Ashton Kutcher is throwing a bit of a Twitter fit.
The cause? This week’s Village Voice cover story, which takes a hard look at the That 70’s Show star’s campaign against child trafficking.
Kutcher might be hurt that the article characterized his baffling series of comedic TV spots on the issue as “fatuous and silly.”
“Ostensibly about an intense issue–childhood sex slavery–the videos reek of frat-boy humor.”
But Kutcher’s tone-deaf notion of public-awareness advertising is the least of his problems, as the article makes clear. The bigger issue is this: the catastrophic epidemic of hundreds of thousands of child prostitutes doesn’t seem to exist.
In April, Kutcher went on Piers Morgan to claim that there are “between 100,000 and 300,000 child sex slaves in the United States today.” But when the Voice dug into the numbers, it found no such thing. In fact, according to police data from the country’s 37 biggest cities, the average number of arrests for juvenile prostitution is a fraction of that: 827 per year.
When the story dropped, Kutcher didn’t take well to having his pet project so thoroughly debunked. He let loose with a dozen Tweets last night, including the following:
Hey @villagevoice if you ever want 2 have a productive conversation about how 2 end human trafficking as oppose to belittling my efforts lmk
hey @villagevoice if you want to dispute the online data I’ve collected about the consumption of child porn or the hard facts from NCMEC lmk
Hey @villagevoice I’m just getting started!!!!!!!! BTW I only PLAYED stupid on TV.
The Voice was happy to take up the conversation:
OK @aplusk, we’ll bite. Tell us the hard facts you have collected. We’ll fact-check for you.
Kutcher posted, then quickly deleted a tweet that said simply “I’m up now, been up.” Then followed with a more reasoned tweet linking to his writing on the subject:
My perspective on human trafficking Data written June 23.. http://t.co/qAr5nn3
If you follow the link, you find this from Kutcher:
Human trafficking data is extremely incomplete due to the psychological complexity of the issue and the lack of funding that has been allocated to research. Often times the data becomes conflated due to the lack of transparency from the victims themselves.
Sex trafficking is defined as: A commercial sex act induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age
Proving force, fraud, or coercion can be very difficult considering that the victims have often times been brain washed, beaten, raped, molested, threatened, and tormented and fear revealing the identity of their trafficker. Often times what appears to be a voluntary commercial sex transaction is not. Therefore gathering a precise data set can be very complicated. In addition to this, many of the “voluntary prostitutes” are under the age of legal consent. Rough data has shown that the average age of entry into the global commercial sex trade is 13 year old. Mind you this is the average age. And depending on sexual consent laws in a particular country (18 in the US), all girls under that age fall in the category of sex trafficking victims. This alone accounts for many of the “voluntary prostitutes”. One must also consider a girl who may have been brought into the sex trade by a trafficker at a young age and now has grown to the age of legal consent. Even though this girl may now be choosing to sell her body for sex, given the pre-existing circumstances, it’s extremely difficult to assume that she would have made that choice had she been given prior free will.
However there is a great minority of women who do independently choose to sell their body for sexual services. Rough estimates say 20%. These women are often times rolled into sex trafficking statistics due to poor accounting or NGO’s who are unnecessarily compounding numbers based on moral bias.
Ashton is basically conceding he uses “fuzzy math.” What he doesn’t tell us is that the problem he and Demi are touting on a media tour is a vastly inflated epidemic.
If Kutcher’s serious about solving the problem and wants to be a “real man,” he’ll support the Wyden/Cornyn Sex Trafficking Bill, which actually helps the victims affected by this horrific crime.
Kutcher’s twitter-battle with the Voice didn’t stop there. See the rest of the exchange after the jump: Kutcher came back with several tweets:
fact: The National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) hotline has received nearly 1,500 calls this month alone
fact: Since Jan, 1.9 million people have searched for terms on the NCMEC watch list, “kiddy sex,” “child rape,” “little girls nude.”
fact: In the US, children as young as FIVE YEARS OLD have been sold for sex. http://t.co/LnH9dFl
fact: news outlets who have financial interest in trafficking may have interest in applying bias to facts to secure their revenue
And the Voice responded:
@aplusk Bias? Why would police departments across the country have a bias to downplay their arrest data on underage prostitution?
@aplusk During a mass panic you would expect hotline calls or ‘net searches. But where are the 300,000 victims? Police find only 800/year.
@aplusk Is money for “awareness” programs that whip up fervor over mythical numbers really better than actual treatment for homeless teens?
@aplusk Which sounds more plausible: A limited but persistent problem whose underlying causes are homelessness and drug use…
@aplusk …or invisible sex slaves in Third World proportions somehow stashed around the country by networks of cyber-pimps?
Here’s why @aplusk‘s mythical sex slave numbers matter: activists use them to target legal adult freedoms, not underlying teen problems.
Kutcher fell silent.
Hm. @aplusk chided us for not answering him last night at 3 am. Taking a Hollywood nap, Ashton? See ya later when the energy bar kicks in?
@aplusk Still sleeping? How about you wake up and help us convince Congress to spend money on treatment of real teen problems, not hype.
Any underage prostitution is repugnant, so @aplusk, how about treating real underlying teen problems, not pushing imaginary sex slave myths?
@aplusk Thanks in part to you, while Congress spends millions to hype mythical numbers, actual causes and treatment go unaddressed.
@aplusk What makes more sense, spending to treat teen problems, or targeting of legal adult freedoms?
And that’s where things stand after two rounds. Will Kutcher respond? Stay tuned…