Cry of the Twitter Twerps

You may be aware of this ridiculous “Real Men Don’t Buy Girls” campaign started by dim bulb celebs Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher. You can google or Youtube the commercials. They exemplify everything wrong with how Hollywood approaches issues:

  • The campaign started because the two yo-yos involved watched a documentary on sexual slavery in another country.
  • The focused on this as a morally simple issue. No one is for child sex slavery. So even if their solutions were useless or even counter-productive, they would still earn unwarranted praise.
  • They were then exposed to a “study”, now cannon, that claims there are between 100,000 and 300,000 underage girls in sexual slavery in the United States, a number they have repeated endlessly.
  • Being Hollywood idiots, they decided that, instead of learning something about the issue, they would make “funny” commercials under the theme “real men don’t buy girls”. These commercials are the “We Are the World” of their time and about as entertaining. Apparently, men who relax by raping children might be dissuaded from doing so by a commercial.

There are gigantic problems with the campaign, most of which were exposed in this week’s Village Voice article. The Voice has been a target of trafficking claims since it runs escort pages. But they marshaled a very damning case against the “Real Men” thing.

First, there’s the 100-300,000 girl claim. It’s garbage, as Maggie McNeill has demonstrated numerous times. We have about half a million prostitutes in the country total, which makes the 300,000 number look insane. It would mean about 1 in 100 underage girls are in sexual slavery at a time when crime rates in general and sex crimes in particular are plunging like the reviews on one of Kutcher’s movies. It would mean there are almost as many child sex slaves than there are child Jews, slightly fewer teens in slavery than teens who are lesbians and many more child prostitutes than child Muslims. It would mean entire communities would be pillaged by pimps.

But you don’t even need to go that far because the study doesn’t even say what Kutcher says its says. The study actually says that 100-300,000 are “at risk” with “at risk” being defined so loosely that all runaways are considered at risk. More scientific approaches indicate there may be 10-20,000 underage prostitutes of any kind and only a small fraction of those are doing it against their will. The experts cited by the Village Voice estimate that the number of sexually exploited children is more in the hundreds or low thousands.

Now any child in sexual slavery is a horrific tragedy. Thankfully, there are a host of smart things we can do about it. We can legalize prostitution for adults, freeing up resources to help minors. We can throw more money at shelters and counseling for underage kids. We can throw people off the sex offender list that don’t belong there so we can keep a closer watch on the truly dangerous (preferably from inside a prison cell). We can especially focus on LGBT or promiscuous kids who are thrown out of their homes and sometimes turn to whoring just to survive.

But that wouldn’t make the Hollywood celebrities feel good and it wouldn’t line the pockets of various organizations and it wouldn’t please the anti-prostitution forces. And that may be the most devastating part of the Voice article:

Despite the tidal wave of cash going to nonprofits purporting to raise awareness and task forces hoping to prosecute (with little track record of success), someone’s been left out: the victims.

Although Congress has spent hundreds of millions in tax-generated money to fight human trafficking, it has yet to spend a penny to shelter and counsel those boys and girls in America who are, in fact, underage prostitutes.

So the Hollywood celebs get to fell good about themselves, the non-profits rake in money, the politicians get to grandstand and … no one is actually helped.

Naturally, when this sort of gig is exposed, the beneficiaries react. And react they have. Kutcher has gone on the warpath on Twitter, calling on sponsors to abandon the Voice and successfully getting American Airlines and Domino’s to pull out. It’s hard to blame the companies; they’re not interested in the subtleties of the issue. But it tells you what shaky ground Kutcher is on that he’s having a Twitter Tantrum consisting mainly of linking shaky studies and horror stories.

Now I would normally ignore this. I like it when celebrities expose themselves as idiots. But there is a potential for this campaign to make things far worse. For one thing, the campaign has made it clear that they want to target all prostitution, no just child prostitution and the federal money is flowing to prohibitionist causes. This will inevitably make things worse as it’s much easier for the authorities to bust consenting adults who advertise at the Voice than little kids who are shopped in secret. So they can claim they are “cracking down” when they are, in fact, diverting precious resources away from the problem.

(I’ll leave you to ponder the condescension of a famous celebrity, who could bed any woman he wants, telling men who may not have other options that they’re not “real men” if they hire a consenting adult woman.)

For another thing, Kutcher and his minions frequently conflate trafficking in child sex slaves with all human trafficking. But the vast majority of human trafficking involves smuggling willing people into this country from Mexico and other central American countries for work. I oppose illegal immigration, but conflating it with child molestation is going to create the same problems as conflating adult prostitution with child molestation: resources will be diverted to attack the larger, easier but less insidious problem. We’ll nab tens of thousands of illegals at the cost of neglecting the actual child prostitution problem.

This debate finally illustrates why I get so terminally focused on numbers and data and defining issues as clearly as possible. In order to address a problem, you have to define it and characterize it correctly. You can not get distracted by side issues and irrelevancies. People who exploit children are sneaky and devious but, thankfully, not very common. We need to go after them with the law enforcement equivalent of laser bombs, not carpet bombs. Leave the adult whores and the illegal immigrants out of it. Work the problem.

And ignore the self-satisfied celebrities.

Update: Just to make one thing clear: I think Kutcher is sincere in wanting to combat human trafficking, which is admirable. But I think he’s going about the exact wrong way, the Hollywood way, which is not admirable. It makes him feel good but it doesn’t do anything to solve the problem. And I think, deep down, he suspects this, given his reaction to the Village Voice calling him out.

In the best of all worlds, this foofaraw would end in smarter action. I somehow doubt that will happen. All he’s doing at this point is aiding more destructive policy.

Comments are closed.

  1. Seattle Outcast

    Why buy when you can rent one in Mexico for $50?

    Seriously though, making prostitution illegal just makes the problem worse. Since ALL of it is underground you end up with infected hookers and clients, pimps, underage girls (and boys), and rampant drug use.

    Want to end the problem? Make would-be hookers get an entertainer’s license, a clean bill of health twice a month, and arrest them for not using condoms. The criminal element would leave the industry and you’d get a better class of hooker.

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  2. Kimpost

    I know that people should be able to decide what to do with their bodies for themselves. I can even respect that. However I also recognize that prostitution in general is a very ugly business. There’s a difference between the utopian rationale and the realities of the thing.

    I’m not saying that I’m against having it legalized, but on the other hand how many fathers wish for their daughters to be prostitutes? Until such a day comes (and it may never come), the profession will be stigmatized as a choice for the beaten down. A desperate choice for desperate women – even if there always will be exceptions to that rule.

    As for Kutcher and Moore, I have no problems with them fighting prostitution. Making it uncool and ugly to buy sex is fine, even from adults. But using their influence to scare advertisers over some kind of editorial dispute is overstepping things.

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  3. hist_ed

    The biggest problem is that we live in a society that takes empty headed actors seriously. Whenever any of them starts some sort of campaign my initial reaction is “Shut the fuck up and do your job”

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  4. Hal_10000 *

    Well, one of the reasons parts of prostitution are so beaten down is because it’s illegal. They have zero legal protections and are often blackmailed by law enforcement.

    However, the ugly business aspect of it is mostly confined to streetwalkers, who are a small fraction of the total prostitute population. For non-street-walkers, it’s different. The rate of disease, for example, can be lower than promiscuous adolescents. Among Nevada’s registered prostitutes, who are regularly tested for HIV, the HIV infection rate is zero. And most do not have pimps.

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  5. richtaylor365

    I find “Hollywood” activists and meddling into things they don’t know much about as insufferable as the next guy. But when pressed for a position, would probably be doing the same thing myself.

    I am by no means wealthy by any manipulation of the word, but am able to target a few charities, some I have an affinity for and give money. Although my contributions are not much and I have no illusions that I am changing the world, to be in a position of real wealth so that you could make a demonstrable difference, to me, that is the epitome of cool.

    Most of the big time tennis pros have foundations established where a cause has been chosen, fighting cancer or a particular disease that has effected their family, building schools or wells in Africa, fighting illiteracy or poverty in the world, whatever floats their boat, and they can make a difference. By stature of their position, not only can they give gobbs of their own dough, but have a ready made platform to broadcast to the world the particular worthiness of their cause, and get other people to pony up money for the cause.

    Altruism is a noble endeavor, even for the Hollywood pinheads, if they are giving their time, voice, or money to some cause that will make the world better then how they found it, I give them their proper props.

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  6. AlexInCT

    •The campaign started because the two yo-yos involved watched a documentary on sexual slavery in another country.

    Funny how the same people that “hate” sexual slavery are also the ones that fight hard to close “sweat shops”, then wonder why these girls that were working at these sweat shops end up being sex slaves. In general the more time the media gives one of these empty headed celebs, the more inclined I am to think that whatever they are pushing isn’t just going to be detrimental, but will cost lives in the real world. The smart ones, and there are a few, are purposely ignored, or even demonized, because they laugh at the lefty establishment and their idiocy.

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  7. Seattle Outcast

    The problem is that actors (and entertainers in general) are basically a group of vapid, poorly educated yet highly visible dimwits. Many of them are just barely smart enough to figure out that once the fawning dolts are overlooked, the rest of the world pretty much dismisses them as being inappropriately famous.

    For some reason they feel the need for the world to take them seriously, so they jump on some political bandwagon or cause and start using their celebrity to push it. So what happens, Bono is considered a world-class dick, Angelina Jolie and Madonna are “baby snatchers”, etc. Outside of the entertainment tabloids and programs most people just wish they’d shut the fuck up and get back to doing what we pay them to do – keeping us entertained like the little court jesters they are.

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  8. InsipiD

    The problem is that celebrities are notoriously awful at choosing charities to support. If you watch Celebrity Jeopardy, for every 3 playing for something like St. Jude, there’s one playing for something like Zero Population Growth. There are a lot playing for stuff like Greenpeace or PeTA. I’d like to see one play for the NRA or even better Focus on the Family. So many heads would explode that you wouldn’t be able to rent Servicemaster for months.

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  9. Hal_10000 *

    Funny how the same people that “hate” sexual slavery are also the ones that fight hard to close “sweat shops”, then wonder why these girls that were working at these sweat shops end up being sex slaves.

    BINGO. This is exactly what happened when Bangladesh shut down sweat shops.

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  10. Kimpost

    I had to go and check Focus on the Family out. Perfect. They had articles with titles such as “Understanding Your Husband’s Sexual Needs” and “Building a Pure Marriage”. :)

    Celebrities should absolutely donate to them. And NRA. And to the Westboro Baptist Church. Certainly would be way funnier than the usual Red Cross, Unicef, Greenpeace and what not.

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  11. JimK

    Gotta admit, FotF is NOT my favorite group in the world. Hardcore social conservatism is about as opposite from me as hardcore hippie liberal idealism. Their ideas about popular culture are at best hilariously stupid, and at worst intentionally mis-representative and agenda-riddled.

    Was re: the topic? Celebrities that go heavy-handed with their charity shit annoy the living fuck out of me. I tune them out completely. Nathan Fillion does a lot of charity stuff but it’s never in your face and never over the top. He uses his Twitter account to simply point out things he likes and asks you to check them out. I appreciate a celeb using their platform in that way.

    Kutcher can suck a fart out of my ass.

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  12. Hal_10000 *

    I agree, Jim. There are lot of celebrities who support charities quietly and without a fuss. If I remember correctly, Bill Cosby donated tons of money to black colleges for scholarships and faculty hires without making a big fuss out of it.

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  13. Rann

    What always pisses me off is the commercials with some celebrity tearfully pleading with me to spend “just pennies a day” to feed and house the third-world kid they’re holding in their arms like it was a pet poodle.

    It always makes me think “Bitch if you care so much why aren’t YOU feeding them? Stay in a Motel 6 while you make the movie, live in a cheaper area than Southern California, and give the rest to build these kids a fucking town. Or hey, maybe just stop spending your money on $1000-a-plate Democratic fundraisers and give it to them instead.”

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  14. CM

    I can’t understand why it’s not acceptable to enjoy their earnings AND give lots away and promote causes they see as being important. Why shouldn’t anyone be able to do both without someone abusing them? There doesn’t need to be any hypocrisy there. I don’t see why they can’t do both. When you’re a celebrity in many ways your time is far more valuable than any additional money, because it can leverage much much more. And they can be involved in policy/strategy/implementation issues.

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  15. CM

    One German company buckled under pressure from activists, and laid off 50,000 child garment workers in Bangladesh. The British charity group Oxfam later conducted a study on those 50,000 workers, and found that thousands of them later turned to prostitution, crime, or starved to death.

    http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,119125,00.html

    Sometimes the bad is better than the really bad.

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  16. HARLEY

    Celebrities should absolutely donate to them. And NRA.

    THE NRA!?? hell most of teh population of Tinseltown, think the NRA is a terrorist organization! they just as soon support one that has blood on its hands like Hamas…………. oh wait…. they have.

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  17. CM

    The problem is that actors (and entertainers in general) are basically a group of vapid, poorly educated yet highly visible dimwits. Many of them are just barely smart enough to figure out that once the fawning dolts are overlooked, the rest of the world pretty much dismisses them as being inappropriately famous.

    I’m not sure entertainers are any brighter or stupider than the general population. Would be interesting to read some research on that.

    For some reason they feel the need for the world to take them seriously, so they jump on some political bandwagon or cause and start using their celebrity to push it. So what happens, Bono is considered a world-class dick, Angelina Jolie and Madonna are “baby snatchers”, etc. Outside of the entertainment tabloids and programs most people just wish they’d shut the fuck up and get back to doing what we pay them to do – keeping us entertained like the little court jesters they are.

    Such elitism Seattle! ;-)
    What percentage of the population wishes they would just shut the fuck up though? I would have thought it was pretty small really. How many people really do consider Bono to be a world class dick? Not sure this place is a good indication.

    A thread with Bono in it and loserlame has just been banned. That’s classic. He usually waits for years to have a legitimate opportunity to write 50 posts about Bono. LMFAO.

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  18. Seattle Outcast

    I’m not sure entertainers are any brighter or stupider than the general population. Would be interesting to read some research on that.

    Have you ever met any? I have – smart ones are a minority. But you can always watch their antics in the news – singers in particular seem to be blithering idiots.

    How many people really do consider Bono to be a world class dick?

    Other than the tabloids, who actually likes him? I’ve never talked to anyone that actually held him in any esteem. Not to mention that he’s a tax cheat….

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  19. Mississippi Yankee

    A celebrities sole function in life is “Dance Monkey Dance”. Nothing mere, nothing less. This is inclusive of people in music, films, TV, sports whatever.
    Their opinion means less to me that my worse neighbors. At least my worse neighbor understands maintaining a household.

    BTW, there are no legal pimps in Nevada. In the 3 counties where it is legalized (two in the North one in the South) all business is carried out in Houses of Ill Repute. And the closest one to Las Vegas is in the next county 70 miles away.

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  20. CM

    Have you ever met any? I have – smart ones are a minority. But you can always watch their antics in the news – singers in particular seem to be blithering idiots.

    Have you met enough to constitute a big enough sample?
    Normal people don’t appear on the news when they screw up. We hear all about Hollywood types screwing up because that’s what the gossip media survive on. So it might appear that they are dumber.

    Other than the tabloids, who actually likes him? I’ve never talked to anyone that actually held him in any esteem.

    Plenty like him. Cumulatively they pay out a ridiculous amount of money proving it.
    Again, perhaps your sample size isn’t big enough, and it’s also heavily biased towards people who think like you do.

    Not to mention that he’s a tax cheat….

    Not quite. As far as I know nothing illegal has occured. Like all large corporations they decide to pay their tax where the rates are the lowest. Do you consider pretty much all large corporations ‘tax cheats’?

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