Advocates left and right have applauded federal authorities’ seizure of classified ads website Backpage.com as a victory for women in the sex trade. But who’s angriest about the shutdown? Women in the sex trade. progressives from Capitol Hill to Hollywood have leaped to denounce Backpage just as they’ve leaped before to denounce the prospect of legalizing prostitution. But it seems these avatars of female empowerment have failed to do the one thing that would actually empower the women they claim to defend: pay attention to what those women think.
Now they’ve taken to the Internet to tell stories of how the website spared them from exploitative forces operating in the even seedier underground of the sex economy. Backpage, former users say, freed them from dependency on pimps. The ability to cross-check clients with other sex workers, or even chat with clients ahead of time, helped them avoid abusive johns. The site also allowed them to schedule indoor dates and avoid the streets.
The problem is, the route to protection is not so sure at all. For every study that purports to show a surge in trafficking where sex work is decriminalized, there’s another that shows the opposite, and researchers have detailed the benefits that can come with legalization, from drops in sexually-transmitted diseases to drops in violence.
In our research, we have determined that there cannot be a legislative solution. We cannot rely on others to solve the problem by implementing control over industry and businesses. The solution lies within addressing the deprivation in our culture and awareness within our communities.
Kimberly Mehlman-Orozco, an author and expert witness on human trafficking points out that criminal traffickers are moving to social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, “where they’re able to hide under the veneer of a legitimate social media account,” she said.
Mehlman-Orozco, and some law enforcement officials, noted that Backpage was often cooperative with police investigations and provided a place to track the traffickers. “What we should have done was facilitated the cooperation” between the websites and police, requiring more and better notification, she said. “All we’ve done is gotten rid of one virtual place where this can happen, but there are thousands of others out there.”
Authorities struggle to control the sex trafficking industry in New Orleans
Community activists, strippers, and service workers protested Thursday in New Orleans, in response to police raiding eight strip clubs in the city’s French Quarter over the past two weeks.
Police say the raids were meant to combat human trafficking, but haven’t made any arrests from the raids and police have not provided evidence of human trafficking to the public. On Monday, the Police Department and the Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control said that there were acts of prostitution, “lewd acts” and drug use, according to the New Orleans Advocate. Four of the targeted clubs have reached settlements with state officials and will be able to serve alcohol again, according to the New Orleans Advocate. The clubs will pay fines between $5,000 and $7,500.
Nessa Moreno presents an interesting first hand perspective here:
In New Orleans, an 'Anti-Trafficking' Initiative Is a Clear Move to Criminalize Strip Clubs
Anti trafficking orgs such as Covenant House in New Orleans, have historically used claims of forced sex labor to attack adult businesses, media, erotic services listing sites and the entire adult entertainment industry. The club shut downs in NOLA is a recent example of how claims of sex trafficking are exploited to attack and shut down adult entertainment businesses. There have been zero cases of trafficking connected to these clubs. Trafficking by legal definition involves force fraud and or coercion.