Ashton Kutcher and the Village Voice: It Takes More Than Wanting to Help to Do Good Right

07/07/2011 12:11 PM |

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Perhaps you are already familiar with the recent Village Voice/Ashton Kutcher kerfluffle. If not, the short version is that the Voice published an article fact-checking some of the numbers in Kutcher’s recent and much-mocked Real Men Don’t Buy Girls anti-human trafficking campaign and Kutcher accused the Voice of promoting sex trafficking on their back page sex ads.

A twitter war ensued. Here’s the play-by-play. One result of the argument is that the same sorts of people who got the Craigslist erotic services section shut down have been gathering their pitchforks and meaningfully eyeing Backpage.com. Now, I think we can all agree that human trafficking, sex slavery, and forced prostitution are wrong, full stop. Absolutely terrible, horrifying, real, and in need of action. Unfortunately, conflating sex work with sex trafficking is not helpful. It is a complex issue and requires a more nuanced analysis than SHUT DOWN BACKPAGE.COM PROBLEM SOLVED.

As Charlotte Shane points out in Tits and Sass, which by the way, has absolutely been on fire lately, shutting down places where sex workers can advertise their services hurts the people who actually want to be doing sex work while not really helping those who are being exploited:

Virtually all of the defenses for Craigslist apply to Backpage, too—most relevantly the fact that shutting down the service won’t end trafficking or pimping, but it will most definitely make it harder to find and prosecute those who do. It will also put consenting sex workers in danger in the process.

Again, I guess we should applaud Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher for trying to do something to make the world a better place, even if their approach is ham-handed and ends up victimizing another group of often-victimized people? Or not? I mean, you know, it seems like if you’re going to try, you have a responsibility to do it right. For example, here is a video, also via Tits and Sass by Feminist Whore looking more deeply into the kind of groups Kutcher and Moore’s work supports:

Charlotte Shane again:

This video is required viewing for anyone who wants to claim any knowledge about sex trafficking and the responses it inspires. But here are some highlights:

* Health clinics are listed as “site of prostitution.” Really, I’m pretty sure they just mean that you can find and ambush sex workers here when they’re trying to take control of and maintain their reproductive and sexual health. (I.e. “sabotage effective outreach”)
* The literature demonizes trans people and emphasizes the importance of Christianity in “healing”
* Masturbation is a sign of having “survived sexual exploitation” as is going back to sex work.
* The 5 minute mark. Just watch it. I have never heard anything so fucked up.

Yikes. Turns out trying to make the world a better place takes more than just a million followers on twitter and your heart in the right place.

8 Comment

  • Since when is telling lies a good thing? Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore ARE LIERS! They tell lies about Sex Trafficking. Telling lies is bad. Telling the truth is good. The truth is NO ONE KNOWS, how many underage prostitutes there are for sure. All of your suggestions about how to know, are bad. They won’t give you the right answer. The only thing to go on is how many minors (children under the age of 18) are arrested, and evidence and proof that they were kidnapped and forced against their will to have sex for profit by a pimp. Yes

  • There is a growing number of well respected researchers, journalists, scientists, professors, that have concluded in their research that the sex trafficking, sex slavery concept is based on emotion, morals, and monetary funding rather than facts, evidence and proof. They state that very few kidnapped, forced against their will, physically abused, raped sex slave prostitutes for profit have been found throughout the world. Their research concludes that women who enter into this type of work do so of their own free will. They also state that there are many anti-prostitution groups who simply do not like the idea of consensual adult prostitution and have distorted the facts in order to push their agenda and receive funding and money into their organizations in the form of donations, grants and to change the laws about prostitution. They state that these anti-prostitution groups use made up child sex trafficking statistics which they have no proof or evidence of in order to gain public acceptance for their cause. Which they then pass onto media outlets as press releases.
    Here are some good links about this:

    http://sextraffickingfacts.wordpress.com/

    http://humantraffickingintheusa.weebly.com…

    http://sextraffickingfactsmyths.wordpress.…

    http://mythofsextrafficking.blogspot.com/

  • ive been following this one pretty closely and i dont have time to write out all my thoughts but i think it is possible to be both for legalization or decriminalization of prostitution and against sex slavery or pimping/middleman? Also I do and kind of dont understand the focus on underage prostitution, but the subtext is if a prostitute is of legal age than who cares? maybe that’s too strong but that’s just the vibe im getting here, point being any person whatever age or sex who is forced into this or is exploited by someone deserves our protection

    you might remember this article in NY Times Magazine:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2004/01/25/magazine…

  • oops just wanted to clarify, not the vibe from Audrey, just the general vibe from some of the people who are getting mentioned in these articles, some of those organizations.

  • “Also I do and kind of dont understand the focus on underage prostitution, but the subtext is if a prostitute is of legal age than who cares? maybe that’s too strong but that’s just the vibe im getting here, point being any person whatever age or sex who is forced into this or is exploited by someone deserves our protection….just the general vibe from some of the people who are getting mentioned in these articles, some of those organizations.”

    Excuse me? As a friend of Feminist Whore, who made the above video, I can say her position is the very opposite of “who cares if a prostitute of legal age is exploited”.

    It just happens that decriminalization of prostitution (by which I mean actual decriminalization, not the fake decriminalization of the “Swedish model”) is a critical step in ending the exploitation of sex workers of all ages. Not the only step, mind you, but a critical first step.

  • iamcuriousblue – i wasn’t referring to your friends video or her position. i was just saying we should take a stand against sex slavery / pimping / exploitation period.

    As for Village Voice that paper is ridiculous with their excuses or explanations, of course that paper is exploiting women! you think those women placed the adds in there themselves? majority of those chinese girls probably work for a bowl of rice and a place to sleep on for three years to pay off their “debt”. if Village Voice wants to investigate something why dont they investigate that- who are these women and who do they work for?

  • As a matter of fact, curiousblue- many women DO post ads themselves… we also know how to use computers, cell phones and even, gasp, know how to write and navigate the internet… can you imagine? Sex workers are not nearly as helpless and ignorant as many people believe we are. Most women work for themselves while others prefer having someone screen their clients and are willing to pay for the safety net it provides. Check out sex worker websites (google search :sex worker rights organizations).

    Sex workers ARE against slavery and human trafficking- regardless of whether it is men hiring underage persons for sex or ministers and their wives conning a woman from Swaziland, Africa, to be their domestic servant and then taking away her passport and forcing her to clean not only their house, the houses of their friends… http://7thspace.com/headlines/388814/usdoj…

  • I believe you were talking to Gik, Normajean. Iamcuriousblue makes a lot of sense. Gik on the other hand has some issues with racism from the looks of it… bowl of rice, anyone?

    Gik, I don’t advertise on Backpage.com, but I do have my own website which I set up after advertising in places like backpage for a couple of years. I’ll answer your questions as best I can, and then I’m going to tell you what I think of them.

    Who am I and who do I work for?

    Well, my business name is Luscious Lani, and I work for myself. I raise money for nefarious deeds, like paying my bills, buying things I like, and saving to reach my goals.

    Why do I do sex work? Because I like it, and because I am good at it and it’s a lot of fun for me, and it pays well. I don’t think consensual sex is anything to be ashamed of – as Steve Martin said, sex is the most beautiful natural thing money can buy :)

    Suggesting that I can’t come up with the idea for myself is insulting. Suggesting that people like me are all victims, that we have no agency, is insulting. Suggesting an inquisition on backpage advertisers because you don’t believe a woman would willingly work in the sex trade is not only insulting, its stupid and dangerous. It places real people at risk of hamfisted raids by people who have no real understanding of sex work, and assume ALL sex workers must be trafficked, much like yourself.

    How would you like it if the cops came into your workplace, arrested everyone in sight, maybe beat you up a bit and forced you to give a couple of officers sexual favours, and then declared you a “trafficking victim” on the evidence that you went to work that day. Anything you say to the contrary is “stockholm syndrome”. In fact, the louder you protest that you wanted to go to work, the more condescending they get – the more you insist you are fine, the more they believe otherwise.

    They arrest you, declare you saved, and if you go back to work the next day, they insist its just more evidence that you are a victim, a sex abuse surviver. You’d be ok with this? It’s what you are advocating for the sex workers who advertise on backpage.com. “They must be victims!! Harass them!!”

    This has never happened to me, but thats because I am in Australia, and the state I live in decriminalised sex work in 1995. It keeps me safer then your average US hooker – the state isn’t after me the way its after them, and I can go to the police and expect to be treated with dignity if I ever have legal issues. It makes a huge difference.

    Lani xx