Village Voice Media regarding their facilitation of sex trafficking and prostitution on the World Wide Web.
Letter from Prostitution Survivors Regarding Backpage.com Protest
June 12, 2012
As survivors of prostitution, we stand in solidarity with those boycotting Backpage.com for the following reasons. Some women who identify as prostitutes are also pimps, which means they are making a living by selling of other women to men. Female pimps who pose as women in prostitution confuse those who are unfamiliar with the reality of the sex industry and their actions serve to reinforce the myths around prostitution, especially the myth of prostitution as a “career choice” that women freely choose and enjoy engaging in.
SWOP's protest against our Backpage boycott is like sweatshop owners protesting against those who managed to escape sweatshops. The Sex Worker's Outreach Project USA (SWOP) was founded by Robyn Few who has pled guilty to promoting interstate prostitution, a charge associated with sex trafficking. This creates a conflict of interest and taints the organization's ability to advocate for women seeking to escape prostitution. Research shows that almost all prostituted people want to get out immediately. A recent study found that 92% of Native women in prostitution want out now. Based on our personal experiences, conversations with other women in prostitution and research, we believe the women supporting Backpage.com are a small but vocal minority. This does not mean there aren't well-meaning people within SWOP. But the organization itself is suspect because it is affiliated with other pimp-founded or pimp-dominated groups.
The connections between child and adult prostitution are indisputable. The average age of entry into prostitution in the US is 13. By the time an “average” girl in prostitution turns 18, she has been abused countless times as a minor by adults. Turning eighteen does not does not magically change the poverty, sexual violence and abuse, lack of education, racism, sexism, homophobia, and disability which lead to and are perpetuated by the prostitution trap.
The supporters of Backpage.com use a story of a woman who claims Backpage.com saved her life when she was a destitute single mother by offering her the ability to sell herself. We hate it that she's been through this and we support her right to understand her experience. But supporting Backpage.com while at the same time acknowledging the dire conditions of many who prostitute and are prostituted through the site makes no sense to us. We feel sad and angry for those being hurt through Backpage.com and globally in prostitution.
Instead of spending energy to support a site where pimps post ads to sell the women and youth they control through violence, addiction, and insidious mind games, we can work to end the exploitation and violence of prostitution and create real choices by supporting housing, treatment for trauma and addiction, and better exit opportunities for people in 'the life.' It is not necessary to support a money-generating media outlet that trafficks the lives of those who typically have few choices and who have been abused and exploited for years. The youth and women in prostitution matter, they are precious and they deserve more. Signed,