Sent this Monday under the subject line, Village Voice: Stop child prostitution, MoveOn.org is now leaning on their lists to pressure Backpage off the internet. The email reads in part:
Dear MoveOn member,
My name is Victoria, and I’m 13 years old. I recently found out that girls as young as me are being sold for sex by people using a classifieds website called Backpage.com.
You can buy and sell stuff on Backpage.com, look for an apartment, or find a job. That is all cool. But pimps are using Backpage.com to advertise girls my age to men twice their age and older, and that’s not okay.
It makes me so upset to think that every night while I sleep safely in my bed, there are other girls who are spending the night being raped and abused.
Backpage.com is owned by Village Voice Media. They read the news—they know that pimps have advertised girls for sex in the adult section of their website, but so far Village Voice Media has refused to take down the section. That’s why, with the help of my mom, I started a petition on SignOn.org to tell Backpage.com to close the adult section so that girls aren’t bought and sold for sex by sick people using the site.
I recently became friends with a girl who was advertised by her pimp on Backpage.com. She’s 13 years old just like me. What happened to her is so scary. I don’t want any other girl to experience that.
Kids deserve to play, to be free, and to go to bed each night and have sweet dreams. Let’s help them do that.
In it, an actress plays a young woman, and graphically describes her experience of sexual and domestic violence, ending with two points: “[my boyfriend] sold me on Backpage.com” and “I’m thirteen.”
What this young woman experienced is horrific. But does putting the blame on Backpage help us end this abuse? As Emi Koyama points out, reflecting on interventions to prevent violence, much of what is described as “domestic minor sex trafficking” overlaps with and might be more accurately understood as domestic or partner violence. How might our responses to the violence this young woman and young women like her experience be different if we took Backpage out of the equation? I’m sure some of the anti-Backpage campaigners would argue that Backpage fosters rape culture, but I don’t buy that, and I certainly don’t buy that alone. It’s an argument built on feelings and gut reactions, and wholly dependent on myths about prostitution (which is, and I can’t believe I need to say this, not rape).
We are told a story about rape and Backpage, and then told it’s a story about prostitution – not an individual piece of a very big puzzle through which, if we worked to understand it, we actually could end gender-based violence and economic inequality.
What do they say in the slacktivist email petition world, about choosing your targets based on who can actually make some change? This email might be better titled, “Village Voice, stop making us feel bad about not having a reasonable analysis of sex, class, and the law for so many years that we went in for this sensational mess.” The click-throughs would suffer. But people economically dependent on Backpage might suffer less.
But you know, click here.