|Did you really, though?|
There’s been a protest going on outside the Village Voice by a bunch of people who are Very Upset that Backpage is forcibly whoring out children to old men. They have a site called Village Voice Pimps to promote their agenda. And you know what? If Backpage was in fact pimping out kids to creepy dudes, yeah, I’d agree with them.
But the problem is, in order to play the “think of the children” card, you depend on at least two things- one, that there are, in fact, children to save and two, that those children lack agency.
And that doesn’t appear to be as true as these protesters would like to believe. See “Lost Boys“, for example, in which a study is conducted to report on child prostitution in New York. For starters, there are almost equal numbers of boys and girls interviewed as hustling. Most of them struck their deals on the street, not via a website like craigslist or Backpage. And 90% of them were working independently… not via a pimp.
Not exactly the poor unfortunate souls the pink umbrella brigade had in mind, perhaps? Because they don’t seem to be noticing that research. Which is unfortunate, as the research suggests that they’re not particularly effective, as “Lost Boys” says:
Through interviews and analysis of public records, Village Voice Media has found that the federal government spends about $20 million a year on public awareness, victims’ services, and police work related to domestic human trafficking, with a considerable focus on combating the pimping of children. An additional $50 million-plus is spent annually on youth homeless shelters, and since 1996, taxpayers have contributed a total of $186 million to fund a separate program that provides street outreach to kids who might be at risk of commercial sexual exploitation.
That’s at least $80 million doled out annually for law enforcement and social services that combine to rescue approximately 200 child prostitutes a year.
And what is Backpage’s involvement in all this anyway? Are they in fact assisting in trafficking? Was craiglist? Well, to answer that you should really read up on some of the facts about trafficking (which, pet peeve of mine, always seems to mean sex trafficking- why?!?)… and stop giving so much credence to the panic. And the crap statistics. Backpage (like craigslist) is and was used by sex workers like me- people who didn’t want to invest heavily in advertising on places like Erosguide, sex workers who had moved to a new place, sex workers who were independent and wanted to advertise somewhere that would guarantee some bookings. It was also a place to browse or advertise other adult things- most of my first year’s worth of fetish modeling gigs were from craigslist, for example. It was not a place where I sold my body or my soul, thankyouverymuch.
Craigslist and Backpage are both places where you will see a huge diversity in people advertising. People of color. Older women. Straight men offering handjobs to other men. Fat women. Hell, I’ve seen ads where men are offering themselves up to give cunnilingus for “hours”. Unlike Erosguide, whose expensive ads require a certain amount of certainty that you’ll book enough work to make it worthwhile, Backpage and Craigslist were free to advertise on, making it accessible.
But if it’s accessible, then it’s also enabling sex trafficking and child prostitution, right? Well, this article explains the issue with that logic pretty well…
Faulty logic suggests that if Craigslist is effectively a digital pimp who’s profiting off of online traffic, why shouldn’t it be prosecuted as such?
The problem with this logic is that it fails to account for three important differences: 1) most ISPs have a fundamental business — if not moral — interest in helping protect people; 2) the visibility of illicit activities online makes it much easier to get at, and help, those who are being victimized; and 3) a one-stop-shop is more helpful for law enforcement than for criminals. In short, Craigslist is not a pimp, but a public perch from which law enforcement can watch without being seen.
Which is why, if you want to protect women and children, the thing to do is to stop giving the police permission to mistreat us, making us fear going to them and thus encouraging us to make ourselves invisible.
So Village Voice protesters? Go take your pink umbrellas to the cops, and yell at them for enabling pimps, ok? That’s a little more accurate. Maybe you’ll get somewhere with them… thanks to anti-prostitution efforts, sex workers aren’t allowed to have a voice about their own bodies, choices and lives.