Eleven years ago, Lisa Thompson prayed for a passion, a cause she could champion. Formerly an office manager for a private investigator and an English teacher in China, Lisa was looking for her life's calling.
Today Lisa, 37, serves as The Salvation Army's Liaison for the Abolition of Sex Trafficking. She travels the globe to raise awareness, lobbies U.S. government officials from her Washington, D.C.-area office, and maintains a list-serve to provide thousands of people updates and information. For the latter task, she combs through dozens of sex-trafficking articles each day, educating herselfas well as others through her regular e-mailsabout the latest cases, trends, and legislation regarding trafficking, the second-largest criminal industry in the world.
To say God answered Lisa's passion prayer is almost an understatement.
But her life's calling as a modern-day abolitionist, tackling everything from female genital mutilation to new disturbing pornography trends, doesn't make for easy family-gathering or church-lobby conversation. At one holiday get-together, a relative made a crack about the "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" TV ad slogan. "When I asked him not to say that," Lisa recalls, "somebody told me to lighten up. I thought, If only you knew what really happens in Vegas, you wouldn't joke about it. I was upset." Lisa also gets fired up about rapper Snoop Dogg, Maxim magazine, and advertisements for retailing giant Abercrombie & Fitch.
Lisa's not a killjoy, and she's not looking for a fight. She's just aware of the devastating impact Vegas culture, rap stars, fashion magazines, and the advertising industry have on women, national sexual mores, and even sex trafficking.
"American culture presents women as sexually available anywhere, anytime," Lisa explains. "If you look at fashion, literature, advertising, and entertainment, you see what some experts call the 'pornification' of culture."
Lisa cites as one example the recent popularity of strippingfrom stripper-pole workouts at gyms and a recent Oprah episode encouraging stripping to "release your inner sexpot," to the rap song "I'm N Luv (Wit a Stripper)." Lisa asks, "When did stripping move into the mainstream?"
Lisa also cites a recent Black Man magazine cover that contained the line "The b*tch is back" with a photo of a woman in an S&M outfit. Her breasts were exposed save for her carefully placed arm barely covering her nipples, and she was holding a whip. Lisa saw this cover displayed at local grocery and convenience stores, and at multiple gas stations when she was on a road trip. "Every time I needed to fuel up, I had to face this sexually toxic material," Lisa says. "But it's so mainstream now, most people think, Whatever." Once people start accepting sexual images in daily life, they're not as shocked to encounter more explicit images in hard-core porn.