“Backpage.com’s adult ads continue to normalize, increase demand for sex trafficking” by Thanh Tan

Backpage.com is infamous for facilitating sex trafficking and the prostitution of women and children. Many are now boycotting the website until they remove their “adult” service section. Learn more in this article authored by Thanh Tan. This is an excerpt from a recent article published by The Seattle Times. The source of this excerpt is http://blogs.seattletimes.com/opinionnw/2014/04/25/backpage-coms-adult-ads-continue-to-normalize-increase-demand-for-sex-trafficking/

This Seattle Times editorial posted Thursday encourages the online community to help stop sex trafficking by refusing to sell or buy goods on Backpage.com until it stops posting adult services.

image courtesy of The Seattle Times

image courtesy of The Seattle Times

A disclaimer on the site asking users to “report suspected exploitation of minors and/or human trafficking” is disingenuous. Once viewers click “I agree” to the terms, they are exposed to illicit ads that reduce people’s daughters to faceless bodyshots and subject lines consisting of emoji characters, body measurements, ages that could be fake and suggestive pseudonyms.


Throughout the month of April, news reports around the country have linked Backpage.com’s adult section to criminal behavior. WCCO-TV in Minneapolis reported on the prevalence of child sex trafficking in the Twin Cities. On April 15, a man in Detroit was sentenced in the murder of four women he found through the site’s escort listings. A prostitution sting in Kentucky led to three arrests. On Thursday, WABI-TV in Maine broadcast a story about the recruitment of minors into the trade. Here in Seattle, a Times news story on April 17 revealed attorney and alleged rapist Danford Grant searched hundreds, if not thousands, of times for Asian massage therapists on Craigslist.org and Backpage.com.

Peter Qualliotine, a co-founder of the Organization for Prostitution Survivors, says more public awareness is needed to help communities understand the greater societal implications of adult service ads on the Internet.

“Whenever the commercial sex industry gets normalized, what we see is an increase in violence against women and attitudes that support the subordination of women,” he says, adding that most users of Internet sites such as Backpage.com are men. “Our culture is priming them to view sex as an act of dominance rather than an act of mutuality and equality.”

Qualliotine facilitates the city of Seattle’s “john school” every month. In these intervention sessions, he says he witnesses a “serious lack of empathy” from men who don’t understand that many of the scantily clad women in adult ads are controlled by pimps and coerced into performing sex work from a young age. The program tries to teach the buyers that their interactions with women should be a “yes without fear or confusion. When you’re paying somebody, you’re paying not to hear the truth about what her reality is about.”

This is a significantly shortened excerpt. To read the full article, please visit The Seattle Times website http://blogs.seattletimes.com/opinionnw/2014/04/25/backpage-coms-adult-ads-continue-to-normalize-increase-demand-for-sex-trafficking/

Thanh Tan is a multimedia editorial writer. Prior to joining the editorial board of The Seattle Times, she was a political and general assignment reporter with local TV stations in Boise and Portland, an Emmy-winning reporter / producer / host with Idaho Public Television, and a multimedia reporter with The Texas Tribune in Austin. She has also contributed to “This American Life” and The New York Times.