Propaganda

'She Looked 18'

A Department of Justice-funded "nonprofit" spews prostitution propaganda on Indiana highways.

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Not content to spread false sex-work statistics in the media and legislature, Indiana activists and officials have now put up billboard advertisements to promote their anti-fact, anti-prostitution message. One billboard—emblazoned at the top with "'She looked 18.' She's not"—claims that 13-years-old is "the average age kids are first used in the sex trade."

Any way you slice it, that's simply not true: whether we are talking about the average age of entry into prostitution in general or the average age of minors engaging in prostitution, there's no good evidence to back this assertion and a whole lot to suggest that it's wrong. Even Polaris Project, arguably the most influential anti-trafficking organization in the United States, says that "this stat is not actually supported by any data." Its origin story: a non-peer reviewed study, published in 2001, that's now disavowed by its main author. The age claim is mentioned once throughout the entire 260-page report. It's based on 107 interviews (from the 1990s) with minors who were living and working on the streets or in the care of social-services agencies—far from a representative sample of sex workers. And just to be clear, the report does not claim that 13 is the all-round average age of entry into prostitution, which studies of adult sex workers tend to place somewhere between 18- and 30-years-old.

For instance, a small 2014 study from the non-partisan, nonprofit Urban Institute found that around 53 percent of the sex workers surveyed started between the ages of 18- and 29-years-old. Just 10 percent had started before age 15, around a quarter between the ages of 15 and 17, and around 10 percent at age 30 or above. Arizona State University researcher Dominique Roe-Sepowitz surveyed 500 women who had been arrested for prostitution and found that around 70 percent started selling sex as adults, with an average starting age of around 25 years. Of the 30 percent who did start as minors, the average entry age was around 15.

The misleading ads are made all the more egregious because they're paid for with taxpayer money. The billboards were a project of the Indiana Protection for Abused and Trafficked Humans Task Force, a group that lists itself on Facebook as a "nonprofit" but is funded by the U.S. Department of Justice and headed up by U.S. Attorney Josh Minkler and Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller. In addition to billboards, the group's "Not Buying It" campaign also features ads on city buses and elsewhere.

Another Not Buying It billboard claim is that prostitution is not a "victimless crime" because homicide is "the #1 cause of death for those in the sex trade." This is presented as a reason why prostitution should be illegal, even though the illegality of sex work is precisely what makes it so dangerous; sex workers who can work together, screen clients adequately, and report bad actors to the police are much less likely to fall victim to violence. But beyond that, the claim is completely misleading. While homicide rates are higher for sex workers than the general population, the vast majority of them will eventually get out of the business, grow old, and die of something else. The population we're looking at for purposes of this stat are current sex workers, whom we can safely assume skew heavily toward younger adult women. Within this population, it's still dubious that homicide is the number one cause of death—the billboard "fact" is unsourced, so who knows where the data allegedly comes from. But even if it is true, it's not wildly out of line with general causes-of-death for young U.S. women. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, homicide is the third-leading cause of death for all American women ages 20-24 years old, the fourth-leading cause of death for 15- to 19-year-olds, and the fifth-leading cause of death for women ages 25 to 34.

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  1. Squirrelz turning on their masters, or an attempt at haiku article?

  2. Is it just me or is there no article?

  3. Article or it didn’t happen?

  4. A appreciate Reason’s turn towards brevity.

    1. Brevity is … wit.

      1. BITSOW

  5. Did you ever get the feeling that you’re missing something? Like it’s right there if you squint just right?

  6. I think Elizabeth wants us to crowd source her article.

    So, I’ll start.

    “She looked 18,” said John Hinklescheimer ruefully. He had met her at the Sizzlers in Gary Indiana, where she worked as a waitress. He had thought he had found true love. Instead he ended up in a jail cell, sentenced to 15 years for statutory rape and on three counts of human trafficking (I took her to 6 Flags in Ohio a couple of times and to Chicago to celebrate his promotion to senior account representative at CDW.

    1. You’re playing with fire, you know. What if Sugarfree shows up?

      1. We’ll have to hose down the thread with industrial disinfectants.

        1. Nuke it from orbit, to be sure.

          1. He is here.

            [Runs and puts on isolation suit, takes a heroic dose of ketamine, then jumps into a sensory deprivation tank]

    2. promotion to senior account representative at CDW

      I larfed

    3. Gary got a Sizzler?!?!?!!

    4. W…T….F!?!?!

      I run a perfect starting leg, and *none* of you take my baton?!?!?

      What is wrong with you people?

      1. I run a perfect starting leg, and *none* of you take my baton?!?!?

        So ‘phrasing’ is just a totally dead concept around here?

      2. I don’t want any baton that’s been passed around here.

        1. What about a catcher’s mitt?

          1. He wants to believe he’s mostly a pitcher, not a catcher.

  7. Here’s the rest of the article:

    15 wil get you 20

  8. In before the matrix reboots.

  9. the closest i could find was this presser from 2015 about the Polaris Project (DOJ-funded, focuses on human trafficking) buying billboards in Indiana.

  10. She’s only seventeeeeeen

    1. She’s a frozen fire, she’s my one desire

    2. Pretty young girl of my mind
      Don’t you know? Know I can’t hide
      Can’t hide my feelings
      You’re my girl and you’re sixteen

    3. Young girl, get out of my mind
      My love for you is way out of line
      Better run, girl
      You’re much too young, girl
      With all the charms of a woman
      You’ve kept the secret of your youth
      You led me to believe
      You’re old enough to give me Love
      And now it hurts to know the truth, oh

    4. Fifteen years old, plus one, hotter than a micro-wave o-ven.

  11. I saw him dancin’ there by the record machine
    I knew he must a been about seventeen
    The beat was goin’ strong
    Playin’ my favorite song
    An’ I could tell it wouldn’t be long
    Till he was with me, yeah me,
    An’ I could tell it wouldn’t be long
    Till he was with me, yeah me, singin’

  12. I bet it’s a really good article, too.

  13. I pretty much expect the nation’s highway to be littered with propaganda.

  14. I’m guessing, there’s more to it than this.

  15. The lack of article was a test to throw Fist off.

  16. Helluva job Lizzy!

    1. The squirrels spare no one.

  17. It’s funny that a nonexistent article gathered more comments in a shorter time than something about Doofus Snowden.

    1. We enjoy freestyling. We are a multi-faceted and fun group of people.

    2. Is that Trump’s new title for him?

  18. And now that the article has appeared, I’m sure there will be big changes as a direct result of this brilliant expose.

  19. Maybe 13 is the average age that cops claim to be when they’re online trolling for Epi and OMWC.

  20. with an average starting age of around 25 years

    So shortly after graduating college.

    1. Student loan crisis.

    2. Gotta pay off those student loans somehow.

    3. Student loans are a bitch.

    4. So 20% of them are now successfully getting paid to be sexually assaulted. Career… advanced!

  21. Contest time, who can selectively pull the best quote that makes ENB appear to have a position that is the complete opposite of everything she wrote above. I’ll start:

    prostitution should be illegal… sex workers…. get out of the business, grow old, and die of something else.

    1. This is presented as a reason why prostitution should be illegal, even though the illegality of sex work is precisely what makes it so dangerous; sex workers who can work together, screen clients adequately, and report bad actors to the police are much less likely to fall victim to violence.

      ENB’s libertarian stance on prostitution? “See something. Say something.”

      Next.

      1. However, this is one of ENB’s less slanted articles but it’s because the topic is more clear-cut anti-liberty from both the cultural and fiscal angles.

        We aren’t just expected to defend to adopt a moral stance in favor crazy women who unquestionably murdered their own children and against men who might have personal/marital problems as much as objectively call bogus facts and wasteful spending bogus and wasteful.

        1. I did not know we were expected to do anything after reading a Hit and Run post. I really need to step up my game around here.

          1. At the very least, we are expected to shit all over the poster’s libertarian credentials.

            1. I keep offering to test everyone’s blood for purity with my flamethrower. It is the only way!

              1. Can’t we just weigh them against a duck?

          2. I didn’t mean ‘expected to’ as in your contribution to the forums (or other) after reading as much as ‘expected to’ in terms of the assuming the same assumptions that the writer does.

            Action vs. inaction aside, ‘crazy murderer deserves leniency’ is highly subjective and *any* agreement is gonna be based on loads of assumptions whereas ’13 isn’t the average age at which kids are typically first trafficked’ is somewhat more empirical.

            1. Not to mention that we can agree or disagree about the age of first trafficking without invoking law one way or the other while leniency and murder invoke it directly.

    2. Well done, Handsy.

    3. One billboard?emblazoned at the top with “‘She looked 18.’ She’s not”….. 13-years-old is “the average age kids are first used in the sex trade.”

      Any way you slice it, that’s simply … true: whether we are talking about the average age of entry into prostitution in general or the average age of minors engaging in prostitution, there’s … good evidence to back this assertion…

  22. “Well, you know what us ultra-liberals say, when it comes to children and drugs,lies are OK. The ends justify the means.”

    South Park, My Future Self ‘n Me.

  23. Leave it to the government to mess up even on its core responsibility of stamping out slavery.

    Not only do they spread bogus statistics, so that the actual figure of approximately 1 in 3 looks anticlimactic,* but they conflate consensual adult participants with girls and women who are actually being trafficked.

    And I would include the 1 in three who start as minors – at least those who have pimps – as being trafficked at least at the commencement of their careers.

    Honest statistics would be a key place to start in having the feds and the states fulfill their responsibility of enforcing the 13th Amendment – and of course the 13th Amendment doesn’t just apply to the forced sex trade, but to forced agricultural labor and all the other non-sexy kinds of slavery which nevertheless exist in our fallen world.

    *Phrasing!

    1. But given all the abuses the government commits in the name of fighting slavery, I suppose the libertarian solution is to legalize slavery – as I’m sure ENB would agree.

      /sarc

  24. OK, I’m going to ask seriously: Given the abuses the government commits in the name of fighting slavery, let me ask the pro-choice crowd: Should slavery be legal?

    I mean, do we really trust the government to tell the difference between voluntary prostitution and trafficking? Or between labor-intensive agriculture and forced labor?

    Do we want the government investigating every low-paid worker to see if they’ve been enslaved?

    Do we want the government rummaging through everyone’s bedroom for evidence of sex slavery?

    Do we want warrantless searches of every business in search of slaves?

    And aren’t antislavery activists hypocritical and inconsistent? So why support their legal initiatives?

    1. The antislavery activists are disingenuous because they equate voluntary action with slavery. Low paid workers are not slaves. They voluntarily took the job, and they can quit if they choose. Same with most sex workers. They’re doing it voluntarily. Slavery is forced labor without compensation. Most of what the antislavery activists call slavery is not slavery. It’s simply people choosing to do things that the activists wouldn’t choose to do, and the activists are trying to place the blame somewhere other than on the person who made the choice.

      1. What about *actual* slavery? Should it be legal, since we can’t trust the government and the activists goading it on to tell the difference between slave labor and voluntary labor?

        1. Um, no. We should not legalize owning people as property because dishonest people and their idiot followers equate low wages with forced labor.

          1. Do you see where I’m going with this?

            1. Yes I do. It’s like “Let’s legalize drugs because the drug war is worse than the drugs themselves.”

              The difference being that using drugs is not an unjust use of force, while slavery is. A legitimate function, or rather a duty, of government is to respond to the unjust use of force. It is the duty of government to fight slavery. Unfortunately we have dishonest people and their idiot followers equating slavery with things that are not slavery, and causing all kinds of problems. But that doesn’t mean slavery should be condoned. It means those dishonest people and their idiot followers need to be shamed or worse.

              1. I was actually going for an abortion analogy. I *am* an abortion troll, after all.

                Many of the arguments here for legalizing abortion are like my hypothetical legalize-slavery arguments. The government can’t be trusted, it will investigate every miscarriage, etc.

                1. Not to mention, “look at those hypocritical prolifers, how can anyone can support their agenda?”

                  1. Didn’t need to guess, apparently.

            2. Do you see where I’m going with this?

              Let me guess: Abortion.

                1. As a matter of fact, I thought that my “abortion troll” reputation would immediately lead people to think, “oh, he’s using an abortion analogy!”

                  I wasn’t trying one of those little tricks where I try to fool people into agreeing with me on the pretext that we’re talking about something else.

  25. Question: why don’t those girls who are being trafficked against their will just walk up to the nearest cop and
    say “save my from my enslaver?”

    1. What? A reasonable question? Do you even moral panic, broh?

      1. I sense a disturbance in the force, as if about a dozen souls (the whole commentariat) sucked in their breaths.

    2. Maybe they’re hip to the fact that cops have a habit of arresting people who ask them for help. Going after slavers could be dangerous. Busting some girl for prostitution is easy.

    3. Possibly because the consequence of such a denunciation is that she gets to taken into “protective custody” by CPS. And she subjectively evaluates that loss of freedom as greater than the loss of freedom she experiences with her pimp.

      1. When government gets involved, the cure is often worse than the disease.

        1. It seems that the same problem exists with some homeless people, particularly men. They don’t go to shelters because they perceive that the regimentation of life which exists in the shelters is more “costly” for them than the goods the shelters provide (roof, shower & food). In a shelter one is bound by many rules (the main ones being not allowed to be in bed in daylight hours, having a curfew, having set meal times). I don’t know if there were studies made about the level of violence (including theft) experienced in and out of shelters; would be interesting to know.

          1. In my experience there are basically two kinds of homeless people. There are the ones like myself who were homeless for a while due to circumstance, and there are those who are homeless because it’s a lifestyle. No strings. They have total freedom to go where they want and do what they want because they don’t have to report to a job, pay rent, or anything like that. And they like it that way. You can’t “cure” them because they don’t want to change.

            1. A long while ago I’ve seen a show on TV about a dude who moved up The Great White North of Canada. He had a shack, a rifle and a dog; he basically lived the Inuit lifestyle. Anyhow, what stuck in my memory was the exchange (paraphrased):

              Reporter: your closest neighbour is a thousand kilometres away; doesn’t it bother you?
              Dude: well, it gets lonely every now and then … but I don’t get bills in the mail, either.

              1. MAYBE STEVE SMITH NEED PUBLIC OUTREACH AFTER ALL

        2. “We’re from the government and we’re here to help”

  26. What no references to Don’t Stand So Close to Me or Roxanne? By a group called The Police no less???

    Llewyll Sinclair: “I’m going to crawl into bed with a bottle of amaretto. Good day.”

  27. STEVE SMITH SAY 13 TOO OLD!

    1. STEVE SMITH NOT NEED PUBLIC OUTREACH

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  29. “Another Not Buying It billboard claim is that prostitution is not a “victimless crime” because homicide is “the #1 cause of death for those in the sex trade.””

    What an idiot non-sequitur. It could also mean that sex work is a remarkably safe profession in that sex workers tend not to die from workplace accidents or industrial diseases, unlike a number of legal professions I could list.

  30. the majority of prostitutes starting that young would imply the demand for thirteen year olds is at least equal to the demand for seventeen year olds, wouldn’t it? there’s no way that’s actually true.

  31. Legal experts have suggested that if Congress has the power to require individuals to buy health care insurance, it may also mandate that Americans buy broccoli. Legal experts have suggested that if Congress has the power to require individuals to buy health care insurance, it may also mandate that Americans buy broccoli. Legal experts have suggested that if Congress has the power to require individuals to buy health care insurance, it may also mandate that Americans buy broccoli. – – – – ????? 2017????? 2017

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