Ripples June 5, 2012 9:33 AM   Subscribe

I wanted to follow up on the Russian human trafficking story that unfolded here in 2010.

As a few of you might know I am the mayor of the town I live in. It's a very bucolic, sleepy small town, or as much as you can be five miles from the Philly line. Anyway we have had an "Asian massage parlor" in our town going back decades, with occasional prostitution arrests, etc. For some reason the business was able to keep a low profile, and many residents weren't aware of it. Those that were came to believe, I think, that there was either no will or no way to get it shut down. It was kind of "wink-wink-nudge-nudge" accepted. I was as guilty as anyone.

About six months into my term I followed along with the rest of you while the Russian thread unfolded here on Metafilter, and it really got me thinking about the lives of the women working at our thriving little business, whether they might be there involuntarily, and what, if anything I could do about it in my position. They were rarely seen outside and seemed to live at the business. And I have two daughters. So I followed some of the links in the Russian thread and learned more about the AMP model of human trafficking. I got to know the good folks at Polaris Project, and began to explore with my colleagues what a very financially limited, litigation-averse municipality might do about this.

I enlisted the support of some other community leaders, educated officials & residents about the business and about human trafficking in general, and helped focus everybody on the implications of this business for the women there and for our community. Very long story short, this week we were finally able to issue the order to close down the business, and are now working with social services agencies to see if they can somehow prevent the outcome of these women being moved to another AMP.

I know that in the big picture what we accomplished took forever, was pretty minor, and human trafficking will chug along like it always has, but I wanted the MeFi community to be aware that it was in fact the original Metafilter post that started a whole chain of events that ended this horrible exploitative practice at least in our community. I was very proud of my town when last night, after we announced at a council meeting that the business would finally be shut down, one of the first questions from the audience was "What will happen to the women?" That right there was Metafilter.

So, long after the fact, thanks for opening my eyes and inspiring me to open the eyes of many others.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders to MetaFilter-Related at 9:33 AM (251 comments total) 162 users marked this as a favorite

Hey, this is freaking awesome. Way to go. (And let us know what happens with the women!)
posted by SeedStitch at 9:39 AM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wow. That's amazing.

(And yes, let us know how this turns out for the women!)
posted by sonika at 9:44 AM on June 5, 2012


Good work
posted by OmieWise at 9:49 AM on June 5, 2012


I assume that between "learned more about the AMP model" and "closed down the business" you actually did determine that this was a human trafficking situation...
posted by DU at 9:51 AM on June 5, 2012 [14 favorites]


Glad to hear it. Well done, ssF!
posted by Zonker at 9:52 AM on June 5, 2012


I am always torn between "yay, the women are no longer being horribly exploited" and "hmm, they have now lost income for their families, and there are no other options available to them to make a living."
posted by Melismata at 9:59 AM on June 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well done! You may characterize it as "pretty minor" but it's a good first step, and if more communities make it incrementally more difficult for traffickers to operate, that adds up to a Good Thing.
posted by ambrosia at 9:59 AM on June 5, 2012


AWESOME!
posted by odinsdream at 10:01 AM on June 5, 2012


Reason number four million why I like this place: I am confident that this thread will not contain one snarky "Well, the women can come work for me anytime *wink wink*" type of comment.

Cheers and congrats.
posted by RolandOfEld at 10:02 AM on June 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I'll play devil's advocate here and ask the seemingly "bitchy liberal" questions:

How did you figure out that this was actual human trafficking? Are you sure those women weren't making a living of sorts, despite the usual disapproval of society in such cases? I mean, did you shut down the Kingpin's brothel house or did you shut down a small business that figured out how to make a little money on the side?

No 'fense, seriously but there's definitely a major jump from not liking your local small town "wink wink nudge nudge" business and getting it shut down due to some terrible, immorally stained illegality. I just like looking at the stitching before I praise and buy the shirt, y'know?
posted by DisreputableDog at 10:02 AM on June 5, 2012 [28 favorites]


Thank you!
posted by stoneweaver at 10:02 AM on June 5, 2012


I hug you, stupidsexyFlanders!

No 'fense, seriously

Then maybe the phrasing could have been less obnoxious?
posted by rtha at 10:12 AM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wow.
posted by box at 10:18 AM on June 5, 2012


I flagged this thread because I don't think it is appropriate for MetaTalk. I also thought it could lead to exactly the type of discussion which now seems to be developing. I don't think leaving this open serves any good purpose.
posted by Curious Artificer at 10:18 AM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'll play devil's advocate here

Arguing in good faith is another potential option.
posted by box at 10:20 AM on June 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


heh. rtha is admonishing someone about their tone. It is to laugh.

Good on you, SSF.
posted by crunchland at 10:23 AM on June 5, 2012


I flagged this thread because I don't think it is appropriate for MetaTalk.

The remit of the gray is really quite wide. I think this is definitely within the very wide range of what is acceptable at MetaTalk. Whether the thread devolves into something problematic notwithstanding, the topic is not per se inappropriate. Where else would this go?
posted by chimaera at 10:27 AM on June 5, 2012


*laughs*
posted by rtha at 10:28 AM on June 5, 2012 [12 favorites]


as much as I don't like to give Gene hits, there was some, ahem, investigative reporting about massage parlor happy endings..
posted by k5.user at 10:28 AM on June 5, 2012


DisreputableDog: Perhaps most of your questions could be answered by unpacking this part of the post: Very long story short,

Since obviously a lot went into this, it seems unreasonable to jump to where you're jumping, unless it's purely for the joy of argument, which is kinda fucked up.
posted by odinsdream at 10:28 AM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


chimaera: Where else would this go?

In the local paper with proper fact checking as to what was going on at said establishment?
posted by gman at 10:30 AM on June 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


In the local paper with proper fact checking as to what was going on at said establishment?

Because the word of the Mayor who led the charge to investigate and shut it down isn't sufficient fact checking for the Mayor's own MetaTalk post written in the first person? Come on.
posted by The World Famous at 10:32 AM on June 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


Prostitution was going on. In this case that was enough.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 10:32 AM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


DisreputableDog and I have not "jumped" anywhere. It is perfectly reasonable to ask about the missing part of the story especially in the wake of the "lolsuicide" thread recently, not to mention a history of small town moral panics in the name of the children/women.

If there's any jumping going on, it's the "rah rah! the mayor says things is all right now!" based on almost zero information.
posted by DU at 10:33 AM on June 5, 2012 [12 favorites]


It is perfectly within a communities purview to shut down business's that are anti-ethical to the communities mores, even if there isn't evidence of actual illegal activities (update: turns out there was!). That the type of business lends itself to questionable treatment of women is reason enough, if that's the standard the community aims for.
posted by zenon at 10:35 AM on June 5, 2012


Prostitution was going on. In this case that was enough.

So it wasn't "human trafficking" at all.

That's why I never take any statements by a politician at face value.
posted by Jestocost at 10:36 AM on June 5, 2012 [7 favorites]


I flagged this thread because I don't think it is appropriate for MetaTalk.

It's totally fine here. People can ask questions if they have them. Don't be jerks please, thanks.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:36 AM on June 5, 2012 [8 favorites]


"I flagged this thread because I don't think it is appropriate for MetaTalk. I also thought it could lead to exactly the type of discussion which now seems to be developing. I don't think leaving this open serves any good purpose."

I honestly can't tell whether you're fucking with us, Comish.
posted by klangklangston at 10:37 AM on June 5, 2012


Erm, it's not for the sake of argument. It's for the sake of "someone put up a story which I at first jumped to congratulate them on, then took a step back and decided to consider it from a different angle." I was attempting to take the stance of a rational mind and ask questions.

Or did a boatload of people not just commit themselves to mourning the false death of a member on here recently?

I don't consider it being an asshole or rude or obnoxious to ask for a little more information in any situation. If my tone in my previous comment came off as obnoxious, perhaps phrase it as more curiosity and get that chip off your shoulder, people. It's called investigative reporting n' shit.
posted by DisreputableDog at 10:37 AM on June 5, 2012 [5 favorites]




Or what DU said in a much nicer manner.
posted by DisreputableDog at 10:38 AM on June 5, 2012


it really got me thinking about the lives of the women working at our thriving little business, whether they might be there involuntarily

So, were they there involuntarily?
posted by John Cohen at 10:39 AM on June 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


So, were they there involuntarily?

Who? The "skeptics" posting in this thread?

I'm guessing no.
posted by R. Schlock at 10:40 AM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Rubbing out illicit Pocono massage parlors, Pocono Record 17 APR 2011

Fucking newspaper hacks can't resist, can they?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:41 AM on June 5, 2012 [7 favorites]


Jenkintown wants Sunshine Spa shut down.

That's a news story. I know y'all feel Encyclopedia Brown over the whole holdkris thing, but maybe actually spend thirty seconds doing your own legwork before congratulating yourself over your skepticism.
posted by klangklangston at 10:41 AM on June 5, 2012 [16 favorites]


So my nephew is Tajik, studying at the American University in Bulgaria. He has rounded up summer employment - like all his friends he has signed on with some placement / recruiting company that will get him a USA summer "work and travel" cultural visa.

So, fuck me. In light of the news I have read this is not a good idea, even if everything is 100% legit and as advertised. He has to pay airfare up front and all the fees for his visa and processing, the firm makes his money and needn't really give a shit what happens to him stateside.

I tried to explain to him that working in a laundry in Manhattan would not be fun. He isn't used to hard physical labour. Now he has decided on a cleaner in a hotel somewhere in Michigan instead. I tried to explain to him that he would not save any money, and likely wouldn't even be able to pay his mom back for the $2000+ airfare and other starting fees.

Totally sucks, but my nephew will be getting exploited and helping to further drive down US labour costs this summer. Apologies, I really did try.
posted by Meatbomb at 10:41 AM on June 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


I read a blog written by an erotic masseuse who's in that area, and she's written about Asian Massage Parlors a few times. She definitely considers them to be sex trafficking.

Just an opinion from a local sex worker.
posted by that's how you get ants at 10:42 AM on June 5, 2012 [8 favorites]


I think this type of thread is exactly appropriate for MetaTalk, and this type of discussion is pretty much par for the course.

I'm kind of surprised that people are challenging the veracity of this. An Askme thread prompted a local mayor to take a closer look at a local massage establishment. Prostitution was going on, Establishment shut down.


Prostitution was going on. In this case that was enough.

So it wasn't "human trafficking" at all.


For what other purposes are humans trafficked in the US in the 21st century, if not prostitution?
posted by ambrosia at 10:42 AM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


"It's called investigative reporting n' shit."

It's called MetaTalk and let me fucking google that for you, so maybe you should try to not come across as condescending?
posted by klangklangston at 10:42 AM on June 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


You may think it "pretty minor" but it made me cry. Thank you for looking out for your fellow humans.
posted by wallaby at 10:42 AM on June 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


DisreputableDog: No 'fense, seriously, you're pretty terrible at searching.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:43 AM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


For what other purposes are humans trafficked in the US in the 21st century, if not prostitution?

That doesn't follow. Just because slavery is used to perform a certain task, doesn't mean anyone who ever performs that task is a slave.
posted by John Cohen at 10:44 AM on June 5, 2012 [14 favorites]


"Human trafficking therefore prostitution" does not equal "prostitution therefore human trafficking".
posted by Phire at 10:45 AM on June 5, 2012 [14 favorites]


ambrosia: "For what other purposes are humans trafficked in the US in the 21st century, if not prostitution?"

I think the point is that there are others reasons for prostitution besides human trafficking.
posted by that's how you get ants at 10:45 AM on June 5, 2012


It's fine to probe for the details on this, but the holdkris incident is not a compelling basis for doing so.
posted by brain_drain at 10:48 AM on June 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


"Human trafficking therefore prostitution" does not equal "prostitution therefore human trafficking".

Logically, yes, that is true. But ambrosia seemed to be implying that they are the same.

If something different was intended, please clarify.
posted by John Cohen at 10:48 AM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


"For what other purposes are humans trafficked in the US in the 21st century, if not prostitution?"
  • domestic servant
  • restaurant kitchen work
  • textile piecework / sewing / garment industry
  • pretty much anywhere that keeping someone trapped and working for free is a viable proposition
posted by Meatbomb at 10:48 AM on June 5, 2012 [18 favorites]


John Cohen, I think we are saying the same thing in response to ambrosia.
posted by Phire at 10:50 AM on June 5, 2012


Oh, OK. Good.
posted by John Cohen at 10:50 AM on June 5, 2012


That's a news story. I know y'all feel Encyclopedia Brown over the whole holdkris thing, but maybe actually spend thirty seconds doing your own legwork before congratulating yourself over your skepticism.

I reiterate: There is absolutely nothing morally wrong with asking skeptical questions. Also, from you link:
“I don’t know that there’s human trafficking going on, but I know that there is prostitution,” Foley said.
posted by DU at 10:57 AM on June 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


So, are we questioning whether a brothel was actually closed down?
posted by The World Famous at 10:58 AM on June 5, 2012


"Oh, ya' got trouble. Right here in River City. With a capital 'T' that rhymes with 'P' and stands for ..." Oh, wait. Wrong 'P'.
posted by ericb at 10:59 AM on June 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


For anyone wondering why this thread is so contentious, think about this. The legal or moral acceptability of prostitution is very controversial in the world at large. If I had to guess what the consensus is on this site, I would guess that most Mefites feel that prostitution should be legalized, regulated, and de-stigmatized. In contrast, the legal/moral acceptability of human trafficking is uncontroversial. I assume that everyone reading this and everyone I know believes that slavery is morally wrong and must be illegal with very severe penalties.

So, anytime people start making assumptions and unspoken implications where prostitution is equated with human trafficking, you have to expect it to come under some serious skeptical questioning. By the way, I consider the words "skeptical" and "skepticism" to be great compliments, so I'm happy to have those words applied to me.
posted by John Cohen at 10:59 AM on June 5, 2012 [46 favorites]


Furthermore, even if/when proof of human trafficking appears, the skeptics will not have been "proven wrong". No one is saying human trafficking is NOT going on. Only that evidence for it has not presented.
posted by DU at 11:00 AM on June 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


The legal or moral acceptability of prostitution is very controversial in the world at large.

There is no controversy as to whether or not it is legal in Pennsylvania. The Mayor shut down an illegal business that was, presumably, operating off the books and evading taxes at the very least.
posted by The World Famous at 11:01 AM on June 5, 2012


And he was inspired to do that by Metafilter! I guess.
posted by smackfu at 11:02 AM on June 5, 2012


Well. God -damn-. I thought the information was supposed to be provided by the one breaking the story, considering that's the person who's also getting the praise.

Do forgive me for responding with some initial questions right before I'm leaving for class and without googling for more information. And do forgive me for having a writing tone that rubs people the wrong way. While one person might consider themselves interested and self-deprecatory and amusing and a little wry teasing, another could see complete rudeness. I'll try to be more obvious from now on.*

But do continue to string me up by my toenails, oh yes.




*My tone in this post is: slight shock orbiting into mild annoyance, amusement, and hunger for the sushi sitting in my fridge.
posted by DisreputableDog at 11:03 AM on June 5, 2012


stupidsexyFlanders, maybe you can offer a few additional facts about the operation that was shut down? Based on the article klangklangston posted, it sounds pretty skeezy regardless of whether it qualified as human trafficking. You're probably feeling annoyed that you posted a nice shout-out to the community and met some skeptical questions in response. But the questions are fair and you did choose to post this thread, so it couldn't hurt to provide some more color on the story.
posted by brain_drain at 11:03 AM on June 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


I suppose the menfolk of Jenkintown will have to drive a little further into Philly to get jenked.

Is this thing on?
posted by Burhanistan at 11:05 AM on June 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Twenty bucks, same as in Jenkintown.
posted by mullacc at 11:05 AM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm surprised several prostitution busts at a massage parlor aren't enough to get it shut down regardless of human trafficking.
posted by smackfu at 11:06 AM on June 5, 2012



But do continue to string me up by my toenails, oh yes.


If this is the way you are intending to continue in this thread, please consider taking a walk or coming back after lunch/class with a slightly different approach. The topic is heated, the history of this topic is difficult from a site perspective. That doesn't mean that the discussion needs to be.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:07 AM on June 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


one of the first questions from the audience was "What will happen to the women?"

And your answer was...?
posted by Gator at 11:09 AM on June 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


So, we've got a Mayor who initiated an investigation of what turned out to be an illegal prostitution operation. And the good people of MetaFilter are suggesting, because they don't think prostitution should be illegal, that this Mayor should have closed the investigation and somehow forced law enforcement not to take any action against this illegal operation. Do I have that right?
posted by The World Famous at 11:09 AM on June 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


"Prostitution was going on. In this case that was enough."

I'm ambivalent on prostitution in general but I am not even remotely ambivalent about sex-trafficking/sex-slavery. Both have some things in common and each exist along some continuum at some distance apart, but in my world they are distinct and one deserves vastly more opposition than the other.

Police, prosecutors, and communities have been fighting prostitution and closing down brothels every day since forever, mostly sex-trafficking and slavery are not involved, and they do so without being spurred on by a MetaFilter thread. And some of those police, prosecutors, and members of communities are certainly mefites themselves and they don't post to MetaTalk to crow about what is, for them, a regular and ongoing activity that is pretty much nothing like closing down operations that move women across the globe and force them to "work" as prostitutes.

The activity of prostitution is certainly not sufficient for the implicit claims being made in this post and by those who for some reason find any skepticism about it unacceptable.

I mean, I'll be thrilled and laudatory about this if it actually eliminated sex-trafficking. But when the stated connection is "prostitution was going on. In this case that was enough" it's difficult to see why we should think this is the case.

"The Mayor shut down an illegal business that was, presumably, operating off the books and evading taxes at the very least."

Oh frabjous day!
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:10 AM on June 5, 2012 [12 favorites]


Here is a slide (pdf) (via) explaining the A-M-P model, which explains the legal definition of human trafficking in the USA (Action-Means-Purpose, from the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000). I'm guessing it doesn't see much use when prostitution is involved, because that's the third step and should be enough shut down the operation. However, while proving prostitution is enough to charge people with prostitution and pimping, they presumably have lower penalties or lower reach to punish people who were involved more indirectly.
posted by Tobu at 11:12 AM on June 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


Oh god, I thought AMP stood for Asian Massage Parlor.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:14 AM on June 5, 2012 [59 favorites]


Oh god, I thought AMP stood for Asian Massage Parlor.

I don't think you're the only one.

*sheepish look*
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 11:15 AM on June 5, 2012 [9 favorites]


(Heh, I assumed "AMP" meant "Asian Massage Parlor".)
posted by DU at 11:15 AM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


We learn things, really valuable things, here on Mefi and we use that knowledge to change the world for the better. That's my takeaway from this post.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 11:20 AM on June 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also the ongoing equation of "skeptical = bad" even on a fairly intellectual site is very depressing.
posted by DU at 11:20 AM on June 5, 2012 [12 favorites]


Guys AMP does mean that in the Polaris Project world. Not sure why they contrived something else in that bill. Politicians can be very politically correct.

Human trafficking is hard to prove but if you see a situation that could be human trafficking -- and if you read the article linked you'll see some indications -- and you can end it based on simple prostitution grounds, wouldn't you want to do that? And "human trafficking" is a term of art anyway: a pimp/prostitution relationship could be considered HT. I see it that way.

For the record, I wish prostitution were legal and regulated. But it's not, and as a result many times women are exploited.

I don't know what will happen to the women, all I can do is coordinate with social services groups to step up, and I have done that, and if you PM me I will update you. I didn't anticipate doing an AMA and I am at work so I need to go. I may be able to jump on later. Thanks for the tough love.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 11:21 AM on June 5, 2012 [48 favorites]


Also the ongoing equation of "skeptical = bad" even on a fairly intellectual site is very depressing.

Unfortunately, the word "skeptical" has been co-opted as a self-descriptor by people who more often than not are not actually skeptical at all.
posted by The World Famous at 11:23 AM on June 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


And the good people of MetaFilter are suggesting, because they don't think prostitution should be illegal, that this Mayor should have closed the investigation and somehow forced law enforcement not to take any action against this illegal operation.

I don't think so? I don't see anyone calling for that. I think the people asking questions (myself included, as I lurk) are more trying to clarify if actual human trafficking was shut down, or if this was a bust on a massage parlour that offered sex acts. If the first - absolutely great work! If the second - that's more of a gray area for me.
posted by coupdefoudre at 11:24 AM on June 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


The World Famous: "The good people of MetaFilter are suggesting, because they don't think prostitution should be illegal, that this Mayor should have closed the investigation and somehow forced law enforcement not to take any action against this illegal operation."

That's a pretty uncharitable reading of the skeptics in this thread. A mayor working with the police force to go after illegal operations in his town is great, but it has very little to do with MeFi. The reason this was brought into MetaTalk was because stupidsexyFlanders drew a pretty straight line from "getting educated about human trafficking due to a site event" to "therefore shutting down this prostitution ring in my town". That's a line of logic that I don't think stands up to examination regardless of what people feel about the legality of prostitution, and I don't think it's out of line to ask for more detail about the situation.

On preview: thanks for the additional info, ssF.
posted by Phire at 11:25 AM on June 5, 2012 [10 favorites]


"Here is a slide (pdf) (via) explaining the A-M-P model, which explains the legal definition of human trafficking in the USA (Action-Means-Purpose, from the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000)."

That's pretty much how most brothels have always operated and while it gets to the heart of why, in practice, prostitution is far, far from the victimless crime that the naive among sex-positivists or libertarians might think it is, it's also not specific to prostitution and applies to a huge number of legal businesses around the world and, sadly, some that still operate in the US. Every company mining town and the like operated according to these principles. And, again, those things are bad things and, personally, I'm quite happy that we'll take such an expansive view of this kind of thing and as a result reduce injustice.

On the other hand, when this starts being an operative law-enforcement criminal justice model at the practical level beyond prostitution and regularly includes things like, say, migrant farm workers, then I'll be much more thrilled and far less cynical about it.

And even at that point, we're still not talking about the very real activity of explicit human slavery for the purposes of prostitution that is a growing global industry that reaches into the US and may include any given corner massage parlor...but more likely does not. Women are literally shipped across borders and even continents and oceans. They are imprisoned. They are murdered (not "just" incidentally, but as punitive and enforcement policy). Such things have always existed to some degree and in some form, but there are specific factors extent in today's world that have made this a booming and very profitable business. When we conflate the other stuff with this, we do both efforts to stop them a disservice.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:31 AM on June 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


Well, I think this is just nifty. Yay!
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:32 AM on June 5, 2012


a growing global industry that reaches into the US and may include any given corner massage parlor

It's also a home-grown industry, as covered in this (really disturbing) Youth Radio story about child sex trafficking in Oakland, CA.

And just a couple days ago: Judge shuts 2 Oakland motels tied to prostitution.
posted by rtha at 11:40 AM on June 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


Makes note:

*If Metafilter ever inspires me to do something awesome, for [INSERT ACCEPTABLE DEITY SYMBOL HERE]'s sake, don't tell them.*

Good on you, ssF.
posted by zarq at 11:56 AM on June 5, 2012 [18 favorites]


I don't think this thread is all that hard to follow. It looks to me like most of the skeptics aren't skeptical that something actually happened, they're just wondering if human trafficking was stopped or something on Metafilter was used to inspire yet another crackdown on prostitution.

I'd feel great if Metafilter inspired awareness or action on the subject of human trafficking. I'd feel a lot less great if it was used as an excuse to go after prostitution with no evidence of human trafficking.
posted by Justinian at 11:59 AM on June 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


Go ahead and tell us, but as with everything you do on MetaFilter, be mindful of your framing. Be clear about what you've done, link to relevant news articles if it was in the news, and be clear about why you think MeFites would think it's awesome. ssF meant well, but the framing of it in terms of shutting down a foul human trafficking operation (as opposed to your run-of-the-mill prostitution bust) naturally set some people off, and he could have included some links instead of expecting people to either take his word for it or do the digging themselves. That's all.
posted by Gator at 12:01 PM on June 5, 2012 [13 favorites]


Thanks for the tough love.

Some places you have to pay extra for that, here it's gratis.
posted by octobersurprise at 12:07 PM on June 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also the ongoing equation of "skeptical = bad" even on a fairly intellectual site is very depressing.

I don't think that's actually the core equation. The Metafilter userbase is certainly capable of being pretty compassionate about stuff but it's also been a pretty skeptical group of people for a long time. I'd go as far as to say that in a null context skepticism is part of what I go into discussions expecting to see.

The difficulty is that there's rarely a truly null context, and that it's easy to broach skepticism poorly such that it comes off as sort of rude or jerkish. And when you've got skepticism phrased badly and then people take exception, it doesn't make sense to put it down to "Metafilter dislikes skepticism" instead of "Metafilter dislikes jerky behavior".

So, I think skepticism is fine. I think "hey, are there more details on this?" is fine. I think it's easy, even with basically good intentions, to broach one's curiosity in a sort of clumsy or poorly phrased way that comes off unnecessarily rudely or aggressively and it's on the folks going there to keep that in mind; and if it comes down to waiting until you can take the time to phrase something a little more carefully, that's pretty much always fine, because the thread isn't going anywhere and nothing will go wrong because you didn't jump in sooner and worse instead of later and better.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:11 PM on June 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


I for one just see this as the sort of bean-plating that makes MetaFilter great. Much more interesting and informative than a hooray for stupidsexyFlanders thread that doesn't go into the details. Although I do feel bad for stupidsexyFlanders. So hooray for stupidsexyFlanders!

The Mayor shut down an illegal business that was, presumably, operating off the books and evading taxes at the very least.

I thought part of the point of a "massage parlor" is that they can operate as a supposedly legitimate business. They can report all of their income as being from "massage services" and report their employees as "massage therapists" and whatnot without breaking any non-prostitution related laws. The IRS doesn't really care if the income you're reporting is from illegal activities as long as you report it. Obviously it's completely transparent to everyone that a shady massage parlor is really just a front for prostitution, and the reason most of them don't get busted is that for whatever reason law enforcement isn't interested in spending time and money proving it and busting them.
posted by burnmp3s at 12:11 PM on June 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'd feel great if Metafilter inspired awareness or action on the subject of human trafficking. I'd feel a lot less great if it was used as an excuse to go after prostitution with no evidence of human trafficking.

In the abstract, I'd probably agree. If I put myself in ssf's shoes, it strikes me that the practical difficulties of making that distinction before/during and investigation are nigh impossible. One has a certain legal toolset availible to them -- the 23-gauge shimmy with the twisty bit that allows you to conduct a thorough legal investigation of the provenance and mental state of the workers and then act/not act based on whether you personally sort of get a read that they're okay/not okay with the gig regardless of whether the activity is manifestly illegal under local laws does not exist. It seems to me that you can let it slide or you can act against it, but you can't do both at once.
posted by Diablevert at 12:13 PM on June 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think it's totally fair to be skeptical. I was baited to read this post by an I-stopped-human-trafficking angle, but ended up with a less impressive I-closed-down-a-whorehouse story.

It's a bit like posting, "in view of the escalating extreme violence in the drug trade south of the border"...
"I managed to get a local marijuana clinic shut down".
posted by 2N2222 at 12:20 PM on June 5, 2012 [14 favorites]


I'm all for skepticism. I'm also all for skeptics demonstrating cause for skepticism, and doing their own work, instead of saying "shopped" and then walking away.

There is a lot of information online about Asian massage parlors, and they have a horrible habit of pretty much being straight up slavery dens:

Women found in brothels disguised as massage parlors typically live on-site where they are confined and coerced into providing commercial sex to 6 to 10 men a day, 7 days a week. These locations, often known as Asian Massage Parlors, or Korean Massage Parlors (AMPs or KMPs), operate as commercial-front brothels that claim to offer legitimate services such as massage, but they actually primarily provide commercial sex. The victims are most often Asian women, both documented and undocumented. Massage parlors frequently operate in strip malls, office buildings, and sometimes, residential homes, in urban, suburban and rural areas in almost all 50 U.S. states.

Given this, Occam's razor says the greatest likelihood is that the massage parlor that our MeFi mayor shut down was, in fact, human slavery. Is there reason to think otherwise? Well, one supposes it might be an outlier, in that it might somehow be a non-abusive environment where sex workers are just trying to make a living, and the mayor has shut them out of a financial opportunity that they knowingly and consensually entered into, regardless of its legality.

But that's not likely. In fact, it's so unlikely as to constitute an extraordinary claim. And what is it that skeptics like to say about extraordinary claims?
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:27 PM on June 5, 2012 [47 favorites]


I think it's totally fair to be skeptical. I was baited to read this post by an I-stopped-human-trafficking angle, but ended up with a less impressive I-closed-down-a-whorehouse story.

But it's the Metafilter post about human trafficking that got the leader of a community to take a close look at this brothel in the first place, whereas the community had previously been comfortable turning a blind eye. That in itself isn't a good thing?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:29 PM on June 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


but ended up with a less impressive I-closed-down-a-whorehouse story.

Worst little whorehouse on metafilter. Ever.
posted by octobersurprise at 12:39 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I, too, am skeptical. How do we know this guy is really a mayor of a town when we haven't even seen his sash?
posted by bondcliff at 12:41 PM on June 5, 2012 [7 favorites]


I also think is great ssf. Good job closing down a business doubtlessly full of misery. Your attention to the followup with social workers is even more commendable. You're probably a really good Mayor.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:42 PM on June 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Mayor Stupid Sexy Flanders (which, incidentally, should be your actual title), who's been here forever and has probably earned a little benefit of the doubt, comes here to pat Metafilter on the back for helping them better understand prostitution, AMPs and the like. Ssf downplays their role significantly and are up front on how little the accomplished ("I know that in the big picture what we accomplished took forever, was pretty minor") and Metafilter still finds a way to focus on the deficiencies of the poster and their style.

Skepticism is one thing; sometimes people here are just out to poke holes to prove their intellectual superiority. DU up front is the former; a bunch later seem to be the latter.

Also, skepticism is not an excuse for coming off snarky as hell (aka, "That's why I never take any statements by a politician at face value") and if you don't know how to do one without the other, perhaps you should put the safety back on the gun once in a while.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 12:45 PM on June 5, 2012 [26 favorites]


Prostitution should definitely be decriminalized, the prohibition just makes it harder to root out the abusive practices when the black market is funneling so much money to the scum who run these operations.

In the meantime though, closing the places down when possible has to be done. Even the nutty Libertarians aren't going to be on board with forced slavery.

Good job, SSF.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:47 PM on June 5, 2012


Oh god, I thought AMP stood for Asian Massage Parlor.

I'm thinking the "Action Meets Purpose" thing is a backronym picked specifically for that reason. So that the acronym AMP becomes associated specifically with human trafficking.
posted by Justinian at 12:47 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think it's totally fair to be skeptical. I was baited to read this post by an I-stopped-human-trafficking angle, but ended up with a less impressive I-closed-down-a-whorehouse story.

But it's the Metafilter post about human trafficking that got the leader of a community to take a close look at this brothel in the first place, whereas the community had previously been comfortable turning a blind eye. That in itself isn't a good thing?


These are both equally true and valid.
posted by Melismata at 12:49 PM on June 5, 2012


"If I put myself in ssf's shoes, it strikes me that the practical difficulties of making that distinction before/during and investigation are nigh impossible."

That's a very good point (and someone made it earlier) but if anyone was complaining about anything (and I guess I was), it wasn't about saying that the brothel shouldn't have been shut down (though I'm decidedly meh about that) but about the post itself presenting this as shutting down a sex-trafficking operation when it's not clear that it was as I think most of us understand the term.

And, for whatever it's worth and per the admins' comments, I didn't think that either DU's or DisreputableDog's questions (and I think it's relevant that they were questions and obviously asked in good faith) were insensitive or provocative but I did think the pushback against them shockingly (relatively, in this context) aggressive and that annoyed me quite a bit while ssF's post just struck me as puzzling/disappointing/inappropriate. When I read the comments that collectively seemed to say that This Shall Not Be Questioned, they inspired some grar! in me that rubbed off a bit onto ssF, which I regret now. Not that much, though, because I don't think there was all that much grar and because, well, his one line response to the questions just added fuel to the fire from my perspective.

In that context, also, while I think jessamyn was right to say that DisreputableDog's continued comments were escalating things and that taking a walk was good advice all around, I don't think it was entirely fair to him because, to my read of his comments, he peppered them all with some qualifiers and little social tics signifying a lack of aggressive intent while the responses to him were not in-kind and were just openly aggressive and didn't stem from a good-faith reading of what he wrote. Indeed, someone asserted (implicitly) that DisreputableDog's question was in bad-faith because...well...I guess because it bugged that person and therefore it must have been intentionally disruptive. And so I completely sympathize with his feeling that people were pulling out the torches and pitchforks for what were skeptical-but-earnest and obviously not aggressive pair (or trio?) of comments. The response seemed very disproportionate to me and so naturally I don't think it was CRAZY! 1 of him to feel the same when he was the person targeted.

1. That's my new thing. Maybe it needs a wacky spelling? Maybe “cR∀Zy!” ?
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:51 PM on June 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


These are both equally true and valid.

Except that that I-stopped-human-trafficking baiting never happened.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:52 PM on June 5, 2012


Except that that I-stopped-human-trafficking baiting never happened.

I disagree.
posted by Melismata at 12:53 PM on June 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


Speaking as someone with a long background combatting sexual assault, with plenty of anecdotal experiences that AMPs are at best very exploitive and certainly are often havens for human (female) trafficking, very glad to read this followup post, SSF. Thanks for doing this. To me, this is what public service is really all about.
posted by bearwife at 12:55 PM on June 5, 2012 [9 favorites]


I disagree.

Can you point out where the mayor misrepresented what he did so as to bait somebody into reading six short paragraphs? I'm not seeing a single word that misrepresents the story, and many that clearly contextualize it.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:55 PM on June 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


I have to say that shutting down a "massage parlor" *probably* engaged in human trafficking for sex (human trafficking for labor is extremely common too, as is human trafficking for hotel work THE GROVE PARK INN IN ASHEVILLE FOR INSTANCE) is accomplishing more than intercepting two fun Russians and making a sketchy club change addresses. Maybe mefites are jealous? Good on Mayor Sexy for maybe disrupting an operation by shutting one of their houses and good for knowing to watch out for the women being exploited rather than continuing the exploitation. Hopefully your DA can step up with some T-visas and try to bring some traffickers to justice.

Good luck. Hater gonna hate and be too busy hating to accomplish. That's why they're haters and not players.
posted by fuq at 1:04 PM on June 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


It's a bit like posting, "in view of the escalating extreme violence in the drug trade south of the border"... "I managed to get a local marijuana clinic shut down".

That's quite a stretch. There was illegal prostitution going on at the massage parlor. Marijuana clinics -- at least where I live -- are legal, regulated, taxed, all that good stuff.
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:05 PM on June 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


The above-the-fold part of the post?
posted by Gator at 1:05 PM on June 5, 2012


Bunny Ultramod: I'm not seeing a single word that misrepresents the story, and many that clearly contextualize it.

The humantrafficking tag.
posted by gman at 1:05 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well there's a "russianthread" tag too and this thread is not Russian at all (much to my chagrin)
posted by fuq at 1:07 PM on June 5, 2012


I see. The single pairing of words "human trafficking" lead some of you to believe the mayor had somehow done more than shut down a brothel.

I might suggest that problem is not a bait-and-switch, but that you came to too many conclusions based on too-little information.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:07 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Mayor Stupid Sexy Flanders (which, incidentally, should be your actual title)

I'd like to second this motion, and call for a vote. All in favor?
posted by rtha at 1:07 PM on June 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


Skepticism is one thing; sometimes people here are just out to poke holes to prove their intellectual superiority. DU up front is the former; a bunch later seem to be the latter.

I don't think that's really fair. Asking legitimate questions versus name calling and being a jerk is fairly easy to separate, but what kind of rhetoric would signal that someone's trying to prove their intellectual superiority?

I'm not seeing a single word that misrepresents the story, and many that clearly contextualize it.

I think part of the problem is that people expect a slam dunk "We found some human traffickers, proved exactly what they were doing, and sent them to jail!" and when it turns out to be less of a complete and total victory then people are disappointed. It was the same with the original situation with fake's friend, people thought that involving law enforcement would mean that they'd catch whoever was running the scheme and shut it down for good but the best everyone could do was get the women out of a seriously shady situation and send them back home. These kinds of illegal trafficking operations are by design extremely difficult to actually infiltrate and shut down. People are underwhelmed when the end result is "We probably made it slightly harder for bad people to do bad things" but in these sorts of cases that's the best you can hope for most of the time unfortunately.
posted by burnmp3s at 1:10 PM on June 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


I might suggest that problem is not a bait-and-switch, but that you came to too many conclusions based on too-little information.

Which is kind of how the entire internet works.
posted by Melismata at 1:11 PM on June 5, 2012


"Is there reason to think otherwise?"

Yes, because the sentence containing the assertion about frequency, which is all-important with regard to your claim about probability, refers generally to all massage parlors while the previous sentence applies to a subset of those, and sex-trafficking as most think of it is an even smaller subset of that. The proportion of all AMPs/KMPs where those conditions apply is not quantified and is certainly not universal while, futher, not all massage parlors are Asian MPs/Korean MPs.

So, absent some quantification that strongly demonstrates the probability in one direction or the other, then a default assumption that any given Asian massage parlor is sex-trafficking or is not sex-trafficking — either one — is unwarranted. Occam's Razor offers no guidance either way. Skepticism about either conclusion is, however, warranted, absent more information.

Anyway, in my case, while I accept that A-M-P is bad and is not unlike indentitured servitude or slavery or, at the very least, far, far from any sort of victimless voluntary actvity that happens to be illegal, I don't accept that defining everything that conforms to the A-M-P model and involving sex as "sex-trafficking/sex-slavery" is either in accordance with how most people think of these terms or that it is useful for combating prostitution, anything that is A-M-P, or sex-trafficking/sex-slavery. In other words, if I don't accept your redefinition, I don't have to accept your argument about probability, regardless of what the probabilities actually are.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:11 PM on June 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Another (b)acronym for AMP: Action-Means-Purpose (see slide #5; Google quick view of this PDF)
posted by filthy light thief at 1:11 PM on June 5, 2012


Which is kind of how the entire internet works.

I am not clear on your point, but if a case is being made that Mayor Sexy misrepresented himself, it has been made very badly. MetaFilter is not the rest of the internet, and part of the reason for that is because we presume good faith. Insisting on bad faith without evidence is not really how we do things here.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:13 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Which is kind of how the entire internet works.

Well, Metafilter strives to transcend this.
posted by Falconetti at 1:17 PM on June 5, 2012


Let me clarify my last comment. This was the entire text that was visible on the MeTa main page:

I wanted to follow up on the Russian human trafficking story that unfolded here in 2010.

All other things aside, a reasonable person might infer that there's a story about actual human trafficking to be found within such a thread. Then, once inside, there wasn't anything to indicate that ssF had made a clear determination that this was human trafficking, as opposed to simple prostitution, for which the business has already been busted before. He didn't provide links or other information, which he could and should have since he's the mayor and he spearheaded the whole operation in the first place and was posting about it on MeTa for people to read about. And when following up, he tersely pointed out that "Prostitution was going on. In this case that was enough."

As I said before, ssF meant well, but he framed this whole thing very poorly.
posted by Gator at 1:21 PM on June 5, 2012 [12 favorites]


Actually, I thought the above-the-fold stuff was quite misleading. He said "I wanted to follow up on the Russian human trafficking story." I thought he was writing an actual follow up to the story, i.e. he had "where are they now?" information about the Russian women or the Mefites who helped him. And then it continued to be misleading when I saw, as others have said, that it was about a small local "massage" parlor instead of a major trafficking ring.

I'm not the only one who misinterpreted; I don't know if more than 50% of the people here also misinterpreted, but there are indeed folks who disagree with you. I didn't think too much of the misinterpretation at the time, because the story was interesting on its own. But misleading headlines have been happening since the invention of the newspaper, and Metafilter is no exception.
posted by Melismata at 1:23 PM on June 5, 2012 [7 favorites]


I know that in the big picture what we accomplished took forever, was pretty minor, and human trafficking will chug along like it always has, but I wanted the MeFi community to be aware that it was in fact the original Metafilter post that started a whole chain of events that ended this horrible exploitative practice at least in our community. (emphasis mine)

This is pretty clearly a claim to have shut down a human trafficking operation. Additional details may or may not prove this to be true to everyone's satisfaction, but having read the post several times, I definitely agree that it was written in such a way as to suggest that was the case. However anyone decides to feel about that.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:30 PM on June 5, 2012 [9 favorites]


I also misinterpreted, and then I read the more-inside and didn't really misinterpret anymore, in that I understood that our stupidsexyMayor had been inspired and educated by the incident he references to take action in his own town.
posted by rtha at 1:31 PM on June 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


He said "I wanted to follow up on the Russian human trafficking story." I thought he was writing an actual follow up to the story, i.e. he had "where are they now?" information about the Russian women or the Mefites who helped him

I wanted to follow up on the Russian human trafficking story.
.......................................................................................................................................

Fake stayed at my house once and he's like the coolest guy ever. He's totally real by the way, he has quite the misnomer. And I mean real in the sense an old jazz guy would say it, like "Yo, that cat Fake, I tell you man, he's real, brother. Real real you dig?"
posted by fuq at 1:37 PM on June 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm really baffled about this thread. The questions from the "skeptics" seem like obvious and uncontroversial followups to the post. SSF wrote:

"[the Russian thread] really got me thinking about the lives of the women working at our thriving little business, whether they might be there involuntarily, and what, if anything I could do about it in my position. They were rarely seen outside and seemed to live at the business. ... Very long story short, this week we were finally able to issue the order to close down the business ... [H]uman trafficking will chug along like it always has [but the Metafilter thread started events that] ended this horrible exploitative practice at least in our community."

So the story jumps from (paraphrase) "I wondered whether these women might be there involuntarily" to "we ended the practice of human trafficking in our community" with nothing in the middle like "here's why I came to believe they were there involuntarily."

Maybe the answer is obvious to experts. Or maybe Flanders didn't mean to say that he ended an instance of human trafficking in his community, and it just came out wrong. But either way, the followup question from non-experts, "How did you figure out that this was actual human trafficking?", seems pretty reasonable. How did it trigger such a hostile response? I feel like I ordinarily get the dynamics around here, and I just don't get what happened here.
posted by Honorable John at 1:46 PM on June 5, 2012 [7 favorites]


"I see. The single pairing of words 'human trafficking' lead some of you to believe the mayor had somehow done more than shut down a brothel."

Yes, because a brothel is not necessarily human trafficking and he used that term four times in his post, once in each paragraph, and in the post taken as a whole he's clearly asserting that the massage parlor was a sex-trafficking front.

Not to mention that he answers the skeptical queries with "prostitution was going on. In this case that was enough" which I can't read as anything other than a response to the question was this really human-trafficking and not, for example, were you justified in closing this place down? It could have been a response to the latter, but that seems in my reading of the thread to be unlikely.

I don't understand why you'd defend the post on this specific basis when it seems such a extraordinarily weak defense while there are others, already mentioned, including by yourself, which are much stronger.

Perhaps some people here are/were naive about what any sort of organized business of prostitution actually functions like, but most such activity is far more like A-M-T than not. The Hollywood ideas about prostitution such as Pretty Woman are, if they're ever very accurate, extraordinary exceptions, not the norm. When it's a business involving many people, it's coercive in some important respects. And women are very often trafficked to some degree, they don't always move around and associate with these businesses of their own free will. That makes it very wrong; but that it is more wrong than many suppose doesn't mean that it's the same thing as the international trade in women and children as sex-slaves. I don't want to minimize how the local trafficking can be just like the international trafficking, but in general moving women so far from home that it's actually almost physically impossible for them to return, and so far from home culturally that they don't have the cultural resources to return even if they had the physical opportunity and even money (like, crucially, they lack their passports) to do so plays a very important role in how this functions and what makes it different. No, any random massage parlor is not more likely than not to be such a place. It's likely to be a bad place, but not that horrifyingly bad of a place.

And I think this matters in the practical, social justice sense because given that there's not a moral equivalency and one is much worse than the other (and which, also, involves more opportunities to murder and "disappear" women), and given limited law enforcement resources, calling every brothel a likely sex-slavery ring invites a lot of show raids and prosecutions that merely move local players around the board while almost entirely ignoring the bigger players (who are more dangerous and more diversified geographically) who require proportionately more resources to combat and which is a growing international blight that threatens to become entrenched and murderous and basically a kind of multinational business in a way that the mob running prostitution rings in individual large cities never was. Like, you know, the development of the huge and murderous drug cartels.

Which is why I'm all YAY! about shutting down a sex-slavery ring and all BOO! if this was just a local prosecution bust. (Okay, maybe not BOO!, but meh.)
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:49 PM on June 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


"Yes, because the sentence containing the assertion about frequency, which is all-important with regard to your claim about probability, refers generally to all massage parlors while the previous sentence applies to a subset of those, and sex-trafficking as most think of it is an even smaller subset of that. The proportion of all AMPs/KMPs where those conditions apply is not quantified and is certainly not universal while, futher, not all massage parlors are Asian MPs/Korean MPs."

You're misstating your sets — as we know that this AMP had prostitution in it (I'm sure you can stipulate that), it's therefore in the set of AMP with Prostitution, of which Human Trafficking is a fair assumption; arguing that based on all massage parlors or even all AMPs disqualifies this frequency judgment is ignoring the effect of prior knowledge on probability estimates. (I'm not enough of a mathematician to invoke Bayes, but I understand he's got something to say about this.)
posted by klangklangston at 1:52 PM on June 5, 2012


it's therefore in the set of AMP with Prostitution, of which Human Trafficking is a fair assumption

Don't you have to know that most AMPs with prostitution involve human trafficking for this to be true? We know without question that some brothely AMPs involve human trafficking but I'm not sure we know that so many of them involve human trafficking that it is a "fair assumption" to assume any given one does so.
posted by Justinian at 1:55 PM on June 5, 2012


Gosh. Can anything ever be good enough for Metafilter?

The guy, inspired by the 2010 incident here, educated his community about the problem, brought everyone together, took action to close an illegal business in his town that was, in some way or another, connected to the human trafficking problem, and is working to provide services and support to the women involved. Nobody is saying that he busted a ring of international child prostitute smugglers or that he solved the human trafficking problem once and for all, but he did something, and in this case I think that's a good thing.

There are many arguments that prostitution should be in some way legalized. That doesn't matter here. An illegal brothel, operating under a front business, leads to exploitative situations and trafficking. Certainly, there's going to be plenty of reasons in such a setup why the women involved would be unlikely to go to the authorities to seek payment of unpaid wages or to report mistreatment, abuse, or sexual assault. I'm sure there are some illegal brothels that are on the up-and-up and treat their employees with great dignity and fairness, but is there really evidence to show that's the norm?
posted by zachlipton at 1:56 PM on June 5, 2012 [28 favorites]


I can speak with some small authority as someone who has spent time listening to law enforcement specialists and hearing detailed reports about local organized prostitution operations. The distinction between "international human trafficking" and "local prostitution front business" is, on a moral and practical level, almost completely moot.
Just because the young girls and women were only "trafficked" from Waukon, Iowa or Frazee, Minnesota to Chicago or Minneapolis, rather than from the remote provinces of Russia, China or Thailand does not make the end result any less coercive, exploitative, or viciously damaging to the girls and young women thus victimized.
To have an "ambiguous" attitude towards prostitution is to have mixed feelings about the manipulation, deliberate coerced drug addiction, savage beatings, unspeakable humiliating emotional abuse, and repeated ongoing rape of minor girls and young women. In the USA at least (outside of places featured on "reality" TV) there is no such thing as non-exploitative organized prostitution.
In closing down such an operation our Mayor did an unarguably wonderful thing, and those seeking to criticize by parsing such an absurd distinction should be ashamed. The Mayor was obviously attempting to spare the details to retain some semblance of anonymity while relating to us the role this online community played in inspiring his actions.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 1:56 PM on June 5, 2012 [42 favorites]


Don't you have to know that most AMPs with prostitution involve human trafficking for this to be true? We know without question that some brothely AMPs involve human trafficking but I'm not sure we know that so many of them involve human trafficking that it is a "fair assumption" to assume any given one does so.

See the Polaris Project on Asian Massage Parlors: "Women found in brothels disguised as massage parlors typically live on-site where they are confined and coerced into providing commercial sex to 6 to 10 men a day, 7 days a week...Massage parlors use force, fraud, and/or coercion to maintain control over the women and to cause them to believe that they have no other choice but to provide commercial sex. These are often the defining features of a sex trafficking situation."

We don't know, nor is it really something for us to investigate, precisely what was going on in this specific brothel. Maybe all the women involved were wealthy US citizens with advanced degrees who had simply settled on prostitution as their life's work. Maybe they belong to a union, set their own hours, receive full medical and dental (don't forget the dental!), leave their luxury SUVs with the valet, and chill at the free employee smoothie bar in their off time. Or maybe there's pretty good evidence that these places tend to be highly exploitative and that such exploitation leads to national, if not international sex trafficking.
posted by zachlipton at 2:06 PM on June 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


Wow.

Just wow.

Its sad to me that people are here actually wasting their time arguing over this. SSF got off his ass and DID something that was MeFi inspired and wanted to share it with us. So he didn't make the perfect post - get over it - he came back and cleared things up. What have YOU done lately to better your community? I'll be the first to say I haven't done anything lately, so THANK YOU SSF for doing your job and helping your community, because without people like you that get involved, nothing would get done.

Seriously, some of you make it unnecessarily difficult for people to participate around here.
posted by NoraCharles at 2:09 PM on June 5, 2012 [25 favorites]


I've read that page; I do see the word "typically" but there doesn't seem to be any basis for it I can find. I guess I just wish there were actual statistics.

To be clear, this place sounds really skeevy so I'm not exactly shedding a tear for its demise. I'm just cynical based on the same sorts of assertions with regard to the drug war and drug trafficking.
posted by Justinian at 2:10 PM on June 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


Upon reading the initial thread, I had two thoughts. The first was "That's really awesome that this guy took something he read on MetaFilter seriously and thought about how it might affect his community."

The second was "No good deed goes unpunished. This thread is going to be a mess." And lo. Here we are, discussing whether or not his framing was suitable to withstand scrutiny.
posted by sonika at 2:11 PM on June 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


But either way, the followup question from non-experts, "How did you figure out that this was actual human trafficking?", seems pretty reasonable. How did it trigger such a hostile response? I feel like I ordinarily get the dynamics around here, and I just don't get what happened here.

The question, in and of itself, isn't particularly unreasonable. Rephrased, that question is basically just "tell me more about the AMP and how it worked for the women concerned." Put this way, the point is that you want to know more rather than completely slamming the OP's motives. What happened here is that instead of asking this question, a number of people jumped up and down on a fellow MeFite by insinuating that he, variously, made things worse, lied and said he did one thing when he did something else, is a law and order politician type who did this to knock heads, or did this to take food off the tables of hard-working families.

When the immediate response is a pile-on of something like this, it is a hostile response rather than a reasonable way to ask for more information.
posted by zachlipton at 2:16 PM on June 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


BigLankyBastard has it, above. I will say that whether provable HT was involved is really only an issue for the Court of MetaTalk. I and others thought it was a reasonable likelihood, I was always careful to make that distinction when discussing within the community, and so we closed the business on grounds we could prove, bringing an end to activity we thought was likely. It's not exactly Al Capone going down on tax evasion, but a similar theory.

And btw, I took an oath to uphold the laws of the commonwealth, and prostitution is illegal, whether or not I want it to be.

That's all I'm going to say here. Despite everything I learn a lot on this site, and I learned a lot through this experience. See you on the blue.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 2:17 PM on June 5, 2012 [28 favorites]


The fact that there are people here asking the hard questions about whether or not this business was really trafficking -- instead of falling into the automatic assumption that Asian Massage Parlors are necessarily fronts for human trafficking, which they honest-to-god sometimes are not (linked not because I think Donna Hughes is sane, but rather b/c it was the first article I could find documenting a number of sex workers coming forward to testify as to their consent working in asian massage parlors) -- gives at least this member MORE confidence in the site.

So, hats off, skeptics. Thanks for asking the hard questions.
posted by likeatoaster at 2:19 PM on June 5, 2012 [8 favorites]


Also, for an organization with a slightly different approach towards combating sex trafficking, one which emphasizes support for sex workers, check out organizations like the Sex Workers Project or Red Umbrella.
posted by likeatoaster at 2:24 PM on June 5, 2012 [7 favorites]


It is perfectly within a communities purview to shut down business's that are anti-ethical to the communities mores, even if there isn't evidence of actual illegal activities

Gay bar? Medical marijuana shop? Wine shop? Pool Hall? Right here in River City.
posted by Ideefixe at 2:24 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't think it was entirely fair to him because, to my read of his comments, he peppered them all with some qualifiers and little social tics signifying a lack of aggressive intent while the responses to him were not in-kind and were just openly aggressive and didn't stem from a good-faith reading of what he wrote.

Another data point in the 'what reads one way to one person doesn't read that way to another person' file.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 2:27 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't think that's really fair. Asking legitimate questions versus name calling and being a jerk is fairly easy to separate, but what kind of rhetoric would signal that someone's trying to prove their intellectual superiority?

If the question was "how do you know it was human trafficking?" then it's about being skeptical. You wait for a response. The two paragraphs that DisreputableDog followed after that with, including the condescending " 'fence" and "y'know", indicated that it was as much a statement of what they knew as it was an actual question.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 2:29 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


So, which place got shut down? Rubmaps shows a couple of places in Jenkintown.
posted by Ideefixe at 2:30 PM on June 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Rubmaps. Ewww.
posted by Justinian at 2:31 PM on June 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


So whenever we want to question what some politician does with the coercive power of the state, we somehow need to sugar-coat it? I'll keep that in mind (yeah, right).
posted by Jestocost at 2:37 PM on June 5, 2012


Anyone who's thinking of clicking at work: Rubmaps is very NSFW. I probably should've realized that before clicking, but here we are.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 2:37 PM on June 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


"So whenever we want to question what some politician does with the coercive power of the state, we somehow need to sugar-coat it? I'll keep that in mind (yeah, right)."

Wait, is that what you really think is being said or did you just try to be sarcastic because you think that this thread was missing some bad faith argumentation?
posted by klangklangston at 2:39 PM on June 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


So whenever we want to question what some politician does with the coercive power of the state, we somehow need to sugar-coat it? I'll keep that in mind (yeah, right).

"Some political" is a MetaFilter member, and, no, you shouldn't sugar coat it. You should behave as you would toward any other member, including presuming good faith and not being a dick.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:40 PM on June 5, 2012 [8 favorites]


Thanks for asking the hard questions.

Is this possibly real? You're thanking SKEPTICS rather than the person who fought against degrading semi-(atleast)-slavery in this thread, and in a thoughtful, respectful way that encouraged community involvement and supported the women instead of punishing them and just what? Huh?

I hate getting mad on the internet, but this cannot be helped: I am officially putting a wizard curse of the dreaded Stfugtfo on all armchair detective bros in this thread.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:40 PM on June 5, 2012 [12 favorites]


Bunny Ultramod: "MetaFilter is not the rest of the internet, and part of the reason for that is because we presume good faith. Insisting on bad faith without evidence is not really how we do things here."

Personally, I would prefer it if that were so. Unfortunately, it is how things have 'been done here' on occasion. The Russian women thread itself was wonderful to read for several hundred comments and then things began to go... badly.

stupidsexyFlanders: " And btw, I took an oath to uphold the laws of the commonwealth, and prostitution is illegal, whether or not I want it to be. "

I think you did the right thing.

Unfortunately, illegal prostitution is actually contributing to the problem. It creates an environment in which the pimp and the "john" have all the power. There's no equality, as there is when prostitution is legalized. The prostitute can't really turn to the police for justice if something goes wrong or they are being mistreated. (Well, they can, but they have few legal recourses that can't also be turned against them.) Because of this, illegal prostitutes are often quite dependent on the structures that have been created for them by the person or people controlling their lives.

Meanwhile, low income immigrants are often a target for prostitution, especially if they are here illegally and/or do not speak English. They may be completely unaware of their legal rights, or that they could have access to support in this country. They may be afraid of the police for any number of reasons. Both legal residents and illegal immigrants could conceivably have good reason to fear the authorities, or not believe they will be willing to help. They might not see the money their work earns, or be able to use it -- they may be told they are earning money towards their freedom. In which case they're sex slaves.

All of this can add up to an horrible situation where a prostitute may feel trapped and not see a way out of their situation. A vicious cycle.

I'm glad you had the place shut down. Thanks for telling us about it.
posted by zarq at 2:40 PM on June 5, 2012 [15 favorites]


Rodrigo Lamaitre: "Anyone who's thinking of clicking at work: Rubmaps is very NSFW. I probably should've realized that before clicking, but here we are."

Thanks!
posted by zarq at 2:42 PM on June 5, 2012


Unfortunately, illegal prostitution is actually contributing to the problem.

Yes. This. As I wrote, just a minute ago, to ssF directly: I just don't get the cognitive dissonance sometimes. We have discussed at length and in various threads how women get treated badly (harassed, paid less, passed over) in perfectly upstanding legal businesses in broad daylight.

And yet, because we have to prove our sex-positive bona-fides, not only can we imagine a shiny happy brothel in which everybody is there out of perfect informed consent, we're also supposed to act like we can't imagine any other kind of brothel, and therefore shutting it down is just The Man being his not-Groovy self. If women are exploited at (let's pick a company at random) Hewlett-Packard (and in all likelihood they are), then it is highly likely that women were being exploited at a small-time massage parlor offering extra-legal services and operating on the margins of the law.
posted by gauche at 2:44 PM on June 5, 2012 [16 favorites]


Now I have to change my vacation plans.
posted by cjorgensen at 2:45 PM on June 5, 2012


Come to Jenkintown they said. BUT WHERE ARE ALL THE JENKINS? What a swindle!
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:47 PM on June 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


So whenever we want to question what some politician does with the coercive power of the state, we somehow need to sugar-coat it? I'll keep that in mind (yeah, right).

So whenever a fellow MeFite learns from a thread here, works with experts and his local community to educate each other, and takes action based on what they believe to be the right thing to do in the situation, we somehow need to not be dicks to each other? I'd say the answer to that is an unqualified yes, and everyone should keep it in mind (yeah, for reals).
posted by zachlipton at 2:49 PM on June 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


"Another data point in the 'what reads one way to one person doesn't read that way to another person' file."

Well, yeah. That cuts both ways in the case of this thread. Were the two skeptical comments provocative/aggressive? Were the responses provocative/aggressive?

Perhaps we can agree that comments like "those seeking to criticize by parsing such an absurd distinction should be ashamed" are provocative/aggressive? I'm seeing several comments in this thread that are — just as that one is — quite unambiguously asserting that there's something wrong with anyone who would respond to this post in any way other than unqualified approval. I don't see any similar allegations about moral failure going in the other direction. So why are the questioners the ones who are understood to be the jerks here (by some)? In probably 4/5 of the comments I've made in this thread, I've been at pains to emphasize that garden-variety organized prostitution is a terrible and exploitative thing. Yet my criticism of this post is taken by BigLankyBastard to be some sort of apology for prostitution which it explicitly and obviously is not and that I should be "ashamed".

As jessamyn wrote, this is an emotionally charged topic for many people. I understand and accept that and can, and have, made allowances for it. Even so. And, as it happens, it's an emotionally charged topic for me, too, because I don't think this equivalency should be made and because I am at least as horrified by actual prostitution and sex-trafficking as those with whom I'm disagreeing. Somehow, in some peoples' minds, not accepting an equivocation of almost all prostitution with sex-slavery becomes an apologetic for sex-slavery. That's absurd.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:50 PM on June 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


sigh. this is why we can't have nice things.
posted by lonefrontranger at 2:54 PM on June 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


What a thread, wow.

I think what did was very probably a great thing ssF, and thanks for telling us about it. I hope things work out for those women. And immense kudos to you for what sounds like a substantial about of community education in the process - the title on this post could not be more appropriate.
posted by pahalial at 2:59 PM on June 5, 2012


Also, to add on to what zarq said, illegal prostitution often creates an unsafe environment for those who live in the neighborhood. Clearly not as unsafe as it is for the girls involved, but it is pretty awful sometimes.
I live smack dab in the middle of the two hotels being shutdown that rtha linked upthread, right off of 12th street. I haven't lived here long, just a couple of months. My boyfriend and I had just returned to the country with very little money, no jobs, and needed a place. The house is decent, the rent is good, and there's a lot that crime maps don't tell you (not to mention this is well...Oakland.)
One night shortly after moving here I was walking home from a bar, a total of about 10 blocks. It was maybe 10 pm on a Saturday night and in every other city I've lived in I've felt fine doing that. This neighborhood is kinda run down, very working class, the stretch I live in is mostly Chinese and Vietnamese, and seems safe enough. I was followed by a windowless van for blocks. I ran through a park and sat on a bench for a moment to catch my breath and a car pulls up across the street and rolls down the window. I immediately get up and start walking again. Car follows me. I turn down a side street. I notice a girl across the street who is clearly a prostitute, looks young though maybe she's over 18. I keep walking and start noticing these girls all over. The neighborhood is dead except for them and the cars driving around. The car finally pulls over and ask if I need a ride. I say no and start walking away as fast as I can. I see the windowless van has also followed me and is pulled over at the corner behind me. I call my boyfriend who is at home, I'm about a block and a half away, and just run until I get there. I'm very small and I get mistaken for a teenager often. I had heard about girls getting kidnapped out here like in the Youth Radio story rtha also linked to and that windowless van following me just scared the ever living shit out of me.

I no longer leave my house alone at night. I've lived in areas with very, VERY high crime rates but I've never felt as unsafe as I do in this neighborhood. I clearly need to move.

Just to be clear, I have no moral problem with prostitution. I've lived in countries where it was legal, and while they had their own problems due to sex tourism/child prostitution etc, it doesn't bother me at all.
posted by primalux at 3:00 PM on June 5, 2012 [8 favorites]


sigh. this is why we can't have nice things.

I don't understand what's wrong with this thread. People have (mostly) had a reasonable, polite discussion. To me this is what Metafilter is about.
posted by Justinian at 3:12 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


"And yet, because we have to prove our sex-positive bona-fides, not only can we imagine a shiny happy brothel in which everybody is there out of perfect informed consent, we're also supposed to act like we can't imagine any other kind of brothel, and therefore shutting it down is just The Man being his not-Groovy self."

I don't think this argument exists anywhere in this thread. There's maybe been a couple of terse, throwaway comments that just maybe might be premised on such a view, or somehow imply such a view, but among those who are arguing the position you're opposing I've not seen even a hint of what you're describing.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 3:16 PM on June 5, 2012


I don't know what will happen to the women, all I can do is coordinate with social services groups to step up, and I have done that, and if you PM me I will update you. I didn't anticipate doing an AMA and I am at work so I need to go. I may be able to jump on later. Thanks for the tough love.

Certainly a good thing to make life difficult for that kind of business. It does still leave that nagging question though.. And nobody can ever know what will happen 'eventually' to a free individual, but.. Have you talked to the women? Has anyone in a government agency talked to the women? Written a report on the findings of those conversations? Those are the things I'd like to know more about, if it is possible for you to say.
posted by Chuckles at 3:19 PM on June 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Perhaps we can agree that comments like "those seeking to criticize by parsing such an absurd distinction should be ashamed" are provocative/aggressive? I'm seeing several comments in this thread that are — just as that one is — quite unambiguously asserting that there's something wrong with anyone who would respond to this post in any way other than unqualified approval."

Well, but let's take a look at that statement: "People seeking to criticize by parsing such an absurd distinction should be ashamed."

That isn't saying that there's something wrong with anyone who would respond to the post in any way other than unqualified approval.

It is saying that people who are going out of their way to criticize through narrow parsing should be ashamed; it does not say that anyone critical should be ashamed.

I'd say that there are quite a few ways to be critical or to be skeptical without being a dick; I'd also say that DisreputableDog and DU got up my nose by being jerks about their skepticism.
posted by klangklangston at 3:21 PM on June 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


that's your interpretation, Justinian, which is no more or less valid than my interpretation, which was to feel disappointment that the self appointed Internet Vigilante Squad went all OMGKayceeNicole on the OP without even doing a basic google search to confirm their basis for skepticism, and the thread went pretty much hoppitamoppita from there. From what I could tell all SSF was trying to say was: hey, look at the awareness you guys raised about sketchy stuff that maybe going on in certain business models, and then he happened to be in a position to actually do something about it. and for this, he's getting a bunch of snark and judgey-ness.

so, eh. like I said your take and all, but it's this kind of polarized thinking that makes me more and more infrequent a visitor here. I actually kinda prefer Reddit, where it's more clearcut where I stand on assholey topics plus I am able to avoid triggery subreddits as toxic, so the species of icky cognitive dissonance I get from threads like these doesn't tend to make me want to feel like showering or poking out my eyeballs after reading through one of these threads. if that makes me shallow, I guess that's ok too, so, laters.

... or on preview, what klangklangston said. yeah, that.
posted by lonefrontranger at 3:26 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


that it was about a small local "massage" parlor instead of a major trafficking ring.

I think if you do some research you may find the distinction between these two things is far less clear than you might assume. The small local parlors are very often connected to larger trafficking operations in one way or another, and the weight of evidence that this particular place was involved, if not in human trafficking, at very least coercive and exploitative practices, is very hefty.

StupidSexyFlanders, what I (and I think others) would really love to hear about are the different services you mentioned plugging into to work with the women in the parlors. A concern for me, and I think others here, is what happens to them, and are they just gonna end up doing it illegally in a hotel, someone's apartment, or the street somewhere, still essentially captive - if not physically then economically, logistically etc - to someone else?

I guess shutting the brothel is the start of a story for those women, and I think some mefites are worried that its the end of the story for your community, the local govt, the authorities etc - they could have phrased that concern a bit more delicately.
posted by smoke at 3:27 PM on June 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


And nobody can ever know what will happen 'eventually' to a free individual

You can read/listen to the Youth Radio story I linked to earlier, in which several young women freed from prostitution talk about their lives before, during, and after being trafficked. I'll warn anyone who reads it or listens to it that I sat in my car in front of my house and bawled when I first heard it.
posted by rtha at 3:33 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


"I'd say that there are quite a few ways to be critical or to be skeptical without being a dick"

Okay. I disagree that asserting that there's a distinction between prostitution in general and sex-trafficking is not some niggling, "narrow" and meaningless distinction which is irrelevant to this post. More specifically, I don't think that asserting this (or challenging its contradictory) is "being a dick".
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 3:34 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


the self appointed Internet Vigilante Squad went all OMGKayceeNicole on the OP

That did not happen, at all. If you think it happened, I'd like to see your examples.

without even doing a basic google search to confirm their basis for skepticism

Under the circumstances, an announcement of the sort the OP was making should have been accompanied by a link or two to illustrate the situation.

And, since the subject has been brought up by others, when I asked the OP about what he told the people about what would happen to the woman, I was very disappointed in the "I don't know, I'm just the mayor" response. Were they arrested? Was anybody arrested? Was social services on the scene when the business was shut down to offer their services, or what? It's great that prostitution has been removed from that building and all, but what about the humans in the is-it-or-isn't-it human trafficking in this scenario? I mean, since human trafficking was the whole inspiration for shutting the business down in the first place and was mentioned several times in the post.
posted by Gator at 3:35 PM on June 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


> It's a bit like posting, "in view of the escalating extreme violence in the drug trade south of the border"...
>"I managed to get a local marijuana clinic shut down".

Really? Silly comparison.
posted by Listener at 3:42 PM on June 5, 2012


ssF was writing about actions he was taking as mayor of his town. I am not sure he would be comfortable with exact details of what went down being tied to his screen name. Jeez, it was a simple thing to me - He became more aware of prostitution being less cut and dried that a woman (or man) with agency selling themselves as a commodity. That sometimes coercion or worse is part of the picture, so besides the police he alerted social services.

Thank you mayor sexyflanders. I'm glad to be part of a community with you.
posted by readery at 4:13 PM on June 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


Semantics and kinda poor post framing aside, what SSF did was totally unconventional. He could have just let LAW ENFORCEMENT handle it and further victimize all involved.

Instead he did research and found other, better means of dealing with the situation. HE HELPED PEOPLE INSTEAD OF INCARCERATE THEM!

SSF is a hero, and MetaFilter should be proud to have been a part of something that is pretty fucking uncommon these days.
posted by snsranch at 4:55 PM on June 5, 2012 [22 favorites]


> It's a bit like posting, "in view of the escalating extreme violence in the drug trade south of the border"...
>"I managed to get a local marijuana clinic shut down".

The questions thrown at ssF about his post really do seem adversarial to me, at least to the extent that "Prove it! Show me!" is adversarial. Since we're making up analogies, here's another: "Inspired by last week's thread about that truckload of illegral immigrants who died when their truck was abandoned in the desert, I just shut down a local ring for bringing in undocumented workers." "Ok yeah? How do you know the undocumented workers that operation served were in any danger of being exploited, let alone dying?"

What could make it worth the effort of scrutinizing ssF's story, other than being basically OK with Asian Massage Parlors and getting your back up when The Authorities interfere with one? Which is crazy. Even if prostitution were legalized, having to fuck johns for a living in such a place is not something I would want to happen to any woman, Asian or otherwise. Legal or illegal, it's a life that is so impoverishing and damaging to the workers that next to nobody would choose it for themselves--but so enriching for organizers and owners that the supply of workers will continue fed to be in part by human trafficking. Demand far exceeds supply, but who gets the benefit? Not the workers! They're are not being recruited to turn $800 tricks, retire at 30, and write bestsellers about it, are they? any more than press gangs in the 1700s were hauling off young men to the fleet to be officers and eat at the captain's table. Press gangs were legal too.
posted by jfuller at 4:56 PM on June 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


The questions thrown at ssF about his post really do seem adversarial to me, at least to the extent that "Prove it! Show me!" is adversarial.

Yeah, that's my sense as well. I agree that the post was not framed perfectly, although I think a charitable reading of that is that ssF was writing a post about the intersection of his real and online lives, that included some relatively modest bragging, and such a post is bound to be hard to write. I don't think the framing warranted the "skepticism" heaped on it, but then we've had a weird recent time with faith granted here. Also, and I think this matters to how people not inclined to be quite so skeptical received this, one of the skeptics jumps into almost every thread posted on the Blue and leaves comments that seem to essentially amount to "I'm smart enough to dismiss some aspect of this." It's hard to read that repeated position and grant the benefit of the doubt that only skepticism is being expressed.
posted by OmieWise at 5:11 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


It is perfectly within a communities purview to shut down business's that are anti-ethical to the communities mores, even if there isn't evidence of actual illegal activities

This statement just floors me.

Thinking about this issue some more, I'm going to have to dump on stupidsexyFlanders a bit.

Given his official status, I'm finding it even less impressive. Why? because there's absolutely nothing extraordinary to support abolishing whorehouses. When they are illegal. And you're the mayor. As is, this is a dog bites man story.

What I do find extraordinary is taking pride in this while supporting the decriminalization of prostitution. I can't blame anyone for not risking their job. But it seems this would indeed be notable if steps were taken to tackle the issue of legality. Adopting an agenda to bring prostitution out of the shadows would be something truly notable.

Furthermore, I'm a bit dismayed at prosecuting on the argument that it's the law, and that's that. I tend to think that punitive laws carry meaning when they punish behavior that's actually harmful to persons or property, rather than being "skeevy" or antithetical to local mores. It's still not clear that the standard of actual demonstrable harm apples here. For all the assertions in this thread about human trafficking and massage parlors, the case has not really been made. Zero tolerance mode is perfectly justifiable and safe. It can also be perfectly crappy way to enforce law.

I understand stupidsexyFlanders for not wishing to get himself booted from office and made a local pariah for pursuing a controversial position. But getting the local whorehouse shut down not because it was causing a great harm, but essentially being an icky business in the eyes of locals, seems like a very safe and routine mode of operation that may have no relation to human trafficking.
posted by 2N2222 at 5:23 PM on June 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


God, this thread is depressing.
posted by lalex at 5:27 PM on June 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


The original Russian trafficking incident was a great example of how people on the internet can work together to make a positive, immediate difference in peoples' lives.

This? Not so much. You don't know that there was anything nefarious going on, just a vague hunch.

Prostitution really needs to be legalized and regulated across the board. Wishing it would go away and trying to legislate morality hasn't worked for the past, oh gee, all of human history and it's not going to work now. For a community that prides itself on being so liberal and "sex-positive" I'm honestly a little surprised at the lack of support for a legal framework for selling sex. See also: prohibition.
posted by MattMangels at 5:42 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Were I mayor, although I support legalization of prostitution, I would still prosecute brothels. Because until they are legalized and regulated, they are typically abusive institutions run by organized crime, and you don't just let the systematic abuse of women slide because in an ideal world they would be able to choose that line of work without fear of abuse.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 5:44 PM on June 5, 2012 [24 favorites]


One of the things that's hardest about being an elected official is that people complain bitterly about dysfunction in local government and corrupt politicians and all the rest, and how politicians never deal with problems, and never DO anything. So you find out about a problem in your community, exactly the sort of problem people complain about where something illegal is going on but everyone's decided it can't be dealt with so we'll just keep ignoring it, and instead of just jumping in head first, you educate yourself and your community on the issue, mobilize the community and its services, and DEAL WITH IT. (And in this specific case we're talking about criminal activity that victimizes vulnerable members of society, and you treat the prostitutes appropriately as victims rather than criminals and provide community support.) You WIN. You DO it. You FIX THE PROBLEM. You are proud of your community and feel like you live in a hell of a place.

And then the Monday-morning quarterbacking starts: "Well, he only did it to make himself look good." "There must have been an ulterior motive." "Someone probably paid him." "Ooooh, government getting involved in people's problems, that'll help!" "I'm from the government, and I'm here to help, har har har." "Apparently all the problems in this community are already solved if we have time to focus on THAT." "The newspaper's so friendly to him, there must be more to the story they're not reporting." "As if I would believe THAT!" All from people who refuse to step up and become part of the solutions themselves, I guess (I cynically think) because that would make it impossible to complain and grouse and doomsay, which is their real interest.

Look, guys, this sort of thing is SOUL-KILLING for elected officials. You know it's out there, you know you're going to have to deal with it, but dealing with it day in and day out for the duration of your term, when you are a conscientious public servant trying to do the best damn job you can with the authority the community has entrusted to you -- it's really hard. Everyone says, "We need good people to run," and we do, and so maybe like me you decide to run because you're basically a good person, you know a fair amount about the issues, you're passionate, you can learn. Nobody tells you there is a Greek Chorus of Doom that feels the need to constantly comment on what a shit job you're doing and how it will all go to hell anyway and nothing can be fixed and nothing can get better and any victory is fleeting and probably just has an underlying evil motive anyway, but above all is always just being "skeptical."

Local governmental service is hard work and it is low-paid or un-paid. I spend generally 20 hours a week on an unpaid elected position on top of everything else I do in my life, because it matters and I want to do it well. But the unrelenting Greek Chorus of Doom, it is honestly soul destroying. You try to involve them, harness their energies for the good, but that's not what they want. They want to tear down and destroy, regardless of what it is that you're doing. They're equal-opportunity that way. If they get what they want, they immediately want something else. And so good people, like me (I hope) think twice about whether they want to run again, whether they can face it. The Greek Chorus of Doom is unwittingly in league with all the forces of stagnation and governmental abuse and shady dealings that they rail against, because they make it difficult as all get-out to bring forward positive changes.

So, look, skepticism is one thing. It's your birthright as Americans to be skeptical of your government. But don't be combative jerks right out of the gate. Try to avoid the Chorus, they are boring! There are actual people on the other end of your diatribes, people who care so much about their community that they give up an extra 20 or 30 or 40 hours a week of family and leisure time, to go through excruciatingly dull meetings on whether asphalt is the appropriate material for repaving six parking lots, but not lot 7, that will need concrete, and have the asphalt mix laws changed and if so what will be the bottom line on cost? (REAL MEETINGS.) People who make your communities run, because they DON'T run unless someone sits in a dull-ass committee meeting about the lifespan of various asphalt mixes used on low-use county roads (REAL MEETING). Try acting like you are talking to passionate, committed individuals who work hella hard to make the country work. Because someone is in a meeting on sewage planning, and someone is a meeting on textbook purchasing, and someone is spending 60 hours (NOT KIDDING) on an elaborate office-chair acquisition process (but we get them cheap). Someone is negotiating with the unions. Someone is at a public meeting getting screamed at. Someone is voting your librarians' salaries for the coming year. These are actual people, doing all of this for the community's benefit, and considerable personal cost. WE are actual people. I'm one of those actual people. I work really hard at this.

If you see nothing but problems in your community, you should run for office and fix them. It's not difficult and I will help you over memail figure out how a local campaign goes. (I've helped people who've asked here before.) But if your life-goal is just to bitch about anyone who tries to improve your community, well, I'm sad for you. It's much funner and more rewarding over here on the side where we work really hard to improve things (even if the Greek Chorus of Doom is soul-killing).

stupidsexyFlanders, you did great. Just plowing through the intertia is impressive, and building a community coalition to address these difficult issues is fantastic. And, most importantly, real women, real victims, very vulnerable people, were protected. It's an example of things working right, no matter how much the Greek Chorus of Doom is going to complain about it.

Seriously, guys, government is "we" in a democracy, it's not a "they." If your local government is full of jerks and morons, that's probably a sign you need to run.

"I'll be thrilled and laudatory about this if it actually eliminated sex-trafficking"

So exactly how vulnerable and exploited do people have to be before you think it's laudatory for society to protect them? What is the threshhold, for our future reference, so we know not to force you to read any posts about society functioning appropriately to protect massively vulnerable members that do not reach your exacting standards for being thrilled and laudatory?

posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:48 PM on June 5, 2012 [95 favorites]


This is what's good. The Honorable Stupid Sexy Flanders is the mayor of a town. There was the Ask.MetaFilter about the Russians which brought a lot of people's attention to sex trafficking. Hon. Flanders included. Otherwise, they may not have known about the victimization or the nuances involved. I have found it is always important for a politician to know the nuances of an issue, but this is also rare. The "Massage Parlor" was being quietly tolerated, which is what the traffickers need to continue.

The Honorable and might I add, Stupid and Sexy Flanders then connected with knowledgeable people and came up with a way to take care of the issue while respecting the victims. Changing something that has been a)quietly tolerated for a long time b)organized crime c)using the government is not a routine matter. Hon. Flanders must have had to at least talk to one or maybe even two people about human trafficking.

Mayors of towns, regardless of their size, always have large networks they engage with. This is spreading knowledge of how sex trafficking and exploitation rings work and in networks of influential people. This is a good thing long-term.
posted by fuq at 5:49 PM on June 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


I don't know what will happen to the women, all I can do is coordinate with social services groups to step up

I really want to know. SSF, could you come back at some point and update us? Surely what comes next for them is the most important part of the story. You won't get any flak from me for trying to improve their lives -- but that outcome isn't a given, and information about what happens to them might be helpful for other elected officials who want to help women in similar circumstances.
posted by Wordwoman at 6:01 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


SSF, could you come back at some point and update us?

I really would not blame stupidsexyflanders if he never returned to this thread.
posted by lalex at 6:09 PM on June 5, 2012 [11 favorites]


Updates on K+S

K is engaged to her fiance, and working at a marketing firm. She wrote me an enthusiastic email telling me about how much she loves her new situation.

S hasn't written me back in a while, but I heard she was similarly happy with work and living life.

What the State Department/others have done to better protect J1s and endangered people in general:
I received some of this information in a message with subject "Metafilter Makes A Difference"

1. Rules for 2012 J1 have been updated again to better protect J1s. They were previously updated in 2011, specifically to address women coming from Russia and Ukraine. You will see mentions in these reports of "events in 2010". These events led to a specific re-evaluation of the J1 visa program in light of what happened here, as well as a host of other, similar events.

2. CETUSA was shut down. They were the neglectful visa sponsor responsible the visas of K&S AND all the people involved in the Hershey's incidents. Thanks, State Department. Good riddance, CETUSA.

3. The "Stop Trafficking App Challenge". Smartphones are indeed a powerful tool against trafficking.

4. "During the reporting period (2010), the Department of State received a significant increase in the number of complaints regarding the J-1 Summer Work Travel program, which provides foreign students an opportunity to live and work in the United States during their summer vacation from college or university. Complaints were reported from foreign governments, program participants, their families, concerned American citizens, the media, law enforcement agencies, other federal and local agencies, and the Congress. These included reports of fraudulent job offers, inappropriate jobs, job cancellations on arrival, insufficient number of work hours, and housing and transportation problems. To minimize the risk that J-1 Summer Work Travel program participants may become victims of crime, the Department adopted new program-wide regulations and undertook a pilot program requiring verified employment prior to arrival in the United States, prohibiting the use of third party staffing agencies, and enhanced oversight by the Department of State."

5. Shut down the rings responsible for recruiting women from Russia and other Eastern
European countries to illegally enter the U.S. to work as exotic dancers at adult entertainment clubs
controlled by the Gambino and Bonnano Organized Crime Families of La Cosa Nostra. Several of the defendants also arranged for many of the women to enter into sham marriages with U.S. citizens.

6. pollomacho himself came back to let us know he's on the job and that the departments of Justice and State are busting up rings left and right.

All that said, congrats stupidsexyflanders and cheers to everyone actually working to make a difference.
posted by fake at 6:17 PM on June 5, 2012 [80 favorites]


Thanks, fake. Thanks, stupidsexyFlanders. Thanks, pollomacho.

Thanks, MetaFilter.
posted by ocherdraco at 6:49 PM on June 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


SsF did something remarkable and made a difference. Vote for Mayor ssF in 2012!
posted by arcticseal at 6:56 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


So, which place got shut down? Rubmaps shows a couple of places in Jenkintown.

The only place in that list located in Jenkintown is the "AMP" in question. The others are in Philly proper, which is far, far, FAR out of reach from ssF's mayoral reach.

stupidsexyFlanders: Thank you for doing this. You are a great person.

I've always loved Jenkintown! Such a sweet little town.
posted by two lights above the sea at 7:07 PM on June 5, 2012 [2 favorites]




Very tempted to report this thread to the Feds. After all, a circle jerk is just a circle jerk. But charge five bucks to participate?

Prostitution.
posted by joe lisboa at 7:34 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


You know what? It is possible - albeit harder and much rarer - to act on both sides.

- "I shut down a massage parlour that engaged in prostitution and may have had ties to human trafficking"
- "I also pushed for legislation to make sex work legal in my county, to provide prostitutes with social and judicial protection"

The first stamps on an issue and causes it to move away, possibly just across a county line. The other creates a framework for change. The former is a guaranteed vote-winner; the latter is likely to be far less popular, but is actually socially progressive.

(ssF, if you return to the thread, please understand I'm not trying to tell you how to do your job, or claiming it is your responsibility to do both... just pointing out that it's possible to enforce and progress the law at the same time).
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 8:05 PM on June 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm not trying to tell you how to do your job, or claiming it is your responsibility to do both... just pointing out that it's possible to enforce and progress the law at the same time.

...Frankly, I prefer seeing people actually act in SOME fashion, rather than seeing people stand around monday-morning quarterbacking and saying "I'm just pointing out another way you could have done that...." If you knew another way was possible, why didn't you do it yourself?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:32 PM on June 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


I myself would run for mayor of Hollywood, but apparently its a ceremonial position.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 8:33 PM on June 5, 2012


Careful, folks. Just a general heads-up: If you liken Metafilter to a prostitution ring (however metaphorically) in MeTa, you are likely to find your erstwhile contributions to other areas of the site subject to deletion for transparently bogus reasons.

If you're not paying for it: you are the product.
posted by joe lisboa at 8:54 PM on June 5, 2012


Just out of curiosity, do you plan to escalate this to the point of getting a time out?
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 8:57 PM on June 5, 2012


Joe, axe-grinds are $20, same as in town. You won't get a happy ending, though.
posted by smoke at 8:57 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is an awkward situation because I certainly believe the OP that he acted with the best intent. However, not everyone reading here believes that shutting down massage parlors is a good way to improve labor conditions, safety, or life in general for the women who work in them. There is no proof (or even evidence) that this particular massage parlor represents a trafficking situation. Some of us (or at least me) think that shutting these places down can lead to a net harm in the sense of driving a place that could be regulated into an underground, un-regulatable context. In SF for example, massage parlors were mostly addressed as a police matter in the past, but now they are dealt with by the health department. As a result, health educators can go into the massage parlors and pass out condoms and give HIV tests and so forth. This would not be possible if the sex industry was totally underground.

So as a site participant I'm in an uncomfortable position vis a vis this post. I do appreciate the good intent of the OP, but I don't agree with this action.

There has been a lot written in the last few years critiquing the mainstream narrative around trafficking (including debunking the idea that all trafficking is sexual in nature - the majority is not). Some stuff I googled just now:

Little evidence for human trafficking, The sexual politics of anti-trafficking efforts and part II, Migration, Labor Markets, and the Rescue Industry, The Myth of Trafficking, etc.
posted by latkes at 9:02 PM on June 5, 2012 [11 favorites]


Joe, axe-grinds are $20, same as in town. You won't get a happy ending, though.

Wait, did I misread you? Is this some sort of sad dominatrix thing or something? Still not interested in paying $20 to not be happy.

$5 is plenty.
posted by joe lisboa at 9:04 PM on June 5, 2012


[I rarely say this but what the fuck is wrong with people tonight? Do not bring in unrelated news stories about MeFites mentioned in this thread and use them for gotcha effect. Absolutely not. Have an issue? Contact us. That sort of shit is not allowed.]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:32 PM on June 5, 2012 [17 favorites]


There has been a lot written in the last few years critiquing the mainstream narrative around trafficking (including debunking the idea that all trafficking is sexual in nature - the majority is not)

I recently heard about an American couple who were transferred to Singapore and when they went apartment shopping, they noticed that the maid's rooms all had locks on them. When they asked why, the rental companies explained that it was for locking them up when the landlords were out, "So they won't run away."
posted by Brian B. at 9:46 PM on June 5, 2012




I recently heard about an American couple who were transferred to Singapore and when they went apartment shopping, they noticed that the maid's rooms all had locks on them. When they asked why, the rental companies explained that it was for locking them up when the landlords were out, "So they won't run away."

Holy sheepshit. Link?
posted by to sir with millipedes at 12:21 AM on June 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


For me, context comes when I think, "What if it were my daughter, niece, or sister in this situation?" If you can ask yourself that and be honest about your reaction, if you are perfectly fine with it, then ask them how they would feel about being in this situation (whether it's prostitution, or being paid inferior wages with poor working conditions, etc.).

My mom told me a story about a couple of young girls from Smalltown Wisconsin, who answered an ad for models in DC. They took off, despite their parents' protests, to make their way in the world. One of them ended up murdered.

I used to do visa processing for a rather large corporation. It was an accepted practice to bring freshly graduated s/w engineers to the US on B-1 visas, let them work for 3 months, then send them home and bring in a fresh crop. The rate of pay was astronomically lower than a US worker would have been paid, even with housing and per diem. Of course, it was denied that they were working, they were just in extended "business meetings." A few good ones were gotten L1 status and they supervised the pod of B's. The smart ones jumped ship and got legitimate jobs in Canada. We're talking people who saved their per diem money and instead of paying for the coin op laundry in the apartment complex, washed their clothes in the bathtub and hung them to dry. College educated people.

The company set up offices in university towns all over the world, just to be able to recruit these people and save on labor costs. I could barely keep up with changing the brochures, because they were adding new offices at a rapid rate. Eventually, Corporate HR found out (when someone tried extending a B-1 one too many times and they said, "hey! B-1 is for business meetings? Are you guys bringing employees over to the US and having them WORK on a B-1? Not allowed!") and then many meetings and wrist-slaps ensued. My division agreed to hire an experienced HR/visa person, who incidentally got paid more than twice my salary. So maybe I was being exploited too? As processing visas, obtaining housing and issuing per diems, making sure the folks had insurance (as one crop of guys who came from Poland, which has socialist health care, were living in the US with ZERO health coverage because the dickhead manager was too cheap to make sure they were adequately covered, something that would have been handled routinely if they had gone through the proper channels, and this lack of health insurance was discovered when one poor guy slammed his finger in the car door and his "insurance card" turned out to be a 1-800 information card, so I had to get HR to put them all down for international travelers health insurance, discovered AFTER the injured man was sitting in crucial care with his buddy, and neither of them spoke English very well, sheesh), anyway, this full-time job was not even one inkling a part of my job description, but a huge part of what I was asked to do, when they found out they didn't have to pay corporate lugs to international HR for, you know, making it all legal and shit. I refused to sign any B-1 invitation letters, which I was asked to do. Uh, no. Above my pay grade, especially when it was a grey area of legality concerning immigration. A few times, guys were turned away because they told the immigration officer at the airport they were coming here to work, so they had to be coached on how to say, "I am here for a business meeting," in English. I was told to route them deliberately through "friendly" airports (i.e. Detroit and never SFO), where they knew the immigration officers would be more lenient and pass them through on a B-1 without many questions.

Anyway, I won't get into the argument of prostitution. But I will offer this link to Half The Sky, which I just found out about recently. I can't begin to offer solutions, but becoming more aware is a start.

Good on you SsF for your efforts. As someone said upthread, just doing something instead of armchair quarterbacking is half the battle.

And everyone needs a hug. And a fluffy kitten. >••<
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 4:22 AM on June 6, 2012 [6 favorites]


Holy sheepshit. Link?

Well, I heard it directly from their friends. But, I did a search on Singapore maids running away and found out it was a growing trend and major issue. Here's a link where a guy offers his advice on withholding the passport while they rot in their embassy. Here's a link where they found some maids at the bottom of the building, having fallen out a high window trying to leave.
posted by Brian B. at 6:28 AM on June 6, 2012


There is a lot of information online about Asian massage parlors, and they have a horrible habit of pretty much being straight up slavery dens:

When I'm looking for accurate information on sex work and human trafficking, I prefer not to take my information from people with a vested interest in pumping up the perception of the problem and like to go to sources that are a bit more objective.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 7:07 AM on June 6, 2012 [5 favorites]


Ah, I see latkes has already beaten me to the Laura Augustin links. Oh well. Her blog is still worth checking out.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 7:08 AM on June 6, 2012


Unfortunately, the word "skeptical" has been co-opted as a self-descriptor by people who more often than not are not actually skeptical at all.

What evidence do you have of that?
posted by adamdschneider at 7:13 AM on June 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


So, a place where women were being exploited was shut down and help was made available to the exploited? That's exactly what needs to happen. If you're ever in my neck of the woods ssF, I hope you'll let me buy you a beer (or drink of your choice). Sincerely, thank you. You've made the world a better place.

It occurs to me that it's entirely likely that ssF can't discuss the investigation in detail, because things are still in motion.
posted by Gygesringtone at 7:37 AM on June 6, 2012


So, a place where women were being exploited was shut down and help was made available to the exploited?

You might actually want to check with the "exploited" as to how they feel about it.

Here's a short movie made by Thai sex workers as a comment on the Rescue Industry:

Last Rescue in Siam
posted by PeterMcDermott at 7:47 AM on June 6, 2012 [6 favorites]


So happy to see that folks here are concerned, like I am, for these women and their future. Sanctuary for Families is a really great organization that provides ongoing support for women who are caught up in these sorts of situations. By ongoing support I don't mean a few weeks of support, I mean years and years of support, if necessary. They're able to do this because of generous donations from people like us, people who think past the headline and into the rest of their lives. Please consider donating, either to them or to a similar organization in your community.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:57 AM on June 6, 2012 [7 favorites]


adamdschneider, one example comes to mind.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:11 AM on June 6, 2012


I prefer not to take my information from people with a vested interest in pumping up the perception of the problem and like to go to sources that are a bit more objective.

I am not clear as to how Dr Laura Agustín has less of a vested interested, and I am not seeing any evidence that she is more objective. Additionally, she doesn't write about Asian Massage Parlors on her site, and doesn's seem to have done any actual research regarding them. Searching her site, this is literally the only comment I can find regarding the subject, which is her commisserating with a patron of amps, who says the one he goes to seems quite nice.

Here the SF Gate interviews women who worked in Asian massage parlors, who describe their experiences as coercive, sexually violent, involving false promises of jobs pouring drinks in the Unites States that turn out to be prostitution jobs.

A longer interview from the same series.

If you start digging into court cases regarding massage parlors, you find case after case of situations like this, where immigrants are brought into the U.S. under false pretexts and forced to work in massage parlors as sex workers. There was an instance recently in Minneapolis of a Somali ring that were pressing girls as young as 13 into a multi-state prostitution ring.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 8:55 AM on June 6, 2012 [6 favorites]


"So exactly how vulnerable and exploited do people have to be before you think it's laudatory for society to protect them? What is the threshhold, for our future reference, so we know not to force you to read any posts about society functioning appropriately to protect massively vulnerable members that do not reach your exacting standards for being thrilled and laudatory?"

Do you really think that's even remotely fair way to characterize anything I've written or that this sort of comment is helpful?

There is a reason this thread is heated and it's not solely because two commenters were overly aggressive in their skepticism. It has a lot to do with that people are explicitly and implicitly equating not being as pleased with this post as being supportive of exploitation. That's about as bad-faith and inflammatory accusation as is ever made around here and it adds lots of heat to the fire.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:21 AM on June 6, 2012 [6 favorites]


I am not clear as to how Dr Laura Agustín has less of a vested interested, and I am not seeing any evidence that she is more objective.

She makes her figures explicit and doesn't rely on NGO's and government departments who are dependent on inflating the size of the problem for her information, but rather interviews all those who are involved in the industry.

The usual paradigm for the coverage of this stuff is that a gullible journalist sources their info from a government department and an NGO, who will trot out somebody who is almost always seeking to avoid deportation to a much poorer country, and is probably on wages from that NGO now.

But don't take Dr. Laura's word for it. Here in the UK, we've had the same moral panic around human trafficking, the same claims that immigrant sex workers are all enslaved, and the usual enormous expansion in policing of that arena.

Nick Davies of the Guardian reports on an attempt to get to grips with the real figures, using the study of another pair of academics.

This scepticism about the figures that are bandied about and the vested interests involved in pimping the issue isn't limited to the UK though. US academics weigh in.

Are 100,000 women really going to be trafficked to Dallas for the SuperBowl?

Neither Agustin nor I are claiming that this never happens ever. My position is that it's far from the unproblematic done deal that you and others are making it out to be. Agustin's position is that the vast majority of women who cross borders in order to work in the sex trade don't do so as a result of coercion, but do so voluntarily.

With the caveat that we're all coerced to some extent by our economic circumstances, and so the choices of women in the third world are more constrained than women in the west, I don't see any reason to question her findings.

Finally, this: South Korea is hardly a third world country any more -- it's the thirteenth wealthiest country in the world. However, commercial sex has a long history over there. In 2005, the Korean Institute of Criminology estimated that 1 in 25 Korean women have worked in the commercial sex trade at some point.

The whole business of a young girl having to work in the Hostess Bars in order to pay off her lackadaisacal father's gambling debts is a fairly common theme in Korean television drama, so it seems pretty unlikely -- and rather patronizing -- to suggest that they're just too stupid to avoid getting suckered into these scams. Much more likely, in my opinion, that like most other criminals, when they get their collar felt by the law, they make the kind of statement that is likely to keep them from getting jailed, deported, etc. etc. etc.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 9:37 AM on June 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


it seems pretty unlikely -- and rather patronizing -- to suggest that they're just too stupid to avoid getting suckered into these scams.

It is not patronizing to suggest that people can be victims of criminal activities, and nobody said anything about stupidity. Whether or not the numbers are exaggerated, and whether or not there is a whiff of moral panic, there is multiple documentary evidence that there are a significant number of women who are forced into prostitution, and it doesn't do to apply a European scholar's model to the US, which she has not studied and has no commentary about, because it supports your thesis that these women are actually here voluntarily, and that they lie about the circumstances of their employment to avoid prosecution.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:46 AM on June 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


SSF, you're aces in my book.

Thanks for sharing!
posted by anitanita at 10:26 AM on June 6, 2012


Arg. Hate to press the point because I realize it's an unpopular opinion, but Sanctuary for Families is a second-wave feminist, anti-sex, anti-porn organization. If you believe there is a significance difference between trafficking and prostitution, I'd encourage you to reconsider supporting them or any organization like them.
posted by likeatoaster at 11:04 AM on June 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


Incidentally, that's what I mean when I say the "hard questions." Prostitution is bad and inherently exploitative! is easy. Recognizing the nuance involved in the line between prostitution and trafficking and asking the questions conducive to crafting policy that lifts up economic opportunities for women and their agency (instead of relegating everyone in the sex industry to the label of "victim") is slightly harder, but really, really important, IMO.
posted by likeatoaster at 11:07 AM on June 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


"Here in the UK, we've had the same moral panic around human trafficking, the same claims that immigrant sex workers are all enslaved, and the usual enormous expansion in policing of that arena."

There are moral panic characteristics in all this, I agree. But it's not like, say, ritual satanic abuse which was entirely false, or the preschool sex abuse moral panic, which as mostly false. There's actual sex-trafficking/sex-slavery happening that didn't use to happen because of some globalization changes.

But I don't think there's any doubt that there's exaggeration and a lot of hobbyhorsing and a lot of variously interested groups hitching their wagons to this for their own idiosyncratic reasons. All that stuff is common with moral panics and the other big factor, as we see clearly in this thread, is that a moral panic by its nature makes it incredibly socially difficult to dissent. Because it's "moral". If you dissent, in any way, you're a force for evil. And that's because, with moral panics, even people who don't explicitly believe in evil will effectively believe in evil, as attested by their words and deeds. When things are this Manichean, it's always good versus evil and no dissent is allowed.

BigLankyBastard's earlier comment brought to my mind a number of law enforcement specialists I listened to at workshops twenty years ago who explained how highly prevalent ritual satanic abuse was, how there were multi-state rings operating under our noses. A lone FBI agent explained at one meeting that there was absolutely no physical evidence to date that anyone had ever collected of RSA, but his was, at the time, a voice in the wilderness. As someone else wrote upthread, the "expert law enforcement" information about these sorts of things is very often suspect and proves to be either very exaggerated or outright untrue (as is so perennially proven true with law enforcement and drugs). There are various reasons for this and it's probably only rarely due to any sort of dishonesty. Mostly, it's because people's livelihoods depend upon these things being Big Threats and many professionals involved also have a big ideological and emotional investment in seeing things a certain way.

The workshops I mention occurred in the context of a rape crisis organization, one of the largest (at the time) in the US. RSA was a big deal back then and an increasing amount of resources were being devoted to dealing with it in one form or another. The director was herself a bit skeptical about it, I had a memorable conversation with her on the topic. But part of the staff and a good portion of the volunteers took it extremely seriously and there was some friction between them and those who weren't as gung-ho.

Ironically, I was skeptical at the time about RSA and believed that it was either exaggerated or some kind of weird mass delusion — but my position was that the rape crisis center, given its very particular mission that no one else had, had a duty to just assume that it was true and deal with the survivors and such under that assumption. Just as we did in general. Our role wasn't to be truth seekers, we were quite literally advocates and it was extremely important that we play the role of advocates.

But I don't think we're advocates here. Typically, mefites are interested in the truth of things and thinking about long-term solutions and long-term social justice. It really oughtn't be out-of-bounds to question either whether this particular establishment was involved in sex-trafficking as its commonly understood, or if the reports of the epidemic of sex-trafficking aren't exaggerated. There certainly are signs that it is being exaggerated. It well may be a classic moral panic. I don't know. I'm pretty sure, though, that no one here is in favor of exploitation and violence against women and favors efforts to stop these things.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:29 AM on June 6, 2012 [7 favorites]


The difference being that trafficking gets reported by government agencies (agencies specifically created to combat the problem) as an ongoing problem while RSA gets debunked.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:47 AM on June 6, 2012


Yeah, I think I covered that in my first paragraph.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:00 PM on June 6, 2012


Great work, it might not have been perfect in its execution but its a hell of a lot better than doing nothing about it.

Hopefully all of the trafficked victims are getting the support they need to transition well into a less illicit line of productive work.
posted by Slackermagee at 12:01 PM on June 6, 2012


Sanctuary for Families is a second-wave feminist, anti-sex, anti-porn organization.

What? No it isn't. I have no idea where one would get the idea that Sanctuary is anti-sex. Dorchen Leidholdt is anti-porn, but Sanctuary for Families is anti-DV, and offers an enormous amount of actual, real support to victims of DV and trafficking. I couldn't find anything on their website about pornography, except this as a sign (one of a long list) of abuse: "Forcing victim to watch pornography," which, if someone is forcing a partner to watch porn, that's problematic, and not the same thing as being anti-porn. If they're anti-porn and anti-sex, they're very subtle about it.

Even if they were anti-porn, I'm not sure why that would be a reason not to support the great work they do for DV victims, but I guess everyone has to draw their own lines.
posted by Mavri at 12:22 PM on June 6, 2012 [6 favorites]


So as a site participant I'm in an uncomfortable position vis a vis this post. I do appreciate the good intent of the OP, but I don't agree with this action.

This sums up my feelings on the matter.

The OP says the massage parlor had been operating for decades. There are a lot of benefits to that stability from a public health and sex worker welfare point of view. Closing it means that prostitution will move to venues that are out of the view and reach of the police, health department, and/or any non-profits that might offer STD education and sex worker outreach. It also means that the institutional memory within the massage parlor about which johns are violent, abusive, or otherwise dangerous is totally lost.

I know that the intention was to help the women involved, but closing a brothel doesn't automatically make sex workers safer. Compare closing it to instructing the health department and police to make weekly outreach visits to provide education and look for signs of abuse -- which would do more to help someone in a tough situation?
posted by Forktine at 2:44 PM on June 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is one of those cases where I find the phrase "Nothing about us without us" a useful reminder that public policy needs to be guided by the people it intends to help. The slogan is a staple concept of disability activism and has been adopted by many other groups who are the focus of the good intentions of the powerful but whose voices are not themselves heard. I admire what Mayor ssF has done but I think in addition to working with Polaris, the city should have sought the counsel of survivors themselves.
posted by gingerest at 3:20 PM on June 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm going start a Meta-MetaTalk for this thread. It exists only in my mind. See you there.
posted by LordSludge at 4:18 PM on June 6, 2012


I was creeped out by the 'Russian Trafficking' story, and I'm creeped out by this.
And not for the reasons you might think.

I saw far more evidence of 'Mob mentality' in the original story, despite 'Russian Mob' and 'human trafficking' being thrown around with abandon, and at the end of the story, and a couple of years later, I have still seen exactly zero evidence of this.
It's pretty common for bars to interview for staff late at night, because that's when they're open.
A night club that occasionally has strippers, is usually quite a way off a Strip bar that also does prostitution.
Strip bars often hire for hostesses. They serve drinks. It's a bit dodgy, and sometimes girls who want to be strippers do do it to get a 'leg in the door' as it were, and learn from the strippers there, but they generally have to actually apply to be strippers. There is competition to be a stripper, especially somewhere like New York. That's part of why I found this whole thing kind of ridiculous.
I'm going on a tangent, because obviously it was more the nightclub, as per the only post of someone who actually went there: http://metatalk.metafilter.com/19304/The-kindness-of-strangers#774915
I appreciated Mefites going out of their way to help strangers. The rest of it? Left a bad taste in my mouth.

This story? More of the same. Small town sensationalistically claims sex trafficking and shuts down brothel? Big Whoop-de-doo.
If there was any evidence of this? Sure, that'd be interesting. But this isn't something I expected to see on metafilter, although it is something I can see stemming from the original story, so yeah, I find both of these stories extremely problematic.


Finally, I'm in NZ. Prostitution has been decriminalized since 2003, and what has happened? Nothing.
Oh wait, actually - less street prostitution, because solo operators tend to turn to websites and newspapers to advertise, and more access to legal recourse and support. No more massage parlours, there is either known, legal brothels (that have to abide by standard occupational health & safety rules), and massage therapists can generally live without the fear of being asked for a happy ending. Yay!
The profile of prostitution has gone way down in the last 10 years, and I say that as an adult female living in the inner-city (and no, I have no personal interest or history with sex work).
So yeah, failing to see how this is a success story, but, whatever.
posted by Elysum at 7:28 PM on June 6, 2012 [6 favorites]


Arg. Hate to press the point because I realize it's an unpopular opinion, but Sanctuary for Families is a second-wave feminist, anti-sex, anti-porn organization. If you believe there is a significance difference between trafficking and prostitution, I'd encourage you to reconsider supporting them or any organization like them.

I wouldn't say it's unpopular so much as it's wrong. Sanctuary for Families is not in the business of policing people's sex lives, it's in the business of helping women get food stamps, helping women keep a roof over their head, helping women get jobs, helping women get visas...helping women, period. I have no doubt that they save lives by providing legal, emotional, and practical support to women and children.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:55 PM on June 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Jenkintown spa receives violation notices

Not so sure it's closed closed, but yay flanders.
posted by fixedgear at 4:44 AM on June 7, 2012


The proprietor...has 30 days to appeal the revocation....If the business owners of the spa should appeal, the first hearing will be held 60 days after the appeal. Following the hearings the board has 45 days to make a decision and based on the decision any party has another 30 days to appeal. If a party alleges a civil rights violation, the appeal could go to federal court....Locke said during a brief interview June 6 that he is unsure if the spa has discontinued its services

Sounds like in actual fact there's nothing stopping the business from continuing to operate while the appeals process drags out.
posted by Gator at 5:00 AM on June 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Jenkintown spa receives violation notices

Thank god they seized the women's condoms each time they made an arrest. Those things are dangerous and illegal. Oh, wait...
posted by Forktine at 5:04 AM on June 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


So yeah, failing to see how this is a success story, but, whatever.

You do know that SSF is not in a position to decriminalise prostitution don't you?
posted by Summer at 5:07 AM on June 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Finally, I'm in NZ. Prostitution has been decriminalized since 2003, and what has happened? Nothing.

Which is great. But there's a difference between prostitution being decriminalized, and prostitution being illegal-but-ignored, as far as the women's ability to protect themselves, report workplace problems, etc.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:04 AM on June 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


"But there's a difference between prostitution being decriminalized, and prostitution being illegal-but-ignored, as far as the women's ability to protect themselves, report workplace problems, etc."

I don't think that's as true as you think it is. There are a number of examples where something is not decriminalized but more enlightened authorities concentrate on the serious problems and don't allow the much less important criminality get in the way of this . This is true in the case of drugs in some places, for example.

The authorities could choose, if they wanted, to concentrate on helping prostitutes protect themselves, their health, and all that without requiring first the decriminalization of prostitution. They don't in the US for a number of reasons, but prominent among those reasons is the politicization of law-enforcement.

Drug and prostitution busts are opportunities for good press and campaign fodder. And this is my chief concern (in general, not specifically about this particular case) — police and prosecutors go after brothels and prostitutes all the time for no more reason than to be seeing doing so and it's mostly kabuki theater with no long-term benefit to anyone and often some damage.

That's apparently not the case here, given how much ssF has emphasized his ongoing concern for the women involved. But it's much more often the case than not and because of that, whether something is sex-trafficking or generic prostitution in reality is irrelevant to the authorities, they'll present it as such because it's about PR and not justice.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:30 PM on June 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


Ivan I'm going to call bullshit on your entire set of unfounded uninformed ignorant claims and demand citation for the following:

"(P)olice and prosecutors go after brothels and prostitutes all the time for no more reason than to be seeing doing so and it's mostly kabuki theater with no long-term benefit to anyone and often some damage." While its true that cops and prosecutors are proud of their successes in eliminating organized crime operations trafficking in illegal drugs and horribly exploited young girls, it's terribly misinformed and a serious disservice to the discussion to refer to this process as "going after...prostitutes." In Ramsey County, for instance (and this is a philosophy spreading nationwide) the women involved are regarded primarily as victims. In fact, the County Attorney will not prosecute minor children on prostitution charges, because they are concentrating on arresting and breaking up the established criminal gangs who recruit, exploit, rape, and victimize these children and very young women.

While I concede that there are cynical politicians and cops, the claim that all drugs and prostitution enforcement is driven by motivations devoid of any concern for public safety or victim welfare is a horrible ignorant lie. Prostitution is in reality almost exclusively the brutal humiliating victimization of the women and girls involved, and as mentioned above, seriously harms the communities in which it transpires.

I cannot emphasise enough that anti-prostitution enforcement actions are not aimed to victimize the women. Most enforcement agencies will partner with programs aimed at providing the women and girls involved with the means at escaping that life: a job, a home, counselling and drug treatment. The cops I talked to are not angry with the women, they are REALLY pissed at the people and organizations (this means YOU, backpage.com) who continue to profit through this detestable practice.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 6:49 AM on June 8, 2012


I never said that "all drugs and prostitution enforcement is driven by...". I said that it often is and that "all the time" enforcement is kabuki theater. Most people will understand that as intended, that it's a claim that this is very common, and not that it's a claim that this happens universally and without exception.

Anyway, you inadvertently reveal the weakness of your defense with...

"In Ramsey County, for instance (and this is a philosophy spreading nationwide) the women involved are regarded primarily as victims."

...and...

"In fact, the County Attorney will not prosecute minor children on prostitution charges, because they are concentrating on arresting and breaking up the established criminal gangs who recruit, exploit, rape, and victimize these children and very young women."

If law-enforcement were normally primarily concerned about the welfare of the prostitutes, then the philosophy you describe wouldn't be "spreading nationwide".

And it's deeply sad and revealing that it would even need be mentioned, much less used as evidence for your argument, that in your jurisdiction there's a policy of not prosecuting minors for prostitution. Congratulations on entering the 20th century. The 21st beckons.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 7:53 AM on June 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


And it's deeply sad and revealing that it would even need be mentioned, much less used as evidence for your argument, that in your jurisdiction there's a policy of not prosecuting minors for prostitution. Congratulations on entering the 20th century. The 21st beckons.

Well, if you know of anywhere that's halfway through the 20th century I'll be satisfied with that but if you know of anywhere that's in the 21st century (besides the horribly distopian 21st century of New York City) oh my jesus please let me know. Sometimes I'm satisfied that reasonable and sympathetic and to me common-sense philosophy is "spreading nationwide". Finally.

So yes, " Congratulations on entering the 20th century." I'm so pleased! Cops are slowing learning that women are human beings too and not sex demons! Wow! Great jobs everyone! As someone who tries to take action against human trafficking whenever possible (I'm just random internet weirdo) I want to encourage and congratulate Stupid Sexy Flanders because even if tactically this is nothing really (the operation just moves down the road into another county, it continues to operate while the court fafs about, this was all (the Russian thing included) staged, etc) strategically and in the long term, this gets more people talking about prostitution in a different way and in different moral terms. That's a good first step. It can be frustrating to us futurists but that's the way things are.
posted by fuq at 8:15 AM on June 8, 2012


I saw far more evidence of 'Mob mentality' in the original story, despite 'Russian Mob' and 'human trafficking' being thrown around with abandon, and at the end of the story, and a couple of years later, I have still seen exactly zero evidence of this.

Well wait no more, Elysum.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 8:22 AM on June 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Again with this hateful assumption from both Ivan and Fuq (among many others) that law enforcement is populated "all the time" and "for the most part" by hateful mysogynistic publicity-trolls who want only positive press and have zero real concern for the communities they serve.

Working vice detail is not some glamour assignment full of great opportunities for career advancement and glowing press conferences. Police work is not predominantly about domination, power-tripping and selfish considerations. This is hard dangerous complicated work and no one knows HOW complicated better than the people actually doing the work. These are people who see the costs imposed on our community by these criminal networks firsthand day after day and work tirelessly to bust the criminals and get the victims help.

The evolution of policies, approaches, and philosophies in police work of all sorts is not a process of cops suddenly recognizing that the people they are dealing with are humans deserving respect and compassion. It's a process of figuring out what actually works in reducing the problem and helping the victims and the communities they live in. The debate over prosecuting or not prosecuting minors is not based on whether or not they deserve compassion, it's a practical concern: Now that minors are not prosecuted it can be much more difficult to compel minors involved to break with their pimps and remove themselves from the life. The pimp relationship has much in common with other abusive domestic relationships - manipulation, economic dependancy, and poor self-worth are difficult barriers to overcome in breaking it. The threat of prosecution can be an effective way to convince young victims to leave "the life" and get help from the very effective victim-assistance groups that partner with the Police to intervene in these girls' lives. These are the sorts of difficult decisions and barriers faced by those trying to destroy these horrible organizations.

So feel free to sit on your high horses and condemn the men and women who are actually trying to make things better, calling them backward, implying they are mostly thugs. I can only tell you that you are part of the problem.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 8:39 AM on June 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well wait no more, Elysum.

Wow. If you follow the link in that story to the NY Post story, there's a link to the .pdf of the indictment, which is full of scare quotes (e.g. "Mafia", "made" (as in made member)) and fantastic a/k/as, e.g. "The Walker" and "Perry Como" (actual a/k/as of one Anthony Frascone).
posted by rtha at 8:43 AM on June 8, 2012


Incidentally, the mobsters plead guilty. The people involved in this scheme, related to scheme that swept up Fake's friends, are not just mobsters, they are cartoonish caricatures of mobsters!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:27 AM on June 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Recent massage parlor shut down in liberal Berkeley, thanks to Yelp.
posted by latkes at 4:20 PM on June 8, 2012


BigLankyBastard: Again with this hateful assumption from both Ivan and Fuq (among many others) that law enforcement is populated "all the time" and "for the most part" by hateful mysogynistic publicity-trolls who want only positive press and have zero real concern for the communities they serve.

BigLankyBastard: Ivan I'm going to call bullshit on your entire set of unfounded uninformed ignorant claims and demand citation for the following:

BigLankyBastard: While I concede that there are cynical politicians and cops, the claim that all drugs and prostitution enforcement is driven by motivations devoid of any concern for public safety or victim welfare is a horrible ignorant lie.

BigLankyBastard, your characterisations of Ivan's (and Fuq's) posts are getting increasingly rude. Ivan has seemed to be participating here in good faith and posting calmly and thoughtfully. Your responses are becoming...not so much.

If your positions are as strong as you think, just state them and leave all the shitty assertions about the character of the people you're speaking to out of them.

Likewise:
BigLankyBastard: In the USA at least (outside of places featured on "reality" TV) there is no such thing as non-exploitative organized prostitution. In closing down such an operation our Mayor did an unarguably wonderful thing, and those seeking to criticize by parsing such an absurd distinction should be ashamed.

Blunt assertions like this, particularly when they are demonstrably untrue, aren't helpful. Clearly there are people here who would argue that there may be less-than-wonderful things about this action (i don't claim to be among them necessarily, but they are clearly here).

I just plain don't know anybody who responds well to being told their shades-of-grey view on a topic is something they should be 'ashamed of', by someone speaking in black and white.
posted by pseudonymph at 4:15 AM on June 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


Can you show me the significant portion of the US organized prostitution market that is run by the women who "service" the "clients" and where those women have chosen sexual service as their career and not through economic desperation? No? Then I can only ask you pardon my bluntness because the topic is one that calls for bluntness.

The idea of "agency" or "sex-positive" thinking in prostitution in the US is a myth. While you may conceivably find such wonderful operations at the very high (.01%) end of the "market" those exceptions only prove the rule, which is the brutal conditions I described earlier in the thread.

My earlier point about parsing the distinction between international human trafficking and domestic trafficking stands. My point about cops and prosecutors in Vice enforcement not generally being cynical women-hating glory hounds or backwards thugs (which fuq and Ivan clearly implied) stands. Merely saying something is demonstrably untrue does not serve to counter the point.

You can call Ivan calm and thoughtful all you want but the fact he asserts a) that US anti-prostitution enforcement is devoid of concern for the welfare of the young females involved (I have since explained Police partnerships with prostitution-rescue organisations) and b) that such enforcement efforts are undertaken "for no more reason" than to generate positive publicity is both deeply ignorant and deeply insulting to the men and women who do this work. I've met with these people, and I've read the reports, and talked with them about this work. These cops are the thoughtful ones, and are dedicated to finding ways to help the women victimized and punishing the actual thugs who run the operations.

It's no sin to be blunt with armchair critics who work so hard to malign those actually out there working the problem. Yes, they don't always get it right. Yes, they're not all saints. But to so blithely discount the idea that they are trying to do good in the face of a viciously complex problem, and often actually succeeding, is horribly unfair.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 7:30 AM on June 10, 2012


Here's a link to facts gathered by a group founded and run by women who escaped the prostitution cycle. I invite you to have a look around their website. This group is one of many that partner with local law enforcement to help women victims return to a "normal" life. They speak to this issue from a deeply informed and intimately familiar position, which distinguishes them from many of the commenters in this thread.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 9:25 AM on June 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Can you show me the significant portion of the US organized prostitution market that is run by the women who "service" the "clients" and where those women have chosen sexual service as their career and not through economic desperation? No?

Doesn't this argue the case for decriminalization/legalization? How does it not? I note that this is also true for any sweatshop, and is the main reason labor tries to organize.
posted by Brian B. at 9:45 AM on June 10, 2012


This is all more complex than anyone can easily answer. About ten years ago I did some work with a organization that attempted to assist women that were coming out of jail for doing time for prostitution. The deal was an initial 6+ months' stay in the halfway house, accompanied by drug and alcohol programs, then school or school-readiness programs. Most women were attempting to pass their GED (high school equivalency in the US). I was tutoring at this level and teaching life skills. Most had never used a bank and knew very little about making their own way in the world. Also most had as a goal to regain custody of children that were lost to them through actions by DCFS.

The tricky thing for women that have had prostitution arrests is that this is often the thing that families will not forgive. They don't know how to create healthy relationships so marriage or partnership is not something they can rely on. They have to start life from scratch with little or no skills or support to fall back on. And these women I was working with were all native born US citizens. Add language difficulty or citizenship status issues on top of the stigma and health issues and you are up against almost insurmountable odds.

Human trafficking? The women I met might have as well been slaves. Recidivism rates? Less than half made it through the first year. The sex trade is the last rung on the ladder for most. They've burned bridges with friends and family, usually due to addiction. I'm sure there are some sex workers who have agency and can come and go out of the life as they please. I didn't see it.
posted by readery at 2:35 PM on June 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm sure there are some sex workers who have agency and can come and go out of the life as they please. I didn't see it.

I wish I could remember where I was reading it, but I recently saw a summary of some studies (from New Zealand and the US, I think) that showed street prostitution as about 15 percent of sex workers. That's the most visible form of prostitution in most places, and far and away the most likely to be arrested (as well as being extremely high risk for assault, needing to trade sex or money for protection from police, etc) -- the point being that high risk, high visibility, bottom-of-the-barrel sex work may not be all that representative of the profession as a whole.

I live in a place where street prostitution and stable brothels pretty much don't exist because of aggressive policing driven by local government (exactly as described by the OP), so it is pushed into all kinds of private places (including houses, bars, vans, migrant labor camps, and a few specific apartment buildings). Keeping it off the street makes the good citizens happy, but doesn't do a lot for the sex workers themselves and makes outreach work incredibly hard. A situation with even tacit acceptance (far short of full legality) would make it far, far easier for the outreach workers and the police to see and make contact with youth (who have often been kicked out for being LGBT or are vulnerable, such as with mental health issues) who are exchanging sex to avoid being fully homeless.

It's not about the police being bad (though you don't have to talk to many sex workers to hear stories about having to give "favors" to officers in exchange for not being arrested -- which sure sounds like rape to me) as much as I would rather we move towards a more pragmatic approach that recognizes that harmful behaviors are going to happen, including sex work, and that takes steps that concretely lower the risks faced by both sex workers and their clients, period.
posted by Forktine at 5:23 PM on June 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


"You can call Ivan calm and thoughtful all you want but the fact he asserts ..."

You keep, well, lying about what I've written. It's not just rude, it's wrong. If you can't engage in a discussion without misrepresenting the other's person argument, and you insult the other person's character at the same time, then you need to consider the possibility that your strong feelings about it may be badly affecting your judgment.

I understand that your strong feelings about the well-being of prostitutes motivates a particular opinion on how their well-being may be increased and that you have acquaintances and possibly friends in law-enforcement that you respect and therefore you naturally react badly to any criticism of them. However, this is not an excuse for you to react as you have. My motivations are also the desire for the well-being of prostitutes and I personally don't think your position on this is very helpful. But you don't see me accusing you of being a bad person who should be ashamed of yourself.

There were people twenty years ago during the RSA controversy who argued exactly as you do in response to anyone who was skeptical. Those people argued exactly as you do that because members of law-enforcement asserted it was happening, it necessarily was. That people who questioned this were aiding and abetting the abusers and that those people should be ashamed. And that anyone who questioned law-enforcement about what was then the conventional wisdom should be ashamed because those folk were necessarily and obviously well-meaning, honest people fighting the good fight while armchair quarterbacks were criticizing. And yet...the critics were right and the believers were wrong. And the critics were not aiding and abetting RSA since RSA wasn't even happening.

Sex-trafficking isn't the same, as it is really happening, as I pointed out from the outset. But the scope of it and the best response to it are under discussion and the same arguments are being used against anyone who is critical of your point-of-view. This is always how these things work, whether it's about this, or RSA, or fighting a war. The skeptics/critics are shouted down as being awful people who are aiding the enemy. It is, frankly, a disgusting tactic. That it's often not merely a tactic but things that people actually believe just make it sad as well as ugly. It's possible for people to have differences of opinion about things that have a moral component and where the stakes are high without someone being "good" and someone being "bad".
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 7:20 PM on June 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


I definitely contributed to this by not removing the first sentence in the post you're replying to, but this post:

BigLankyBastard: Can you show me the significant portion of the US organized prostitution market that is run by the women who "service" the "clients" and where those women have chosen sexual service as their career and not through economic desperation? No? Then I can only ask you pardon my bluntness because the topic is one that calls for bluntness.

...has nothing to do with what I was referring to. I was speaking to the part where you asserted this:

BigLankyBastard: In closing down such an operation our Mayor did an unarguably wonderful thing, and those seeking to criticize by parsing such an absurd distinction should be ashamed.

And I say again that blunt assertions that something is unarguable in a discussion featuring people who visibly are arguing/being skeptical of it - they aren't useful.

Dude, people here are truly usually arguing in good faith - it isn't productive to assume anyone who disagrees with something you say or has alternative thoughts on it is just a Bad Person.
posted by pseudonymph at 10:32 PM on June 10, 2012 [3 favorites]




I'm a bit confused on whether it is the same scheme, or if the Lux Lounge was ever involved, but I would like to thank "The 10th Regiment of Foot" for providing the links to the strip club indictments, and I would like to concede my point. I really appreciate the links being provided?

I think that that would make a good followup post to the original, if Jessamyn or any of the mods would be willing, because, as I said above, the original story never had any conclusive evidence as to what was going on there. Cheers!


Also, have some extra posts been removed? I thought there was one about the unionisation of sexual workers. As, even before it was decriminalised in 2003, that is definitely what happened in New Zealand:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Zealand_Prostitutes'_Collective
posted by Elysum at 7:05 PM on June 11, 2012


Oh, and to Fake, for the links also.
posted by Elysum at 7:06 PM on June 11, 2012


zenon: "It is perfectly within a communities purview to shut down business's that are anti-ethical to the communities mores, even if there isn't evidence of actual illegal activities (update: turns out there was!). "

Not, it's not. A small, mostly Christian US town may object to a Muslim school on the basis of "community mores", but it won't fly, legally.

Shutting down a business requires more reasons than "we don't cotton to that 'round here", thankfully.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:09 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


BigLankyBastard: "The idea of "agency" or "sex-positive" thinking in prostitution in the US is a myth. While you may conceivably find such wonderful operations at the very high (.01%) end of the "market" those exceptions only prove the rule, which is the brutal conditions I described earlier in the thread."

I know more than one woman who willingly entered the prostitution trade, with her eyes opened, and stayed in it long enough to call it her profession. I know less than 10,000 prostitutes. So, you're wrong.

And that's the whole problem. People make statements that sound very convincing, denouncing deplorable conditions, and we all feel compelled to jump on that lynchmob - er, bandwagon - and Do Something About It. Except, the problem isn't nearly what's being described. There aren't 100,000 innocent waifs being ported in chains to Dallas for the Superbowl. It isn't true that 99.99% of the prostitutes in this country act without free agency. There is a problem with slavery in this country, including (but not limited to) slaves forced to work in the sex trade, and there is a problem with desperate addicts (of both genders) pursuing a life of prostitution. But the hystrionic glurge limits our abilities to address the real problems in a sensible, eyes-open manner.
posted by IAmBroom at 6:30 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Not, it's not. A small, mostly Christian US town may object to a Muslim school on the basis of "community mores", but it won't fly, legally.

That certainly wouldn't because that example is contrary to other law. What is not contrary to other law is when communities pass their own "blue laws" outlawing things like hunting on Sunday, loud music, drinking, gambling, dancing, and prostitution for purely moralistic reasons even if state or federal laws don't. Often, "we don't cotton to that" becomes code.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:44 AM on June 19, 2012




The author of the Daily Beast article on K&S just won the Jane Cunningham Croly Award for Excellence in Journalism Covering Issues of Concern to Women. Congrats to Abigail Pesta, who really went deep in her coverage of what happened.

Read more about it here.
posted by fake at 4:06 PM on June 21, 2012 [4 favorites]




So, as expected, business continues as usual at the spa. (And as expected, they've appealed the violation.)
posted by Gator at 6:15 AM on June 28, 2012


adultindustrytruth.com
posted by latkes at 11:27 AM on July 2, 2012


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