This is a very quick post. I’m sure I’ll think of better things to say this weekend.
a little background
After Craigslist fell, everyone’s attention turned to Backpage. The attention cranked up but Backpage wasn’t saying much, however it instituted new advertising policies that just got in the way of adult sex workers advertising there.
The point of intersection came with the Superbowl in Dallas and the hordes of underage girls being trafficked into the city. Like, so many of them every single hotel in the metroplex would’ve been booked solid with working girls under the age of 18. The Dallas Observer, part of Village Voice Media, made much of the non-event that was the Superbowl (not including the ice storm — which was an event).
Meanwhile, over on the West Coast, Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore, along with assorted other female celebrities, have been braying about the problem of child sex trafficking in the US. They’ve been raising millions, attempting to influence legislation and are making a lot of noise about this huge “problem” that even they admit has no solid numbers.
The Village Voice ran a story making fun of Ashton’s “Real Men Don’t Buy Girls” campaign and questioning the numbers of underage trafficking victims. Ashton took offense and started a Twitter war. He has a scary number of followers who are not sex workers yet consider themselves experts on underage trafficking because they follow his Tweets. Um, yeah.
Which brings us to…
few facts, several thoughts
(Hey, if Ashton can do it, so can I!)
Real men don’t buy/rent/sell girls. Real men also don’t think that merely making a lot of noise and raising money in the name of a problem somehow actually solves the problem. Real men know that addressing a problem requires action. I like men of action. I do not like men of noise.
Real men get their facts straight. Not my original thought but it’s the obvious reaction to Ashton’s “advocacy.”
There are many, many problems plaguing sex workers in America. The major, overriding problem is not the trafficking of minors — it is criminalization. For those of you concerned about the millions of child prostitutes on American streets, understand that criminalization is what drives them further underground and that the only way they can be “rescued” is to be arrested as a criminal first. Yeah, that’s real compassionate. Traumatize an already traumatized victim.
Celebrities like to throw attention at child sex trafficking because it is sexy. Helping old whores who need and want the help isn’t. Adults get trafficked too and I’m willing to bet that the larger numbers of sex trafficking victims are going to be those over the age of 18. After all, adults make up the majority of the population (everyone ages). It makes sense that adults are going to make up the larger number of sex trafficking victims. Even so, those numbers pale against the number of consenting adult sex workers.
Or, if Ashton truly wishes to help victims who are sex workers, how about all the sex workers, nationwide, who every single day get beaten, robbed, raped and arrested? Sometimes all by the same person? There’s a big huge problem, Ashton. What are you going to do about it?
money is sexier than child prostitutes
Ashton Tweeted attacks at Village Voice Media because they own Backpage. Other people have also tossed out the ideas of “conflicting interests” and have stated the only reason VVM still exists today is because of the profits it makes from sex worker ads on Backpage.
Yeah, so what? It’s a newspaper that has a steady stream of advertising revenue keeping it afloat in the Internet age. Backpage is not a pimp, it’s an advertising venue. Small business-people pay to advertise there. Backpage does not interfere in their work, does not collect more than the stated advertising costs, does not force them to take clients, etc. Backpage does nothing else other than provide a popular advertising venue for those who wish to use it.
Two of my best friends make their living from Backpage. I’ve advertised on there but it rarely worked for me (Craigslist worked better for me). I advertise on the places that work for me, both free and paid. None of those advertising venues are pimps. They are services that I freely choose to use and I pay their stated cost for my ad-space. How is this very old and simple concept not being understood?
Does VVM really have a vested interest because it owns Backpage? In the most capitalist sense, yes. If VVM stands up to Ashton and the rescue industry, they are protecting the sex workers who pay their bills; as opposed to quietly throwing all sex workers under the bus (that would be you: Craig Newmark and Jim Buckmaster). They are speaking up for a group of people who are generally given no voice. They are taking care of their constituents. There is nothing untoward about VVM protecting their largest stream of income. After all, isn’t that the basis of every single politican’s campaign?
I can tell anyone reading this that the sex workers who pay to advertise on BP would love to know that their money is going toward their own defense. They support being left alone to make their living in peace. Sex workers do not care about what Ashton or Demi thinks — unless they’re going to book a couples-appointment and tip well.
following the money
Speaking of money…the article that started this Tweet-war pointed out that the millions raised by Ashton and the millions approved by Congress that flows into the rescue industry dwindles down to $0 when we talk about actually helping real-live victims. Funny that. All this Sturm und Drang from the anti-traffickers sure reads like a conflicting interest. Talk about protecting one’s own income!
Just as with Craigslist, there was rumor that a 15yr old girl was pimped via Backpage. In my quick Google search, I came up with this article about a pimp using teens and another about a sweep that netted one unwitting teen. The first article is interesting because the pimp is arrested and then released — apparently pimping teens isn’t such a big deal after all. Yet CL and BP are being taken to the gallows for supposedly “pimping” teens. So…here was a real pimp in custody and yet his offense was so minor that he was released?? My head’s hurting.
The second article’s great because the teen — the underaged victim — is being treated as a criminal. You know why? Because prostitution is illegal. However, there is no mention of her pimp.
If child sex trafficking is such a heinous crime, wouldn’t police throw the book at every single pimp they caught? Wouldn’t they work overtime to catch the pimp of an arrested teen? Wouldn’t they attempt to arrest all the non-real men who were paying to have sex with these teens? Wait, that’s not happening? Why not? Am I to understand that child sex trafficking isn’t really that bad? That being a consenting adult sex worker is somehow worse? If one judges by arrest numbers, yes, being an adult consenting sex worker is of far more concern than being a trafficked teen.
One last thought on the money, and this is a biggie. At the 2009 Toledo Prostitution Conference, I got to listen to several good people from Second Chance. They really do work with teen prostitutes. They have very few beds and they have a waiting list they cannot possibly take care of. Their teens are a mix of trafficking victims and those who made the choice to enter sex work. They never have enough funding and attempting to wrangle more money is an exhausting process. Yet they have real victims! Where are the millions that Ashton has raised? Where is all that anti-trafficking funding from Congress? Where are the anti-trafficking abolitionists and their government grants? At the time of that conference, they said there less than 60 beds nationwide available for underage sex trafficking victims. They could not meet the demand, yet apparently taking care of underage trafficking victims via funding is actually a really low priority for every branch of government.
if you’re not part of the solution…
To the people who think Ashton is making some sort of difference: he’s not. If anything, he’s having a negative impact on consenting adult sex workers. He’s certainly not helping a single actual victim.
I support Village Voice Media and Backpage in their fight against Ashton and the rescue industry. I support them in continuing to provide a needed advertising venue for sex workers. I support them in their right to free speech and their right to question myth, stereotype and prejudice.
PS: Apologies for the lack of links here, it’s early morning and I have a lot to get done today. Maggie McNeil has covered this entire thing exhaustively.