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July 2, 2011 10:15 AM   Subscribe

Ashton Kutcher and the Village Voice are at war.

Kutcher and Demi Moore have taken up the cause of ending child sex trafficking. In an interview with CNN, Kutcher said that there are "between 100,000 and 300,000 child sex slaves in the United States today", a claim based on The Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in the U. S., Canada and Mexico, a 2001 study by Drs. Richard Estes and Neil A. Weiner.

The Village Voice published a cover article highly critical of the study; they estimated that there were an average of 827 child prostitution arrests in the United States per year, and questioned not only Estes and Weiner's methodology but also their connections to Shared Hope International, founded by former congresswoman Linda Smith, and Kutcher and Moore's "Real Men Don't Buy Girls" PSA campaign, which seeks to reduce demand for underage prostitutes by shaming their adult johns.

Kutcher's response, via Twitter (he has over 7 million followers), was to tweet companies who advertised with the VV, saying that it "owns and operates a digital brothel", that it "supports the Sale of Human Beings (slavery)", and that it "has a market place for human beings". (The VV has long had ads for adult services.) Kutcher later announced at least one victory, with American Airlines pulling its ads.

Previously on the blue; Linda Smith had lobbied to remove adult ads from Craigslist on the basis that they facilitated child prostitution.
posted by Halloween Jack (96 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
(Via.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:17 AM on July 2, 2011


Ashton Kutcher and the Village Voice are at war.

I heard that in the voice of Laurence Olivier narrating The World at War.

I can recommend it.
posted by Trurl at 10:19 AM on July 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


OH SHIT VILLAGE VOICE GOT PUNK'D.
posted by nathancaswell at 10:20 AM on July 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Real Men Don't Buy Girls"

Last time this came up I thought: Well what things do help stop human trafficking?
posted by The Whelk at 10:23 AM on July 2, 2011


Oh God, the dooce conflagration and now this? A "digital brothel"? Really?
posted by blucevalo at 10:23 AM on July 2, 2011


A "digital brothel"? Really?

10100 bits. Same as in town.
posted by Trurl at 10:25 AM on July 2, 2011 [60 favorites]


As serious as this topic is, the fact that it involves the Village Voice and Ashton Kutcher trivializes it below my "I'm going to pay attention" threshold... It's also the second post on the blue today that demonstrates why Tweeter is inappropriate for actual dialogue.
posted by OneMonkeysUncle at 10:25 AM on July 2, 2011 [8 favorites]


Huh. I hate gawker more. I wish he'd go after gawker.
posted by cjorgensen at 10:26 AM on July 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


also pertinent: Village Voice Media is being sued for having "aided and abetted prostitution as well as the exploitation of children and child pornography"
posted by wayward vagabond at 10:27 AM on July 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Minor correction: it's Kutcher and Moore that have the connection with Shared Hope International, not Estes and Weiner, as my sentence implies.

Also, OneMonkeysUncle, there's no real dialogue going on--Kutcher is just using it as a tool to drive a boycott of the VV by advertisers.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:28 AM on July 2, 2011


Veering a bit (or more than a bit here). Are there any studies showing the effects of decriminalized or regulated prostitution on child sex slavery? Hasn't regulation of the adult film industry, for example, reduced the number of underage performers?
posted by La Cieca at 10:29 AM on July 2, 2011


It's also the second post on the blue today that demonstrates why Tweeter is inappropriate for actual dialogue.

Actually, "Tweeter" is very appropriate for actual dialogue. It's Ashton Kutcher who's inappropriate for actual dialogue.
posted by blucevalo at 10:33 AM on July 2, 2011 [9 favorites]


Doesn't every "alternative weekly" rely on escort ads in the back pages to survive these days?
posted by KokuRyu at 10:40 AM on July 2, 2011 [4 favorites]



Doesn't every "alternative weekly" rely on escort ads in the back pages to survive these days?


Yes. The Village Voice is also the parent company for a huge number of "alt weekly" papers.
posted by palomar at 10:49 AM on July 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Initially, [Estes and Weiner] claimed that [100,000 to 300,000] was the number of children [engaged in prostitution]. It took quite a bit of pressure to get them to add the qualifier [at risk]," he says.
Why the 100k-300k number is dubious:
All runaways are listed as being at risk.

Yet the federal government's own research acknowledges that "most runaway/thrown-away youth were gone less than one week (77 percent)"—hardly enough time to take up prostitution—"and only 7 percent were away more than one month," according to the National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway, and Thrownaway Children 2002, commissioned by the Department of Justice.

According to Estes and Weiner, transgender kids and female gang members are also at risk.

So are kids who live near the Mexican or Canadian borders and have their own transportation. In the eyes of the professors, border residents are part of those 100,000 to 300,000 children at risk of becoming whores.

Interviewed for this story, Estes offers an explanation about the risk of living on the border that hardly wins points.

"All you have to do is go to San Diego and look at who fills the San Diego trolley going to Tijuana on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and it's very, very obvious that the kids are on the way to Tijuana to make money, and they come back Sunday totally stocked," he says. "They go there for cheap drugs, cheap money, cheap sex—[Tijuana's] full of everything. And that's using public transit, right to the border station."
posted by anotherpanacea at 10:55 AM on July 2, 2011 [13 favorites]


Seattle mayor Mike McGinn has major problems with Village Voice Media and Backpage.com.
posted by palomar at 10:56 AM on July 2, 2011


Child trafficking is terrible and Ashton Kutcher is terrible and the ads are terrible.
posted by boo_radley at 11:03 AM on July 2, 2011 [13 favorites]


The tone of the Gawker article is pathetic.
posted by fire&wings at 11:07 AM on July 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


Actually, "Tweeter" is very appropriate for actual dialogue.

The bandwidth is clearly narrower. It would need some unique benefit that outweighs that.

It has one in news reporting. I don't think it has one in political discussions.
posted by Trurl at 11:08 AM on July 2, 2011


Child trafficking is terrible. Ashton Kutcher is terrible. He is incapable of actual dialogue. The ads are terrible. Please don't link to Gawker. The tone of the article is pathetic. I hate Gawker. I wish he'd go after Gawker. The Village Voice and Ashton Kutcher are trivial and they trivialize everything having to do with them. Twitter is inappropriate for actual dialogue. Oh God, now this? Really? For real, really?
posted by -jf- at 11:20 AM on July 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


On rereading, I wish I wouldn't have included "Child trafficking is terrible", because that's true, and appropriate.
posted by -jf- at 11:22 AM on July 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ashton Kutcher and the Village Voice are at war.

Is rooting for Mutually Assured Destruction always wrong?
posted by jonmc at 11:23 AM on July 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


Hmmm...I wonder what horrible transgressions Ashton Kutcher is hiding behind this?
posted by telstar at 11:43 AM on July 2, 2011


Child trafficking is terrible. Ashton Kutcher is terrible. He is incapable of actual dialogue. The ads are terrible. Please don't link to Gawker. The tone of the article is pathetic. I hate Gawker. I wish he'd go after Gawker. The Village Voice and Ashton Kutcher are trivial and they trivialize everything having to do with them. Twitter is inappropriate for actual dialogue. Oh God, now this? Really? For real, really?

That's quite a shtick you've got going there.
posted by blucevalo at 11:44 AM on July 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Actually, if I had to choose between the two, I'd let Ashton live. He was part of a sitcom I enjoyed if only because Red & Kitty remind me of my parents. All the Village Voice gives me is concert dates and the occasional chuckle at their personal ads.
posted by jonmc at 11:47 AM on July 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


Ashton Kutcher is always the bad guy because look at his horrible face look at it.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 11:53 AM on July 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Umm... my husband doesn't buy girls, but he also doesn't walk blindfolded through parking lots. I'm confused.
posted by desjardins at 12:03 PM on July 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Real Men Buy Women?
posted by klangklangston at 12:23 PM on July 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


Buy them what?
posted by jonmc at 12:28 PM on July 2, 2011 [6 favorites]


You would think that if child prostitution were so widespread and lucrative and the Village Voice so integral to it, that the newspaper would actually be doing a lot better than it is.
posted by Legomancer at 12:30 PM on July 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


So are kids who live near the Mexican or Canadian borders and have their own transportation.

Man, I thought One-Eyed Jacques' place got shut down years ago...
posted by kaibutsu at 12:30 PM on July 2, 2011 [19 favorites]


"The only places in which any hard facts about prostitution can be uncovered are those in which our profession is entirely decriminalized, and there aren’t many of those; luckily, New Zealand took the trouble to study prostitution in depth in order to answer fanatics who predicted disaster when decriminalization was implemented there in 2003."
posted by vidur at 12:31 PM on July 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


Its a shame that this topic gets minimalized because Kutcher has been rather silly in the past. Calling it sex slavery also sort of detracts from the fact that it is slavery, plain and simple. I may not personally like Kutcher or watch his work, but honest discussions of modern slavery need to happen. Slavery is not something that vanished after the American Civil War.
posted by midnightscout at 12:35 PM on July 2, 2011 [6 favorites]


Real Men Buy Women?

Buy them what?


I'm pretty sure they don't buy them girls. Beyond that, no idea.
posted by axiom at 12:36 PM on July 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Man, I thought One-Eyed Jacques' place got shut down years ago...

It was reopened earlier this year under the name Beau Soleil.
posted by dave78981 at 12:39 PM on July 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


FEGELEIN, FEGELEIN, FEGELEIN!
posted by clavdivs at 12:39 PM on July 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't get the "pox on both their houses" attitude, Kutcher is clearly the sleaze here. In service of his vanity cause, he mindlessly parroted bad information. Those numbers are ridiculously inflated and does nothing other than shock. The Village Voice responded by taking a hard look at the numbers and noting their flaws. And those flaws are significant - the 100-300k number includes every single child living within reasonable access of the border? Seriously? There's no way to honestly defend that number. This is good journalism.

Kutcher's response? He doesn't defend the figure, he uses his celebrity muscle to hurt his opponent. This is vile behavior.
posted by factory123 at 1:06 PM on July 2, 2011 [39 favorites]


Kutcher and Moore may be stuff for a joke or twenty, but I actually agree with them on this subject. It is, to put it mildly, rather unseemly to see so-called respectable media organizations make money from advertising prostitution. Especially when, quite often, said prostitution is forced. This is also a big issue elsewhere: in Spain the three largest national newspapers have come under attack by an unlikely alliance of left-wing feminists and the Catholic Church for carrying such classified ads, which, judging by the "exotic" pleasures advertised, are very likely to involve human trafficking and forced sex work.
The most fascinating aspect of this case is how Kutcher is using social media to reverse the old saw that you don't pick fights with people who buy ink by the barrel. Even if Kutcher may be using fishy stats, he's fighting a real and despicable state of things, and the Village Voice's exposé was a rather low attempt at diverting attention from VVN's connivance with proxenetism, slavery and organized crime. His Twitter comeback, while shrill, shows that perhaps, from now on, the Fourth Estate may no longer be able to shout its critics into submission. So, attaboy, Ashton!
posted by Skeptic at 1:23 PM on July 2, 2011 [6 favorites]


Right — it's entirely possible to be anti-child-prostitution and also anti-misinformation. Spreading falsehoods in support of a good cause is not a good thing to be doing. It makes your good cause an easy target for detractors, and obscures the true and valid reasons for supporting it.
posted by nebulawindphone at 1:24 PM on July 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


factory123 who are the real sleazes, those who inflate somewhat the numbers concerning a real problem, in order to get some action against it, or those who actually take big $$$ from organized crime for advertising its services? Vile behavior is knowing this, and not only not doing anything to correct it, but actively using your media to attack those who criticize this state of things. I agree with nebulawindphone on the error of using bad numbers to make a good case, but whereas that is merely misguided (and I don't think Kutcher ever claimed to be a statistician), VVN's position is simply evil.
posted by Skeptic at 1:37 PM on July 2, 2011


His Twitter comeback, while shrill

Shrill is not the problem, disingenuous is. Instead of engaging with the VV's argument (which, if it's so badly-informed and illogical, should be fairly easy to refute) instead he's resorting to bullying. And it is bullying, because Kutcher's "reach" of over 7 million is more than 30 times the VV's circulation; he's a lot stronger than they are, at least in the short run.

What this looks like is that Kutcher's vanity was wounded, in particular at the article's suggestion that he took on the cause at least in part as a move to build positive personal PR: so he started swinging fists, and the concern about child trafficking ends up looking only tangential to his hissy fit.
posted by La Cieca at 1:42 PM on July 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I used to work for an alt weekly, which means some of my meager salary came from the sex work of others. Almost a third of the paper's revenue came from those two-to-three pages of (recession-proof) escort ads. Like other alt weeklies, the Voice depends on such ads to stay in business. The company is now called Village Voice Media, but not because the Voice bought out other papers. The Voice was taken over by alt-weekly chain New Times Media (to the chagrin of many now-gone employees), which adopted the paper's name.

I would imagine that the Voice didn't depend on the sex ads quite so much back before they were a free publication (you can thank Russ Smith for that). And let's not even talk about Craigslist. I'm not sure alt weeklies could exist without such ads, but I'm a little put off by how readily they're accepted as the status quo.

We all know that the ads are for prostitution, not for "massage services," or what have you. And while some of the advertisers are independent contractors, or run upstanding, sex-positive businesses, most are not and do not. Even if they're not participating in sex trafficking, a lot of those massage parlors treat their employees like shit. Sometimes, the brothels would send someone to drop off payment in cash. Other times, the paper's runner (usually a young, former editorial intern) would be sent to the brothels to collect payment for the ads. Said runner would inevitably end up with a good bar story about being locked in a closet in Koreatown while all hell broke loose.

Sex trafficking is bad. Kutcher is a twat, the study sounds flawed, and holy shit, that PSA campaign makes no fucking sense.* But it would be interesting to hear an earnest discussion of the roll that illegal services play in supporting independent media, and how else it's supposed to survive. Because, ironically, every time a legit advertiser drops their support of the Voice, it makes the paper even more dependent on sex services for revenue.

(*Real men don't buy girls? So you're making a ha-ha funny paean to the traffickers? Or are you trying to discourage men from participating in the sex industry entirely? You know johns probably don't think of what they do as "buying a person," but buying their services, right? Do you realize that it's unclear that you mean "children" by "girls"? And that girls aren't the only kids who end up in the sex trade? And…)
posted by evidenceofabsence at 1:48 PM on July 2, 2011 [16 favorites]


good for these two.
here is an example of why they are dedicated to this this issue.
posted by clavdivs at 1:50 PM on July 2, 2011


His Twitter comeback, while shrill, shows that perhaps, from now on, the Fourth Estate may no longer be able to shout its critics into submission.

We're talking about a journalistic venue that is probably less powerful now than it has been in thirty years vs. someone who is inexplicably a megacelebrity, and who is also winning his arguments by just, like, making shit up, which is supposed to be off the table for the Fourth Estate. This is less David and Goliath than, I dunno, Woodward and Bernstein versus photoshopped pictures of Megan Fox's butt or something.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 1:56 PM on July 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


La Cieca What argument is Kutcher supposed to answer? That forced child prostitution isn't such a big problem because it involves merely thousands, or tens of thousands, rather than hundreds of thousands?
Bullying is a large media organization that derives a very significant part of its revenue from advertising for proxenetes dedicating a cover story in its flagship paper to attack a notorious anti-proxenetism campaigner. Kutcher's Twitter comeback is the equivalent of the schoolyard bully getting its comeuppance when the scrawny new kid turns out to be a black belt karate fighter.
posted by Skeptic at 2:01 PM on July 2, 2011


Skeptic All Kutcher would have to do is say, "these are widely-accepted figures, but even if the actual numbers are lower than the estimates, then..." Instead he leaps to the hyperbole of "digital brothel" and starts pressuring the paper's other advertisers publicly using the most inflammatory language.

There is an important fight to be fought here, but Kutcher is trivializing it by making it about himself. Even if the VV started it he doesn't have to sink to that level if he has a good argument on his side. But all he has is a (probably) bogus statistic that is at any rate being used wrongly, a simplistic slogan and seven million sets of eyeballs.
posted by La Cieca at 2:24 PM on July 2, 2011


clavdivs That rather is a very good example of the perils of using an inaccurate catchall term like "child prostitution" to apply equally to the forcing of a five year old child and soliciting the services of a young woman over the age of consent.
posted by La Cieca at 2:27 PM on July 2, 2011


What argument is Kutcher supposed to answer?

Did you read the article all the way through? It certainly buried the lede by taking some personal swipes at Kutcher and Moore early on, but it makes a compelling argument. By causing a panic over child sex-slavery, organizations are using a righteous cause to push an anti-sex/anti-adult prostitution agenda.

Meanwhile, none of the millions of dollars which go to these "awareness" campaigns are being used to help the *real* victims; the hundreds or thousands of actual children being forced into prostitution. Instead, we wring our hands over the imaginary hundreds of thousands.
posted by auto-correct at 2:30 PM on July 2, 2011 [8 favorites]


Ashton Kutcher and the Village Voice are at war.

...

I don't suppose there's any possibility that they could end up completely destroying each other?
posted by nanojath at 2:36 PM on July 2, 2011


La Cieca, what is a 'catchall' concerning this issue.
do you have a point. The Heinous nature might not fit your criteria but this monster was an assistant U.S. Attorney in Florida.
posted by clavdivs at 2:45 PM on July 2, 2011


La Cieca Most of those eight million eyeballs would glaze over before reaching the middle of that message. And you just know that journalists would turn it into the headline: "Kutcher admits actual numbers lower than claimed". Which is just what VVN was looking for. Sadly, the first rule of PR mud fights today (let's call it Rove's Law) is "Never admit a mistake", and Kutcher wisely (more wisely than I would have given him credit for) refused to engage VVN on their own terms. Instead, he's hit them where it hurts. Good for him.
Apart from that, I don't see anything hyperbolic in calling those pages a "digital brothel", because that's exactly what they are, and it is altogether disingenuous to try to deny it.
posted by Skeptic at 2:46 PM on July 2, 2011


Sadly, the first rule of PR mud fights today (let's call it Rove's Law) is "Never admit a mistake", and Kutcher wisely (more wisely than I would have given him credit for) refused to engage VVN on their own terms.

The...using actual facts terms? Those terms?
posted by kittens for breakfast at 2:48 PM on July 2, 2011 [9 favorites]


Yeah. Sex services ≠ sex trafficking ≠ child prostitution. All three are problems, and all three overlap to some extent, but they are distinct issues. And I'm still not clear on what the ads are suggesting. They're just asking that men just not participate in the sex industry? That's the big solution?

Again, these are serious and important issues, that do need to be addressed. And I guess it is good that Kutcher and Moore formed a foundation, even if their activities seem restricted to raising awareness. But man, what an inarticulate mess.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 2:49 PM on July 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


OH SHIT VILLAGE VOICE GOT PUNK'D.

In the episode when Justin Timberlake got punk'd, when the shit started going down and The Law arrived and started quoting the law at him, he got in quite a tizz and rang his mummy to come bail him out of his predicament. Bloody hilarious peek into the real person behind the PR machine.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 2:55 PM on July 2, 2011


demi and ashton do more harm than good by putting their support behind this cause.

when perez hilton linked to pictures from the cobra snake's page of demi moore's 15 year old daughter (pictures of her at a party that was heavily photographed and put online), she accused him of child pornography in a flurry of twitter posts.

it's the same way they approach the sex slavery thing - using the worst words they know to shame anyone who doesn't immediately herald them as the saviors to hundreds of thousands of little girls.
posted by nadawi at 2:56 PM on July 2, 2011


kittens Don't be cute. That VVN is earning a very significant amount of money advertising for proxenetes and sex traffickers is just as factual than that Kutcher's numbers are inflated. It's also, incidentally, a lot more outrageous.
posted by Skeptic at 2:57 PM on July 2, 2011


I'm more surprised that Ashton Kutcher is still (was ever?) culturally relevant.
posted by 1000monkeys at 3:05 PM on July 2, 2011


Especially when, quite often, said prostitution is forced.

Cite? How often is "quite often?" Or is this one of those "I made up something I think is probably true" kind of statements?
posted by Justinian at 3:08 PM on July 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


Skeptic, I think it's pretty plain that Kutcher is both simplifying and distorting the issue. It's fine to have a conversation about these things, but his side of the conversation is in bad faith. Even if you're on the side of nice things -- sex trafficking is bad! child prostitution is evil! food is yummy! etc. -- you are still obligated to tell the truth about things. You don't get special dispensation from that just because you're famous and have come out in public against things that almost everyone is against by default.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 3:08 PM on July 2, 2011 [7 favorites]


Sadly, the first rule of PR mud fights today (let's call it Rove's Law) is "Never admit a mistake", and Kutcher wisely (more wisely than I would have given him credit for) refused to engage VVN on their own terms. Instead, he's hit them where it hurts. Good for him.

By automatically going on attack without addressing the numbers , Kutcher is tacitly admitting he has no idea what he's talking about. Honestly, I think he's already cornered himself and if this drags out too long will be seen as a unreasonable looney, much like Tom Cruise (Scientology), Jenny McCarthy (vaccinations), and the Foo Fighters (HIV denialism).
posted by FJT at 3:13 PM on July 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's fine to have a conversation about these things, but his side of the conversation is in bad faith. Even if you're on the side of nice things [...] you are still obligated to tell the truth about things.

Micheal Moore
posted by uncanny hengeman at 3:19 PM on July 2, 2011


evidenceofabsence, just to be clear, "sex services" are not a problem.
posted by vidur at 3:24 PM on July 2, 2011


jonmc: "Buy them what?"

I'm assuming "wholesale" is not a good answer?
posted by boo_radley at 3:27 PM on July 2, 2011


kittens Don't be cute.

Impossible.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 3:48 PM on July 2, 2011 [10 favorites]


There's no moral high ground here as far as the eye can see.
posted by gallois at 3:57 PM on July 2, 2011


Interestingly enough, Demi Moore did some porn herself at the age of 18 (NSFW), which would make Moore herself a child pornographer by some people's metric.
posted by stinkycheese at 4:07 PM on July 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm assuming "wholesale" is not a good answer?

I knew my Costco membership had to be good for something...

Seriously, the dishonesty and outright lying that seems to be an integral part of the current "anti-trafficking" campaigns makes me furious. You don't need to make up ridiculously inflated numbers to convince me that trafficking is bad... but you do need those made up numbers for fundraising, for anti-sex-work campaigns, and to just plain raise the level of hysteria on the issue.

And the more hysteria and "OMG they are going to kidnap my daughter when she lands in Paris", the less likely anyone can address the much more complicated and nuanced ways in which actual, real-life trafficking takes place.

So yeah, I think Kutcher can lick my hairy ass (speaking of hairy, those photos of Demi were some of the first porn I saw as a kid) and find a more honest and ethical way to promote this issue.
posted by Forktine at 4:21 PM on July 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


...such classified ads, which, judging by the "exotic" pleasures advertised, are very likely to involve human trafficking and forced sex work.

Because women never freely decide to have sex for money, and then advertise this service?
posted by stinkycheese at 4:25 PM on July 2, 2011


More than three hundred million children are sex trafficked every day.
posted by Justinian at 4:53 PM on July 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's Ashton Kutcher who's inappropriate for actual dialogue.

blucevalo, he's actively fighting sexual slavery, which is (I assure you, having witnessed first-hand examples) a real problem.

Aside from being cool and snarky, what have you done for the planet?
posted by IAmBroom at 5:19 PM on July 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Aside from being cool and snarky, what have you done for the planet?

Well, he managed to avoid appearing in Dude, Where's My Car?.
posted by Justinian at 5:34 PM on July 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


Correct me if I'm wrong but isn't Kutcher taking over Sheen's role in Two and a Half Men? Given his pet cause, why is he going to be on such a blatantly sexist show with such unhealthy ideas about sex?
posted by Partario at 6:05 PM on July 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Dude, Where's My Car?.

The parts of my brain overrun by cannboids compel me to tell you that is actually an okay movie.
posted by The Whelk at 6:47 PM on July 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not a fan of how Ashton and Demi are playing this, on really any level. And no, they're NOT actively fighting sexual slavery. They're trying to do so, but in the most nonsensical way imaginable, like when I fight illiteracy by flashing cars on the highway with "why aren't you reading a book right now?" tattooed across my chest. I can't imagine that their campaign is having any measurable effect aside from making them more visible and confusing the issue. (Oh, and distracting from his little sex scandal.)

That said, I don't think the Village Voice played in good faith with this one. Someone with more journalistic expertise is welcome to correct me on this, but reading through the article it seems like all of the Kutcher and Moore pull-quotes are from other sources or events. It appears like the Nielson quotes may have been from direct interviews, but did the VV really not bother to contact the subjects of a hit-piece they were writing about mistaken factual inaccuracy? I saw no note about the couple declining comment, and besides it seems like they would have jumped at the chance. Instead it appears that they tried to sneak one by, saying, "we did all of this research and found that Kutcher and Moore are parroting bad information, as is everyone else, but they haven't stopped doing so," but without informing Kutcher and Moore of the research.

Again, I don't know journalistic ethics, but I'm guessing that goes against them.
posted by Navelgazer at 6:50 PM on July 2, 2011


he's actively fighting sexual slavery

He's actively promoting himself as an ideal of masculinity. This is rebranding, not activism. (Think greenwashing.)
posted by anotherpanacea at 7:06 PM on July 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Is it really true that the majority of escort ads in the Village Voice are fronts for child prostitution and sexual slavery rings? Sounds like a bit of a moral panic.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:38 PM on July 2, 2011


Like I said, KokuRyu, at least four hundred million children are sold into sexual slavery every single day!!!!!!!
posted by Justinian at 11:45 PM on July 2, 2011


KokuRyu, if you go to backpage.com, VVN's classifieds portal (and directly accessible through the Voice's website), some 60,000 classifieds out of about 75,000 are for "adult entertainment". And, within those 60,000, two out of three seem to be either for "horny Asians" or "luscious Latinas". I'd say that there's some reason to suspect that there's some human trafficking involved.
posted by Skeptic at 12:06 AM on July 3, 2011


Uh, why? Maybe I'm missing something obvious. Unless by "some reason" you mean "it isn't impossible".
posted by Justinian at 12:07 AM on July 3, 2011


Justinian, either the Asian-American and Hispanic populations are disproportionately likely to be involved in prostitution, or somebody is bringing in women specifically for that purpose. Having seen exactly the same sort of ads on the other side of the Atlantic, I know which hypothesis I find more likely, and just how free those women are to choose a different occupation.
posted by Skeptic at 12:14 AM on July 3, 2011


Navelgazer You're right that the Voice piece is not very good. Kutcher should have been interviewed, or at least the attempt made. Further, the focus of the piece is off my more than just burying the lede. The story amounted to "Startling new facts about child sex slavery suggest that TV's Ashton Kutcher is a sanctimonious bimbo."

And yet, Kutcher didn't have to go and prove them right by behaving like a sanctimonious bimbo, did he?

I've heard "wolf" cried many times, and so I may not be completely surprised if "child sex slavery" turns out to the the "crack babies" of the 2010s.
posted by La Cieca at 12:53 AM on July 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Skeptic, you looked at the escort site, and concluded, based on your impression of common post titles, that certain ethnic minorities are the majority. From this, the only conclusion you can reasonably draw is that there is some sort of intercontinental (i.e. not directly relevant to this discussion, because the original estimate is for American children) trafficking ring, because why else would there be Asians and Latinas doing escort work in lily-white New York, of all places? The 1.8 million Asians and 4.2 million Hispanics living there normally contain not a soul who is either horny or luscious, who might voluntarily undertake sex work.

For shits and giggles, I went to the NYC escort ads on backpage, clicked through the mandatory page asking you to report any ads that may involve underage children or trafficking (with a link to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children tipline) and searched. They seem to keep 100 pages of ads online; there were 6 pages of Latinas, and 31 of Asians. Asians seem to be a common theme, although Latinas aren't at the inflated rates you describe. Almost like it's a fetish of some sort that would be a good post title. Also, I noticed every single ad has an age, and all the ages are over 18, proving, by your logic, that there is no child prostitution taking place there. I mean, I don't trust every word that they say; but I'm not the one trying to enter them into evidence here.

My objections seem minor, though, since there's over 12 billion children who were sold into sex slavery in 2010 alone.

Which, of course, is the problem with the Kutcher approach. The Voice story indicates there are probably thousands of underage prostitutes in the US, and some of them are doing so under various levels of duress. (For anecdata, the only former child prostitute I know personally was abused, addicted and marginalized to the point where prostitution was one of a very limited set of options, but I'm pretty she'd never call it slavery.) Instead of this being an issue that should raise concern, it's become a ridiculous overblown celebrity crusade. Hell, it's on the way to becoming a punchline.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 4:10 AM on July 3, 2011 [7 favorites]


And, within those 60,000, two out of three seem to be either for "horny Asians" or "luscious Latinas". I'd say that there's some reason to suspect that there's some human trafficking involved.

I know you mean well and your heart is in the right place (though really, is anyone here reprehensible enough to be pro child prostitution slavery?). But your logic is, um, less convincing. I glanced through some of the escort ads for NYC; they are all written to sound like independent operators, but I would guess a lot of them are SEO-driven ad copy using stock photos. I noticed about as many saying "Caribbean" and even more "Brazilian," in addition to the Asian and generic Latina ads you mentioned, plus plenty of more focused attributes (blonde, tattoos, fat, two girls one cup ad, etc). Again, I'd assume much less from this about the actual women doing the sex work, and much more about what the writers of the ads have learned about what gets men who are looking for escorts to respond. There are a lot of guys out there with "yellow fever," and the ads reflect that; if there were millions of men with hard-ons for brutalized underaged sex slaves, I think you'd see some titillating hints here and there in the ad copy.

Again, it's a real problem, but lying about the scale of it ends up trivializing it, and prevents people from being able to focus on the real problems faced by sex workers, like a lack of better job prospects, an inability to go to the police for protection when a client beats or rapes them, a vulnerability to exploitation by the agencies that arrange work, immigration and other legal issues, etc. Those are all huge problems, and getting people into a froth about an imaginary 300,000 child sex slaves is a total distraction for everything except that dude's career.
posted by Forktine at 5:23 AM on July 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'd never heard of Ashton Kutcher before this post. However, after reading descriptions of some of the commercials he made, I'm happy to report that, since I do my own laundry all the time (not to mention my wife's and daughter's), I am a REAL MAN. Thank you, Ashton.

Now, may I suggest you shave a little more often, Kutcher? Cause that little 'I'm just starting a beard' thing, or whatever you call it, if that's your look all the time... well... it's kinda corny looking, no?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:10 AM on July 3, 2011


evidenceofabsence, just to be clear, "sex services" are not a problem.

Inherently, no. The way the industry currently operates and is regulated is a hell of a mess, though.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 10:46 AM on July 3, 2011


WRT ethnic minorities making up a disproportionate number of ads: Some of that might be trafficking, but I think it has more to do with plain old illegal immigration. The sex trade is a largely cash-only industry (no social security number required, no tax records kept), and is probably more lucrative than most other lady-dominated, cash-only pursuits, like housekeeping or childcare.

Let's not assume that because people belong to an ethnic minority, they're all sad, powerless victims. For some people, the work is wholly voluntary. For others (and, I'd guess, the majority), the work is quasi-voluntary, in the sense of "chosen, under financial and other pressures, from the few options available." And for some, albeit a minority, it is the result of full-on trafficking.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 10:55 AM on July 3, 2011


And, within those 60,000, two out of three seem to be either for "horny Asians" or "luscious Latinas". I'd say that there's some reason to suspect that there's some human trafficking involved.

There certainly seem to be a lot of migrant workers in the sex industry, but unless you think no woman would voluntarily sell her virtue, that doesn't really imply slavery. To use the word "trafficking" is a bit of a rhetorical trick to conflate the ideas of travelling for work and being sold as a chattel slave. A lot of prostitutes are just women earning a living, and that includes the ones who have travelled from overseas to do it.
posted by wwwwwhatt at 12:05 PM on July 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


...either the Asian-American and Hispanic populations are disproportionately likely to be involved in prostitution, or somebody is bringing in women specifically for that purpose.

It's definitely one of those two options? No other possible explanation?
posted by stinkycheese at 12:18 PM on July 3, 2011


Like I said, KokuRyu, at least four hundred million children are sold into sexual slavery every single day!!!!!!!
posted by Justinian at 11:45 PM on July 2 [+] [!]


KokuRyu, if you go to backpage.com, VVN's classifieds portal (and directly accessible through the Voice's website), some 60,000 classifieds out of about 75,000 are for "adult entertainment". And, within those 60,000, two out of three seem to be either for "horny Asians" or "luscious Latinas". I'd say that there's some reason to suspect that there's some human trafficking involved.
posted by Skeptic at 12:06 AM on July 3 [+] [!]


These are interesting assumptions, but has there been any actual research or reporting or fact-checking that provides reasonably bullet-proof numbers for the Village Voice?

Right now the whole thing sounds like the typical crusade championed by a hare-brained celebrity.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:21 PM on July 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


You think my assumption that at least five hundred million children are murdered sexual slaves every day is interesting?
posted by Justinian at 2:18 PM on July 3, 2011


I admit as much to the hare-brained celebrity aspect, to me it seems trivial compared to the subject matter.

I'd never heard of Ashton Kutcher before this post.

you are lucky, not having cable television is our only sure fire way to avoid him.
demi moore nude link, interesting.

posted by clavdivs at 2:58 PM on July 3, 2011


You think my assumption that at least five hundred million children are murdered sexual slaves every day is interesting?

Jesus, Justinian, you'd think you would know me better than that. Anyway, you haven't answered my question: where is the direct proof linking child prostitution and sexual slavery with the Village Voice, as per Ashton Kutcher's allegations?
posted by KokuRyu at 4:55 PM on July 3, 2011


I would guess there isn't any.
posted by Justinian at 5:12 PM on July 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


I could take Demi Moore more seriously if she would apologise for Blame It On Rio.
posted by meehawl at 6:23 PM on July 3, 2011


I can't help but think that the whole "augh child prostitution and sex slavery is rampant" thing is viral marketing for the "prostitution is wrong" crowd. There is so much good evidence and reason behind full decriminalization, but we keep getting caught up on fringe issues like this which would be MUCH EASIER to eradicate in a society with decriminalized prostitution. Sex ads in a magazine =/= the exploitation of children and sex slaves.

All above aside, Ashton Kutcher is being a despicable queen here. You don't get to righteously champion a cause for the sake of making yourself look good while ignoring evidence and actively seeking to punish those providing it without earning yourself some well-deserved hate.
posted by tehloki at 10:17 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sorry for the double comment

It just strikes me as anti-feminist to campaign against a magazine which offers a place for consenting rational women to offer sex services in the name of eradicating sex trafficking. I almost get the feeling that many of those on this side of the argument cannot conceive of a woman who would willingly sell sex. And it baffles me to try and reconcile this with what is known about prostitutes where selling sex is legal. Perhaps this is just a patriarchal crusade for protection that women aren't asking for.
posted by tehloki at 10:24 PM on July 4, 2011


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