I was driving the girls to school today when I heard on the news that a massive sting resulted in the arrest of 104 men in New York who hired prostitutes for sex. Turns out, those prostitutes were actually undercover cops. They had placed “craigslisty” type ads and these men responded, showed up to hotel rooms, pulled out cash with the intent to pay for sex, and then were immediately arrested. The punishment didn’t stop there, however… All 104 men were publicly named in the news along with their photos.
The goal? To send a strong message that prostitution is illegal, and if you pay for sex, you are a criminal.
“This whole concept of looking at johns as victims — they’re not victims!” explained Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice. “They’re further exploiting and victimizing trafficked women and men.”
On the one hand, 104 men have been publicly shamed. Their families have to deal with that, these men potentially face a year in prison, and perhaps their careers will suffer. On the other hand, it’s about damn time someone started calling these men out on criminal activity.
I “like” all of my local news stations on Facebook. Frequently, one news station will post a mug shot of a prostitute with a caption, “45 year old woman arrested for prostitution in Manchester.” They include a bit.ly link to the actual news article. I cringe, and wait for the comments to come in.
“Ew, who would have sex with that?”
“I’d pay her to stay away from me.”
No one, of course, is making comments about anyone who hired the prostitute, because they aren’t named. The news station does this, presumably, because these prostitution posts are really popular. Often, half a dozen or so prostitutes have been arrested in a sting, but they make sure to post the photo that will illicit the most comments. Usually, this means the oldest prostitute of the bunch.
The NY Post ran an article about the sting with the title “Heeeeere’s the ‘johnnies’! 104 horndogs exposed in prostitution sting’s wall of shame.
The NY Daily News ran the names of the 104 men. Rice, the DA, is getting blasted left and right for her decision to make the names public. The comments are vicious “Hey Rice….what can I get from your bobble-head feminazi for like 150 roses?” (‘Roses,’ by the way, is code for dollars. A prostitute can put an ad up on backpage.com, and since ‘roses’ aren’t dollars, it’s not prostitution until money exchanges hands), but I like what she said here:
“Anyone who thinks this is a victimless crime has not met a sex worker.”
Sex trafficking is a huge yet not widely known issue in the United States. For some reason, many think this is something widespread only in Thailand or Russia, but according the UN, human trafficking generates $9.5 billion yearly in the United States. 80% of human trafficking victims are women, and 50% are minors.
Internationally speaking, 600,000 – 800,000 people are bought and sold across borders each year; 50% are children, most are female. The majority of these victims are forced into the commercial sex trade.
Children, you guys. Children are being forced into becoming sex workers, and we’re supposed to be sad for the dentists and doctors who may lose their licensing because they hired a prostitute? Not a chance.
This ad was found after a 30 second search on backpage. I omitted the photos of a young girl (she advertises as being 20 years old) wearing a bra and a thong. There are hundreds of ads like this for the Hartford, CT area alone.
I am fully aware that not all prostitutes are victims of sex trafficking, but SO many are. In this country. In Connecticut. I remember reading this article (long, worth the read) two years ago and it blew my mind. This isn’t Bangkok, this is freaking Newington. This is where I grew up. These are children being bought and sold like candy in a convenience store. They’re abused and enslaved, and prostitution is a victimless crime?
In truth, I felt a little badly scrolling through the photos of the men arrested. I feel badly for their families, but I feel worse that these men put their spouses at risk for contracting a disease. I’m actually cheering on the DA’s office right now, because this means that hiring prostitutes is being seen as criminal activity. The prostitutes, trafficked or not, aren’t the only rule breakers in this scenario. The clients are guilty, and their money is increasing the demand for prostitutes, which is perpetuating sex trafficking.
Holding people accountable to their crimes – even if they’re respected white-collar workers in the community – is a good start in the fight to end sex trafficking.