It's time for our March In The Know: A Survivor's Perspective blog! Laurin Crosson of RockStarr Ministries shares her thoughts on Backpage. We hope you will take the time to read it!
By Laurin Crosson
I was scared the day Backpage.com opened. I had been working on the street, on various blades in various cities. Hearing about an Internet site was new. At first it sounded like it might be a relief, that I would no longer have to walk for miles on city blocks, being chased by cars and getting low-paying tricks. You see, in a hotel room, the same act can be four or five times as expensive, bringing in much more money per trick. So it sounded, on one hand, like I might be making more money and in much more comfortable circumstances.
On the other hand, there was a sinking feeling in my heart. I could disappear in a hotel room. I could go away and not be found for weeks. On the street, I had other girls and pimps aware of me, looking out for me. I had cops stopping me on every corner. On the street I was a force to be reckoned with. I was able to choose or turn down tricks. I was able to look them in the eye and trust my gut when it said NOT THIS GUY. I was in charge of where the driver took me; I could refuse to work if he didn't cooperate with my rules. I could (and did) jump out of a car if I needed to. On the street I was visible, in control.
My heart sank, because I thought of how now, with an internet arrangement set up without any visibility, I lost that control. The deals made were not mine; I would be trapped in a room with no panic button, with no way of reaching the outside world if he began to torture or kill me. My only sight or knowledge of this date would be through a peephole in the door as he arrived for our encounter. I could see my personal number of rapes, robberies, and sadistic assaults rising exponentially if Backpage.com was to be my pimp's M.O.
And it did become his M.O, and those numbers did go up. The danger was catastrophic, terrifying. I realized the increase in danger and the increase in money, but the money was not mine … it was my pimp's. Sometimes my quota would be ten times what it had been on the street, but my own income was the same -- zero.
So I have experience from both sides of the argument about the "safety" of online-arranged prostitution and street prostitution. Neither is safe; they run different types of risk.
Let's consider why Backpage.com got in trouble: They are in trouble for scrubbing their ads of buzzwords that could be linked to child trafficking. The problem was that merely scrubbing the headlines of these ads did nothing to stop the sale of children. They had obviously been selling children. They should have been reporting up to 16 children a day that were tagged with labels that revealed their ages: words like "teen" and "Lolita" and "rape." But they didn’t report. They simply reposted these ads multiple times without reporting them. Then, click on an ad for an adult escort, and you’re met with the suggestion to "ask me about my younger friend" or "let me tell you about Lolita...." The words were not in the headlines, but the children were, and are, still for sale.
Backpage com is a six-million-dollar company profiteering off escort ads they sell for $10, when the rest of their ads are free, meaning that their income stream is from flesh trading, not advertising. Backpage.com became my pimp, requiring me to pay the $10 fee out of my quota, several times a day, in order to keep up with the competition.
Why do we allow a website to make money on advertising an illegal activity at all? We are abolitionists, and this is flesh slavery.
As an abolitionist, it sickens me that bodies are traded openly online. We do not want to make it easier for the traffickers and the tricks to use up humans. We want to make it not happen at all; we want this "industry" to go away.
Human rights are human rights. The right to a private, safe, personal sexuality is fundamental. The right not to be raped, by anyone, ever, for any reason, and especially for the profit of a third party, is fundamental. Almost all people agree that rape is sexual activity perpetrated without the equal and enthusiastic consent of both or all participants. Yet suddenly when money is introduced into the act, the idea of consent is devoured by economic argument. If a supply is paid for, is that not business? Does not business trump consent?
And yet, when money changes hands, is there not the suggestion of LACK of enthusiastic consent? Just by default? The substitution of money for consent may in some patterns meet approbation, but what of the vast majority of prostituted situations, in which flesh is bought and sold to benefit the pimp financially, the trick sexually, and the Object of the trick's self-masturbatory behavior not at all?