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.