The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women Releases Report on Sex Buyers’ Online Reviews in New York State
CATW highlights sex buyers’ own published accounts to demonstrate the sexism, racism, sexual violence, among other offenses, that patronizing prostitution entails.
NEW YORK, NY, June 27, 2022 – The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW), one of the oldest international organizations working to end the trafficking and sexual exploitation of women and girls, has released a report, “From Impunity to Accountability: Deterring Sex Buyers in New York State and Beyond,” highlighting the content of online reviews of men who patronize prostitution, commonly known as sex buyers.
These reviews are published on “hobby boards,” online platforms on which sex buyers describe the sexual acts they have purchased and rate the women’s performances for the benefit of other sex buyers. The reviews do not exist in a vacuum; these men describe acts of such dehumanization and violence they perpetrated against women that the report contains a trigger warning for the reader.
Although sex buyers, 99% of whom are men, are present in every jurisdiction in the U.S. and around the world, the report focuses on ten regions across New York State as a case study due to its sizeable population and the fact that New York City is a major hub for the sex trade and sex trafficking.
The sex trade would not exist without the demand for it. Sex buyers fuel the global multi-billion-dollar commercial sex industry with the money they pay for sexual acts. An offense under New York law but rarely enforced, patronizing is also considered – under both federal and international laws – part of the chain of sex trafficking.
While the media, governments and law enforcement pay some attention to sex trafficking victims and their exploiters, sex buyers largely enjoy an under-the-radar existence; they face little consequence for the harms they inflict on the people they purchase and society as a whole.
“By publicizing their own words, we hope to educate the public and policy makers about the pervasive misogyny, racism, sexual harassment and coercion sex buyers inflict with impunity,” said Taina Bien-Aimé, executive director of CATW. “As a society, we show far more empathy for sex buyers than for the disenfranchised women they purchase; it’s high time we shift that paradigm as a matter of urgency.”
The Sex Trade Survivors Justice and Equality Act was introduced in the New York State legislature in January 2021 to further strengthen laws that prevent sex trafficking and address sexual exploitation. The bill proposes to end the arrests and incarceration of people in prostitution, who are overwhelmingly women; offers them trauma-informed social services and exit strategies; and reinforces holding sex buyers accountable for the lifelong harm they cause.
If enacted, New York could become the first U.S. state to implement this legal framework known as the Equality Model. A number of countries, namely Sweden, Iceland, Norway, Northern Ireland, Canada, France, the Republic of Ireland, and Israel, have enacted such a law, also known as the Nordic or Abolitionist Model. The law recognizes that prostitution is a form of gender-based violence and discrimination, and a barrier to attaining equality.