The sexual exploitation of girls and women is a growing global concern as it should since millions of women and girls become the victims of murder and rape by their pimps and johns everyday. The solution to the sex trafficking of women and girls is an obvious and simple solution: hit the demand for the commodity which is men. Unfortunately, the most simple solution is often the most difficult to grasp for the privileged and their loyal handmaidens. One of those people is Julie Ruvulo. She has recently wrote an article on Forbes about the anti-trafficking activists who are attempting to shut down Backpage.com. The arguments that she presents are ridiculous and the article is full of fallacies and lies about abolitionists who want to end sex trafficking. In activism, it takes more than just dismantling ONE of the enforcers in order for the goal of the abolition of to be successful, activists need to dismantle the system that creates these websites and the attitudes and ideas that reinforce it. This is what the activists are trying to accomplish: Attacking the soldiers so they can get to the leader, without a leader (patriarchy) the rest of the soldiers will fall and separate.
Ruvulo presents her argument by comparing prostitution to committing suicide by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge.
About every two weeks, someone jumps off Golden Gate Bridge.
It’s less than one in a million people, but it’s enough to make Golden Gate Bridge the most popular suicide destination on the planet.
The Empire State Building, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Eiffel Tower and a volcano in Japan were hot spots too until they put up barriers and saw the number of jumpers plummet.
But not Golden Gate Bridge. They refuse to put up barriers, fences, safety nets, high-voltage laser beams or anything else that will ruin the view.
They cite non-physical barriers like the blue suicide hotline phones scattered across the bridge, or Officer Kevin Briggs, a motorcycle cop who’s talked down over 200 people without losing one over the side.
“The bridge is about beauty,” Officer Briggs told The New Yorker. “They’re going to jump anyway, and you can’t stop them.”
The suicide threat could be eliminated by simply tearing the bridge down. And if that sounds like a ridiculous idea, it’s exactly how we’re fighting sex trafficking online.
This comparison is ridiculous because first, committing suicide is different from becoming a prostitute. When you jump off a bridge, you die. When you become trafficked, your body is being sold, raped and abused. You suffer traumatic event after traumatic event when you have to service the johns. The johns you have to service will force you to do sexual acts that you would never do if you either lived in financially dire straits or you are being kidnapped by a strange man and taken to a different country. That is the reality of prostituted women. This is what prostituted women have to suffer for being in a horrible economic situation and desperate to leave their environment. It isn’t the same thing as suicide, where one person who is either depressed about a situation beyond that person’s control or they suffer from a serious mental illness. Ruvulo seems to believe that abolitionists such as myself are idiots. That we do not know how the internet works. That we have no clue how capitalism works. Taking down one website will only solve the problem on THAT website alone. It won’t solve the problem on a global and societal scale.
Women who live in patriarchy become hyper-sexual and subservient beings who cater to the needs to the needs of men. This is their only means of survival. There are a majority of women who wish that they do not have to conform to these patriarchal tropes in our society but feel that they have no choice because the outside forces are so powerful beyond comparison. This is similar to how women are effected by prostitution. Women would rather not be prostituted and basically endure paid rape in order to afford their next meal. But the outside forces, such as, poverty, racism, misogyny and capitalism have a very strong influence in their decision-making. It would be dishonest to say that the choices we make are often independent from outside influence.
Ruvulo also uses “guestimation” in order to make her point that we are all just a bunch of dummies that do not know how the internet works at all!
So let’s have some fun with numbers. If we assume 14,000 adult ads a day on Backpage, times 365 days a year, divided by 2,695 suspicious ads, we’re looking at something like 1/20 of a percent of the ads might be advertising something that shouldn’t be for sale.
Granted, this is a guestimate based on other guestimates. We don’t actually know how many ads are for victims, but one online trafficking researcher told me it’s like trying to find a needle in a haystack.
This does not diminish the problem of online sex trafficking – but it informs how we should be fighting it
Yes, that is one of the many ways in which prostitution can be eliminated, it is through education and prevention of child sex trafficking and prostitution. Though, education is often not enough. Action needs to be taken, political consciousness needs to be radicalized and systems need to be dismantled and changed. The argument that is presented doesn’t prove a point about how we are doing abolition wrong. While it is fair to say that simply guessing the certain advertisement may be for victims and small children will not speed up the progress of eliminating sex trafficking, it is simply ignorant to say that is not worth it to at least attempt to make a dent in the castle walls of patriarchy and female oppression.
Ruvulo seems to believe that abolitionists are the same as people who try to ban pornography back in the 70’s. As presented in this quote:
See, they say they want to end sex trafficking, a cause every single one of us should get behind, but their strategy to get there is to abolish prostitution from the face of the internet.
They even call themselves the abolitionists. They believe prostitution (and pornography for that matter) is inherently harmful to women, so we should get rid of it.
In fact, some of the leaders of the war on Backpage are the same women who fought to make porn illegal in the 70’s. Gloria Steinem. Dorchen Leidholdt.
They lost that battle to free speech, but that was before the internet, when there were less than 90 porn publications in the entire country
Oh noes! Steinem is trying to make porn illegal! Those dastardly women and their prudishness! How dare they kill my orgasms! ARRRGGHHH! In all seriousness, the argument of “free speech” is often a derail tactic used by the privileged to silence dissent. Of course, they lost! They were up against a large group of entitled men who used their own invention (AKA The Constitution) to continue abusing women without any objections from either society or the law in general terms.
Ruvulo keeps going with her insult-a-thon by basically using popular media sites such as Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook to basically argue that prostitution and pornography are everywhere and that it CANNOT BE STOPPED because of reasons that she does not go elaborate on. She also basically repeats the same question “Did you know that there are other internets out there?” I would answer this question with “No shit, Sherlock!”
It is quite obvious that throughout the article that she believes all of us to be stupid. There is no point in continuing on with it, it is all just a bunch of examples of sites with a bunch of other sex advertisements and “possible solutions” to the problem. Of course, these solutions won’t tackle the demand and can be easily slipped through if the trafficker is cunning enough to cover his tracks. If you are brave enough to read the article in full, it is at the bottom of the page. Have fun, unfortunate readers!