CNN has exposed the scary fact that prostitutes post ads on Craigslist, but, like a lot of major media takedowns, they blur the line between selling sex for money and underage sex trafficking.
Of course, every local alt-weekly contains the same kinds of ads, and has for years. CNN doesn’t emphasize that because Craigslist is “new media” and therefore story worthy. Similarly, politicians like to shit on Craigslist because it’s a nice fat target that doesn’t meet a payroll in their district.
If CNN or local notables were really interested in child sex trafficking and forced prostitution, they’d advocate legalizing and regulating the sex trade. That would free up law enforcement to spend more time finding pimps selling kids or enslaving women. If the sex trade were taxed, cops would even be better funded. But that discussion is never on the table, because it’s more fun to post fake Craigslist ads and have guys named “John” calling you on camera.
That discussion isn’t on the table because women’s sexuality does not belong to them. Women’s sexuality is a public commodity, except to the extent that a man has claimed ownership of it. You can’t sell what doesn’t belong to you.
Think I’m kidding? Exaggerating?
An unattached woman who sells her sexual services is a thief. That’s how we treat her. An attached woman who sells her sexual services is also a thief, but the “victim” is the man in her life. Either way, we as a society make it clear that she’s selling something that isn’t hers.
You are probably right in that the logical answers will never be enacted.
Prostitution is viewed by many as a “victimless crime” because the main victims are women and they don’t count as much as “real people.” [Yes, I know that not all prostitutes are female, but I’m going with the numbers here.]
To be fair, though, I have to admit that giving these folks real alternatives would involve changes in social structures far beyond taxes and regulation. But it would be nice. If a sex worker of any gender had real and viable alternatives and still chose to work in the industry, it might actually be victimless, crime or not.
What I’ve never understood is why it’s illegal to pay a woman for sex, but perfectly legal to pay her to have sex in front of a camera for purposes of producing pornographic films.
I realize that some people would like to see porn criminalized, too; but how do people who support legal porn and oppose legal prostitution reconcile the disparity?
@Linda Featheringill: Not all prostitutes are women.
I’d much rather discuss the role that economic coercion plays in all sorts of decision-making processes, rather than making this a strict gender issue.
@AhabTRuler: yes, but those people are called Congress.
Women’s sexuality doesn’t belong to them . . .
Yes. But there is hope for changes.
My mother honestly thought that the marriage bed was her husband’s bed, with all that such ownership involved. My daughter feels that wherever she falls asleep is her bed, goddamit and if-you-don’t-like-it-get-the-hell-out.
Article somewhere I just read where jilted ex’es and ex-spouses are setting up Craiglist postings ostensibly by the woman–but not–demanding men come over and fulfill rape fantasys or other whoreish behavior. Some clowns have acted on it, and in other cases people reading Craigs have been mortified to learn that their neighbors are whores (when they’re not, cuz its a phony posting).
Basically, you can completely trash anyone’s rep, and even get your ex- raped, by posting anonymously on Craigs. Scary shit.
@Dork: Links, please (if you can recall), because that sounds like Snopes-bait to me (no offense intended).
One of the biggest reasons police target street-level prostitution is that most of the women at that level are in it to support hard-drug habits (crack or meth), thus helping directly feed a more serious problem. The other reason is that both these activities are often noxious to other local residents of the neighborhood. *Some*, though perhaps not the majority of the on-line prostitutes are into the trade for much the same reason.
This doesn’t of course answer why either of these activities should be illegal in the first place. It’s the criminalization of these activities, making it difficult to set up relatively safe, legal means of conducting them, that makes the trade so dangerous, pestilent, and noxious to the local community.
So long as she sells them in a cash transaction, it’s illegal. If she sells them and receives clothes, dinners, trips and so forth, it’s legal because it’s deemed a “relationship.” The whole thing is complicated.
@AhabTRuler: Read it here. Sounds legit to me.
CNN also doesn’t emphasize that because, well, Craigslist pretty much declared war on the old media by destroying the funding model for newspapers (i.e. classified ads, which is where the real money has been in newspapers for a long time). And while the guys who own CNN don’t own newspapers, they are friends with the guys who own newspapers and agree with them that the Craigslist guys are pretty much dirt.
As far as prostitution goes – I wish it didn’t exist. I wish that there were no women or men anywhere who needed to sell their bodies for sex to earn a living. But since that would require solving the problem of poverty completely – which is not likely to happen in my lifetime – I’d like it to be legalized, licensed, and fully regulated and taxed. For the health of everyone involved, as well as to cut down on the violence the women and men involved in prostitution inevitably face.
The black markets in drugs and sex is what creates the majority of the problems. Legalizing each will not create a super-utopia of Coca-Cola commercial togetherness, but it will lead to a reduction of the harm caused by the trafficking of drugs and people for pleasure at enormous profits.
Craigslist has its issues, but there isn’t a decent way to take away the possibility of fraud online any more than it’s possible in the real world. Stories of houses being cleaned out when neighbors are away and other things used to cover for thieves and angry vandals are real, but it’s not exactly hard to put “Free stuff within” on a mailbox in front of someone’s home.
I don’t even know how anyone can stand cable news anymore. It is probably better for the brain to have a few beers and get slapped on the head.
@Dork: I have to agree that the cases reported certainly sound legitimate, although I noted that the article made no mention of how widespread the problem is. I don’t mean to minimize the danger to the individuals featured, but America does have a tendency to get all het up in a moral panic over stories like this.
They attack craigslist because craigslist isn’t a big powerful corporation. It’s run by two dozen San Francisco hippies.
Imagine if instead of craigslist the same functionality was available through the big newspapers (as it was back in the day) on their websites (NYT, WSJ, etc.). Think we’d see the same sniping?
Your example is more evidence for my point, I think. A woman selling sex for cash is a thief, because she can take that cash and spend it in any way she chooses, without the involvement of the man who paid her. A woman performing sexual services for a particular man, who accepts favors from that man in return, is an example of a man claiming ownership of a woman’s sexuality, taking it out of the public commons for his own benefit. When it’s not a cash transaction, she’s tied to him for those favors.
Then you raised her right. Good for you! :-)
The Bearded Blogger
Conservative pundit and jerk Terry Savage wrote this column a while ago:
According to conservative logic, prostitution should be the ONLY way sex occurs…
The Bearded Blogger
@elmo: I think your main point is correct; that a women’s body is not her own. Nowadays, there are some ceremonies where teenage girls promise their parentsthat they will not give away their hoo-ha’s until they are married, they got rings and everything. It’s like saying: my body belongs to Father until another Man becomes rightful owner.
They don’t call it the world’s oldest profession for nothing. And to try and criminalize it is to tilt at one of history’s largest windmills.
Legalize it, codify it, tax it. Provide safe environments and regular health care for the practitioners. How hard is that?
@elmo: Hah. Having just finished reading David Harvey’s A Brief History of Neoliberalism (on the recommendation of posters here, thanks!) I would argue that there is a tension between the Neoliberal desire to commoditize everything, including the human body, and the desire to maintain class power by reinforcing abstract moral precepts, concepts of criminality, and channeling economic empowerment into socially acceptable (i.e. controllable) pursuits.
ETA: But, hey, I am just a stupid DFH, what do I know?
@The Bearded Blogger:
Exactly exactly. It’s all about ownership and control. I live in the South, and there are billboards with pretty young girls on them and the slogan “Waiting for Marriage,” or something like that. Mustn’t even begin to allow young women to think that they own themselves.
Indisputably so. But then, it always has been.
J.A.F. Rusty Shackleford
A few months ago an NBC(?) reporter did an expose on Craigslist by setting himself in a hotel room and making arrangements for the adult services. Each and every woman that he showed was attractive and really showed off the variety and quality of the, ahem, Craigslist “talent”. I was expecting a much skankier group to be shown and was quite surprised that most of the girls looked like your average (sexy) co-ed. As a single guy there was nothing in the expose that would have discouraged me from “ordering” those services myself.
IMHO, all victimless crimes, such as prostitution or pot growing/usage, should emphatically NOT be crimes and should be legalized and taxed, just like smoking or drinking. I love to get into arguments about this with assholes like several of the Teabagger-lite staff assistants around here who tie themselves in knots trying to explain why it’s okay to smoke and drink and it’s not okay to smoke and fuck.
CNN also doesn’t emphasize that because, well, Craigslist pretty much declared war on the old media by destroying the funding model for newspapers (i.e. classified ads, which is where the real money has been in newspapers for a long time).
The sad thing for newspapers is that they had the first-mover advantage and brand/name recognition — they could have set up Craigslist-type services of their own back in the 90s but never got on the ball to do so. Craigslist was only able to take this business because the newspapers let them.
“If CNN or local notables were really interested in child sex trafficking and forced prostitution, they’d advocate legalizing and regulating the sex trade.”
Is there any evidence that doing the second has much of anything to do with eliminating the first? There are countries where prostitution is legal and countries where it’s both legal and regulated, so is there evidence those countries have fewer problems with child sex traficking and forced prostitution?
Don’t get me started on Craiglist. Each time I’ve posted something there every weirdo in the greater Boston area came out of the woodwork asking questions that were answered in the post title or wanting some amazing deal.
Used Ryobi circular saw: $45
What brand of saw?
Is it used?
I need a Jigsaw.
I’ll give you $10 for it.
Legalizing prostitution would remove their illicit pleasure at being hypocrites, the GOP will never go for it.
Some of them did, actually. For some things. Generally the sites had terrible interfaces, were a bitch to use, and just reprinted the classified ads from the newspapers. I remember using one of them when I was looking for a new job in ’99 – it was awful and I ended up buying a copies of the local newspapers instead to look at job ads.
The genius of Craigslist is actually something that the newspapers can’t really replicate – they don’t charge for the service and they don’t try to control what’s posted. Specifically, they make their money on a very limited range of services that they charge for (mostly job postings in a few markets and IIRC a few markets where they charge to list properties for lease) and most of the rest of the site is a bulletin board where anyone can post anything. That’s genius, but it would fail from the get-go in the newspaper culture where they have to control everything they publish.
(It would also fail given that newspapers are generally publicly traded companies these days where stock price is everything, and Cragislist only really works because it’s a privately held company where the amount of money to be considered “profitable” rests in the head of the owner of the company – if he had to meet the stock price expectations of shareholders the company would have imploded a long time ago.)
I don’t have a problem with either one for the most part. I don’t want people getting stoned and getting behind the wheel, but that can be adequately handled by DUI laws with some tweaking.
But smoking pot or paying cash for sex should be just like sodomy is now–none of the state’s damn business if done in the privacy of my own home.
I live in the South, and there are billboards with pretty young girls on them and the slogan “Waiting for Marriage,” or something like that.
Speaking from experience, while some of those pretty young girls were indeed waiting for marriage with at least one part of their anatomy, there were other parts of their bodies that they weren’t waiting around at all to use….
The Bearded Blogger
@LGRooney: The giddy old pervert party: Keeping dirty perverted sex dirty and perverted.
Huh. My experience with CL is exactly the opposite: nothing but ease and convenience. Mostly I’ve bought and sold chickens, and my partner uses the listings to locate dogs in need of rescue and coordinate with rescue orgs to get them into foster.
But I also, this last spring, fulfilled a lifelong dream and bought a boat from a CL ad, and got the best deal imaginable. Great boat, terrific price, nice people selling it. I love Craigslist.
I hope you are feeling better.
The alleged concerns about children and coercion are really just cover for Victorian sexual attitudes. And this is one subject, unfortunately, where a lot of feminists find common cause with the bluenoses. Because they can’t conceive that anyone would chose to do something like that voluntarily – despite the fact that its occurrence has been universal regardless of legal status for thousands of years.
And newspapers are happy to play along, because Craigslist eviscerated their revenue stream.
@soonergrunt: They already do. It’s called Driving Under the Influence because it means not under the influence of alcohol.
Hee. I haz a farm.
@Captain Haddock: you’d get the same responses from any sort of classified ad.
@elmo: Oh, I see, a speculator.
Yep. It’s degrading if you think it’s degrading. I am entirely mindful of the lawyer who decided she could make better money moving to Nevada and becoming a legal prostitute.
And you pretty much ensure that women find it degrading by telling them it is, making them fear ever talking to the police because the police view them as criminals and think they can’t be victims in any situation, force them to do it out of poverty and desperation, leave them at the mercy of…
Man. Look, the way we handle prostitution in this country is disgusting. But you’ll legalize drugs before prostitution. In both cases you’re assumed to have some kind of personal stake if you support either, and are thus a depraved criminal trying to escape the law.
I’m way more leery of legalizing the harder drugs. I think it has to be done, but the attitude seems to be that the more pleasurable a drug is, the more it needs to be restricted. I would go with ‘the more addictive a drug is, the more it needs to be regulated’. So… marijuana, less regulation than alcohol. Tobacco, way up there with heroin.
@MBunge: There are countries where prostitution is legal and countries where it’s both legal and regulated, so is there evidence those countries have fewer problems with child sex traficking and forced prostitution?
Google is your friend, but only up to a point– that is, it’s not hard to find articles and studies on this subject, but they tend to be pretty equivocal, so you can read them as glass half full/half empty depending on your preconceptions.
The Netherlands of course get most of the attention, and there’s clearly still crime and abuse going on there. Unsurprisingly, evil pimps tend to take advantage of immigrant women with few local connections, and look for areas where regulatory enforcement is spotty or where the sheer volume of the industry make it easier to fly under the radar. But to know whether the black-market side is better or worse than it was is really hard, because so much depends on what law enforcement priorities are, and the victims of exploitation have incentives to stay out of the system (i.e. immigration law) just as the abusers do.
Sweatshop slavery happens even though it’s legal to make clothes, but we don’t ban the making of clothes for that reason.
And child prostitution is just as illegal as it’s always been, so I’m not sure what your point is there, unless you’re implying that adult hookers are like a gateway drug to child rape.
Women’s sexuality doesn’t belong to them?
Are you actually arguing that Paris Hilton, Liz Cheney or any other female member of the rich/super class faces the same level of oppression (or any at all for that matter) as some homeless brown skinned woman or working poor woman?
Sure, and the white guy sleeping on the steam grate in some New York alley lives a privileged life because Bill Gates is a white male billionaire.
What is with some “progressives” and their simplistic narratives about race, class, and gender in the US?
I know you all are smart people, please don’t sound like characters from National Lampoon’s “Lemmings”.
@Uloborus: I would substitute ‘harm’ for ‘addiction.’ Heroin, while highly addictive, isn’t terribly harmful when administered wit a clean supply, clean paraphernalia, and with a known dosage.
If the goal is harm reduction, you decriminalize the supply side of the equation, keep maintainence addicts alive and healthy, and follow up with health programs that seek to wean the patient off of the drug.
Physical addiction is a body state that can be managed fairly easily; psychological addiction is a beast that is difficult to tame and it doesn’t respond well to coercive techniques.
Ideally, decriminalization seeks not just to remove the penalty from the user, but also to separate the user from the criminal element and criminal enterprise. A user that is healthy and employed is one that doesn’t need to commit crimes to feed the habit.
NL’s Coffeeshops are an example of semi-normalization of the supply side of decriminalized marijuana. Although not strictly legal and regulated, the Coffeeshops are tolerated and taxed, and for the most part they are tacky and touristy, but not dangerous or unsavory. While there are criminal enterprises that do associate themselves with the production and distribution of marijuana (especially that which has to be smuggled into the country), it is generally at a level similar to bars and restaurants, and not even approaching the threat that drug producers and traffickers have become here in the Americas.
Further examples of the decriminalization of the demand side can be found in Switzerland and Portugal, with the former further experimenting with maintainance programs for Heroin addicts, and the latter experiencing some positive results from decriminalizing all drugs, including significant drops in the number of overdoses and new HIV cases. However, outright legalization of drugs for most nations is out of the question due to treaty obligations with the US, and the UN continues to support a policy of broad-based criminalization of drug trafficking and personal use.
I’m sorry, but huh? Where do you get this “same level of oppression” crap? All I said was that women’s sexuality doesn’t belong to them — not that all women are equally oppressed, and are yoked together beneath the boot of the Evil Male.
One of your examples is actually pretty good. Paris Hilton is a rich heiress. Tell me, with a straight face, that our culture treats her sexual dalliances exactly the same as, say, John Kennedy Jr.’s. Remember, straight face and no twitching.
Liz Cheney, as far as I know, hasn’t made any effort to sell her sexuality, so I’m not sure how she’s relevant in this conversation.
is just straight out of Bizarro World. I am utterly mystified where you get that conclusion out of “women don’t own their sexuality.” I assure you I’m not speaking in code. “Women don’t own their sexuality” is not elmo-speak for “All men are rich oligarchs.”
The most hilarious part of the Craigslist hysteria among politicians and the mainstream media is they don’t understand how the internet works.
When all these state attorney generals got together to take down big bad Craigslist and their adult services section they patted themselves on the back after making the company agree to arbitrary guidelines and self-censorship. And you know where all those ads went? To other places on the internet. Because that is how the internet works. You attempt to censor it and the people find a workaround.
Prostitution remains illegal nearly everywhere in the US because we are a silly people and the law tends to hate women. And like other prohibitions it is comfortably available to the wealthy with little fear of prosecution so they can have their cake and eat poor people too.
♪ ♫ That’s the way the world goes round, the world goes round, the world goes round… ♪ ♫
All I know about Craigslist and sex are the independently-determined remarks of two female friends. They have said that there are far too many men who go to the LTR category actually in search of NSA sex, but want it with women that they judge as classier than the ones they think are in the NSA category.
Make of this what you will. Men scared of women who actually admit they want sex, first of all? But there’s a rich seam of ore for those who’d like to armchair-psychoanalyze.
The genius of Craigslist is actually something that the newspapers can’t really replicate [snip] and they don’t try
to control what’s posted.
Does this mean all those annoying “Equal Opportunity Employer” and “Fair Housing” stuff is out the window on
What I don’t get is why the story is never written this way:
Some Men Are Still Buying Sex from Anyone Who Will Sell It To Them
How is this a story about craigslist, or about newspapers, or about women? The actors in this play are men. The story is about men, and what some of them feel compelled to do.
Just think of the news it would make if suddenly women began to go out looking for sex with the same urgency and frequency that men do. That would be a huge story . . . but we’ve normalized that behavior in men so thoroughly that they don’t even appear in narratives where they are the stars.
That way lies madness.
If women killed men at the rate men kill women, women would never have gotten the vote.
It’s refreshing to see someone else who recognizes that if these crusaders really wanted to prevent child prostitution they would be enthusiastically campaigning for the legalization of adult prostitution to give it the transparency, legitimacy, and protection of every other business. Forcing it underground does precisely the opposite of their purported intention. It’s clear that the folks behind the attacks on craigslist are really just exploiting people’s natural compassion for children to promote a broad anti-prostitution agenda. It’s not exactly the first time a ideological goal has been strapped to the backs of children to fend off criticism.