year. Source


is spent on pornography
every second. Source

How much money is spent annually on CSE in your city?

Drag the slider to match your city's population.

>25k 250k 500k 750k 1mil+


It's time to build communities free from commercial sexual exploitation.

People are not products. Men are more than consumers.

Become a Better Ally: It's Time to Make Change

Men have an important role to play in ending CSE.

Male entitlement and dominance are the primary underpinnings of commercial sexual exploitation.

  • Sex buyers are predominately middle-aged, white, married men. In Minnesota, they are representative of men in the general population, which is about 85% white. Source
  • Men comprise 72% of all porn-related web traffic. Source
  • Men make up even larger proportions in strip clubs and prostitution markets.

Men, overwhelmingly, are driving the demand for CSE.

Participating in any form of sexual exploitation means investing in oppression, dehumanization and violence.

It doesn't have to be this way.

We are all connected.

From a young age, men and boys are taught to believe male dominance and exploitation are a normal part of being a man. This simply is not true. This way of thinking and being makes it possible for profit to be made at the expense of people's safety and choice. But most men do not want to cause harm.

The truth: Men are naturally caring, loving, and help protect the well-being of people in their community.

Don't buy into a culture of male entitlement and dominance.

Most men think commercial sexual exploitation and violence are wrong, but haven't stepped up to change the conditions that allow it to happen. Men exploring and challenging privilege, oppression and violence together can create an influx of allies and momentum to end commercial sexual exploitation.

Together, change is possible.

Men can end the harm CSE causes.

By creating a culture of respect, equality and interconnection.

Here's how you can help.

Thank you for participating in the Don't Buy It Project Online Training. We believe that together, with people like you, we can end the demand for commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking.