A few years ago I was in south Asia producing stories on child prostitution. I spent a day in a brothel shooting two 13-year-olds, both of whom had been sold into the sex trade by their desperate parents.
It was a strange day. Clients of other prostitutes wandered in and out of the camera frame quite oblivious to the fact that I was capturing the brevity of their encounter. Some of the older women brought milky tea to drink when the cameras were put down. After a few hours it became alarming how normative the place seemed – in some ways it’s simply a tightly-knit business community conducting a thriving trade where the women and children look after each other.
But then you jolt awake – this isn’t a benign corner store. It’s a place where young girls are trapped, raped, where they sell themselves for pennies ($1.20 if you’re young; $0.80 as you age), where disease and desperation waltz to a hopelessly sad tune all day… every day.
When we were finished, the madam of the two girls I spent time with came to me for payment because while I’d been with her charges they weren’t selling their bodies. So I gave her $10 (a huge sum in that place) and later when I told my wife that I had paid for my first prostitutes I made sure to include lots of context.
Back in Canada after I finished my stories I cut a rough concept video and produced two versions for organizations I worked with. One was for The Salvation Army (which is embedded above) and another for Micah Challenge. They were both posted on YouTube so that my clients could view them.
Over time I forgot that the videos were there, so when I received an email from YouTube about a month ago I was surprised. They said that due to high viewing volumes I qualified to join their advertising program. It turns out that the brothel video has been seen more than 180,000 times (in its two versions). Even more surprising is that a lot of the traffic to them comes from creeps trolling the net looking for child porn. It is satisfying to know that when they’re looking for self-gratification regardless of the cost to human dignity, they’re smacking up against a different message about the value and place of girls.
So I plan to leave the videos where they are, even though they’re not polished. Perhaps they’re doing some good.
Oh and I’m not allowing YouTube to advertise to viewers of these pieces. I can’t imagine what kinds of goods and services go along with key words like exploitation, trafficking and hopelessness.
– Bramwell Ryan