Essentially, what we have here is a massive, coordinated, and federally funded vice sting. – Elizabeth N. Brown
Five years ago I published “Reading Between the Lines“, my dissection of the FBI press release of that year’s “Operation Cross Country”, the fifth in a series of coordinated pogroms against sex workers perpetrated under the umbrella of the lugubriously-entitled “Innocence Lost Initiative”, which has been going on since the dawn of the “sex trafficking” hysteria in 2003. Since then there have been four more such operations, each growing larger and victimizing more sex workers. Expressed in plain English, “Innocence Lost” is an immense boondoggle designed to funnel federal funds into local police departments for the harassment of adult sex workers on the basis of misdemeanor laws against wholly consensual activities the US government wishes to discourage in the name of “morality”. Of course, that’s not how it’s sold to the American public; the typical “Operation Cross Country” story fawns on cops to a truly fellatory level and swallows every drop of “enslaved children” funk with the greatest enthusiasm. Here’s an example from the Wisconsin Rapids Tribune:
…Nationally, 149 underage victims were rescued and 153 “pimps” arrested in 135 cities during an initiative dubbed “Operation Cross Country IX” the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced Tuesday…Because the women have few other options, police have realized that arrests will seldom convince them to leave prostitution…Officers in last week’s crackdown used a different approach: Women who cooperated were given a canvas bag of supplies indicative of a fresh start. Each bag…contained a blanket, socks and toiletries and was designed to convey a message that someone cares…Nationwide, the youngest victim was 12 years old…
Before we get to the meat of the matter, I need to ask: Can you imagine any sane human, no matter how much she dislikes her job, being convinced to rat someone out to the pigs AND give up the income that pays for her rent, bills and food because someone gave her some socks, toothpaste and tampons? It would be hilarious if it weren’t so mind-bogglingly insulting and infantilizing. But that’s a small-town paper, right? Surely a publication from an ultra-sophisticated place like Seattle will be different:
A weeklong FBI operation aimed at helping sexually exploited children recovered three juveniles in Washington state. The FBI task force also made contact with 119 adults who were being victimized through prostitution. FBI spokeswoman Ayn Dietrich says some of the adult victims had been forced into engaging in prostitution since they were juveniles. The victims were offered services in the community, including job training, housing, counseling and medical help…
“Offered services in the community” means “here’s a pamphlet from the Department of Human Services”. In other words, they didn’t even get the bag full of bog rolls. But the important thing to notice here is the lie that the stings were “targeted” at “rescuing children”; if that were really true, they have some mighty poor aim. In the very first “Operation Cross Country” story I covered, 69 “children” (in other words, 16- and 17-year-old young women) were “recovered” (in other words, arrested) along with 99 “pimps” (in other words, male sex workers, drivers, roommates, boyfriends, older work partners and maybe about 7 actual pimps) and – here’s the meat – 768 adult female sex workers. After 2010, someone at the FBI must’ve realized that the arrest proportions, more than 10 adult sex workers arrested for every teen even in an operation specifically targeted at young-looking sex workers, demonstrated the egregiousness of the lie that most whores are underage; they therefore stopped reporting how many adult sex workers were arrested nationwide, leaving activists to make estimates based upon local news reports and the proportions of earlier pogroms. And it looks like this:
This year, the proportions are harder to calculate; in previous years, the number of adult sting victims was about 11x the number of underage ones, or 7-8x the number of “pimps”. But this year, the number of claimed “pimps” is almost the same as the number of “rescued children”, probably because male & transgender underage sex workers who were previously charged as “pimps” were this time counted as “victims” (which might get the “pimp” conviction rate above the usual 4% this time). That puts the number of adult sex workers arrested at somewhere between 1200 and 1800; it’s impossible to get a much closer estimate because the FBI doesn’t want us to have one, though the indispensable Elizabeth Nolan Brown gave it a try. It’s heartening to note that the curve is flattening; taken together, the number of underage sex workers and people charged with “pimping” this year is only barely higher than the number charged with “pimping” alone last year, and that means it’s likely that the number of adult sex workers assaulted, robbed, caged and possibly raped by cops is also probably lower than last year. Does this mean that sex workers are getting wise to cop’s tricks, or that the cops are getting sloppier, or both? And will the numbers continue to drop next year, or will the federal government double down by vastly increasing the amount of money and manpower it dumps into persecuting adults for daring to have unlicensed consensual sex? Only time will tell, because you can be sure the FBI won’t.