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Archive for January 27th, 2011

We should know clearly before we discuss this matter; to guess is one thing, to know clearly another. –  Aeschylus

Regular readers will remember the Schapiro Group, a marketing firm which specializes in producing bogus “studies” to prove whatever it is their clients want them to prove, often by the use of redefinition (such as the study in which an “adolescent” was defined as someone under 22) and guessing.  In my column of November 29th I dissected their “study” on what they term “CSEC” (Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children) in Georgia, which claimed to “prove” that 58% of prostitution transactions in Georgia were conducted with “trafficked children” (i.e., prostitutes under 18 who may actually be of legal age of consent), but actually proved absolutely nothing except that the Schapiro Group thinks its readers are fools.  Well, they’re at it again; Brandy Devereaux called my attention to a new study by these same con artists, this one paid for by a group calling itself the “Dallas Women’s Foundation”.  The study is just as fundamentally flawed as the last one, but even more insulting to its reader because it attempts to justify wild-ass guessing (WAG) as a valid determiner of the age of a woman in a photograph; the approach was first used in a previous scam (excuse me, “study”) published last May for the “Women’s Funding Network”, and indeed most of the new paper is lifted directly from the older one (I guess the Schapiro Group believes in recycling).

As before, the report opens by redefining young women as children, but this time (perhaps in response to criticism of its previous boondoggles) the authors actually attempt to justify the redefinition:  “There are several ways to define a ‘child’ according to federal and state laws. Not only does  ‘under age 18’ align with important federal laws defining childhood, but it is a definition widely accepted among the general public.”  In other words, “because many ignorant Americans confuse the term ‘child’ with the term ‘legal minor’ we’re going to let the error stand since it serves our purposes, even though we know quite well that not only are they different concepts, but that the age of consent in Texas is 17.”

It is safe to say that this research methodology is designed to count, over a one-month period, the number of  adolescent females who are acutely commercially sexually exploited, and actively marketed within the local sex trade…collectively the results indicate a significant number of  adolescent girls caught in the Texas sex trade during the month: 28 through escort services [and] 712 through Internet classifieds websites.

No, it’s safe to say (as the reader will soon see) that the methodology is not designed to “count” anything, but rather to produce the exact results the authors wish it to produce, as revealed by the fact that these numbers don’t remotely reflect the percentage of adolescents among arrested prostitutes in Texas or anywhere else.

To understand why it is difficult to study CSEC, it is instructive to define it, as CSEC is both simple and challenging to define.

Translation:  “We have to figure out how to define it so as to prove what we have been paid to prove despite the facts.”

There have been documented attempts to quantify the problem of  commercial sexual exploitation of  children in the United States, however very few of  these involve direct empirical investigations…Most academic and government quantifications represent educated guesswork.

No, most of them represent numbers made up from whole cloth in order to support a panic in the ignorant populace so the government can justify prohibitionist laws against whores.  This represents educated guesswork, and as you can see it generates far more realistic numbers.  Scientific detachment does not produce language like this:

…the majority of  girls trapped in the industry are in their teenage years.  Johns soliciting these girls are engaging in a despicable act, but typically not because the johns are pedophiles.  It seems that most of  the girls they solicit are, in a biological sense, sexually mature.  In fact, it is distinctly possible that johns looking for “young” girls sometimes do not know that the young woman they are soliciting is actually under age 18.  One critical aspect of  this study shows just how dramatically people fundamentally overestimate the ages of  girls posing in mildly provocative ways.  Adolescent girls still appear quite young—which we also document as central to their appeal to johns—but often do not appear to be unambiguously younger than 18.

The authors fully admit that it’s extremely difficult to know the age of a girl by her picture, and also that many teenage girls are sexually mature, yet still insist on referring to male attraction to such girls as “despicable”!  And of course the fact that it’s 100% legal for a man in Texas to have sex with a 17-year-old is ignored; I guess that law is “despicable” as well (what must they think of Hawaii and Idaho?)  Anyhow, it only degenerates from there; the next section insists on using emotionally-loaded but semantically-poor terms like “exploited” and making broad and totally unsupportable statements like “children…are regarded as nothing more than assets to their exploiters” (not to mention self-congratulatory ones like “the study is a quantum leap forward in determining…the magnitude of  the problem”) while continuing to maintain the pretense of scientific methodology.  And here’s the methodology:

When researchers count events that occur at varying degrees of  uncertainty, they typically count probabilities rather than discrete cases.  For a simple example, consider a drawer of  40 identically shaped red and blue marbles.  Imagine trying to count the number of  red marbles while wearing a blindfold.  This, obviously, is an impossible task.  If we knew from previous experience, however, that 25% of  the marbles are red, we would count each marble—without seeing its true color—as .25 red.  We count each of  the 40 marbles in the drawer this way, and sum up the red probabilities to arrive at a red count of 10 marbles.  The problem is, there is no scientifically reliable previous experience on which to base the probability that a girl selling sex who looks quite young is, indeed, under 18 years.  Therefore, we conducted a separate study to serve as this previous experience.

Like all good con artists, the Schapiro Group begins the scam with a reasonable-sounding proposition.  By the authors’ own admission there is no way to objectively know which percentage of whores are under an arbitrary age, so there can be no “previous experience”.  In part two tomorrow, I’ll show you the sophistry they designed in order to trick the careless reader into accepting the proposition that WAGs at girls’ ages are actually “scientific evidence”.  In the meantime, take a look at the article and see how many flaws you can find in it; to list all of them would take a whole week of this blog!

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