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Beth Mann

Beth Mann
Long Beach Island, New Jersey, USA
November 11
Hot Buttered Media
I'm a writer and creative consultant. I have years of experimental comedy and strange theater under my belt. I surf. I cook. I love wine, men and song. And puppies. I effin' love puppies.

JULY 3, 2012 9:23PM

Real Women Don't Listen to These Guys

Rate: 28 Flag




Okay, I had to laugh when I first saw this anti-sex trafficking campaign from the Demi and Ashton Foundation. Some Hollywood heavyweights bandied together for a cause. Not unheard of. A good publicist makes sure his or her client has a sturdy cause to plaster a face to.

But this one? With these guys? Well, hello, hypocrisy! Why don't you sit a spell?

I'd bet, let's see, MY LIFE, that all three of these men have used the services of sex workers in the past (month, maybe). Have they all been of age? I'm sure they weren't fretting over it at the time, what with the champagne, cocaine and stuff.

"You want entertainment, get yourself a couple of hookers and an eight ball." - Sean Penn

But then there's this critical aspect that's more cringe-worthy: confusing sex trafficking with sex work. This campaign mindlessly muddies the two, but that's nothing unusual. Many anti-prostitution campaigns will do just that.

A few years ago, Craigslist was "forced" by 17 attorney generals to remove their adult services section of their website due to fears that it harbored sex trafficking activity.

 "They're buying and selling children out there. Better arrest the hookers on Craigslist or they'll buy and sell more children!" roared the battle cry.

Of course, they arrested women. Working women. Lots of them. Whether you agree with the moral choice of a sex worker is not the issue. They arrested the "lowest hanging fruit" according to sex work activist and author Amanda Brooks and not sex traffickers:

"If you want to fight sex trafficking, go find sex traffickers and put them away. Be my guest. I don't know a single sex worker who will stop you from doing that. Arresting consenting adult sex workers isn't going to stop a sex trafficker. It has nothing to do with actually saving those who need help."

There are plenty of consenting sex workers who have been radically affected by these dubious crusades. And the religious right love this kind of double speak:

Sex work = sex-trafficking

Anti-trafficking = anti-prostitution

Pro-life = anti-life

Is sex trafficking a problem? Hell, yes. Human trafficking is a tremendous problem. (I guess Ashton is not as concerned about the children used for labor, which constitutes a substantial 20% of all trafficked individuals worldwide.) It is the fastest-growing business of organized crime and the third-largest criminal enterprise in the world.

So how does the Demi and Ashton Foundation offer help?

Kutcher claims that "once someone goes on record saying they are or
aren't going to do something, they tend to be a bit more accountable."
If he's means worldwide trafficking rings, this will not be brought up at their next board meeting, I promise.

If he's speaking directly to pedophiles, guess what? They're not listening
to advice from a glossy playboy celebrity about their severe sexual predilections. 

And while I love me my Justin Timberlake, do we truly think his pretty face would have an iota of effect on human trafficking, where often massive rings extend worldwide? A cute t-shirt is not reaching them. As a matter of fact, that cute t-shirt insults and undercuts the extent and extremity of the problem. (And let's hope that underage forced labor isn't making said cute t-shirt.)

What this "campaign lite" does instead? Shames prostitutes. Shames Johns. Shames the oldest profession that ain't going nowhere, whether you like it or not. And conveniently, does not shame (nay exalts) the guys who have used their services. (Please trust me, they have. And they weren't checking ID.)

Interestingly, I've seen several feminists and feminist groups proudly post this ad on Facebook, which seems so obviously contradictory in its messaging. Filmmaker Iari Lee and A Girl's Guide to Taking Over the World (whom I truly respect) parrot this rhetoric without seeing the possible hypocrisy or outright damage. It's jump on a bandwagon for the bandwagon's sake. (Heck, they're cute guys!)

I've often heard male friends say, "I'd never pay for sex. I don't need to." Well, kudos to you. But some choose to. And in countries all over the world, it's a fine and legal working arrangement. So I can't help but note the underlying message:

"Real men (like us) don't have to pay for sex. We get it for free. Because we're Sean Penn, Ashton Kutcher and Justin Timberlake." 

But that doesn't fit on a coffee mug as easily. I have a new slogan: 

"Real women don't take social instruction, which ultimately shames and harms women, from Hollywood playboys who need a cause de jour."

Look at this darling video where Kutcher claims that "real men [like this Hollywood star] do laundry." Do you believe that too?:

 Special thanks to Heather Bartlett and Lorraine Berry for their contributions. 

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I'm not sure the distinction is so easy to understand for many, but you've said it simply.
I agree that to have the impish charlatans telling us just how it is though is particularly annoying.
Wasn't Ashton Kushner just busted with a prosititute?

"Me thinks thou protests too much!"
Don't you just hate people who double comment?

I just watched the video...and I'm, like, totally ...wait, WHAT?

About that painting....
prostitution is illegal but its one of those gray areas like marijuana. interesting to hear your take & assert its feminist. yes, I think theres a feminist slice that does have a place for "sex work". on the other hand, its a weird mix of business and pleasure that will forever cause cognitive dissonance....
someone should tell ashton that lots of ppl feel real men dont cheat on their wife.... just sayin....
Interestingly, I just read this article Monday on a new type of sex ring in England. It is appalling.

I really fear that women are never going to be respected and here's why. It's because we and society think that we need to have respect given to us and legislated to us. Respect is an inalienable right for every living being in existence anywhere. It is inherent. It is not to be "given." It does not have to be "earned." It simply is.

But until that is internalized by the masses, nothing is going to improve.
I would have to agree that real men do laundry...I've seen this happen...

as for the other stuff..

"A cute t-shirt is not reaching them. As a matter of fact, that cute t-shirt insults and undercuts the extent and extremity of the problem. (And let's hope that underage forced labor isn't making said cute t-shirt.)"

agreed....especially that last part.
I'm sorry... I went and made my dinner, hung some curtains and I still could not get this out of my brain..

Don't you think a campaign about mothers huffing in front of their teenage daugters is more applicable?
I guess they were going for something there, though the message is a teeny bit muddled. Yeah, sure, a guy who hires an under age prostitute is a dick. I'm not sure that anyone inclined to do so would be stopped by this ad. It seems more like self-promotion. It might be more helpful to educate potential customers about how to discern a sex slave from a willing entrepreneur.
Fan-Fucking-tastic piece Beth.
I've always been confused about the machismo of celebrity. In the world of Hollywood, nothing is truly real.

The sign should read: "Artifice makes me feel tough and with a cause, I am more attractive to sensitive folks (mostly myself).

Sorry..this gets close to the issue of Celebs being criticized regardless of their best intentions. I understand that. Penn has put $ towards causes and I do believe him when he talks sincerely about them, the same (to some extent) with the others...but this message should have been discussed a little more before committing.
These guys a complete tools-really, I am a former college jock and a brother of four sisters- I see all angles of the dynamics that go on and have the empathy to feel the pain of girls in it for all the wrong reasons. Rich girls striking out at parents that gave them everrything but their valuable time to relentlessly unapologetical sex crazed 20 year olds that were just figuiring it all out.They were awesome and sleep well tonight. There is a wide spectrum and these jackasses pretty much are clueless. I have used and have been used but, to exploit someone without any options is really the bottom line. When you use somebody-I mean really lessen their humanity then, it is a moment that cannot be regained. When someone cannot offer that intimacy with free will then, the dehumanization has begun.
Afraid you're fighting a windmill here but you're dead on. I've written about the scams in "fighting" trafficking before and it's 90% self-aggrandizement and 10% money.

Glad you said it, not me.

Yes, sex work may forever cause cognitive dissonance but it will forever be in existence. And since that's a long time, we should differentiate very clearly between that and enslavement.

More to say with a fresher mind in the am. As always, the feedback from this group is one of the main reasons I return.
While he does good work I'm sure, I find it hard to take some of Sean Penn's comments seriously. Yes. Slavery is wrong, and as usual, women and children suffer the most. Yes. But, also, pistol whipping your wife is wrong and sticking a gun in her mouth and tying her to a chair are, you know, wrong.

I dunno. I know he deserves a second chance. But, it does mess with me a little to see him as a spokesperson for this.
Well stated! I wasn't aware of this poorly considered campaign, so thanks for bringing it to my attention.

This was so, so intelligently presented and written. As someone who supports sex workers (that is, consenting adults who choose to make this their profession), as a woman, as a pop culture junkie, I think you just hit the nail right on the head.
I hope they read your work here. There is a big difference between the two and they screwed up the message trying to be urbane and cute.
I dunno what's in order here. Creative misspellings? Woman. Woe-man. Woah, man! It's the eternal conundrum. Is that an oxymoron? Woman scorned. Scorched? I still say they should just eliminate us for a generation or so, and see how far they get. I mean - really. Really??
I couldn't agree with you more. :-)
Well said. From day one, this always felt like something that was started with the question, "What kind of cause can we have that will get a lot of attention?"
Beth, I think trafficking is the plaque of each society, in global terms. I mean one kid, or woman, gets abducted by any country, and in the instant she/ the kid/he , is hidden in a basement in another country, never seeing the sky, the light of the day, being forced on sex and nothing else, while the money goes to the sex traffickers. It is a plaque, and something has to be done, and I think that celebrities have not done enough on this issue, cause you know, celebrities, draw attention, and attention makes authorities more cautious. If a famous actor for instance decided to make a global campain against trafficking, I think that he/she would have gained attention in societies that do not even know what trafficking is. The issue is far too important to diminish it to nothing. I respect sex workers, and I think that their work is hard, only considering that most of them, do not do this work by their own will. To the some that want this job as if this is their only ability, well, it is their issue, but for those inprisoned, no it is all our business, and to be honest I am glad that trafficking has at last been in the celebrities agenda. Maybe now, authorities will notice. Thank you for bringing this issue, as a woman, trafficking is one of my fears, I have it to my danger thinking zone, to the same level as cancer and Alzheimer, but in the last cases, no one other but the disease is raping mind, body, soul, cause it is rape behind trafficking. Rated.
I am not fond of this internet meme of men holding up signs to inform women about what real men think, e.g. real men don't care if you're heavy, real men don't care if you wear make-up, etc. A corresponding meme has emerged–maybe you've seen–of women holding up signs in response. Jezebel did a feature on this recently, very funny, and in your face-thanks men, but we don't need your endorsements, and please stop thinking that your signage will make us feel better about ourselves, want to sleep with you, etc. It makes us angry, and we do not think you are great guys for it.
Stick to making movies, boys. Let your characters give the message.
Stathi, I hear your points somewhat. My point of disagreement is this: an ill-executed campaign can do more harm than good. Especially when the underlying message is sexist and self-serving.
A sloppy campaign doesn't necessarily increase awareness if it's doing damage to another demographic of women.

And really, raised awareness is not always enough. Not in the case of an extensive problem such as this. In short, I'd prefer people learn more about sex trafficking from smart, informative campaigns or their own research (hell the information abounds).
I haven’t heard about this campaign, and don't know what these particular men's histories or motives are, but have to agree with Stathi on this one. It sounds like they are talking about people who are under age 18.

My daughter ran away from home once when she was 17. It turned out she had travelled around and stayed near a friend, and was fine; but for the 2 months before I knew where she was, I had contacted Center for Missing and Exploited Children. This is a really excellent organization to support and donate to. They scared the living crap out of me, because of what they've seen. The parent they matched me up with (they have a support group for parents called Team Hope), she is still looking for her child after 25 years.

The age of domestic trafficking of girls has gone down in the US in the past years because of many factors: the use of the internet to do business and share images, less family stability, cheap drugs making addiction among children more widespread, among other factors. According to, "Increases in calls from homeless and throwaway youth may be related to the current economic downturn in the United States….there has been a 30 percent increase in crisis callers who identify economics as an important problem in their lives over the past three years."

Different sources give different ages, but according to this information the average age for entry into prostitution of US females in the United States is now 12. In my state it is 13.

The study cited in this article says: "Foremost among the health risks of prostitution is premature death. In a recent US study of almost 2000 prostitutes followed over a 30-year period, by far the most common causes of death were homicide, suicide, drug- and alcohol-related problems, HIV infection and accidents — in that order. The homicide rate among active female prostitutes was 17 times higher than that of the age-matched general female population."

Another great organization to donate to is GEMS, who do both advocacy and direct intervention and services to victims of trafficking.

This transcript from NPR says that 75% of girls in prostitution are working for a pimp.

I agree with you, Beth, there is a ton of information out there, and hopefully, even if there's a lot of disagreement with this particular campaign, maybe it will get other people to do some research on their own, and hopefully donate, or just listen to the kids in their own lives. I guess what I didn't realize before my own daughter left home was that sometimes a girl has one risk factor, or two, but the more the risk factors pile up (single parent home, left high school, low income, gay or bisexual, abuse in home, substance abuse, etc.), the more and more chance she has of being a runaway and/or being victimized. Thanks for posting (& sorry my comment got so long!) :)
When we have a universally accepted definition of what a real man is, then I will take note of these campaigns. Until then...
Stathi, another correction: most sex workers are sex workers by choice, not because they're forced into it. It's interesting how many horrendous jobs many of us have been enslaved to for decades, yet sex work is the one where people think they're TRULY trapped; as if that office job of yours could never do the same damage. I think differently. We can all be enslaved to our various employments for various reasons. Just because sex is exchanged for one makes the others no less nefarious, imo.
Clay Ball, thanks for sharing your information and your story. What an experience...what two months of your life!

As for the stats, I'm usually quite suspicious of them. What organization gathered the information? There's usually an anti-prostitution agenda behind them. Street walkers are different than escorts, for instance. Strippers are different than phone sex operators. Sensual masseuses are different than a junkie needing to score a fix. It is VERY hard to generalize about sex work and how they die.

And, if they are in danger, is the implied answer to do away with it? Good luck. It will never happen. In countries where prostitution is legal, there is safety and legal protection, not a bunch of HIV deaths and killings in back alleys.

So yes, these men are talking about girls under 18...but to whom? Again, are they talking to the pedophiles out there? To the sex traffickers? Are they just reminding the public at large that they shouldn't have sex with underage girls? (And they do use the term "buy", which implies ownership of some sort as well, regardless of their message.)

Bono, Sting and Geldoff are all examples of celebrities who see their causes through. They can get on my nerve with their self-righteousness but they don't create cute, misguided campaigns. This strikes of sloppiness. And that sloppiness affects people. So if awareness raising is the ultimate goal, what if the awareness isn't correctly placed? What if the takeaway message is skewed? Then does it still help?
Beth, I live in Greece, so a lot of my thinking, and my understanding has been formed by what I have learned from the university, life here, and by others. I strongly do not think that sex workers, work for sex by choice, to my thinking in 100 sex workers, I believe only 10 of them are willingly in this business, the rest are there due to drugs, abuse, left from home, money debts, immigration, trafficking, psychological reasons, and many more, with free will to be the last in my understanding list. It is true that most of the jobs we do have the same ''enslavement'', but at least we are not in drugs, we are not abused, we are not raped, or when in such situations, we have the law to turn to. These sex workers, they do not have the minimum protection.
And as for the campaign, I think that something, is a lot better than nothing. We here in Greece, also have campaigns by famous, and I do not need them to tell me what I should know or do, sometimes to me is a little insulting, having an actor or a singer, telling me a historian, how to raise my kid, or how to be a good human, or what to do or not do it. I mean, the fact that one is famous, does not make him/her a saint, to the contrary, some of them are among the most bad influences a child can have, and I can understand your saying, in your article. I mean, be ethical and than talk to me about ethics, is the minimum common sense. But trafficking is out there, and a motivation must be out there also. Do not know, what is right or wrong, I know that I am scared about trafficking, and I do not feel safe.
Great! I do my own dirty laundry.
I hang my bibs out in the sunshine.
I get sad when I follow Fearsome.
I mean:
I just got here and saw a kind Greek.
It's a big `Sigh to be aware of`Evil.
I recal` Greece and a stay at Crete.
On a boat Ferry ride folk danced.
To be aware of demented folks?
It's sad. Scary. I request`No Fear.
I do Understand. I've known FEAR.
When Ya get dumped in a` Warfare?
Ya sense FEAR. Fear means`Respect.
I have been reviewing Greek` Words.
It is a Joy to browse the old `Word Studies.
This post deserves more quiet` Reflections.
I follow innocently. I am no threat to a`Flea.
I am still Sad. I am a domestic threat to`Who?
I learned this. Government put me on dirt`List.
I go wash my dirty wallpaper with kind` Graffiti.
I write scribble in outhouse? tease. I hand in Sun?
I fear someone in NSA or @ Salon or Open` Steal.
If I wash bibs and outhouse graffiti Kerry may`Rob.
I no worry or FEAR Kerry steal mu underpants? No.
I never wear any. The undies itch. I no wear `Anymore.
If I sleep . . . I may wear a nee length Welsh` Pa Pa Shirt.
It's modest. It comes down to my knees. Read Joan Walsh?
I saw @ Salon a creepy `Walsh (not Joan) slanders Amputee.
Read Joan Walsh @ Salon? I've spoken with her. Sad Legless.
Jow Walsh - he a blowhard? He plays bagpipes with Kerry?
I may go get a bath. I go to banker theft Laundromat? huh?
Waynesboro, lawyers (2) robbed boat-woman`Kim Doan.
I get wear mentioning it. Eric Holder is busy as a`Beaver.
Respect . . .
I will ponder the word`Fear. FEAR can be paralyze `People.
I go walk slow in rain. `Sing in the rain. What Wonderful Day.
Maybe we can bum soap and grow legs? No kill or Slander Folk.
I can't comment @ Salon.
goat gouda blueberry
Kerry deleted those?
Why respect creeps?
Cat ate editor nose?
He wiggle as worm.
He fear trout fish.
He baffle people.
BethM-- as I read this its compelling but it also makes me wonder of your personal experiences in developing your opinion on this. maybe you have some friends in "the biz" or know someone. it would be helpful in framing your position to have a little background. of course its your choice but I do smell another story or blog behind this.
Art, thank you for your work of art. I'm sensing all of these OS changes and politics have been directly affecting you (and all of us). It was a little strange returning here, fearing I'd find a ghost town. So happy to see your work; a sign that it's worthy to come back!

Stathi, thanks for your background. And yes, I get it. It's truly frightening. I've researched sthe sex trafficking industry; they work in such a broad, massive and invisible manner. It's like a giant spider web. There's no kingpin, per se. Just this global network making billions and ensuring that they remain invisible. Its stark evil of immense proportions.

You are right; sex workers do not have the same forms of protection. But perhaps you'd need to think again as far as other professions and addictions, harassment and abuse. They all contain varying degrees of it. But again, sex work is stigmatized. And when it's illegal, it does drive people to darker aspects of it.

I don't believe something is better than nothing in this case. When the "something" is misinformed, misleading and self-serving, no I don't. There's a massive anti-prostitution crusade here that goes after working women and wastes tax dollars. That's harmful. Straight up. It's got that anti-woman witch hunt feel to it as well, which is becoming increasingly prevalent as women lose rights in a myriad of areas because of this far right leaning agenda.

vzn, as a feminist I have always been pro sex work. I have friends in the sex work industry and happily so. To me, feminism and sex work go hand in hand. I don't think there is anything wrong with it and I never have.

The problem is when it's illegal and the workers aren't protected. Look at an example like New Zealand and you'll see that sex work is not just a bunch of addicts down on their luck. They are professional, hard-working women, just like me. So I stand behind them and their choices.
"All women are whores!" -- Erich von Stroheim to Louis B. Mayer.
Whereupon Mr. Mayer punched the actor in the nose.

Times change. Today, Stroheim would have added "But that's OK." And Mayer would have replied, "I admire and respect women too. Let's have a drink, Erich."

This is progress?
Great piece! Rated, double if I could! I understood what they were trying to say but again, like everyone is stating the message is muddled. No, real men don't buy girls, but they might rent a woman!

What? :D

Again, RATED!!!!
ok. understood. ps Im sure itd be very interesting to hear of your happily-so friends in the biz sometime when you're in the right mood. I enjoy reading misc books on the subj, there are many. might post a list of some of the titles sometime.
It gives me inspiration.I think I will also inspired by you and think about more new ideas.
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