Sex trafficking is one of the gravest injustices we can imagine.
It is horrible. It is affecting children, both those who are trafficked and those who are exposed to pornography. And it needs to stop.
Today on the podcast I invited Benjamin Nolot, the CEO and founder of Exodus Cry, a documentary film maker dedicated to ending sex trafficking, rescuing victims, and helping those caught up in sexual addiction to be free.
While this podcast dealt with really heavy subjects, we didn’t go into unnecessary detail about the actual content of sexual abuse in pornography or sex trafficking. However, some listeners/viewers may still find it disturbing.
Or, as always, you can watch it on YouTube:
Timeline of the Podcast
3:00 What is Exodus Cry & how do we see porn?
9:40 The relationship between porn and sex trafficking
16:00 Assumptions/realities of sex trafficking
33:00 What can we do to fight this?
37:45 The legal battles happening now & future goals
42:15 The documentaries Benjamin has made
53:20 What’s coming up on Bare Marriage
Exodus Cry is doing amazing work bringing awareness to sex trafficking in our own communities.
Benjamin has such a passion for protecting and rescuing victims, and I was very moved and affected by this interview.
I have followed Exodus Cry on social media for quite a while, and I was rivited over the last few years with their really successful campaign to hold PornHub accountable for posting videos of child sexual abuse materials and other non-consensual materials (which, to be honest, almost all of it is). They got the credit card companies to stop working with PornHub, got lawsuits started, and more.
And today Benjamin explains the roots of sex trafficking, where it happens, and what we can do about it.
Because we can actually be a part of this fight. We can rescue people who are being hurt, right in our communities. And we can raise awareness. Please listen, and then click some of the links below on how you can help. There’s so much we can do, even if it’s just becoming better informed.
Let’s stop this evil.
Things Mentioned in the Podcast
- Our Patreon that helps support our podcast! You can join for as little as $5 a month! There’s unfiltered podcasts, our exclusive Facebook group (it’s really active!), merch, and more!
- Exodus Cry. Check out the organization and see what they’re doing!
- See how to get involved (it’s easy!). Join the fight against PornHub, sign petitions, read their articles, and more!
- Watch Exodus Cry’s documentaries. They’re so well done and hard hitting.
- Follow Benjamin and Exodus Cry on Instagram!
- Our podcast last week with the woman who was put under church discipline when she wanted to get to safety from marital rape.
Why has sex trafficking taken hold? Have you ever participated in a grassroots movement to end it? Let’s talk in the comments!
Sheila: Well, I am thrilled to bring on the podcast Benjamin Nolot, who is the CEO and founder of Exodus Cry. Hello.
Benjamin: Hi, Sheila. It’s good to be on with you.
Sheila: Yeah. This is such a topic that is near and dear to my heart. I know it’s near and dear to so many of our listeners, just the problem of sex trafficking and sexual exploitation around the world. It’s tragic. It is—it wounds the heart of God. It is a stain on us, and it hurts real people. And so I’d love to get into what’s going to be, I think, a sad conversation but, hopefully, a hopeful one too and what we can do to help. So to start off, tell us what Exodus Cry is.
Benjamin: So Exodus Cry is a nonprofit that I started back in 2007 specifically to fight global sex trafficking. So we have a couple key ways that we go after that through awareness, through advocacy, and through education which we can get into more. But in a nutshell, that’s who Exodus Cry is.
Sheila: Right. Now I have a theory, and I’ll let you see if you think my theory is correct. But I think in the evangelical church we often portray porn primarily as a sin against one’s purity. Like I have now committed a sin by watching porn. And I wonder if we changed the conversation to focus more on the fact that this is hurting real people, if we could see a lot more traction. So much of what you do is you show the relationship between porn and sex trafficking. Could you fill our listeners in on that?
Benjamin: Well, yeah. So I agree with you. I think, oftentimes, the struggle with pornography is maybe framed in a way that isn’t entirely accurate and also not super helpful. So I think most people imagine their struggle with pornography to be a moral and a spiritual struggle instead of a neurological struggle and a fantasy addiction. And that framing is really important in kind of the recovery aspect of pornography. One of the things that I recommend for people who are trying to pornography, are recovering from pornography, trying to get free from pornography is this idea of disrupting and redirecting. So whatever the impulse is that’s causing somebody to be drawn to pornography, to disrupt what is essentially the fantasy. So whether it be anxiety or rejection or boredom or a stressful day at work, whatever is triggering that impulse that is leading a person to pornography, ultimately, the idea is I’m going to escape into this fantasy world. So the way to disrupt that fantasy is through an understanding of the deeper truth and then deploying an understanding of that deeper truth in that moment. So to your point, this idea of pornography as something that we struggle within our own sexuality is one way to understand it. But the deeper truth, the fuller picture, is that on the other side of that screen is a real three-dimensional human being, who has history, preferences, life experiences, tragedies, dreams, hopes. They are a whole person. So when we decided to address the subject of pornography as a part of our work fighting sex trafficking, one of the key ways that we decided that we wanted to address this was through the lens of the human rights perspective. And what I mean by that is the toll that pornography takes on the people who are being used to create it—understanding the experience of the performers. So I spent 10 years going undercover investigating the porn industry, reading everything that’s ever been written on the subject. And we’re just now releasing all of these findings into a book called Raised on Porn. And we also have a documentary by that title. But in my experience of investigating this, I began to discover a whole other picture than—about these performers, than what is presented to us just through the two-dimensional aspect of this person’s Twitter page, their appearance in this highly objectified context of pornography, whatever it is. So the experience of writing this book and the experience of making this documentary was such a stomach turning, revolting experience, and also heart breaking, that I felt like I wanted to create something that would help recreate that experience in the reader, in the viewer, in the person hearing or watching this. Because a lot of—and I’ll end with this. A lot of people said to me while I was doing this, “I don’t know how you do it. If I was talking to all those people in porn, I would blah, blah, blah.” The idea being that I would be so tempted or whatever. And really it was a—like I said, it was a stomach turning, revolting, and heart breaking experience. It wasn’t something where I found myself seduced by just how sexually ravenous these individuals were. It was very obvious and evident the way in which these individuals’ lives were being systematically exploited, used, taken advantage of on and on. And so I’m actually very passionate about that message of how do we help people understand in a more full and comprehensive way the experiences of people in pornography. Because when you do, it’s just not attractive.
Sheila: Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely. And what is the relationship between pornography and sex trafficking?
Sheila: I know that’s a big question.
Benjamin: Going into this, I’m going to give sound bite, conversational answers, and you’re asking questions like (cross talk) just the way my brain works. Okay. Let me just say this, first—okay. Just a couple things. First thing is for people who have heard about sex trafficking, we recently just reported on this situation. A company seemed complicit in child pornography—
Sheila: Oh, the Spanish thing?
Sheila: Yeah. That was disgusting. How do you say their—Bell—
Benjamin: I’m not even going to try. So people see something like that, and they’re very disturbed by it. Or they hear a story about sex trafficking, and then they’re very disturbed by it. And if you go down that rabbit hole, it can be a very difficult, disturbing, traumatic experience to really try to digest the reality of that level of human suffering, exploitation, evil, all that. And so years into this work, I eventually reached a point where I felt like I need therapy.
Sheila: Yes. I can imagine.
Benjamin: As a dude, I’m like—I don’t even know. I believe in it for other people. But I was like, “What do I say on the—hey, bro.” I had no idea how that even went down. I know. I was very skeptical for myself that it would even be helpful. The first thing this therapist did is just frame the issue. That alone just—it just brought so much emotional decongestion. Just the framing alone began to allow some healing in, just to be able to see the scaffolding of what exactly I was dealing with. So I think that’s a really important aspect of having a conversation like this. It’s just beginning to give people some structure and some scaffolding and some framing for how to even look at the issue of sex trafficking because it is so disturbing. So with regards to the issue of pornography and its connection to sex trafficking, there were—I’ll keep this short. We went on a—I was a making a documentary called Nefarious Merchant of Souls on global sex trafficking. As I was traveling the world making this documentary, I began to see five ways that pornography was overlapping with sex trafficking. And it was over the course of that period of time that I then made a decision to press more deeply into the subject of pornography and really trying to understand its role in our world and specifically pertaining to sex trafficking. So in a very simple way, I mean, ultimately, pornography is the fuel for sex trafficking. There’s a more elegant, five-part answer I could give. I don’t know how much you’re looking to get into that, but that—yes.
Sheila: Yeah. Let me see if I can guess some of this. This might be good. Okay. I would guess, too, that part of the thing is the things that people see in porn they’re going to ask other people to do. So the more extreme pornography gets the more danger sex trafficking victims are going to be in.
Benjamin: Yes. That’s a really interesting observation. I would add that as a sixth, kind of illuminating factor because that’s absolutely, 100% true. I mean I was walking down the street in Amsterdam in the red light district. And I will never forget this. I remember approaching this guy, who had a headset on. He’s on one side of the alley. The window is on the other side. The door is open, but I can’t see in because I’m coming this way. And this guy was there revving himself up. And I remember as I’m approaching I’m like, “What is going on?” I couldn’t wrap my mind around what was going on. And then as I passed by, he charged into the room. The woman was lying on the bed. And so what was going on is this guy was—had created this whole scenario where he was going to be listening to whatever he was. He was going to be on the other side. She was going to be inside the room over—this is all happening in public. At some point, they would have had to close the curtain or whatever. The look on his face was like a wolf licking its chops before preying on its victim. It was so visceral. It stuck with me. He was clearly reenacting some scenario he had imagined in his head. And so the off loaded, existential, sexual perversity of these men that has been cultivated through, often cases, lifelong exposure and consumption to pornography was having a direct impact on the level of violence and depravity that these women were required to experience as sort of—yeah. Again, the off loaded receptacles of these men’s sexuality. It was—yeah. Really, really disturbing.
Sheila: Yeah. I can just imagine. I think you would need therapy after a lot of that. I think a lot of our readers, or listeners, are—were very familiar with porn and with the harm that porn has done which is why I wanted to concentrate on that first. But I hope that our readers can understand that there is a wider problem where it does go beyond porn and it does go into sex trafficking. And maybe we could talk a little bit about that because I think when we hear sex trafficking it’s easy for our minds to go to the streets of Bangkok or to Cambodia. And that is very real and very tragic what—but it also does happen in North America. So can you paint a picture of what sex trafficking looks like in North America?
Benjamin: Sure. The easiest way to understand sex trafficking is through the lens of supply and demand. And so when people act surprised or are surprised to find out that sex trafficking is happening in their city, it’s because of a lack of understanding of what fuels it. And sex trafficking is fueled by men’s demand for prostitution or for illicit sex.
Sheila: And is it men? Is it almost always men?
Benjamin: Yeah. So what we’re talking about is 99% of the people buying the sex are men. 98% of the ones being sold, being—are women and children. So it is a very gendered issue in that sense. I look at sex trafficking as the last stronghold of organized, systematic women’s oppression. Prostitution is a system of violence, exploitation, and gender inequality. The entire construct of prostitution is a construct of male demand. So the point being is (a) that if there are men who have an awakened desire for illicit sex in your city, in all likelihood, there is going to be somebody there to facilitate that transaction for them to find that because of the profitability of it. So I lived in Kansas City for a long time. And it was—yeah. It was just—I was awe struck to see the number of trafficking busts that occurred over the time that I was there in situations from the basement of these adult superstores off the highway to massage parlor chains where—that were a whole trafficking network to street level trafficking to escorting. So there were all of these—and people go, “But that’s the Bible Belt. But that’s the Midwest. That’s,”—it’s yeah. But even in the Bible Belt there’s young boys who grow getting exposed to porn who aren’t able to shake free of that who over time develop an appetite for that and, eventually, begin to seek that out. And the church hasn’t been much help either in terms of fostering conversations around issues of gender and sexuality. So a lot of men are really desperate and isolated and struggling. And they find that outlet. So I think—yeah. The first thing I want to say about that is you’re going to find sex trafficking anywhere you find demand. The hopefully side of that equation is that if men stopped buying women and children for sex we would see the entire implosion of sex trafficking—of the global, commercial sex industry. We would see it completely implode. And we would see the largest exodus of human beings from systematic oppression that the world has ever seen.
Sheila: Wow. Okay. I think we just need to sit on that for a minute. So why don’t you say that again?
Benjamin: Yeah. If men stop buying women and children for sex, we would see the largest exodus from systematic oppression that the world has ever seen. It makes me emotional because there are 42 million people that are trapped in this around the world. And I just know so many of their stories. And the idea of that happening is just so deeply moving. It is, in my opinion, worth dedicating one’s life to to see that happen. So that is the positive side of this is the potential for men to play a part of a modern day abolition movement to see so many people whose lives been destroyed set free and, hopefully, healed.
Sheila: So in North America, you said if there’s demand then there will be someone available to buy. But usually, that is not consensual. The person who is available to buy is not usually there willingly. You can argue even if they say they’re willing are they really willing if they victims of child sexual abuse themselves or if they’re addicted to drugs, et cetera. What does that look like for most sex trafficking victims?
Benjamin: I think we spend a lot of time—I’m just saying—not you. Just as a culture. Asking the wrong questions, thinking about the wrong things. And part of it, I think, is because we want to let ourselves off the hook. The truth is from any responsibility to be a part of helping this situation because the truth is that sex trafficking could not exist apart from a facilitating culture. A culture that facilitates sending large demographics of vulnerable people into these exploited positions. But the questioning—you’re familiar with it. I’m familiar with it. Is, “Well, did she choose this? Or was she forced? Did she enter willingly or against her will?” And so the movie, Taken. The idea that somebody was abducted and forced. That’s the victim who is worthy.
Sheila: Right. Yes.
Benjamin: The person who chose this because they were trying to get through college or because they were sexually abused when they were a child but now they’ve chosen this or whatever is the unworthy victim.
Sheila: Yes. And we do that all the time. Yeah.
Benjamin: And so for us at Exodus Cry, we just stopped trying to define in or out worthy versus unworthy victim. We felt like a more compelling way to look at this was not through the differences between quote unquote those who have chosen this versus those who didn’t but the commonalities. And the truth is that regardless of how somebody has ended up in the commercial sex industry, I would challenge the notion of choice because when you qualify what a real choice actually is I think you’d be very hard pressed to find somebody who has actually, in an authentic way, chosen prostitution. The more likely scenario is that prostitution has chosen them by virtue of a whole bunch of life circumstances that have brought them to this point. But we do live in a prostitution culture that is targeting women, predominantly vulnerable women, to lure them into the commercial sex industry. Now again, regardless of how somebody got in there, all of them experience it as a system of violence, exploitation, and gender inequality. I asked somebody who was a self identified quote unquote sex worker—I said quote unquote because I don’t believe in the term sex worker. I think that sex and desire are inextricably linked. And when you have sex without desire, it’s a violation regardless if somebody is getting paid for it. And the premise of all prostitution is on the basis of an inequality of desire. So I don’t agree with the term sex worker. But just to say, their terminology would be, “I am a sex worker, and I’m proud of this. And I want the whole world to know how great it is and all this.” So I asked this person, “Well, so what you’re saying is that these men don’t violate those boundaries?” She said, “Well, don’t all men?” So her worldview had been so deeply informed by her experience of prostitution that she was under the belief that it’s impossible to have a sexual experience in which you can define the boundaries of your sexual experience. So prostitution is paid sexual abuse. It is paid sexual violation. What you have is a scenario where one person wants the sex, the other person does not. Therefore, payment takes place. And the payment serves as the bribe to keep the person silent about the crime that is happening to their body. Because the reality, the truth of prostitution, is that when some—and, again—what I am sharing with you, I have learned through 15 years of listening to survivors talk about this. I’m just repeating what they have shared with me. But the experience with prostitution is because I don’t desire this man and his fantasy and the one that comes after him and the one after him and the one after him—the average number of men that these women will be required to have sex with on a given day is usually between 5 and 15 but upwards of 40. So she doesn’t desire this man or his fantasy. So by virtue of that, she experiences the sex as a form of sexual violation. So what ends up beginning to happen is that she has to disassociate from the experience in order to survive it.
Benjamin: She begins to willingly participate in the fracturing of her own humanity. The idea of I’m going to channel my humanity into my lips, and I will not let them kiss me because that’s where I can keep my whole person intact. Or they can’t touch this arm. Survivors of prostitution and trafficking have described these things to us. The ways that they try to find some boundary that they can disassociate into while their body was being used for this man’s sexual gratification. So the experience of prostitution is inherently fracturing to one’s humanity. Nobody can endure life and prostitution and remain whole. And so the idea of pornography is that it’s prostitution with a camera turned on. And the idea that I can somehow—this is somehow going to be enhancing of my sexuality that is believed by many people in our culture—millions and millions of people—is one of the greatest lies that we, as a generation, have bought into. The truth is you cannot consume a fractured sexuality and yourself remain whole. I do not believe in the concept that I can be a whole man while also consuming pornography.
Sheila: Wow. That’ really—I—it’s interesting because this sounds like so much of what I teach about what healthy sexuality is in marriage. And these are all the exact same things I say about consent in marriage too because that’s such a big issue. But then when you think about it on a societal level, it just—it makes it even more stark. To get—just to put a human face on this too, can you let us know what the stats are for how many prostitutes in North America are under the age of 18? Do you know what percentage?
Benjamin: Yeah. I would have to get back to you on that state, which I can do, and we can put it in the show notes.
Sheila: Sure. Yeah.
Benjamin: But I’m tempted to take a stab at it based on my last—but this was awhile ago that I sort of looked up this stat. There is a vast demographic of people under the age of 18 who we would describe as sex trafficking victims. Our law defines that anyone under the age of 18 who is in prostitution is a victim of sex trafficking. So we don’t believe in the concept of a child prostitute. It does not even exist.
Sheila: Right. Right.
Benjamin: But yeah. There is a vast demographic of people who are—at one point when I was making Nefarious, we discovered a stat that conveyed the reality that the average age of entry into prostitution was 13 to 14 years old.
Sheila: Oh man.
Benjamin: So prostitution preys upon the vulnerable. And so you have—you’re a faith based audience, right?
Benjamin: Yeah. So there is a passage in James chapter 1 that says, “Pure and undefiled religion is ministry to orphans and widows in their trouble.” And I think that that is a passage that we sometimes romanticize that we think to ourselves, “I’m going to go do my pure religion and do a short missions trip to that orphanage, pat the little orphans on the head for a couple weeks,” and that’s not really what that passage is talking about. It’s the idea that these people’s protective covering has been removed. And in the frays, in their trouble—so Proverbs 2 said that God guards the paths of justice. It’s this idea that God is looking down on humanity. I have this friend, Jennifer Toledo, who had an experience where she was taken up into heaven, and she actually saw Jesus in this place called the weeping room observing the injustice on our planet and interceded and inviting people to partner with Him from that place, to intervene in situations where vulnerable demographics of people are experiencing real trouble. So when I talk about vulnerable demographics of people, I’m talking about runaways. Usually, it starts with broken families. But it ends up in so many situations whether it be on the streets and homelessness or drugs or some form of self medicating, not of age yet, don’t have a stable job. Or it could be because of racial status. It could be because of being stateless. There’s so many things that make people vulnerable. And for most of us who live in a protected—relatively protected lives, it’s hard for us to imagine the violence that awaits. We live on a predatory planet. And it’s really easy to keep ourselves out of touch with the reality of the predatory motivations and intentions of violent, perverse people around the world. Traffickers who are willing—who have no conscience, at all, about selling another person and using them for their own personal enrichment. There are men who are so deeply depraved from years of pornography (inaudible), who have no conscience at all about using somebody who is in a sex trafficking position or a child. I mean I asked men who I interviewed for a documentary called Buying Her that will come out next year. I asked them, “Would it have mattered to you if this person had—if you knew this person had been trafficked?” 100% of the men I interviewed said, “No. It would not have mattered.” So that’s the reality that we’re talking about when we talk about the vulnerable demographics of people whether it be children or some other reason that are currently being exploited even right here in the United States, even in podunk places like Kansas City or in places that are—where I live in south Orange County. There’s a lot of comfort and wealth. It’s everywhere. It’s everywhere.
Sheila: So what can we do to fight this? I want to read something that was on your website because I really appreciated this because it gets to the heart of it. So this is a little bit longer. But these are your words. You said, “What is the root of sexual exploitation? A society that facilitates it. We live in a pornified society that promotes sexual objectification and tolerates sexual exploitation. The sex sells mindset has saturated the world around us even shaping the lives of our children. But what happens to a society that commercializes sex? Sexuality becomes separated from a real person and becomes a commodity. It becomes no more valuable than the product it’s pushing. Though sex trafficking is a deeply disturbing injustice, its existence is not all that shocking in light of the way much of our world views sexuality. If we want to live in a world where people aren’t sold for sex, then our hyper sexualized society must be transformed. That’s how we can stop exploitation before it starts.” I mean I totally agree. And I’ve dedicated my life to trying and do this within the church. But how—what else can we do to stop the sexual—the pornified view of sex our culture has?
Benjamin: I think the first thing is we, ourselves, have to stop self medicating. Jesus said, “I played the funeral dirge for you, and you did not mourn. I played the timbrel, and you did not rejoice.” It’s this idea of people being so content in their religious structure that they actually have not enabled themselves to cause their heart to experience what it means to be human, to rejoice, to celebrate, to mourn, to grieve. The full range of what is possible for us as humans. So there is a passage in Joel where it says God invites people to weep between the porch and the alter. And I know that, for me, that season of carrying this burden in the place of prayer literally weeping over the stories of people is a good place to start because it’s an internal acknowledgement on a psycho spiritual and even biological level that this reality exists. I’m no longer turning a blind eye to this injustice. I’m no longer putting my head in the sand. I’m allowing the reality of this tragedy to have—to invite me into a really human experience. Out of that place, I believe that there is an intimacy and a friendship with Jesus that is available to us that we can’t experience any other way than through sharing in the sufferings of what’s really going on in our world. And that friendship will result in a vibrant prayer life. It will result in action coming from an authentic place. Not you’re supposed to do this, but where is that petition I can sign? Who is the organization I can give to? What is the trip I can go be a part of? What is the book I can educate myself with? Something coming from a deeper place that’s not a top down, virtue signaling you should do this. But the Great Abolitionist of all the ages weeps over this issue, and He has invited me to partner with Him. That is the only way to sustain an authentic effort in trying to rid our world of this injustice. So I probably don’t sound like it, but I am very deeply encouraged by our work at Exodus Cry and the tribe of people that have joined us in this fight. We haven’t even gone into the impact side of our work that is nothing short of miraculous. I would say in a simple way as a starting point for people to track with us on social media, Exodus Cry. We’re constantly putting out calls to action. We have a few campaigns going on right now. Protect Children, Not Porn. Trafficking Hub. And End Team Porn. So there’s lots of substance for people to dive into with us on this journey. I think my passion is just that Jesus would have more friends on the earth.
Sheila: Yeah. I really appreciate what you’re doing by trying to get a three-fold approach to fighting this. So we’ve got the change in the culture, but you’ve also got change in the laws. And I was wondering if you could tell us some of the laws that you’re trying to change right now.
Benjamin: For sure. So regarding sex trafficking, there’s a model legislations that we refer to as the abolition model. And what it does is it criminalizes the purchase of sex at a felony level offense. And it decriminalizes the women who are being sold. So this legislation was first passed by Sweden and was effective at eradicating sex trafficking in their country. So we have a long term 20-year mandate to see the abolition model in countries where prostitution is prominent around and establish it as the global standard addressing sex trafficking. Regarding pornography, there are—we believe that it’s absolutely critical for age verification walls to be put in place for the hosting and distributing of all pornographic content in order to protect children from inadvertent exposure to pornography. So that’s a legislation that we’re currently campaigning for. And then the End Team Porn campaign is aimed at raising the age of entry into pornography from 18 to 21. That demographic of 18 to 21 people are in a transitional time of life. They’re extremely vulnerable and are sold a lie that pornography is somehow going to provide some kind of benefit to them. The truth is untold numbers of peoples’ lives have been absolutely destroyed in that age demographic. Not to mention this barely legal genre of pornography or team pornography that dresses these young women up to make them look like they’re pre pubescent children and then act out fantasies of being a child is—needs to be completely abolished. So there is some really positive traction and momentum that we have seen on these things, but those are the legislative things that we’re focusing on currently in this season.
Sheila: Now I’m not that familiar—one of the things I find so strange about the United States is that there is 50 different criminal codes because we just have 1 up here in Canada. And I know—it’s probably about 15 years ago now where the law passed where you can actually prosecute someone for buying a child sex slave in another country. You can prosecute them in Canada. Is that something that you can do in the U.S. too in some states?
Benjamin: Yeah. There was a case that came up not too long ago regarding that. There was a name—there was a man named Michael Pepe, who was a serial predator living in Cambodia preying upon children there. He was eventually brought to justice and sentenced to 210 years in prison at the testimony of some very courageous young Cambodian children that testified. He later tried to appeal the case on the basis that he was out of the country or something with this loophole that you’re describing. And he did not win his appeal. He was resentenced to 220 years in prison. And I would be hesitant to speak to the substance of the details of that legislation. But I know that that’s one case that’s come up recently along those lines.
Sheila: Yeah. I just remember when that law passed that was one of the first things that got me really interested in this. And I was involved in letter writing campaigns. And we were so excited when that passed. And it was quite a few years ago now in Canada. But this just shows how when people get together you really can change the law. And I know we’ve had a lot of—we’ve had many prosecutions under that law where we’ve prosecuted sex tourists who have gone especially to East Asia, but it’s not only East Asia. It’s also Brazil and South America and—for the purpose of buying under age sex. And yeah. We can actually make a difference. We can actually do something. And I just think it’s amazing that you’ve dedicated your life to this, and you’ve given people a way to make a difference. And so I really encourage people to go look up Exodus Cry on social media. Go look up your website. But you’ve also done some documentaries. And I’d love for you to tell us about those so people can watch them.
Benjamin: Sure. Yeah. So our first documentary is called Nefarious Merchant of Souls. That’s a snapshot of global sex trafficking. We did a second documentary for Netflix called Liberated: The New Sexual Revolution where it looks more at the cultural underpinnings and hook up culture and the stories that shape conceptions of gender and sexuality. We released a documentary at the beginning—or in 2021 called Raised on Porn, which quantifies porn’s impact on consumers. And we’re in the process right now of releasing a docuseries called Beyond Fantasy, which is about the porn industry itself. And so those are—yeah. Some resources that people can get a hold of.
Sheila: And are they all on Netflix? Or is it just one of them?
Benjamin: So Nefarious is currently available for our Exodus Cry YouTube channel. After 10 years of release, we put that up for free on our YouTube, so people can access that there. And then Liberated is available on Netflix. Raise on Porn is available on our Magic Lantern Pictures YouTube channel. And Beyond Fantasy is also available on our Magic Lantern Pictures YouTube channel. Those films are about 30 minutes long each. Little over. And so they are a very consumable length. But really powerful. And so I highly encourage people to check those out.
Sheila: And can you watch them with your teenagers? Are there any that you would say don’t watch them with your teenagers? Or would they be good conversation starters?
Benjamin: My son is turning 14. My oldest in January. And I told him when he turns 14, we can watch Nefarious together. I’m trying to do lots of preparation. I think it’s best for parents to watch these themselves first and then decide what they feel like their child is ready for. I do believe in age appropriate conversations from a relatively young age about these issues.
Benjamin: So I think that the films can be a springboard for that. But they’re also very hard hitting. So it comes with a strong disclaimer. I would definitely screen them first would be my recommendation.
Sheila: Right. Right.
Benjamin: In terms of people being involved with us, I just want to mention a campaign that we started in 2020 called Trafficking Hub. So one of my colleagues had discovered that Porn Hub was the world’s largest porn site enabling videos of real trafficking and abuse and rape and all these things through the lack of a moderation system, a user base upload model, and just a general negligence about the management of their site in general making it very difficult for people to have these videos taken down. So we launched this campaign through an article called It’s Time to Shut Down Porn Hub. That article went viral and led us to start a petition that—aimed at shutting down Porn Hub which eventually got over two million signatures in a relatively short amount of time which then led us to launch a short animated video, which got 34 million views across our social platforms which connected us with Nick Kristof from The New York Times who wrote an article called The Children of Porn Hub which eventually caused the major credit card companies to sever ties with Porn Hub which caused them to delete 80% of their website, remove the download feature. Eventually, The New Yorker did an article on all of this which then led to the CEO and COO stepping down, Instagram deleting their account. We’ve heard rumors now that 70-80% of their staff has been laid off. Mindgate, their parent company, owns 90% of all online pornography.
Sheila: And just, for a full disclosure, it’s a Canadian company. So I’m sorry about that. Yes.
Benjamin: In Montreal. And Porn Hub was the—sort of the branded site that they tried to put the most kind of emphasis on. They had ads in Times Square. They were part of New York Fashion Week and all of this stuff. So they had tried to endear themselves to the culture as this porn chic brand. So it was really incredible to see the momentum and the effectiveness at this campaign to actually bring about substantive change in the world. And all of the credit goes to the people who decided to participate in this. The soccer moms, the stay-at-home moms. It was the people who just chose to sign the petition, who just chose to share the video on their—people at home who thought, “What can I do,” maybe even shared this without really believing that it was much. But enough people do their part and—enough people giving a small effort can create a massive world changing impact. So again, I just want to double down on this point that for the people who are listening to this, watching this, it’s—what might seem like just a few loaves and fish to you, just the crumbs—what might seem just like a little bit actually has the ability to make a massive impact. So we want to encourage everybody to do their part to get involved in this fight. Now I also have to give credit to my colleague, Lila, who spearheaded this campaign, our team at Exodus Cry that helped engineer and shape it. Of course. Of course. But they would even say the thing that made this work was the larger tribe of stay-at-home moms, soccer moms, everyday people who have limited bandwidth that did their part, and that’s such a huge part of this.
Sheila: Yeah. Yeah. I was following that. I love Lila. I follow her on every social. She’s on all my special lists that I see everything. It’s very inspirational how much she just stuck to the one message, and it was amazing to see that happen. It was just amazing. So it is true. We can change things. And I think people’s consciences are waking up. I do. I think we’re ready for this conversation.
Benjamin: Yeah. We’re seeing it. We’re seeing it in real time. It’s almost surreal in a way to see it happening.
Sheila: And I think there’s a great awareness of just the emptiness and the harm that this view of sex and the pornified mindset and the pornified culture has just wrecked whole generations. And we want to do better. And we can do better.
Benjamin: And that’s what it is. It’s the desacralization of sex. Sex isn’t bad. It’s the desacralization of sex. So I think that your work is so important because you are helping people reclaim a value for sex and a healthy sexuality in the midst of this unprecedented time that we live in. And that’s such a huge part of the answer. It’s not all sex is bad. It’s no. Sex is really good. Therefore, we should reverence it. We should respect it. We should treat it like a gift. We should add value, not take away value from it. And you are doing some of the most important work that I have seen. Probably the most important effective work helping, at least people in the faith-based community, along those lines, and it’s just—yeah. It’s really, really important. Maybe even beyond what you have realized.
Sheila: Well, thank you. I appreciate that. And thank you for being so open too about how you needed therapy after looking into all of this because this is really heavy stuff. And I think about the sacrifices that we make for Jesus. The suffering. Going through the suffering that Jesus did. We usually picture that as being persecution, but it doesn’t always mean that. Sometimes it just means being willing to enter into these hard places and let your heart be broken. And I want to ask everyone listening to do something. Normally, I give you one action step because that’s what all the gurus tell you you’re supposed to do. Give people one action step. And I’m not going to give you one action step because the truth is I don’t know what you’re supposed to do. But I think you’re supposed to do something. So maybe this is one action step. But will you just go to the Exodus Cry website? Because on their website, there is a whole bunch of things you can be involved in. And I don’t know which one you should be involved in. But there’s a bunch of different things. So will you go and just look? Maybe it’s watching one of these documentaries. Maybe it’s becoming a partner in giving. Maybe it’s joining their social media and spreading the word loud. Maybe it’s looking after foster kids in your area who are so vulnerable. Whatever it might be. Will you go to their website? And just ask Jesus. Is there a special place for me? Because I think He will tell you because this is a big work. But it’s not too big for Him if we’re willing to let our hearts be broken the way that His is. So thank you for be willing. I know that’s a big sacrifice, Benjamin. I know it is. And so thank you for being willing to do that.
Benjamin: Yeah. Thank you. Thank you. I appreciate that. And I wholeheartedly agree. Just creating space for the broken heart of God to break our hearts for those same things. Yeah. It’s really important.
Sheila: Yeah. Now I will put the link to Exodus Cry and to your documentaries and everything in the podcast notes. But in case people are not going to check, do you want to just tell us what it is?
Benjamin: Yeah. Just people can visit exoduscry.com.
Sheila: Super easy to remember. Exoduscry.com.
Benjamin: We’re on Instagram. Social is just @exoduscry.
Sheila: Perfect. Well, thank you so much. I really appreciate you joining us. This has been wonderful. And I think it’s going to give people a lot to think and pray about. So thank you for being here.
Benjamin: Thank you. It’s been an honor. I really appreciate it.
I have to wonder with your work Mrs Shiela what will happen to all of these young single and often angry disillusioned and existentially mired men. Seeing that it is men who drive prostitution and shut what will happen as these issues become more prevalent?
We have already seen a surge in those who claim to have the secrets to masculine strength and how to handle women that are scumbags. Folks like Andrew Tate Jack Murphy and others.
I think a lot of men feel lost. They feel like they are stuck in a rigged game. That porn is safer than trying to create real relationships.
Please, I want to talk with you about all of this. I want you to look into this kind of stuff. You understand research and numbers and stuff.
I believe you are helping people.
When more sex trafficking and porn sites get shut down and women will stop taking this crap from misogynistic men, these men will have to take a good, hard look at themselves. They may be alone, but hopefully that will get their attention to do better.
Yes, I think this is a big part of it. Right now men can justify being angry and disillusioned because there’s so much support for it still. There are so many groups online that feed it, that tell them they are victims. There is so much porn. And it is still socially acceptable.
When it becomes totally not acceptable anymore, many of these men (not all) will be forced to develop social skills if they want to be part of the real world and have a decent job and be respected. Yes, some will stay in that corner of the world, but many will not.
Just as racism became socially unacceptable, and Nazism became socially unacceptable, one day it will become socially unacceptable to treat women and children like objects and to victimize them. When that day comes, many will stop. Not all, but many.
Moreover, women not taking any more crap from misogynistic men means women not marrying and having children with misogynistic men. We seem to be on the way to evolutionizing them out of existence, if I can put it that way. Take the historical novelty of the so-called incels. It’s a historical novelty because only until recently could even the worst of the misogynistic men obtain a wife, we really had very little choice in the matter. But now women have more and more resources that allow them to say no, to be pickier, or just stay single if they want to, even adopt on their own so they don’t have to miss out on motherhood if they refuse to marry misogynistic men… Men either shape up or their “seed” (to use Biblical language) dies out. And if this seems like a grim reality to any man reading this, then you need to ask yourself why a world in which mean men die out makes you sad instead of elated. If you think about the fact that all women are asking for is to be seen as human, the bar is pretty low and most men should be able to reach it.
Codec, I see you here in the comments section often, you’re always respectful and curious, which signals that you’re in the right camp. Those men who claim to have the secrets to masculine strength are just making money on the confusion of young men and I actually think they’ve always been around. Yes, gender roles are going through major changes right now, but when has it not been confusing to go through those teen years and figure out who you are, no matter what’s happening around you. I remember Rebecca once mentioning going on coffee dates in university and I think that’s a great way to cultivate real relationships and get to know real people in no-pressure environments. The proliferation of dating apps makes it all the easier and you can be upfront and say in your profile that you’re just looking for low-key friendships right now (open to it going further eventually, of course), which will attract the right kind of people and repel anyone with a pornographic style of relating or hook-up mindset.
This is great advice, Andrea, and great thoughts!
These are good questions Codec. It’s not a “this or that” issue, it’s more of “this AND that” issue. Just removing supply doesn’t solve these issues, although it’s still a worthwhile and good goal. Ultimately, the answer lies in every person being responsible for themselves and their own actions. As a christian, I believe the ultimate questions of life are answered through Jesus who gives us forgiveness and a new life, which then allows wholeness to flourish. I can understand that many men (and women) feel disillusioned. Misuse of Sex (in the form of Porn, Prostitution, etc.) are typically ways of attempting to deal with deeper issues of self-worth, acceptance, purpose. They are like a band-aid. There is no rigged-game — individuals have free choice as to what path they want to take. Porn, etc. is ultimately a drug of choice/addiction for many. Yes, real relationships can be hard work, it can take a lot of effort to get out of comfort zones and make the effort to build real connections with people — but in the end, they are REAL connections, not pseudo/fake connections with images on a screen or paid encounters. There is freedom available, and true and real connections out there. I’m also talking about just genuine human interactions and friendships — having people in your corner that you share life and interests with.
I find these comments fascinating. I have to admit that being here has helped me learn a lot. I find it scary a lot of the things I have learned here. I have learned and read a lot of books because of this website. I have had to look at myself and sometimes what I find scares me. I look at the world today and as a young man I am both frightened and optimistic. I have to admit one of the big things I hope changes is that stupid idea that men and women can not be friends. That stupid line by Billy Christal in Harry and Sally where he says “Its to bad that sex always gets in the way.” Afterall how is anything going to get better if a lot of men and women think that they are de facto enemies? I see this general sense of hopelessness in a lot of people. I see people wanting to know how to be strong and charismatic. I think a lot of people are scared to try because failure is painful and when you are vulnerable people can hurt you.
Porn to me is like a screwed up dreamworld.
You know it really is interesting. This podcast has a moment where it talks about how you have to disassociate to survive prostitution. I think that in a similar way you do the same using porn. You lie to yourself. You tell yourself that it is all fake and that its not going to leave you feeling like a loser. No one can hurt you in your own palace to borrow imagery from Persona 5, but when you take a look at yourself and see your palace crumbling down you have to stand with yourself. it is not always fun to have to live in your own skin.
I remember that famous line from When Harry Met Sally (WHMS) and used to believe that men and women cannot be just friends. I discovered that they can be friends after I broke up with my ex-fiance almost five years ago. I was 42 and finally realized that men and women can be friends.
Several “Christian” books on dating and relationships echo that line from WHMS. One example is Marriable by Hayley and Michael DiMarco. Hayley has written many Christian books for teenage girls which I’ve heard give unhealthy advice.
Thank you Sheila and Benjamin.
Multiple Mic Drop moments from Benjamin that I appreciate.
The frustrating part for me in listening to this now, though, is that in the past, I would try to point out how over sexualized our culture was and how this was damaging to women and creeping into the church. And all I got back was accusations concerning what a huge, out-of-touch prude I was. This is just the way the world is and I needed to get over. Heard this from Christian and non-Christian, alike.
So when he said soccer mom’s and stay at home moms need to say something, it just kind of hurt. Because I did but was slapped down so fast and so hard and from so many directions.
So, to me, now. I’m glad that there is a man saying this. And I’m glad that there is a movement that I can support that has studies and documentaries and all. Because my concern was not because I was a prude. I was brokenhearted over the injustice of it all. The unfairness. And we ARE in need of an abolition movement concerning this. It IS that bad.
Interestingly I think it can be seen in other situations… In very broad brush strokes, women protest something and are ignored or told to shut up. Men start protesting about the same issue, people listen, and then ask why women haven’t spoken up before! Another form of ingrained patriarchy. Agree it’s great when men and women protest against injustice but I think our strong unconscious biases mean we don’t always recognise women protesting. I have no research to back this up, though, just a perception.
I want you to look into the problems and solutions for dating and with young men and women Shiela. I know that since you are good at reasearch that you could lend some real brevity to the situation. You have already helped so many people.
How do you spot red flags? I mean plenty of folks enter relationships and things seem cool at first, but then you realize that it’s not. You might find yourself dealing with a girl who seems nice but turns out to be nurse Ratched or a girl might meet a seemingly cool and charismatic guy who might turn out to be Marlon Brando in a streetcar named desire.
A lot of folks are scared of being screwed over by bad relationships and they need not be romantic as church abuse shows.
So how do we help people not get jacked up? How do we help those who are cynical or misogynistic or misandrist?
Check out Boundaries in Dating by John Townsend and Henry Cloud. They are known for their “Boundaries” books.
You know more and more I hear to get that book. I think I really should. I have been trying to get better about learning how to set healthy boundaries. It is part of why I am learning Jiu Jitsu. I just want to know I can be safe mentally and physically.
The best thing you can do is to watch how people behave to those around you. And it helps if you can get to know people socially, in a group setting, before deciding to date. I saved myself from a lot of dud relationships this way.
If someone is attracted to you, then they are going to be on their best behaviour – so it’s instructive to watch how they act around people they are not trying to impress! In my single days, I turned down a few guys after seeing them display certain behaviours in a group setting e.g. be rude to a waiter, share a nasty story about another guy, make objectifying comments about women who walked by, make excuses for not paying their fair share of a group meal out, lose their temper easily… Because how they were to people they weren’t interested in impressing would be how they would act around a girlfriend once they’d got past the ‘trying to impress’ stage!
Also, if someone doesn’t respect your boundaries, then that’s a sign they are not a good person for you to be with.
That’s really helpful Angharad! My daughters are a few years away from dating but I’ve been trying to think of what advice to give them on that. You’ve just answered my question.
This episode was shocking, sad, and traumatizing. I am 1000% against sex trafficking. And there are excellent organizations that have long-standing track records of identifying victims and those at risk and using evidence-based and trauma-informed practices to best rescue victims and amplify their voices to spread awareness of the issues and what others can do about it. Exodus Cry is NOT one of those organizations. If you go to the websites linked in this podcast it is a slew of very conservative white men speaking on behalf of women and declaring what women need – and they have the answers. On Benjamin’s Instagram one of his top pictures is of him with John Eldredge saying he is so grateful for the influence this man has had over his life. Exodus Cry and Benjamin himself have been criticized broadly for using dishonest rhetoric, shady practices, and blatantly ignoring the voices of victims while claiming to speak for those ignored victims – essentially talking over these women. I’m new-ish to the podcast and have experienced so much help, validation, and healing through your episodes. It’s hard to not binge through them! But this was episode was harmful. Conservative white men defending the purity of women and being praised for their valor and bravery – amplifying their own voices and patting themselves on the back…. Where are the women? They’ve had their boots on the ground working in these communities for decades. But instead, we’re again encouraging white conservative male saviors. This episode was hard to listen to and sent every fiber of my body tingling with the telltale signs of a trauma flashback. This post is in case I’m not the only one.
I’m glad you mentioned this. I’d be curious to look into Exodus Cry vs those other organizations you mentioned. If they’re not okay, I doubt the Bare Marriage team knew that when they recorded the podcast. What would be a better organization, or what is your rubric for determining a good one to work with? Genuine curiosity, as I echo your “1000% against sex trafficking.”
Some of the major issues I’ve seen from Exodus Cry and TraffickingHub is making false claims or deliberately misrepresenting data – often for the purpose of rage farming.
As an example in the video Nolot claims that the Nordic model has resulted in eradication of trafficking in Sweden – this is false.
Laila Mickelwait has claimed that when PornHub took down 80% of their content it was because 80% was CSAM – this is false. They took down all unverified videos. Some probably were CSAM but certainly not all 80%.
I also noticed in the video Nolot blamed women and children not having “a protector” for why many chose prostitution.
I love so much of your work I am just so incredibly disappointed by almost the entirety of this interview. I also said this on YouTube and Facebook but you’ve said previously that sharing here keeps the conversations from being lost.
The plight of vulnerable people is incredibly serious. Human trafficking is an issue dear to me, probably partly because I watched Nefarious when it first game out. Unfortunately I’ve watched both Exodus Cry and TraffickingHub move increasingly away from being a reliable resource.
For example in the video interview at 38:00 Nolot claims that the Nordic model has resulted in “sex trafficking is eradicated in Sweden.” This claim is patently false and easy to prove with a quick search. US Department of State’s 2022 Trafficking in Persons Report: Sweden noted a marked *increase* in human trafficking from 2019-2020 (not all for sex trafficking) but notes more than 50% were children and “Sex trafficking remains the most prevalent form of trafficking in Sweden with most cases involving women and children from West Africa and Eastern Europe.”
I believe addressing human trafficking and abuse is critical. I also believe that creating disinformation/spreading misinformation harms the cause and victims. When I pointed out a similarly false claim made by Laila Mickelwait (TraffickingHub founder) she blocked me on all social platforms.
I’ve so enjoyed your bringing reliable statistics into the conversations around sex in Christian marriages which is probably why this video hit me so hard. In the effort to do good, the organization is also perpetuating the practice of using anecdotes and made-up statements they claim are research-based. Which in turn damages their reliability and ability to seek justice as well as harms advocacy work from other organizations.