End the Rise of Sexual Exploitation

by GEM Magazine / Apr 10, 2015 / Comments

I grew up in quite a polarized situation when it came to male role models in my life. My parents divorced when I was young. My biological father was a bit of a playboy and my Mom re-married a drug counsellor who was studying to become a pastor in the church. The only thing these two men had in common was the fact that I didn't like either of them. Early on in my life I chose to become my own man and venture out into the world with high hopes and pursue what I thought best according to my rules without the support of my parents or the system.

Learning my ideals of masculinity through my surroundings, I gravitated towards what culture portrayed as a successful man. The impressionable mind of a young man is a powerful force. It took me no time at all to embody the mentality of attaining gold, girls and glory as the pinnacle of success for a man. So I did what any knowledgeable individual would do, find someone who had what you wanted and find out how they got it.

Unfortunately, drug culture is where I found the most accurate depiction of the role models that had what I desired. Being on top of the dope game was my goal and I attained it quickly. The parts of this lifestyle I hadn't considered was the jail time and 'kill or be killed' mentality so five years in, when those were the only options left for me, I opted out and escaped with my life (barely) intact.

Due to my experiences, my heart has been passionately set on preventing young men from walking down the same path I did. I aspire to be the mentor I wish I had when I was a young man. Positive male role models with character qualities like honor, and respect towards women, integrity, and vulnerability are a huge asset to any growing man.

The current voices of online pornography, mainstream music, and certain sport figures/celebrities are pushing a perspective of masculinity completely void of the aforementioned character qualities. These voices are instilling gender stereotypes and identity misrepresentations. We don't know the long term effects of this as our internet generations have yet to reach full maturity.

I myself have been part of this problem through things such as porn consumption and adopting a male domineering and patriarchal perspective. However, I made a commitment to be the change I wanted to see in the world. I made these changes not just for myself but for young men who look up to me including my own two boys, and also for the women in my life. I have talked to many men and women who believe this issue is very hard to tackle, but my experience is to the contrary. It is simple decisions to not participate in objectifying behaviours in your own life rather than trying to change others that result a contribution to the solutions in our culture.

Small decisions such as; to guard my tongue and think before speaking, to have integrity, to promptly admit when I am wrong and to analyse and monitor the media that I consume are just a few simple steps that prove massive results. The interesting thing about these changes is they have absolutely nothing to do with anyone else.

There are many opportunities to be the change you wish to see. I went at this thing for a long time thinking "Why am I the only one doing this?" to realize yet again, I was wrong. There are so many people doing amazing things. I have found thousands who are working diligently to address the issues of human trafficking and sexual exploitation in multitudes ways. It takes a community of committed individuals to address a deeply culturally rooted issue such as this.

I want to encourage you if you are interested in cultivating a culture of honor in which men can be confident in vulnerability and women and children can walk free of fear of sexual predation, to reach out to us and become part of the solution.

By Joel Conway - Fortress Foundation

Fortress Foundation developed a social enterprising production company and a charitable organization dedicated to eliminating sexual exploitation through the creation of quality compelling media and advertising. They are currently shooting a 12 part mini-series titled SHIFT that will empower youth. You can find out more about their production on their website or become part of their production by contributing to their crowd sourcing campaigns

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