The four most beautiful words in our common language: I told you so. - Gore Vidal
Sex worker rights activists have been pointing out for years that the rescue industry has a vested interest in stoking the fires of “sex trafficking” hysteria so that millions in government money flows into their coffers; to this end, they inflate statistics, create bogus studies designed to siphon funds from other programs, use dysphemisms, distorted terminology, empty-headed celebrities and more bogus studies to convince the public that sex work is a social disease, and just plain lie about sex work and sex workers in order to keep the gravy train rolling. Nor are NGOs the only beneficiaries of this lucrative witch-hunt; small countries who depend on American handouts are only too happy to throw whores and clients into prison in order to show their overlords that they’re “doing something about sex trafficking”. But in this age of belt-tightening, the U.S. government is beginning to look a little more closely at those who reap huge profits “combating” a virtually-nonexistent “problem”, and discovering – Surprise, surprise, surprise! – that they aren’t actually accomplishing anything:
An Iowa senator is calling for action after audits revealed at least six recipients of grants to fight human trafficking made unauthorized expenditures and incurred questionable costs. Six audits completed between 2007 and 2009 reported more than $2.72 million in unsupported, unallowable or questioned costs of the $8.24 million total the Department of Justice awarded to the six grant recipients. “These select individual audits signal to me that there is a bigger problem,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley…during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday. “The inspector general audited seven trafficking grantees and found serious problems in all seven.”
During the hearing on the reauthorization of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, which provides grants and resources for trafficking victims, advocates, law enforcement and prosecutors, Grassley questioned whether the Department of Justice is awarding money to the appropriate organizations. “Holding grant programs accountable will help to ensure that services really go to those in need,” Grassley…said in a statement. “Before we reauthorize another dollar, we need strong oversight language included in legislation – to ensure that failing grantees will not be rewarded with additional taxpayer dollars.”
…One audit discovered that the Heartland Alliance for Human Needs in Chicago, which was awarded $2 million, did not have adequate documentation for $902,122 in salaries and $174,479 in fringe benefits. Another inspector general audit in 2008 found that, although the Office of Justice Programs’ human trafficking grant programs have “built significant capacities to serve victims,” the programs have not “identified and served significant numbers of victims”…
…The Office for Victims of Crime, which awards grants to task forces and other grant recipients that provide direct services to victims in their communities, has developed a detailed checklist for applicants seeking money for human trafficking work…Applicants must list detailed information on the number of human trafficking victims they have previously served and disclose how long they have provided services to these victims…The office also reviews the budget and program strategy of each applicant…
Unfortunately, the Department of Justice seems to be treating these misappropriations as honest mistakes or instances of incompetence rather than recognizing them for what they are: embezzlement perpetrated via deliberate fraud. We can only hope the audits eventually uncover a number of cases too egregious to ignore, and that there is enough of an outcry to trigger criminal investigations and aggressive prosecutions. All moral panics eventually end, and this one has gone on for a decade already – longer if one recognizes that many of its themes have continued virtually unchanged since they played major roles in the Satanic Panic and domestic violence/rape epidemic hysteria of the ‘80s and ‘90s, and that “child sex trafficking” hysteria is partially an outgrowth of the child sex abuse panic (now in its 29th year). And when such panics end, they often do so in a flurry of recriminations and finger-pointing.
The signs are starting to appear, slowly but surely; online polls are overwhelmingly in favor of either legalization or decriminalization, and the comments on stories about prostitution busts range from criticism to derision to outright hostility against the police. Articles such as this one from the September 23rd Guardian are becoming much more common:
According to the documentaries running on near-constant repeat on CNN and MSNBC, men all around America are just waiting to buy women for sex, fuelling what is referred to as a “multibillion dollar industry”…Attorneys general, mayors and sheriffs across the United States are using the same tabloid statistics and rationale to set public policy. They claim that the way to end exploitation in the sex trade is to “end demand” for the sex trade – that is, end men’s desire for sex they can pay for. The notion that men’s desire to buy actual people fuels the sex trade has gone so mainstream that when aspiring celebrity philanthropist Ashton Kutcher launched a public service campaign against prostitution this year, he called it “Real Men Don’t Buy Girls“.
The problem is, real people buy sex [not people] and real people sell sex…When politicians, social service providers and celebrity philanthropists insist that sex workers are selling ourselves, they engage in the same kind of dehumanisation that they claim johns do to us. When they claim that men can buy us, they rob us of our power and our choices…Combined with the myth that all prostitution involves men buying women, the “end men’s demand” rhetoric in the media and anti-prostitution campaigns plays into some of the most damaging attitudes toward sex workers. There’s nothing feminist or new in the current wave of anti-prostitution reformers, who claim…that all sex work is “sexual enslavement”. Sex workers know that what creates demand for the sex trade is not men “enslaving” us for sex, but the…demands of childcare, loan officers, debt collectors, landlords and dependant family members – in short, the demands most working people struggle to meet…to focus only on ending men’s demand for sex is a cheap way out. In this way, sex workers’ needs are reduced only to what happens during the sex transaction; it ignores the rest of our lives outside the sex trade. By advancing this myth of male demand and sex workers being powerlessly enslaved in catering to it, the media and politicians fixate on the power of male desire more than sex workers ever do…When they base their campaigning not on the reality of the sex trade, but on their fantasies, it is sex workers who most suffer.
The comments to this article were almost entirely positive, making the few “trafficking robots” stand out like turds on a table.
But speaking of Ashton (as we have twice already in this column, so let’s go for three), if we’re lucky he may not have the money or the will to continue his anti-whore campaign for much longer:
…Sara Leal, the woman who reportedly slept with Ashton Kutcher…on…his sixth wedding anniversary [September 24th]…met with an attorney…[and] Star magazine is reporting that Kutcher’s marriage to Demi is over…the couple has been living apart and will split a $290 million fortune. Kutcher was [previously] caught cheating with 21-year-old Brittney Jones in 2010 and…[told] Leal…that he and his wife were “separated, but the public just didn’t know yet.” Ashton was in San Diego Friday night partying with friends at Fluxx nightclub and had sex with Leal at the nearby Hard Rock Hotel, according to the website TheDirty.com [which reports that Leal wants $250,000 for her story]…Leal has not decided what – if any – action she is taking but wanted to meet with an attorney “to explore all of her options”…
What’s that you say, Ashton? “Real men don’t buy girls”? Well, you sure bought this one, honey, at about 1000x the going rate (which as it so happens is the title of my column from one year ago today). If you had just hired an escort (oops, I mean “bought a girl”) instead of dealing with a halfway whore (who by your own ridiculous definition was “trafficked”, BTB) you wouldn’t be in this fix, but because you believed your own stupid propaganda you’re about to learn the hard way that free pussy is the most expensive kind.