Have you ever wondered what sort of man would drive to another city in order to have sex with an eight-year-old girl? Turns out, he's 31 years old and reasonably attractive, with round, brown eyes and just a hint of stubble. He doesn't look like a pedophile or a rapist or even someone who would be mean to a child. But looks can be deceiving. And like his, the real faces of demand for child prostitution are uncomfortably familiar. Recently, Florida police busted 15 men for soliciting sex with a minor in a sting operation that used ads posted on Craigslist and other parts of the Internet. Investigators took out ads claiming to offer sex with a child between 8 and 14 years old, sometimes in tandem with the child's "mother" or "aunt." The ads claimed to seek adult men to "teach" the children how to have sex. The men who ultimately responded in person ranged in age from 19 to 68. The group included a karate instructor and, ironically, a local sergeant's son's Little League coach (who is probably not not getting a whole lot of sympathy from the police right now). And, of course, some of them came prepared, showing up at the location where the child was supposedly waiting with pockets full of condoms and Skittles.
These sorts of men are often anonymous in news reports, but no longer. Fox News has actually published the photos of all the men who were arrested after traveling to have sex with what they thought was a child in a slide show. The long, scrolling list of photos is disturbing. But what's even more disturbing is how normal and nonthreatening most of these men look. For example, William Jackson, a 30-year-old Tampa resident looks quiet and harmless in his photo, with a neatly trimmed goatee and ears that stick out slightly. But he excitedly made plans with an undercover cop to deflower her 10-year-old daughter using candy bars as bribes. Donald Knuckles, 68, could be anyone's grandfather in likeness. But he specially requested that the 14-year-old girl he thought he was meeting for sex wear see-through lingerie. And Gregory Archambault bragged he'd already taught two children how to have sex, one who was 12 and the other who was 8.
There's a misconception that pedophiles are inherently creepy-looking and lurk beside playgrounds in large trench coats. But in reality, men who buy sex with children look like our grandfathers, brothers, neighbors, and co-workers. And that's because men who buy sex with children are our grandfathers, brothers, neighbors, and co-workers. Child sex trafficking, in part thanks to the Internet, is going mainstream. And as culture sexualizes younger and younger children, men will look to buy sex with younger and younger children. Fifteen reasonably normal-looking men were nabbed by one sting in one county in one state. Multiply that by all the counties in all the states in the country, and men buying sex with kids isn't a problem. It's a plague.
And it's a plague whose face we know and recognize far too well.