Village Voice Enabling Underage Prostitution?

Print Share on LinkedIn More

March 17, 2012; Source: New York Times

One of the more powerful feature articles we’ve seen recently is Nick Kristof’s story about a 24-year-old college senior named Alissa. When she was 16 and 17, she was a young prostitute in New York City. She escaped that life, testified against her pimps, and helped six of them enter the big house for sentences of up to 25 years.

According to Kristof, Alissa’s anger is directed against the classified advertising websites on which pimps routinely offer their girls for sex. “You can’t buy a child at Wal-Mart, can you?” she asked rhetorically. “No, but you can go to Backpage and buy me on Backpage.”

Five websites carry prostitution advertising in the U.S., with Backpage accounting for 70 percent of the business, earning more than $22 million for prostitution ads. According to Kristof, Backpage is “not a fly-by-night operation…[but] is owned by Village Voice Media,” the owner of the Village Voice newspaper. Despite letters from the attorneys general of 48 states plus a petition at with 94,000 signatures asking the Village Voice to drop Backpage’s prostitution advertising, the Village Voice has not only rejected the pleas, but mocked its critics. 

Kristof asks, “If street pimps go to jail for profiteering on under-age girls, should their media partners like Village Voice Media really get a pass?” Why is there so little pressure on the Village Voice? Kristof notes that 100 advertisers have dropped Rush Limbaugh’s radio show because he called a Georgetown University student some sexually demeaning epithets because of her advocacy of the availability of contraception coverage in national health insurance. What keeps advertisers supporting the Village Voice, whose classified ad sheet permits advertising for underage prostitution, a practice that is illegal and clearly harms young girls, certainly more so than Limbaugh’s tired bloviating? Craigslist was pressured to stop accepting prostitution ads. The Village Voice can’t?

Alissa’s is a remarkable story. Not only does she hope to go to law school, but she works part-time at Fair Girls, an anti-trafficking organization. This tiny organization (formerly the Fair Fund), with an annual budget of less than $200,000, provides emergency response services and individualized care for trafficked girls between 11 and 21 years of age, provides community training workshops, and sponsors the JewelGirls economic empowerment and art therapy program. Amazingly, Fair Girls has offices in Washington, D.C., Belgrade, and Moscow and works with vulnerable and exploited girls in Bosnia, Montenegro, Russia, Serbia, and Uganda as well as the United States.

The Village Voice is supporting a classified ad rag that carries 70 percent of the U.S. online prostitution business. Is this necessary—facilitating underage prostitution in the name of free speech? Really?—Rick Cohen

  • Bellarobinson

    First of all back page is not PIMPING anyone and these same ads have been published in the yellowpages for the past 35 years. Just like any other website people can post and some of those people are posting for illegal actives. People get robbed ad murdered off Craigslist but we can’t just shut them down, and the courts have already ruled in favor of similar sites like Craigslist. Your right village voice is not going to FOLD, because a certain group of people don’t like things.
    This girl in the story was pimped out for years in the streets of NY long beforeback pagee came into the picture. So why are her PARENTS not in jail for CHILD ENDANGERMENT, for not reporting their UNGOVERNABLE teen to the authorities. Perhaps the cops, should lock these runaways up inboot campss until they can behave rather than spending 250 million a year to STALK + ARREST middle aged consenting adults who met in private.

    NY cops refused to take a missing persons report on a NJ escort, and told her family the didn’t take reports on HOOKERS, while we have 10 dead escorts buried in Long Island, the NY cops are wasting resourceses on DNA testing from toothbrushes to stalk and threaten the escorts who had worked for the NY madam being held on a 2 million bond.

    What about all the ADULT ESCORTS who use back page and are STALKED + HARASSED by cops, bad cops while the attorney generals office and law enforcement WITH HOLD police protect from the citizens thay have been sworn to protect. So it is not back pageage that won’t cooperate, its the AUTHORITIES who won’t cooperate with the women.

    Have you ever wondered why a man can not use the excuse that didn’t know she was underage if he is caught selling a minor alcohol, yet he can use that same excuse when he is caught having sex with a minor?
    Get over sex between ADULTS, and PARENTS need to start parenting. I am a escort and who managed to raise a daughter till she was 20 years old, without having her run off with a pimp, nor did I EVER bring strange men into my home. Half the women in the USA bring strange men home even though they have small children living in the home and then they act all surprised when their kids are missing or molested.
    and as this is legal, as lng as a women is GIVING HERSELF AWAY.
    This is all about trying to stop people from having sex, just like the birth control being beign referred to as a violate of THEIR RELIGIOUS RIGHTS. What about the CIVIL RIGHTS off the esbeing being murdered?

  • Julie

    What an important topic! Thank you for featuring this article. Incredible that Alissa’s experienced this tremendous betrayal and abuse and is still going on to help others! An inspiration. Thank you for making us aware of the Village Voice’s role in this. Grievously shameful. 🙁

  • Lilithe Magdalene

    Your conclusions are short sighted.

    A) getting rid of Backpage escort ads will only send the pimps pushing young girls, deeper underground and harder to find.

    B) There are more of us who are NOT trafficked but choose our jobs who use Backpage (and used Craigslist before it shut their erotic section down) who would also be hurt by it – many having to turn to street prostitution to carry on with their trade.

    There needs to be more organizations like Fair Girls getting a lot more money to help track, find and help exit people who are being trafficked and coerced into sex work. Sex work is not the problem – misogyny is. The state of sex work is a symptom of a much bigger problem of seeing women as less than members of society.