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Archive for November 29th, 2010

When you assume, you make an ass of “u” and me. –  Felix Unger, The Odd Couple

I was asked by Brandy Devereaux to take a look at this study by the Schapiro Group, a marketing research firm hired by a prohibitionist group which like so many others uses the excuse of  “child trafficking” to attack adult prostitution.  As I expected, I found a deeply flawed study which reaches the exact conclusions it was designed to reach; what was especially interesting about this one, though, was the absolute transparency of the bias and the egregiousness of its errors.  Like most prohibitionist propaganda this report (which you may want to at least skim before proceeding) disguises inconvenient truths by covering them with emotionally-loaded language, but this isn’t its only problem: that dubious distinction goes to the fact that its basic premise, that compensated sex with a girl slightly below 18 is more illegal than compensated sex with one of 18 or greater, is entirely false.  The age of consent in Georgia is 16, not 18, and since prostitution is illegal in Georgia anyhow it is no more illegal for a man to purchase services from a 16- or 17-year-old whore than it is to purchase them from an 18-, 36- or 72-year-old one.

No study whose design reflects a biased viewpoint can hope to be remotely scientific; this even applies to the “hard” sciences, and is exponentially more so in the social sciences.  But since most biases are unconscious, it usually takes an expert eye to find them hiding between the lines of the studies they engender.  That was not true in this case; the very first line sets out the bias quite clearly: “This report details a first-of-its-kind study to quantify, describe, and understand demand for CSEC [Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children] in Georgia.  It paints a clear picture of the adult men who exploit adolescent females by paying for sex with them.”  By incorrectly (and perhaps intentionally) claiming that some young women who are legally permitted to consent to sex in Georgia are underage, redefining adolescents as “children”, and assuming that transactional sex even with one legally entitled to give consent is intrinsically exploitative, the study abandons all pretense to objectivity from the very beginning.  The depth of the bias is further confirmed at the top of page 4:

The [Chicago] study looked primarily at psychological and life history determinants of the decision to purchase sex as an adult.  While this is valuable to examine, searching for individual “abnormalities” will always lead CSEC advocates astray; CSEC can only exist as a commercial enterprise if it is a sadly normal practice in our society.  The same can be said of prostitution broadly, and the results of the Chicago study bear this truth out.  Men who purchase sex tend to come from normal backgrounds and seem no more likely to suffer from apparent pathologies than the rest of the adult male population.  There simply appears to be no magic bullet in determining what individual qualities and experiences lead a man to purchase sex.  Prostitution is a societal problem, not an individual problem.

Prostitution in general is defined as a “problem”, and employment of a whore is assumed to be pathological despite the fact that 70% of men have done it at least once and 20% do it occasionally.  If a real scientist read a study which showed that prostitutes’ clients come from normal backgrounds and demonstrate no unusual psychological characteristics, he would conclude that they were indeed normal men.  But a biased sociologist reading the same report cannot accept those results and so hints darkly at hidden psychopathology.

It is clearly this bias which caused the designers of the study to miss the obvious age of consent issue, and thereby render their entire study completely useless.  While some of the girls involved in so-called “CSEC” are undoubtedly below 16, the study was not designed to determine how many men would have sex with a truly underage girl vs. how many with a girl who was merely below the age at which the study’s sponsors feel they should be allowed to consent.  The results are thus contaminated, because there is no way of knowing how the men might have responded differently had they believed the imaginary teen prostitute to be 15 rather than 16.  Another contaminating bias lies in the obvious inability of the researchers to separate the legal concept of competence from the psychological one.  I use the term “lawhead” to mean a person suffering from the delusion that laws define reality; to a lawhead, any person whom the law declares incompetent to decide something is actually incompetent to do so.  Thus, a lawhead truly believes (to borrow an analogy from regular reader Sailor Barsoom) that at midnight on his 18th birthday, a person says “Shazam!” and is instantly transformed from all-child to all-adult, from the equivalent of a 5-year-old to the equivalent of a 50-year-old.  Obviously this is absurd, but it is equally obvious that the sponsors essentially believe it.  Since they mistakenly believe any girl under 18 is not legally able to consent to sex, they also believe that such a girl is literally unable to consent; thus she must have been forced into prostitution and is therefore exploited.  This chain of dependent assumptions turns a mundane reality these people find uncomfortable (that some girls below 18 are both legally and practically able to consent to sex with adult men) into a lurid sex fantasy (that every single prostitute below the age of 18 is a helpless victim of “child traffickers”) which furthers their prohibitionist agenda.

The researchers placed fake escort ads in such venues as Craigslist and Backpage; the ads contained young girls posed and photographed so as to make them appear older.  We are not told how young the models were except that they were under 18; if all of them were 16 or 17 even the most minimal factual basis of the study collapses, and even if they were 14 or 15 they were still posed so as to make them appear (by the admission of the authors) 6-8 years older than their actual age.  In this lies another fatal flaw:  As I have said on several occasions, the most common request is “as young as possible”, and because of this escorts habitually lie about their ages.  Considering that even most amateur women do the same thing, it is both ridiculous and grossly insulting to the intelligence of the male population to presume that all men everywhere are so gullible as to believe every age figure they are given by women; I think it is much more likely that most men tend to ignore the age they are told and instead judge by appearance.  So even when (as described on page 11-12) the false “operators” implied to the men that the girl in the ad was under 18, we have no way of knowing whether the callers actually believed this claim or just assumed it was a provocative lie.  Since the age of consent in Georgia is 16, this allows a two-year “fudge factor” which makes it absolutely impossible to know if even a SINGLE caller actually believed he was going to hire a truly underage (15 or younger) girl; most may have believed they were actually going to meet with girls in their late teens or early twenties pretending to be 16 or 17.  But the study’s authors, ignorant as they are of the behavior of real prostitutes and disdainful as they are of the moral character of customers, presume the exact opposite:  That the men “knew” they would be hiring an underage girl and did not care.  The report states (page 1) “While many of the men who exploit these children are not seeking adolescent females per se, the study also shows that just under half are willing to pay for sex with a young female even when they know for sure she is an adolescent.”  In fact, as we have seen, they know nothing of the kind!

The final catastrophic error in this so-called “study” derives from the authors’ indulgence in the gross logical fallacy of assuming without evidence the total truth of their own beliefs, and then proceeding to extrapolate erroneous deductions from the false conditions they have designed.  Let me explain; the authors presume that not only are the great majority of prostitutes underage, but that they are all dominated or controlled by “traffickers” who prefer to “push” the younger girls for some reason.  We know that absolutely none of these assumptions is true, but the experiment reflects them:  the imaginary “traffickers” who control the imaginary underage prostitutes in their false ads prefer to only send older girls if the clients ask for them or specifically refuse the girl in the picture once they learn she may be under 18.  Based on the presumption that this fantasy reflects the real world, the authors then reach the wholly absurd conclusion that any man who does not specifically forbid an underage girl from virtually ANY online ad whatsoever will definitely end up with such a girl.  Based on this long chain of ridiculous assumptions they state “The numbers are staggering — 12,400 men each month in Georgia pay for sex with a young female, 7,200 of whom end up exploiting an adolescent female.”  This assertion is made on page 1 and repeated numerous times throughout the paper despite the fact that it is so unsupported as to constitute a flagrant lie.

I’ll leave you with a few more false and inflammatory statements from the report:

Our interviewer posed as an “operator”; a person who brokers the purchase of multiple females.

I guess a clinic receptionist “brokers the purchase of multiple doctors”, then?

This is a common situation for men who buy sex from females pictured on the internet.  Very often the phone is answered by an operator who can either connect the customer with the female pictured in the advertisement, or with a variety of other females as well.

Actually, it isn’t.  The vast majority of girls who advertise on Craigslist, Backpage and other such ad sites are independents who answer their own phones.

After all, how can an adult male have sex with a female and not know she is an adolescent?

Because as we all know, at midnight on “magic 18” a woman’s body changes instantly and totally from flat-chested and boy-hipped to curvaceous and fully adult.

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