TIME Crime

Visa Nixes Cards as Payment Option for Online Sex Ads

The only way to post a sex ad on Backpage.com will be through Bitcoin

Visa has joined MasterCard and American Express in agreeing to withdraw as a payment option from the adult section of Backpage.com—meaning the digital currency Bitcoin will soon be the only way to advertise sex services on the site.

The move comes after Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart in Illinois asked the heads of Visa and MasterCard to withdraw as payment options on the adult section of the site, as part of his crusade to take down Backpage.com, which is widely criticized as a sex trafficking hub. Dart’s office says that Backpage.com has posted over 1.4 million ads for sex in April alone, and that many of the women being advertised are trafficking victims under the control of violent pimps.

Users must pay a small fee (usually $5-$17) to post an ad on the adult page, and Backpage.com earns $9 million in revenue per month from adult services ads alone, according to a spokesman for Dart’s office. The goal of the campaign is to make it harder for pimps and traffickers to place the ads, by removing the most convenient way to pay that small ad placement fee, forcing them to resort to Bitcoin. A request for comment from Backpage.com was not immediately returned.

“Backpage has significantly lowered the barrier to entry for would-be sex traffickers, giving them easy access to millions of johns while cloaking them in anonymity and putting all risk on the shoulders of their victims,” Dart said Wednesday in a statement. “Raising that barrier will lead to less would-be sex traffickers entering the business as well as less victims.”

Dart privately asked the CEOs to withdraw on Monday—MasterCard announced the change on Tuesday, and on Wednesday Visa followed suit. Visa is suspending the processing of payments, but a spokesman noted that a permanent removal would require a review of Backpage.com’s activities, which could take some time. But he also noted that Visa has rules preventing its card from being used for “illegal activity,” and cited the company’s “long history of working with law enforcement.”

American Express had already removed its card as a payment option on the adult section of the site before Dart made his request.

“I commend Visa, MasterCard and American Express for doing the right thing in defunding this criminal enterprise and joining us in the fight to seek justice for sex trafficking victims across the globe,” Dart said.

However, some advocates for sex workers say this change would make voluntary sex workers more vulnerable, not less. “Traffickers and third parties are going to be able to switch to different payment processors. Women (and men) using Backpage, especially those most vulnerable to exploitation with the greatest barriers to transition out of the adult industry, aren’t,” says Katherine Koster, a spokesperson for the Sex Workers Outreach Project. “Backpage (and other sites like Backpage) has historically been a low-barrier way to work indoors independently.” She says that the change in payment method would make it much more difficult for independent sex workers to get customers, which would make them more vulnerable to exploitation by third parties.

The move to get credit cards to withdraw from Backpage.com is part of a larger movement to get companies to do their part to stop sex trafficking. ECPAT, an international non-profit working to end child slavery and prostitution, has developed a set of guidelines for travel and hotel companies to help identify and assist victims of sex trafficking—hotel groups like Hilton and Wyndham, and airlines like Delta have already signed on and pledged to educate their staff members to be on the lookout for victims, and learn how to best help them.

TIME trafficking

Mastercard Agrees to Withdraw Support from Backpage.com

American Express, Discover, MasterCard and Visa credit cards are displayed for a photograph in New York, U.S., on Tuesday, May 18, 2010. Credit-card firms caught off-guard by U.S. Senate passage of curbs on debit fees are facing what one executive sees as a "volcanic" eruption of legislation, including possible limits on interest rates. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Bloomberg/Getty Images

As part of an effort to fight sex trafficking

Mastercard has agreed to withdraw as an ad payment option on the adult section of Backpage.com, after Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart asked credit card companies to pull support from a site that is often used for trafficking and prostitution.

The Chicago-area sheriff wrote to Mastercard CEO Ajaypal Banga on Monday requesting the change, and on Tuesday the company agreed to sever ties with the adult section of the site, citing “rules that prohibit our cards from being used for illegal or brand-damaging activities.” American Express has already withdrawn as a payment option. Requests for comment from Visa were not immediately returned.

Further details about Dart’s initiative to fight trafficking by taking on Backpage.com will be announced Wednesday.

If the Sheriff’s effort succeeds, it will become increasingly more difficult for pimps to place ads for sex. Backpage.com charges a small fee to place adult ads, which can cost anywhere from $5 to $17 and bring the website about $9 million in revenue per month, according to Dart’s office, and 1.4 million ads for sex were placed in April alone. Right now, the only way to post an ad is to pay the small fee through Visa, Mastercard or Bitcoin.

“Backpage has significantly lowered the barrier to entry for would-be sex traffickers, giving them easy access to millions of johns while cloaking them in anonymity and putting all risk on the shoulders of their victims. Raising that barrier will lead to less would-be sex traffickers entering the business as well as less victims,” said Dart in a statement.

He added that he asked Visa and Mastercard to “defund this criminal enterprise and join us in the fight to seek justice for sex trafficking victims across the globe.”

TIME France

If You Didn’t Know What ‘Aggravated Pimping’ Was Before DSK’s Trial, You Will Now

FRANCE-TRIAL-PROSTITUTION-STRAUSSKAHN
Philippe Huguen—AFP/Getty Images Former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn arrives to his hotel in Lille, northern France, on Feb. 17, 2015

"As opposed to nice pimping?" one Twitter user wrote

A French court is expected to deliver its verdict shortly on charges of “aggravated pimping” made against former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the BBC reports.

As TIME noted when Strauss-Kahn was first charged in 2013, “aggravated pimping” under the French penal code describes pimping with, well, aggravating circumstances. Those include prostituting a minor, prostitution involving a weapon, and — alleged factors in Strauss-Kahn’s case — using more than one prostitute and working with a group.

Strauss-Kahn could face 10 years in prison, and a €1.5 million ($1.7 million) fine, if a Lille judge finds him guilty of procuring prostitutes for sex parties in the U.S., France, and Belgium, the BBC says. However, the state prosecutor in the case has already recommended acquittal, saying the evidence presented in court had not established Strauss-Kahn’s guilt. Five of the six plaintiffs have also dropped their accusations against the former French presidential hopeful.

Strauss-Kahn has admitted to being present at the sex parties in question but has consistently denied knowing that some of the women there were being paid.

During closing arguments, prosecutor Frederic Fevre reminded the court that it was “working with the penal code, not the moral code.” Although Strauss-Kahn’s sexual habits were the center of much discussion during the February hearings, he has repeatedly said that he is not on trial for “deviant practices.”

[BBC]

TIME Innovation

How the U.S. Foreign Service Lacks Diversity

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

These are today's best ideas

1. Two top diplomats have a message about America’s foreign service: It’s “too white.”

By Thomas R. Pickering and Edward J. Perkins in the Washington Post

2. Can we ‘test’ strategies against poverty like we test new medicines?

By Michaeleen Doucleff in Goats and Soda by NPR

3. Here’s why the fall of one town to ISIS might push Iraq toward total sectarian war.

By Dexter Filkins in the New Yorker

4. When HIV patients drop out of care, they die. Kenya found a way to prevent that.

By the University of California San Francisco

5. We can end the illegal sex trade.

By Jimmy Carter and Swanee Hunt in Politico

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME movies

Here’s What Former Sex Workers Think of Pretty Woman

Richard Gere And Julia Roberts In 'Pretty Woman'
Hulton Archive/Getty Images Richard Gere and Julia Roberts in a scene from the film 'Pretty Woman', 1990.

It’s been 25 years since Pretty Woman was released, and even though it’s still one of the most beloved romantic comedies ever, it presents a ridiculously sunny idea of what it’s like to sell sex. Vivian, the prostitute played by Julia Roberts, meets a cute john (Richard Gere), eats some strawberries, goes on a shopping spree, and ultimately ends up with the john, who happens to be a rich and charming guy who buys her necklaces and takes her to the opera.

“I love romantic comedies,” says Marian Hatcher, a sex trafficking survivor who now works as a project manager at the Cook County Sheriff’s office. “Before I was prostituted, raped, beaten, kidnapped, and incarcerated as a result of prostitution, I looked at it as a romantic comedy.” But soon enough, she says, the movie “became an ugly reality.”

“There is nothing pretty about prostitution,” Hatcher says. “Nothing pretty about it at all.” For more thoughts from her, you can read a Huffington Post article she wrote on prostitution.

More Dear Johns: Actually You Should Be Ashamed to Buy Sex

The movie didn’t always have such an optimistic ending. Screenwriter J.F. Lawton told Vanity Fair his original script ended with Vivian (the Julia Roberts character) staring “emptily ahead” as she rides Disneyland-bound bus with her friend Kit, after getting a final check from Edward. Pretty Woman was originally supposed to be “dark and gritty”– the idea that Vivian and Edward would end up together only happened once director Garry Marshall started to think of the movie as a “combination of fairy tales.”

And a fairy tale, says Hatcher, is just what it is. “There are no Vivians,” she says. “There are no women who are being rescued by a Prince Charming like Richard Gere.

Not all former sex workers agree. Melissa Petro, a freelance writer and former sex worker who worked as a call girl on Craigslist, says she’s heard of women who have had clients turn into boyfriends, if not husbands. “I had a couple experiences where the lines got fuzzy, including one man who took me on an all expense paid trip to Paris,” she says. “You might say we dated awhile after that. He was young, attractive, intelligent, wealthy– if I were looking for my Richard Gere, I suppose he would’ve been it.”

Petro, who worked in the sex industry to help put herself through college, thinks the movie is more about class climbing than prostitution. “For many sex workers, that’s what prostitution is about– a means of improving one’s socioeconomic condition,” she says.

Hatcher, who was forced into prostitution as a result of domestic violence and who works with trafficked women, disagrees. She notes that, while not all women who do sex work are trafficked, the majority of prostituted individuals she’s worked with have been victimized by someone who has benefited from their abuse. And according to a report cited by the U.S. State Department, 89% of people who work in prostitution globally want to escape. But Hatcher says that for her and the other survivors she counsels, the idea that escape might come from a man who buys sex is preposterous.

“It’s ridiculous. Nobody’s thinking it,” she says. “They’re thinking of how to stay alive, they’re thinking of how to please the next man in order so the man that she has to report back to doesn’t beat her… not riding into the sunset with anyone.”

Instead, she says, it’s usually the opposite. Instead of taking them to the opera, the men who buy sex are often violent towards prostituted women. “Personally, I was raped, beaten, and kidnapped,” she says. “My victimization in terms of the physical trauma was at the hands of the johns. I experienced very little abuse from pimps, mostly from johns.”

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, who has led a national movement to criminalize sex-buyers from his jurisdiction in Illinois, says he thinks Pretty Woman is not just unrealistic, it’s dangerously misleading. As part of his initiative to criminalize the johns over the trafficking victims, Sheriff Dart hires survivors to work in his office– Hatcher is one of them– and he says he’s never heard of a prostitution story ending like this.

“I don’t know if it could be more unrealistic if it were animated,” he said. “Of all the backpage.com arrests we’ve made, I’ve never heard of any instance where the prostitute ends up marrying the john. Never ever ever ever ever.”

“I’ve never heard anyone talk about what a great guy he was,” Dart continues. “I’ve never heard, ‘this all worked out so well.'”

“There’s no benefit to anything that suggests there’s a happy ending involved,” he says.

Read next: How to Spot a Sex Trafficking Victim at a Hotel

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME activism

Eva Longoria: Helping Women Changes Communities for the Better

Ruth Prieto From PBS's 'A Path Appears'

The activist and actress teamed up with Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn to shed light on teen pregnancy, sex trafficking and other problems facing women

If you’re missing Eva Longoria on the small screen since Desperate Housewives ended, don’t worry: you can see her in Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s upcoming PBS documentary, A Path Appears.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning duo of Kristof and WuDunn wrote the book upon which the series is based and recruited celebrity activists like Blake Lively, Ashley Judd, Malin Akerman, Alfre Woodward, Mia Farrow and Jennifer Garner to participate. The documentary aims to not only raise awareness about global poverty facing women and girls, but also present practical solutions that address these problems.

Longoria’s portion of the series is about poverty and teen pregnancy in Colombia, and features the actress and Kristof visiting the Juan Felipe Gomez Escobar foundation, run by Catalina Escobar, which provides education, counseling and job training for teenage mothers.

“I’m of the ideology that if you help a woman, she helps her family, and if she changes her family then you start to change communities,” Longoria says. “I always believe the key to breaking the cycle of poverty lies within the women of any community.”

Longoria, who runs an organization for special needs children and an organization to help Latinas break into STEM fields (called Eva’s Heroes and the Eva Longoria Foundation, respectively) says she is grateful to be able to use her fame to give others a voice. “If a celebrity wants to lend their name and share their spotlight so that these people who don’t have a voice can be heard, I recommend it and I commend it,” she says, noting that the world’s fixation on pop culture often obscures the stories of the neediest. “Unfortunately, these stories are put to the bottom of the news cycle, because they’re not sexy and they’re not glamorous.”

Longoria also said she was shocked at some of the problems the documentary uncovered inside the United States, especially when it comes to sex trafficking. “A lot of times we think, ‘oh that happens in Africa, oh that happens in China, that doesn’t happen in America,'” she says. “How could that be the United States of America?”

The third installation of A Path Appears airs on PBS on Feb 9th.

TIME Crime

Bikini Coffee Shop Owner Hit With Prostitution Charges

Baristas at "Java Juggs" were allegedly serving up more than just cappuccinos

For the past few years, some coffee shops in Washington state have been taking the idea of customer service a little too far.

A former owner of a Seattle-area “bikini coffee shop” was charged with money laundering and promoting prostitution Thursday, after her baristas allegedly served up sex acts to customers as well as hot drinks, CBS News reports.

Documents claim the “bikini baristas” charged $14 to flash their genitals or breasts at customers, and more for sexual acts.

Prosecutors in Shnohomish County allege that Carmela Panico collected more than $2 million in three years through her illegal business offerings. Panico, a former erotic dancer, managed to skip out on paying her full taxes by operating largely in cash — officials found more than $250,000 during a home raid in 2013.

She may have also had some help from the inside: authorities allege that Darrell O’Neill, a sheriff’s sergeant, gave Panico and her employees the heads-up about police investigations in return for sexual favors.

The coffee stand, Java Juggs, was one of seven locations police busted for charges related to prostitution and lewd contact. According to court documents, Panico would dock employees’ pay if the women weren’t wearing high heels or adequate makeup.

An attorney for Panico said the 52-year-old, feeling a little burned by the coffee business, has left the industry for good.

[CBS News]

TIME Crime

1,400 Children Exploited in U.K. Child Sex Ring, According to New Report

Abuse was allegedly ignored by police and other officials

Over 1,400 children in a town in Northern England may have endured sexual abuse that was systematically ignored by police and other authorities from 1997-2013, according to a report released Tuesday.

The independent report, commissioned by the Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council and compiled by Professor Alexis Jay, found that children as young as 11 were being raped and brutalized in Rotherham since 1997, and had been routinely trafficked to other Northern England towns for sex. The report concluded that at least 1,400 children had been sexually abused during the 16 year time frame, but that this was likely a “conservative estimate of the true scale of the problem.”

The stories relayed in the report suggest that police and other municipal authorities failed to take action against the problem for years, allowing perpetrators to continue to exploit children. One girl who was preparing to testify against her perpetrator received a text message saying that he had her younger sister, and “the choice of what happened next was up to her.” In two cases reviewed by Professor Jay and her team, fathers had tracked down their daughters and tried to rescue them, but were themselves arrested when police arrived on the scene. In some instances, police arrested the victims for drunkenness or disorderly conduct, but let the perpetrators go free. Schools complained that children as young as 11 were being picked up in fancy cars and being taken to meet unknown males, and secondary school heads reported girls being taken away on their lunch breaks to give oral sex before heading back to class.

The report also concluded that until 2007, there was evidence that police believed children as young as 11 were having “consensual” sex with their rapists. While the South Yorkshire Police Department had excellent procedures on the books, officers on the ground through the 1990s failed to implement these practices, and seemed to have very little understanding of the nature of child sexual exploitation.

Council leader Roger Stone, who has served since 2003, said he would step down immediately. “I believe it is only right that as leader I take responsibility for the historic failings described so clearly,” he said, according to the BBC.

MONEY The Economy

Sex Keeps Getting Cheaper Around the Globe

Exterior of the Love Ranch at night
Brad DeCecco

The going rate for sex with a prostitute has plummeted in recent years, according to analysis from the Economist.

In 2006, the price for one hour of sex with a female prostitute averaged $340 around the globe. Today, the average rate is down to $260.

The Economist came up with this data after reviewing the online profiles and listings of 190,000 female sex workers in a total of 84 cities in 12 countries. There are several reasons cited for why the price of prostitution has fallen steadily in recent years, including the migration of poor sex workers into wealthier countries, which has pushed prices down. There’s also some indication that the increased availability of legal prostitution in countries such as Germany has put downward pressure on rates for paid sex.

Overall, the explanation for the decline in the price of sex boils to the same two factors that have affected so many other industries over the last decade or so: The responsibility (or blame, if you will) can be traced back to the Great Recession, and the rise of the Internet’s facilitation of virtually every aspect of life. “The fall in prices can be attributed in part to the 2007-8 financial crisis,” the Economist reported. “The increase in people selling sex online—where it is easier to be anonymous—has probably boosted local supply.”

Increased supply means increased competition, and lower prices in order to win customers’ business. This turn of events should put a smile on the face of folks like comedian Jim Norton, who wrote a stunning pro-paid-sex essay titled “In Defense of Johns” last week for TIME.com.

Naturally, sex workers are upset about the decline in asking prices for prostitution. An analysis by the Economist on all the different ways the Internet has impacted the oldest profession indicates that the shift online hasn’t been all bad for prostitutes, however. By being able to advertise and sell sex online, prostitutes don’t have to rely as much on brothels, pimps, or other intermediaries, so less of a sex worker’s money is going to a middleman. Selling sex on the web is certainly not safe, but it’s considered safer than streetwalking, partly because prostitutes can do rudimentary background checks on clients and share information about violent or abusive customers.

Generally speaking, however, it’s hard to come away after reading the Economist’s investigation and not be depressed. Here’s a group of workers who suffered mightily during the recession years and are still feeling its lingering effects. It’s more difficult to make a living in this trade than it has been in the past, what with clients who have less cash to spend and who have more, lower-priced options to choose from thanks to the Internet and other technology.

That description could be used to sum up the recent plight of many retail employees, travel agents, factory workers, or, heck, journalists. Instead, in this instance, it describes the situation facing women who feel forced to sell sex for money.

MORE: Dear Johns: Actually, You Should Be Ashamed to Buy Sex

TIME Opinion

Dear Johns: Actually, You Should Be Ashamed to Buy Sex

The Anti-Social Network Comedy Performances
Ethan Miller—Getty Images Comedian Jim Norton performs during The Anti-Social Network comedy show at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas on July 3, 2011

Jim Norton isn't entitled to sex, but women are entitled to human dignity

After a nationwide crackdown on men who buy sex in the 8th National Day of Johns Arrests earlier this week, comedian Jim Norton wrote an essay asserting his right to pay prostitutes for sex, called “In Defense of Johns.”

Don’t get me wrong, Norton is a funny guy. And I’m all for comedians pushing our social limits in stand-up, because that’s what comedy is all about. But why can’t a famous comic like him find someone who wants to have sex with him for his good looks and sparkling personality?

Norton’s essay wasn’t a joke — it was an actual argument defending the right to pay for sex. “But really, perhaps the most shameful thing I can admit is this: I’m not really ashamed,” he wrote. “And neither should any of these other (unmarried) johns who have been arrested.”

Actually, Jim, you should be ashamed to pay for sex. And so should all the other men who purchase women and girls, many of whom have been trafficked, enslaved and repeatedly raped. No amount of rationalization can get around the basic principle of market economics: if people like you didn’t buy girls, they wouldn’t be sold, and if they couldn’t be sold, they wouldn’t be trafficked and abused.

(Of course, there are also women who buy sex, and plenty of men and boys who are trafficking victims, but let’s focus on the male-client/female-sex-worker argument that Norton is going with.)

There was one part of Norton’s essay that I did find funny. It was the part where he said all the girls he buys are oh-so lucky to be with him. “I suppose you could say I am the consummate john,” he wrote. “I’m loyal, I’m dedicated and I will always come back.” He’s different from all those other nasty, mean clients, because he’s a really nice guy! “I never pick them up to be abusive,” he said. “I always feel extraordinarily loving and close to them.” Hahahahahaha, Jim Norton. Good one!

Did you ever consider, Jim, whether these girls felt “extraordinarily loving and close” to you? I’m guessing their feelings were a bit more complicated. They might have slept with you only because they would get beaten if they didn’t make a certain amount of money that night. And if you thought they enjoyed it, they were probably faking, because that’s exactly what you pay them to do. Sure, some woman do choose this line of work, and sex-workers unions argue that prostitution can be a freely made choice, but that’s not the case for the vast majority: U.S. State Department estimates that 80% of the 600,000 to 800,000 people trafficked across international borders every year are trafficked for sex.

And while we don’t know what the prostitutes thought of Norton, we do know what some sex workers say about their clients. One former prostitute named Kira put it this way: “You guys think we really liked having sex with you, but we would lie to you just to get your money … I hated you when I was out there,” she told men who had been busted for buying sex, according to PBS.

Men like Norton think that their entitlement to sex trumps a woman’s entitlement to dignity and safety. Many of the women they buy are among the most vulnerable human beings on the planet, no matter how wide they smile when a john rolls down his window or plunks down his credit card. According to a report cited by the U.S. State Department, 89% of people who work in prostitution worldwide want to escape. At least 65% of people who work in prostitution were sexually abused as children, and over 60% are raped on the job, according to a 2004 study by Melissa Farley, an activist and psychologist who studies the effect of prostitution on women. And according to Polaris, a Washington, D.C.–based antitrafficking group, over 40% of people trafficked for sex are under 18. Norton says he’s spent the “equivalent of a Harvard Law School education” on sex, which is precisely what keeps trafficking victims in the sex trade.

Norton claims that legalizing prostitution would help solve these problems, but what he really means is that it would be easier for him to buy sex without his pesky conscience getting in the way of his peskier penis. Because even though there are valid arguments for the legalization of prostitution, I’m finding it hard to believe that Norton really has the best interests of sex workers in mind.

Because despite the theories, there’s very little evidence that legalizing prostitution makes life better for sex workers. Even though prostitution is legal in Nevada, over 80% of the sex workers Farley interviewed told her they wanted to escape sex work. And five years after prostitution was legalized in Germany 2002, the Family Ministry found “no solid proof to date” that the legalization had reduced crime and abuse, and had “not brought about any measurable actual improvement in the social coverage of prostitutes,” according to the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel. Proponents say that legal prostitution can be regulated to ensure the safety of the sex workers, but German snack bars have more regulations than brothels do.

The Netherlands has also been held up as an example of what happens when prostitution is legalized, but the results are mixed. The mayor of Amsterdam said in 2003 that legalizing prostitution had failed to keep sex workers safe, since “it appeared impossible to create a safe and controllable zone for women that was not open to abuse by organized crime.”

Most arguments for legalization presume that tons of women would choose sex work if it were safe and legal, but that’s convenient wishful thinking for johns who want to let themselves off the hook. “In the real world, Julia Roberts’ character from Pretty Woman does not exist,” said Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, who organizes the National Day of Johns Arrests and advocates for harsher punishment for sex buyers. “Every time a john purchases sex, he is catalyzing a violent and oppressive industry.”

“The autonomous prostitute we envisioned when the prostitution law was enacted in 2001, who negotiates on equal terms with her client and can support herself with her income, is the exception,” German politician Thekla Walker said at a political convention. Instead, the law allows sex workers “merely the freedom to allow themselves to be exploited,” according to Der Spiegel.

Some argue that making prostitution legal could make sex workers safer, because they could call the police if a client was getting violent. But criminalizing the johns would do the same thing: prostitutes would know they won’t face jail time for calling for help, and the violent jerk would be cuffed.

That’s why targeting the johns is the best way to keep vulnerable women safe. Since Sweden introduced a measure in 1999 to target clients instead of sex workers, the population of prostitutes has been reduced by two-thirds, from 2,500 in 1998 to just 1,000 in 2013. France recently did the same, imposing fines for men who pay for sex. And even New York City prosecutors are increasingly focused on targeting buyers and pimps instead of sex workers. Because women and children will be sold as long as there are men to buy them, and when the demand for paid sex outstrips the supply of willing prostitutes, traffickers are ready to step in.

Prostitutes have been shamed and marginalized for thousands of years, but men who buy sex are considered so normal that they’re given the most ordinary name of all: john, a name shared by no less than five U.S. Presidents. Imagine the name whore was as common as john, and you’ll see how ridiculous this is — think about “Whore Quincy Adams” as our sixth President. Let’s hope we see the day when the men who choose to buy sex are shamed as much as the women who are often forced sell it. They’re the ones that should be ashamed of themselves.

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