The Road of Lost Innocence by Somaly Mam
What a beautiful, heart-wrenching story on a topic that is only recently gaining more steam with the #MeToo movement. Sexual violence against women and children, including sex-trafficking, as Somaly describes, is changing face with more and more younger children being sold into prostitution to ensure their virgin status. This is largely driven by the belief that having sex with a virgin will cure you of AIDS.
There is this theme that is brought up in this book, and with the #MeToo movement about the role men have to play in all this. Somaly, when describing her personal experiences as a prostitute, describes how she learned to believe that all men were trash. Even the ones who seemed different ended up treating her the same as the ones who hit her outright. It seems that violence and sex cannot be separated as long as men view sex as something they have a right too. Society unfortunately teaches men that sex is something you take, not something you give. And because it is something you can take, it can be taken by force. It is easy to say that all men are trash, but they are a symptom of the problem. That doesn’t mean that men shouldn’t strive to make changes within themselves, and think critically on the actions they take. However, if we want to make sustainable long-term changes, we need to go to the root of the problem. We need to change our society’s perception of sex. Sex is a privilege not a right. Sex is something you give, not something you take.
Somaly shared of one such endeavor she chose to take on. She decided to begin to go to the root of the issue by intervening at the level of the perpetrator. She had men who frequently took company with prostitutes talk and listen to the stories of the prostitutes she rescued through her agency, AFESIP. In hearing the stories of these former child prostitutes, the men wept and vowed to change their ways. Of course, whether this endeavor was truly successful is another story, but it should resonate with us the power of storytelling. The power of giving a voice to the voiceless. The power of speaking the truths in the face of the many lies told about prostitutes.
This story resonated with me given the recent publicity with the #MeToo movement. The rampages of sexual violence and harassment are deeply embedded into our society. They are so embedded it is almost unbelievable the number of people who have been affected and thus have since come forward. And imagine, what we have seen so far is mainly in the United States. If we were to hear the stories of people outside of the U.S., I am afraid we would be utterly shocked.
“I am truly free only when all human beings, men and women, are equally free. The freedom of other men, far from negating or limiting my freedom, is, on the contrary, its necessary premise and confirmation.” – Mikhail Bakunin
Update March 12, 2018:
To be noted that this book is presented as a memoir, but the credibility of Somaly Mam has been put into question. Whether the story is true or not does not particularly concern me because I think it sheds light on a very important REAL issue. Up to readers to decide how they will interpret this story.