Norma Jean Almodovar: The AGs vs. Backpage

Veteran sex worker rights activist Norma Jean Almodovar has written a passionate essay on the hypocrisy of the stance taken by 45 state attorneys general in demanding that Backpage discontinue all adult advertising, and I’m pleased to announce that she’s done me the honor of allowing me to publish it as a two-part guest blog on The Honest Courtesan:

Part One (September 16th, 2011)

Part Two (September 17th, 2011)

Both columns contain numerous links supporting Norma Jean’s position that if the “authorities” really want to protect “children” from sexual exploitation, that aim would be best served by forgetting about Backpage and cleaning up their own “disorderly house”.

Trafficking Numerology

A good decision is based on knowledge and not on numbers. –  Plato

The Western mind adores numbers; it finds them impressive and magical, and the less an individual understands about math the more numbers impress him (especially if they’re large numbers).  The quickest way to win the typical modern dullard’s respect is to throw some very large figure at him; in most cases he’ll simply accept it without even thinking about what it really means in terms of human experience.  On my own blog yesterday I mentioned that the trafficking fetishists call their propaganda of “100,000 trafficked girls” in the United States (or “100,000 trafficked children” depending on the writer) a conservative estimate, and claim that 300,000 is closer to the mark.  These numbers are repeated endlessly (including in CNN’s “special report” Selling the Girl Next Door which aired last night) despite the fact that they have no basis in fact whatsoever, and nobody ever bothers to think about what 300,000 girls really means.

The only places in which any hard facts about prostitution can be uncovered are those in which our profession is entirely decriminalized, and there aren’t many of those; luckily, New Zealand took the trouble to study prostitution in depth in order to answer fanatics who predicted disaster when decriminalization was implemented there in 2003.  In a survey done in 2005, researchers found that there were a total of 5932 prostitutes of all levels in New Zealand, of which 210 were underage.  Furthermore, 75% of underage girls were working only on the street, which leaves only about 53 wh0 could be advertising on the internet (but also may not).  In other words, 5722 of New Zealand’s prostitutes – 96.46% – are legal adults.  And given that this is the ONLY methodologically sound study available for any portion of the English-speaking world, it’s the best estimate we have for the United States or ever will have until and unless prostitution is fully decriminalized here and whores can therefore feel safe in answering such surveys.

According to the 2006 census the population of New Zealand was 4,143,279, of whom approximately 2,082,049 were female; active, declared prostitutes (excluding part-timers, party girls, strippers, gold-diggers etc) were 5932 of those women or 0.285%.  Since this jibes very closely with the standard 1% estimate of all women who prostitute themselves to one degree or another it seems very reasonable and we can therefore apply it to the American population as the best estimate we’re likely to get in the lifetime of anyone reading this.  According to the most recent estimates (2009) there are about 155,600,000 women in the United States, which after applying the New Zealand estimate gives us a figure of 443,323 active, declared prostitutes in this country – of which trafficking fetishists wish us to believe about two-thirds are involuntary, “trafficked” underage girls.  In truth, the number (again, by application of the New Zealand estimate) is 15,694, of which 75% (11,770) are only working on the street.  That gives us a rough estimate of 3924 who might be advertised on the internet…a far cry from the “Wal-Mart of sex trafficking” declared by CNN.  Furthermore, not all of these girls are involuntarily involved, which makes the number of “internet sex-slave children” still lower even if we allow the equation of “legal minor” with “child” and “pimped hooker” with “slave”.

I’m sure anyone with half a brain can look at these figures and recognize them as far more realistic than the “300,000” figure touted by the fetishists.  The reason their wild exaggerations aren’t discarded out of hand is that, as I said in the first paragraph, most Americans are unable to comprehend the sheer magnitude of the claims. Of the 155,600,000 American women I mentioned earlier, 17.4% are older than 4 but younger than 18; that’s a total of roughly 27,074,400 school-age girls in the US, of which the media wants you to believe 300,000 – in other words, 1.11% – are held in sexual bondage. According to trafficking fanatics, the percentage of underage girls in “sex slavery” is almost FOUR TIMES the best estimate we have for the total percentage of women of ALL ages involved in any kind of formal prostitution.  And if we only consider the ages most trafficking “authorities” claim as the majority of underage prostitutes (namely 13-17) it’s more like ten times the percentage.

Nobody in his right mind could believe these figures, yet the mainstream media irresponsibly parrots them without question.  I wrote this article, research and all, in about ninety minutes; any reporter could have found the same figures I did from the same online sources, but they don’t bother because inflammatory lies are more interesting to the lowest common denominator than mundane truth.  Ignorance is one thing and willful misrepresentation another; since Amber Lyon of CNN and her cronies on other networks could find the same information I did, I can only conclude they don’t want to find it.  And that places their actions beyond the bounds of mere ratings-seeking hype and into the realm of pure criminal negligence.

Adult Services Gone

Craigslist confirmed in the hearing before Congress that it had removed the Adult Services section permanently from US CL (and assuming Adult Gigs will stay down too). Nothing was said about the international Erotic Services section.

Two articles:
briefly on CNET

slightly longer article

There are other articles but none that I’ve found have looked at the hearings in any sincere or deeply-informed manner.

Also odd: I placed a new ad in a new international city and had to give my email address to create an account. This is not SOP for international ads. Worrisome.

change.org petition for a verified adult industry provider section

change.org is mobilizing 2 petitions: one to stop CL’s erotic svcs sec WORLDWIDE and one to go after Backpage.com ( take action by telling Village Voice Media it’s time to stop profiting from child sex trafficking now).  I CREATED THE PETITION AND IT IS LIVE!

please VOTE, TWEET, FACEBOOK!

www.change.org/petitions/view/demand_a_verified_adult_provider_section_to_stop_sex_trafficking_and_exploitation?te=npe

ARE YOU REALLY INTERESTED IN STANDING UP AGAINST PIMPS, PREVENTING EXPLOITATION OF MINORS and PREVENTING ANOTHER CRAIGSLIST KILLER TO PREY ON ADULT INDUSTRY WORKERS?

My name is Mariko Passion.  I am an adult industry worker of 13 years, over the age of 18 and I am not being forced or coerced to do any work with anyone or for anyone.  I am not being held against my well.  In other words: I am not a sex trafficking victim.  I am an advertiser on backpage.com and was a former erotic services provider on Craigslist.com. before the appearance of the Craigslist killer when things became more difficult to advertise.  I feel compelled to make this video to put a face to those that do this work and hope that I can urge you to TRULY TAKE A STAND to help those of us that are often victims of violence because we are pushed underground, forced to be ashamed and secretive about what we do and often feel that the police will not want to help us when we are victims of rape, robbery or as we saw in the Philip Markoff case: murder.

The SOLUTION to combating violence and exploitation in our industry is not to eliminate advertising sources.  Many adult providers who are NOT in human trafficking situations are also mothers, part time workers, students in college, artists, persons who would otherwise be homeless or stuck in domestic violence situations and many many other things.  Eliminating craigslist adult services and and moving onto eliminating ads in  backpage, where many of us have now advertise will hurt the last bastion of income revenue many of us.

I am proposing that advertising outlets that wish to run adult industry ads be required to create a VERIFIED ADULT PROVIDER SECTION in their newspapers or websites.  This is very similar to the 2257 laws that the porn industry uses to combat claims of and actually stop the employment of underage performers in their videos.  It is also a system that is already in place by other more upscale adult provider websites like Eros.com

To advertise in this section MUST BE AFFORDABLE.  Every adult provider who comes into the advertising office to verify themselves is actually making a small contribution to STOPPING TRAFFICKING by supporting a simple verification system that helps to prevent exploitation by a 3rd party.  This system makes the adult voluntary workers and papers like LA Weekly, backpage, or others MORE responsible to the realities of possible exploitation that may exist in our work.

A VERIFIED ADULT PROVIDER SECTION will give verified adult providers ad space at a discounted rate that is competitive with craigslist/backpage rates per week about $35-45/week, which actually will create INDEPENDENCE from agencies or pimps that have more credit cards or capital to invest in full page buyouts of weekly papers, postcard littering campaigns on sidewalks or billboard trucks driving up and down streets.  THIS IS HOW A VERIFIED ADULT PROVIDER SECTION WILL TAKE A STAND AGAINST PIMPS AND AGENCIES.

A VERIFIED ADULT PROVIDER SECTION will ALSO be beneficial to the customers of such ads.  There will be no mistaking a A VERIFIED ADULT PROVIDER as a trafficked person or minor.  There will also be the added assurance for the client that the provider is only allowed to represent their own image in the ads that they run.

A VERIFIED ADULT PROVIDER verifies that they are over 18 with government issued ID, are not being held against their will, are not being forced to exchange services by a third party, are entering agreements with clientele from ads willingly, AND are using REAL pictures and representing their own advertising and business decisions as listed in any ads with said publication.  They must come into the media outlet office and sign a written agreement.

Information gathered from VERIFIED ADULT PROVIDER will not contain any more information about the provider than their age and that they are not trafficked.  It shall not be used to gather information to be used against the adult providers.  NO questions in the verification process will be used to incriminate workers in any way.  They are simply verifying that they are over 18 and advertising on their own will.  It is a TRUE effort from media publications to help adult worker safety.   It is an effort to create a REASONABLE ALTERNATIVE to the strategies currently being used by the moral majority as the solution.

In response to the offline question about using Craigslist for work

I used Craigslist for maybe 2 weeks.  The experience was vapid.  Cheap clients who seemed to have no idea of how things worked, many new clients who “just had questions”.  Which totally pissed me off.  “I’m just browsing” works in retail stores, not when calling escorts.  While I fully endorse Craigslist re-opening the adult section.  I personally was very underwhelmed by the response.

I went to work for an agency instead.

Looking at the Schapiro Group “Scientific” Survey

This survey was done in the fall of 2009, several months after CraigsList changed the Erotic Services section to Adult Services so that it could begin charging for ads and handing over the information to authorities if requested. Remember, this was in response to a huge national campaign accusing CraigsList of being a haven for underage prostitutes. It stands to reason that men who want the simplicity of paying for sex with an underage girl would look to CraigsList. The media did all the advertising work necessary for both sides of the possible exploitation equation (pimps and clients). Not to mention that since CraigsList was getting a lot of media attention, lots of people were perusing the Adult Services section, regardless of age preferences.

Their study finds that 23% of men in Georgia have tried to buy sex in one month. This is probably true. The usual self-reporting surveys in the US yield numbers of 6-15%, which any sex worker can tell you is artificially low. Quite honestly, the vast majority of clients are not on CraigsList, which means the percentage of clients could be even higher than 23%. They have to be to support the number of sex workers out there. The vast majority of these unnoticed interactions are between adults, not teens.

Continue reading

CraigsList: Future Thinking

Assuming that CraigsList Adult Services stay down, where will everyone go? Granted, the majority of those in the business in the US aren’t advertising on CL anymore. But now civilians are enjoying the thrill of discovering what’s been online for the past 10-15 years and are publicly speculating what sites advertisers will flock to.

On the one hand, other advertising sites have been obvious all this time if you know how to use Google. The current public attention might help some girls get a little extra business in what I know is a sagging economy and a seasonally slow time of year (beginning of school). On the other hand, I’m very worried by the attention thrown at other sites. The motivation for this current state of affairs goes far beyond the usual cat-and-mouse game played by local cops. The anti-trafficking Nazis have one possible victory with CraigsList and probably feel ready to go stomping on any other site adult sex workers use.

Because it’s about ending prostitution. It’s not about helping victims.

Continue reading