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Hypocritical Legal Crusade Against Craigslist Will Not Solve Violence Against Sex Trafficking Victims

AG Richard Blumenthal's obsession with Craigslist does nothing to end the exploitation of people trafficked for sex.

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Would Blumenthal and his allies support a similar investigation into such police misconduct and abuse of power in key cities across the United States?

You could almost forgive Blumenthal and his colleagues for thinking that the root cause of prostitution was bad men and their bad, selfish, insatiable sexual appetites, bad men and their greed and their lust for power over others. They call them johns, pimps and traffickers. Their desire to blame “bad men” makes even more wretched sense when you consider who are among their colleagues in law and policy: Louisiana Senator David Vitter, a client of a Washington escort service, and former New York state governor and famed Internet escort service client Eliot Spitzer. For being such “bad men” who pay for sex, they’re still publicly kicking. Vitter is headed for re-election and Spitzer, though his political career is indelibly stamped with “Client #9,” isn’t hard-up for work. Whereas once CNN positioned its 24-hour trucks outside the apartment of one woman he hired for sex, now it’s Spitzer who’ll be helming their desks -- for his own eight o'clock news show coming this month.

Considering that Spitzer hired someone off the Internet to bring over state lines for sex, he’d likely fall under Blumenthal’s own very generous definition of a trafficker. But to call for charges against Spitzer does nothing now, and to insist that Blumenthal not forget these famous, slightly fallen, yet similarly elected clients of the sex trade is as pointless as asking him to consider turning away from his fight against Internet prostitution. There seems to be no convincing these public officials that there is simply no evidence that limiting the venues in which sex is sold improves public health and welfare for anyone. It is as if these attorneys general believe that the same “bad men” who might risk discovery and arrest by placing an advertisement for sex on a high-profile Web site like Craigslist will simply close up shop now that they must do business somewhere more underground, where it will be much harder for law enforcement and NGOs to monitor their activities. Meanwhile, police will continue to arrest young people in the sex trade, sending them to jails, shelters and clinics that denigrate and abuse them, and leaving them with criminal records that perpetuate the cycles of poverty and violence.

Demanding that Craigslist delete a section of its Web site is a far easier fight than examining one’s own law enforcement strategy. Censoring ads for prostitution does not end violence against people who sell or trade sex. But that’s not the fight at hand, not for the state AGs. Taking action to end violence against people in the sex trade is simply not on their agenda. How could we believe it is when they won’t right what’s wrong within their own houses?

Melissa Gira Grant has written about the Internet sex trade for Valleywag and Slate.

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