OUR BODIES, OURSELVES

A new Village Voice policy on "adult" advertising

Flesh. We are not against it at The Village Voice. Actually, we think it's one of the best parts of being alive. But you'll find less of it in this issue. That's no accident.

As the new editor in chief of the paper, I was hoping to make this holiday note to you all about frankincense and gelt and the sweet baby Jesus. Instead, it's about prostitution, human trafficking, and advertising. Not so festive. But long overdue.

As some of you may know, the Voice has gone through a significant transition in the past few months. In September, after a long and public drama over the paper's ownership of the infamous Backpage.com—a clearinghouse for "adult advertising" that the Times' Nick Kristof and others called a front for human traffickers—the Village Voice Media leadership elected to break up the company. The founders of the chain, Jim Larkin and Michael Lacey, agreed to sell all 13 newspapers to a group of their executives and outside investors, who formed a new company, Voice Media Group. Larkin and Lacey ended their affiliation with the papers, taking the Backpage business with them. We wish them good luck with that.

For the editorial staff at the Voice, the departure of Backpage was a beautiful thing. While we are rabidly committed to the right of New Yorkers—or anyone—to advertise with us, we are just as committed to human rights and the rule of law. We believe that people have the right to control and use their bodies as they see fit; if what's being advertised is not illegal, it is not our place to police it. But shortly after the breakup of the old company and the formation of the current one, one of our advertisers, Somad Enterprises, was busted by the NYPD. A "one-stop shopping vehicle for prostitution rings," in the words of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (it even hired a search-engine-optimization specialist in the Philippines), Somad was also allegedly involved in human trafficking.

We don't know if the trafficking charges against Somad are true, but if they are, then the safeguards we had established were not good enough. Because it is most certainly our place, and our duty, to refuse to be a party to what is altogether different from erotica or even consensual sex work. The Village Voice's editorial staff will take every step we can to ensure that no one uses our pages to profit from the physical or economic coercion, sexual or otherwise, of any human being. Similarly, and at no small cost to the bottom line of our young enterprise, our publishers are implementing stricter standards across the entire Voice Media Group chain, to make sure that our advertising is as ethical as possible.

Specifically, in our "adult" ad pages:

All direct advertisers must provide a government-issued ID proving that they are over the age of 18.

All agency advertisers must contract that every client in their ads is over the age of 18 and that all photos are of actual clients.

All advertisers must submit to us that they do not conduct illegal activity.

Any customer known to operate or engage in illegal activities will be blacklisted for life from doing business with us.

Headshots only in the adult ads

No suggestive language in the adult ads

Many of us here at the Voice wish these ads would just go away. And, in fact, they continue to migrate online, so that might happen soon enough. There is not much doubt that the new rules are going to make us less appealing to this kind of customer. That is a price we are willing to pay.

wbourne@villagevoice.com

 
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56 comments
gborio
gborio

"Any customer known to operate or engage in illegal activities will be blacklisted for life from doing business with us."

And just the very next week, the VV proudly displays not one but TWO full-page tobacco ads by convicted racketeers RJ Reynolds.

How true to their words the VV remains!

Aristotle1
Aristotle1

Sorry, don't agree everything you said there, Mr. Bourne. Nevertheless, I sent a letter to you in regards to your article. All I'm saying is good luck should you strip that portion of the newspaper out permanently- you'll need it.

Michael
Michael

The VOICE used to be relevant. I'm sure every one has heard that. I was a kid in the 1980's turned on to the VOICE by J. Hoberman. I'm surprised at myself for still frequenting the VOICE website. The VOICE used to stand for cutting edge intellectual articles and intense investigative journalism. It's a sad decline.

howardhuges53
howardhuges53

The Government came and kicked your ass! The Village Voice has no balls. Its not about human trafficking, its about money and you caved in. Every time a person or, in this case a news outlet, gives something up based on pressure from the Government, you are giving up our FREEDOM!

vikkisplace
vikkisplace

I don't know why we have to keep reading and dealing with backpage.com's and the village voice b.s. They just want to safe face. A year ago they were charging to get listed on the top of each page, in the end it is all about the money in the end. I do not believe in human trafficking - it is immoral and people SHOULD be prosecuted for it. No one from backpage or the village voice cared about the human trafficking ordeal a year ago - no, back then it was all about the $$$ going into their pockets. NOW since the authorities are involved everyone is squirrming in their pants trying to escape their troubles. If they REALLY cared about human trafficking like they say they do, they would stop allowing people to post adult ads on their websites or newspapers which have more than just adult audiences. STOP TRYING TO SAVE YOUR FACES! Just go to http://www.screw.ws or www.escortdirectory.com to post your ads. You are better off doing that - there are less complications and more security for all escorts. Have a Merry Christmas everyone!

gborio
gborio

"Any customer known to operate or engage in illegal activities will be blacklisted for life from doing business with us."


Great News! I presume we won't see any more of those tobacco ads by RJ Reynolds, which was convicted of racketeering in a Federal Court--a decision upheld by the Supreme Court.


Concomitantly, I presume we'll finally begin to see information on the slaughter of 450,000 Americans a year from tobacco -related diseases. Kind of an important issue, which the VV has _never_ chosen fit to address--presumably in deference its advertisers.

somadadvertising
somadadvertising

"All anyone has to do is open a copy of the Village Voice to get a good sense of how classified advertising and prostitution go hand in hand, particularly in the prostituting of Asian women," said Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, referring to a Manhattan newspaper.

New and improved!  Now with just head shots!

hm4steve
hm4steve

WHAT A LOAD OF SELF RIGHTEOUS CRAP! It's the massage and escorts ads that keep the The Village Voice afloat. You have shed a lot of good writers and features over the years. The main reason the paper converted to free was that was the only way it could survive. Prostitution needs to be legalized, controlled and monitored. Only then can abuses be prevented. Your former competitor the NY Press, shed it adult themed ads and it died soon after. What is Savage Love the next to go?

vikkisplace
vikkisplace

I have been in the sex industry for almost ten years now. I have used backpage for a while now and am saying to hell with this! I want to be able to post an ad online without having to jump through so many hoops that will do absolutely nothing to keep me safe. How a headshot is going to keep me safe is beyond me. I decided I am just going to be putting my advertising on escortdirectory.com and screw.ws. These sites are much more appealing and safer for escorts than backpage.com. The hell with this, I'm done!

Quixote3
Quixote3

This all makes sense, until we get to the end: "headshots only," "no suggestive language" — how exactly are we to define the link between these remarkable policies and human trafficking? They seem to have a bit more to do with creating a new "appearance" for the Voice, than with the serious issue previously raised.

But, no big surprise: everywhere the right of free expression is being increasingly limited. Why else are forms of satire deemed (by whom?) to be offensive now being criminalized in New York, without a word of protest from the Voice or any other cultural institution? 

The police, for example, have successfully hunted down and arrested the author of fake "drone" ads; and they have spent what must be at least a million dollars (so far) of taxpayers' money prosecuting the author of fake "Gmail confessions" in which a well-known New York University department chairman was portrayed as accusing himself of plagiarism. For information on the two cases, see:

http://www.theverge.com/2012/12/2/3718094/street-artist-nypd-drone-posters-arrested-surveillance

and

http://raphaelgolbtrial.wordpress.com/

So, "headshots only": a sign of the times. Noble purposes have always been invoked to limit essential freedoms, and the gradual movement away, at the Voice and elsewhere, from a principled defense of the right to engage in controversial or "annoying" forms of speech is no exception.

voxpop80
voxpop80

i hope this change will work out for you..i'd hate to lose the voice

bettyaberlin
bettyaberlin

@NickKristof @FAIR_Girls @villagevoice finally!

dollarbill1
dollarbill1

Somad Advertising was NOT charged with human trafficking. You might want to do your research before you go off half-cocked. 

cfpdx
cfpdx

@NickKristof @FAIR_Girls @villagevoice If you all are concerned about human rights include key populations and allow them to speak.

belowcontempt
belowcontempt

@SexWorkIE Can representative of @escortireland talk on this topic without going crimson? :-P

traughber2000
traughber2000

@NickKristof @FAIR_Girls @villagevoice Great job! On this issue and others regarding women's rights and justice, my focus is on ending FGM.

RamHatter
RamHatter

@NickKristof Thanks for playing a role with this.

radiantcosmetic
radiantcosmetic

@NickKristof @FAIR_Girls @villagevoice This is incredible! Wonderful to read.

DivaMissZ
DivaMissZ

@mistressmatisse ::rolls eyes:: Utter BS

3liza
3liza

What a crock of mealy-mouthed gibbering.  You're using some half-assed "trafficking" defense to shut down the women that shock you into the vapors, and it's transparent.

vegankitty
vegankitty

@melissagira dear diary, today I hated antibortion politicians and people who think NEX are bad because drugs addicts deserve what they get.

dollarbill1
dollarbill1

@somadadvertising fyi...not to start a flame war here but VVM FORCED me to do business with Somad Advertising. I have not spoken with anybody there for 4 or 5 years because I was so angry with them yet the corporation would not take my ads direct because they didn't want to upset an agency that had generated so much revenue for the paper. As a result of the Somad disaster, I do not sell ads for the Voice or Backpage and will not ever again. 

dollarbill1
dollarbill1

@hm4steve Talk about "breakin' it down!" But you should have said "kept" instead of "keep" because from the tone of the Editor, it looks like the paper is ready to divest itself of the massage and escort ads. Can the Voice survive without them? Eventually, I think some multi-millionaire who can absorb the losses will buy the paper just to have it as his (or her) own personal soapbox. 

As far as the Press goes...the corporation was sold. I'm not sure that shedding the adult ads had that much to do with its demise. Coincidentally, the old Classified Director now runs a science lab at my alma mater for a living.

wbourne
wbourne

@vikkisplace It's actually not all about you. It's about us, too. We are not some constitutionally guaranteed sales channel for your business. If your colleagues didn't keep trying to slip illegality through the cracks we could all be more relaxed about this. Unfortunately for you and for us, they do. And then we are exposed to both the legal and commercial ramifications of having run their ads. I understand that we may seem "safer" than BP. And we agree, hm4steve, that prostitution should be legalized and regulated and taxed. But it is not (yet) so we have to deal with the law as it stands. WB

wbourne
wbourne

Actually, I think the head shot issue is more about making sure we don't put photos of trafficked or underage people into circulation. That is, if an advertiser tries to game the rules, as they are wont to do, at least we won't have enabled them to put illegal images into the public domain. Some people seem to think trafficking etc. is just collateral damage, the cost of doing business. We don't. WB

Quixote3
Quixote3

P.s. I didn't wish to suggest that the other claims made and attitudes expressed in Mr. Bourne's article are beyond any form of reasonable objection.  See the comment posted by "Loriadorable" and her reply to another commentator.  My point is simply that until we get to the end, the article at least makes sense.  Then, a non-sequitur suddenly looms up and reveals a quite different preoccupation than the stated purpose of the new policy.

SexWorkIE
SexWorkIE

@belowcontempt What rules does @escortireland have that apply to independents but don't apply to agencies? Example please.

somadadvertising
somadadvertising

@dollarbill1 - I can't believe that you're still doing adult advertising and so openly after this went down.  I've read your blog.  You've obviously have a brain.  Is it really that important to you?  Don't you have ANY other skills or ambitions other than being a media pimp?  Mila gets 1-3 and fined $100,000 and you blatantly continue?  You are one strange kind of masochist my friend.

howardhuges53
howardhuges53

@wbourne

"We are not some constitutionally guaranteed sales channel", yes you are! The First Amendment (Amendment I) to the United States Constitution is part of the Bill of Rights. The amendment prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances.

Quixote3
Quixote3

Precisely, Mr. Bourne: noble purposes are always invoked to limit basic freedoms.  If we stamp out prostitution altogether, we will eliminate trafficking.  The Voice made a classic mistake here; the question should have been: what steps can we reasonably take to prevent people from using us for trafficking purposes, while at the same time preserving the right to publish ads containing suggestive photos and language?

Allow me also to respectfully point out that the headshots used in ads that the Voice allows to be posted pursuant to its new policy could well end up being headshots (and hence "photos") of underage or trafficked people: the limitation is irrelevant to the Voice's stated purpose.

belowcontempt
belowcontempt

@SexWorkIE @escortireland Unfortunately I do not have any examples to provide.

dollarbill1
dollarbill1

@somadadvertising @dollarbill1  Bryin...you're a smarmy douchebag and always were. You're the only guy who could get fired from a paralegal job for sexually harassing a female when you're gay. Have you paid the Village Voice the $37,000 you owe them? I know who you are.

belowcontempt
belowcontempt

@SexWorkIE Well it's an awkward position, since E-I are damned either way if they pry more that brings it's own responsibility

SexWorkIE
SexWorkIE

@belowcontempt What you are getting to is can E-I investigate every advertiser & decide if he/she independent? E-I thinks no, but some want.

belowcontempt
belowcontempt

@SexWorkIE Blatant false advertising is also a potentially HUGE issue for @escortireland

SexWorkIE
SexWorkIE

@belowcontempt But seems VV want to make life hard for independents, but not for agencies, which seems mad.

SexWorkIE
SexWorkIE

@belowcontempt I know what you mean about crimson face too, like some would say E-I need do more to stop agencies advertising as independent

belowcontempt
belowcontempt

@SexWorkIE @escortireland Of course I agree that it is unfair and based on an potentially invalid contract @villagevoice

SexWorkIE
SexWorkIE

@belowcontempt @escortireland Ok & do you agree it not fair for @villagevoice to require ID from independents but not from agencies?

 
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