The Sex Trade in Portland

Sex trafficking is an epidemic that most people turn a blind eye to, pointing their fingers at third world countries where women and children are still highly objectified. What many people don’t realize is that trafficking is local and thriving Portland, Oregon, the City of Roses that is known for it’s food carts, Saturday Markets, and coffee houses.

It has become such a problem in the Blazer’s city because perpetrators and pimps manage to move around punishments since Portland’s laws are still fairly loose, as they have been for years. Sex trafficking in Portland is appealing to pimps or madams because of the availability of transportation and the loose laws, resulting in the cycle of exploitation of people from all ethnicities, sexes, genders, sexualities, and ages. Trafficking is just a synonym for slavery. Sex trafficking and the slavery of people of color can be compared in the sense that victims were bought, sold, and forced to work without compensation. There have been laws passed that ban slavery and sexual exploitation, some of which go back to the early 1800’s by the British parliament, but perpetrators (person(s) who sell people for labor and sex; ie: pimps, perps) still manage to evolve and get around them (“Human Trafficking”). Slavery has been rampant internationally, but the laws in place aren’t actively diminishing the high number of victims.

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Places like Portland that have many “escape routes” and are close to other places with bustling sex industries are seen as hotspots or hubs for pimps (Playground). Perps will travel with their victims from Seattle, down all the major cities on the west coast until they hit Los Angeles, Portland being one of those major cities. 82nd Ave seems to be the main destination; you can see an “adult video” building placed on practically every corner. The biggest reason for why pimps do what they do is fairly clear: money. Pimps also view trafficking as a safer way to make cash versus dealing with guns and drugs.

Victims of the sex trade in Portland come from all racial backgrounds, 40% being white, 27% African American, and 5% Hispanic or Asian (Denson). The problem is that this is very unproportional to the population in portland where whites make up 80%, Hispanics alone are 10%, and African Americans only make up 5% of the population as a whole (“Sex Trafficking in Portland”). There is also a large misconception that only girls are worked, and even though male and transexual/transgender or genderqueer targets are much less common, they still make up 4% of the victims in Portland (Denson). These statistics show that everyone is at risk regardless of their identity, and that no one is 100% safe. Next time you’re in Portland remember that it’s not just known for it’s feminist bookstores, good brews, and hipsters, but it’s marked as one of the major customers for sexual trafficking in the world (Playground).

To support victims and put a stop to this trade, visit organizations like the Polaris Project, or donate to charities like Partners International. Awareness is key, let it unlock all the doors that hide the truths about the sex trade on a local, and international level.