Authorities in Nassau County recently humiliated 104 men for attempting to buy sex. Cops posed as prostitutes on Backpage.com, then arrested the men who responded, publishing each one’s name, age and mugshot online. The sting netted lawyers, doctors, dentists, engineers, college professors and students, a stockbroker and a car salesman, with ages spanning 17-79.
All have pleaded not guilty, and all face up to a year in prison if convicted. I guess the presumption of innocence isn’t a thing in Nassau County? Even if they evade prison time, this arrest will haunt them for the rest of their lives. And let’s not forget that their children and wives have been humiliated right along with them.
And for what? The string comes as a result of “complaints about prostitution in hotels.” This isn’t even streetwalking, so what business is it of anyone’s if a man contacts a woman on Backpage.com and meets her in a hotel for sex? It should reveal how stupid this is that if they had used Craigslist and no money had changed hands, it would have been no one’s business.
And while the police and DA are arresting and prosecuting over this victimless crime, they don’t have enough time to prosecute the gang-rape of a young girl with an IQ of 50 in a Nassau County public school. Or, you know, find and prosecute these rapists.
So where does this madness come from? The sting is part of Operation Flush the Johns, one example of the End Demand trend in law enforcement, which Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice describes thusly:
Sex workers are “too often remain the prime targets in prostitution investigations while the johns who fuel the exploitation are treated as mere witnesses,” said D.A. Kathleen Rice. “My office and the police department are turning the tables on the illogical and immoral nature of that equation.”
It’s true that performing sex work and soliciting it are both crimes, yet until recently police and prosecutors have focused on arresting and prosecuting the workers (who are generally women and generally have very little power and influence) in far greater numbers than the customers (who are generally men and generally have much more power and influence). It’s great that Rice realizes that arresting and convicting sex workers is wrong and counterproductive. If you want someone to exit sex work for a 9-5, slapping a felony conviction on their records isn’t super helpful.
And Rice says something revealing: “Sex trafficking is horrific and the johns who patronize prostitutes create the demand.”
This is yet another example of someone in a position of power, in this case the power to ruin men’s lives, not understanding the difference between sex work and sex slavery. To see the difference, just remove the word sex.
Kudos to Kathleen Rice for recognizing that victimizing sex workers with arrests and convictions helps no one. But I wish she would understand that you cannot, in fact, end demand for the world’s oldest profession. All you can do by criminalizing demand is violate men’s right to be presumed innocent, ruin lives and make it harder for prostitutes to work. How many workers will start streetwalking now that Backpage.com is off the table for the time being?
While entrapping and then embarrassing men who want to buy sex may help Rice get re-elected, it won’t do a thing to help women escape slavery. The solution is to legalize prostitution, as the people on the ground are finding, and work with sex workers to find and rescue those that are held against their will.
H/T Gina Luttrell