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Former Sex Worker Melissa Petro Defends Adult Ad Site

I was wondering what people think about this. Melissa Petro, as I believe I blogged about before, lost her job as a teacher because she had formerly worked as a prostitute. Now, she and others are coming forward to defend Backpage.com, a site that has adult advertisements on it.

Backpage has been criticized for being a site where trafficked girls and women are sold sexually. However, women who place ads on the site are coming forward, claiming that not all the women who advertise on the site are forced or coerced into getting into and staying in the sex industry:

Whereas no one disputes that some individuals are led into the sex industry under false pretenses and remain in the industry due to violence or coercion, the truth is, not all people who engage in commercial sex have been misled into doing so or remain in the industry by force. People sell sex for lots of different reasons—and many of these people say the ads should stay up.

Now, I think prostitution should be legal and regulated. I think it can be a very dangerous job. Several years ago, for a research project I was doing, I picked up several prostitutes walking the streets and paid them to just talk to me about their lives, their work and so forth. They considered it a paid break. Many of the women I met saw no feasable alternatives to what they were doing for money. But there are other women who choose to sell sex on the side:

“My income isn’t as steady as I like it to be, and in those months where I’m really tight, Backpage allows me to do this work as much or as little as I want—no commitments to anyone,” said Vivian, 25. “I don’t need an agency. I don’t need a pimp. I can just meet people on my own and stop as quickly as I started. If Backpage closes, I don’t know how I’ll do that. It’s not like closing Backpage will also get rid of my student debt.”

Closing Backpage will surely not eliminate trafficking girls and women, which is a real problem. Women who post ads say streetwalking, which they may resort to, is much more dangerous than posting an ad and meeting people:

 “To shut the adult section [of Backpage] down is to put me in extreme poverty,” said Zoe. “It puts me at risk of being homeless and hungry. I’ve never been a streetwalker, but to have to go to that as an option puts me at much greater risk of harm than having the control over who my clients are when I post on such sites.”

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About Jen

Have been a jack of all trades. I'm a former philosopher who specialized in ethics and political philosophy. I'm a sex positive feminist.

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