Puritanism is still alive in Plymouth County, Massachusetts, only now it poses as saving people from human trafficking. Earlier this month, five men were charged with "trafficking a person for sexual servitude" after showing up for a sexual tryst at a Plymouth County hotel.
The sting operation was conducted by Massachusetts State Police, the Boston Police Human Trafficking Task Force, and local cops from Plymouth County and the city of Rockland, according to a statement from Plymouth County District Attorney Tim Cruz. Authorities posted ads online pretending to be an adult sex worker.
Five men, ages 26 to 49, took the bait, responding to the ad and showing up at the arranged meeting point. They were expecting to meet an adult woman who wanted to have sex with them, albeit for a fee. Instead, they were arrested and face charges for sex trafficking.
If convicted, they'll be sentenced to a mandatory minimum of five years in prison without the possibility of parole, plus mandatory registration on the Massachusetts Sex Offender Registry. The possible punishment for trafficking an adult for sexual servitude includes up to 20 years in prison and a $25,000 fine.
All five men pleaded not guilty and are due back in court in September.
Per the district attorney's statement—titled "Five Men Charged With Human Trafficking"—the stings were part of "a mission to reduce the demand of commercial sexual exploitation occurring in Plymouth County." Parroting the D.A., the Boston Globe published the arrested men's names and uncritically reported their arrests as the result of a "sex trafficking sting."
Stopping men from paying sex workers for consensual hookups is apparently what Massachusetts law enforcement (and the state's biggest newspaper) thinks that fighting "sexual exploitation" looks like.
Alas, it's an all-too-common misconception (or at times willful misrepresentation) across the U.S. these days, where consensual sex somehow becomes "sexual servitude," "sex trafficking," "human trafficking," and "modern slavery" as soon as money is involved.
Adult women who willingly offer sexual services for money are rendered children, unable to legally consent, while those who would pay them are rendered as horrible predators, deserving of media coverage and sometimes legal penalties equal to those applied to people who rape, abuse, and enslave. The absence of any "victims" doesn't make a difference.
It's yet another reminder of just how divorced from reality (and popular conceptions of exploitation and abuse) U.S. "sex trafficking" and "human trafficking" operations have become.