Ashton Kutcher has responded to the Village Voice's takedown of reported numbers on child sex trafficking, which also criticized his advocacy work.
Kutcher, of course, has his own formidable platform — Twitter, where he has seven million followers. He used it last night to strike back at Village Voice Media, which put an illustration of him on the cover of almost all of its alt-weeklies nationwide, along with a story accusing anti-child trafficking advocates of relying on flawed numbers and criticizing them for "their hands out for government funding or charitable contributions."
Speaking of money, that's part of Village Voice Media's motivation: Its Backpage.com has come under fire from these same advocates for accepting sex work advertisements, an indeterminate quantity of which involve underage and/or coerced prostitutes. (Craigslist already capitulated to their demands, though it's unclear how much of an impact that has had on actual trafficked women.)
So back to Ashton, whose DNA Foundation with his wife, Demi Moore — who was barely mentioned in the piece — launched a bunch of PSAs with the tagline, "Real Men Don't Buy Girls." (Yeah, we don't love "Real Men" either and the commercials are weird, but that's not really the point.) He took to Twitter to wonder why the Voice didn't interview this girl, who is suing them for abetting her trafficking. He also linked to a Quora discussion he had about this topic just days before the Voice piece was published.
The question was specifically about the conflation of voluntary prostitution with trafficking. Kutcher replied,
Human trafficking data is extremely incomplete due to the psychological complexity of the issue and the lack of funding that has been allocated to research. Often times the data becomes conflated due to the lack of transparency from the victims themselves...Proving force, fraud, or coercion can be very difficult considering that the victims have often times been brain washed, beaten, raped, molested, threatened, and tormented and fear revealing the identity of their trafficker. Often times what appears to be a voluntary commercial sex transaction is not. Therefore gathering a precise data set can be very complicated.
Except for the part about the data being incomplete, that doesn't quite get to the problems posed in The Voice piece — it actually abets the only passingly implied assertion that much of this anti-trafficking activity is a morality crusade unconcerned with the actual "working women," as they inelegantly put it. But as we pointed out yesterday, they undermined their own story with nasty digs, assertions of bad faith, and the idea that the number of arrests would tell you much about how many children are actually trafficked.
Speaking of elegant, here's Kutcher again: "Hey @villagevoice you keep collecting the check from Selling Girls on Backpage and leave helping them to people who give a F**k."
Ashton Kutcher [Twitter]