Home Activism Attention Celebrity White Knights

Attention Celebrity White Knights

Hi there, American Celebrity! As someone with a lot of money and influence, there are many causes to which you could dedicate your considerable resources: adopting children, having children, saving children—ah, that’s a good one. No one can ever dispute the value in saving children, particularly when those children are female because everyone knows females are more vulnerable than males. But what do girls most need saving from?

There’s the much-discussed issue of eating disorders, which your industry contributes to substantially, but that’s not very glamorous and sounds vaguely feminist so, moving on. There’s also the shameless, repeated attacks coming from the Republican party on all American girls‘ rights to medical care and, of corse, sex education, but that’s awfully political. You’re just trying to change the world, not ruffle a bunch of feathers. Let’s think bigger.

Children of both sexes are exploited in all types of labor the world over, including in places like diamond mines (but you probably really like wearing diamonds, or at least borrowing them for red carpet events.) And people of differing genders and ages and races are trafficked for a variety of purposes—domestic, agricultural, and manufacturing included—but big multinational corporations benefit from that cheap work, and there is nothing sexy about a trafficked housekeeper. You’re not looking to be a trouble-maker or bore people to death, you just want to promote universally-agreed upon worthy causes in a flashy, public way.

Luckily, most people don’t even know other types of trafficking exist. Just look at how this wikipedia article can’t manage to focus on anything other than sexual exploitation, thereby further conflating “trafficking” and “sex trafficking,” and continuing to suggest (as domestic policies and conversations about trafficking so reliably do) that other forms of coerced labor are fundamentally less serious and less worthy of resources because they are less violating. That’s the way Americans think now because it’s been drilled into our brains: “trafficking” means chained-up rape victims. Oof, that sounds unimaginably tragic. But it would be more tragic with some numbers to put it into perspective.

Did you know that over 500,000 girls are trafficked in the US each year alone? Horrifying, isn’t it? I mean, I made that number up but why not? I could be in the ballpark! And yes, in 2004 the highest possible total number of people trafficked into the US was a much less jaw-dropping 17,500, casting my hysterically higher figure into doubt, but this is an urgent issue and there’s no need for factual statements to interfere with a righteous cause. Since trafficking is part of the black market, it’s really hard to get accurate statistics. So feel free to list conflicting information, sometimes claiming that 200,000 children are “at risk” (definitely don’t define what that means) and sometimes saying it’s 300,000. You can even completely make up outrageous trafficker practices. Liberally promote sensationalist claims, like that the “average” child pimp will make about a quarter of a million dollars a year. That’s a completely plausible number and would explain why so many ambitious child predators are millionaires.

Prurience never comes into play when discussing sex trafficking! Just ask The Salvation Army about this somber "trafficking victim" image.

Ok then, that makes your decision simple. Anti-trafficking (by which I mean anti-girl sex trafficking) is the mission for you! Congratulations! Just by making the brave decision that abducting and raping young girls is not good, you have made yourself a hero. It’s time to take this new awareness of yours public and let’s make it sound you’ve been personally affected by sex trafficking because that would be really compelling. It’s also a good way to stop anyone from suggesting you might want to actually talk to some trafficked individuals or learn anything about the issue. You practically have first hand experience, so that’s unnecessary. What are they going to tell you anyway? Clearly this whole situation is really bad, and there is not much more to say about it. Bad situations are easy to clear up if you can just point out their badness to everyone. And forget working for or with those other organizations or individuals that have been dealing with trafficking issues or sex industry issues for years. You feel strongly about this and you are entitled to a charity with your name on it, dammit. For the children.

Anyway, the cool thing about establishing such an un-criticizable intention is that now you can go about things in the most block-headed, useless way possible and people will still applaud you. Anyone who says anything negative probably thinks sex trafficking is great. (You are part of the problem, activists criticizing celebrities!) Go ahead and film that terrible ad campaign. Manipulating a man’s sense of failure at performing masculinity has never backfired, and promoting a cliched sexist mentality is a great way to make the world a better place. Job well done. You are officially a white knight! Changing hearts, changing minds, changing gender stereotypes—er, well, not that last part. You don’t want to spread yourself too thin.

12 COMMENTS

  1. Very opinionated stuff, sadly hilarious in a way! I’m very passionate about sex trafficking and other forms of trafficking, but I agree with most of what you say. I can’t help thinking the often pretty sexually exploited girls get disproportionate attention, just like you said “trafficked housekeepers are less sexy” I think sex trafficking is very tragic and scarier in a way than labor trafficking due to risk of AIDS and rape etc. I do feel very bad for victims because they are seen as damaged goods after due to the sex aspect. AK’s PSA campaign is lame, but he seems to have his heart in the right place and I don’t wanna be too harsh on him. Any publicity is good publicity on a cause people prefer to ignore. Men are very very overly willing to dismiss the issue and sex trafficking needs a male advocate who is super influential and AK falls into that category as “king twitter” or whatever Oprah called him.

  2. Make a distinction between Juvenile Prostitution and Prostitution on the web site to be taken seriously on the issue. People in general think sex workers are OK with juvenile prostitution.

    • I don’t understand your comment. You think our entire site conflates all prostitution with juvenile prostitution? Can you provide some evidence of where we do this? And what do you mean by “people in general”? Are you trying to say that you yourself believe sex workers are “Ok” with underage prostitutes? Can you provide some evidence of where/when a sex worker has said this and why you assume that sex worker speaks for all others?

  3. […] I’ve written before about how reckless and poorly researched many trafficking campaigns and news stories are. Contrary to The Village Voice‘s claims that the most commonly quoted statistics have “never been contested,” they’ve been decried and disproved by many sex workers, advocates, allies, and even the occasional mainstream journalist for years. (In England, too. And Jessica Land dug up an article from 2004 that examines abolitionist Linda Smith’s anti-trafficking efforts, a topic the Voice also addresses.) But these justified criticisms have never gained the traction of overblown numbers and off-the-cuff claims, a state of affairs to which Ashton Kutcher and his supporters seem tenaciously attached. […]

  4. […] I’ve written before about how reckless and poorly researched many trafficking campaigns and news stories are. Contrary to The Village Voice‘s claims that the most commonly quoted statistics have “never been contested,” they’ve been decried and disproved by many sex workers, advocates, allies, and even the occasional mainstream journalist for years. (In England, too. And Jessica Land dug up an article from 2004 that examines abolitionist Linda Smith’s anti-trafficking efforts, a topic the Voice also addresses.) But these justified criticisms have never gained the traction of overblown numbers and off-the-cuff claims, a state of affairs to which Ashton Kutcher and his supporters seem tenaciously attached. There’s not much of a debate here when it comes to the facts—probably because facts are, by definition, not debatable. Kutcher himself admitted that the 100,00-300,000 trafficked children number at the heart of this firestorm is not accurate, and that he misspoke when he quoted it on Piers Morgan’s show. Somehow, his foundation’s website still states definitively: “In just the United States, between 100,000 and 300,000 children are enslaved and sold for sex. [Emphasis in the original.]” Let’s not hold our breath for that to be corrected any time soon. […]

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