When Ashton Kutcher and his wife, Demi Moore, recently launched a series of public service announcements to raise awareness about child prostitution, featuring a scruffy Kutcher who would rather do laundry than buy a sex slave, few were impressed.
The Village Voice called the message “bewildering” and said the videos “reek of frat boy humor.” A blogger on TheStir.com said that comparing a silly scenario to the horrific scenario of a 7-year-old enslaved for sex had “no connection whatsoever.” (Watch Kutcher’s PSA here.)
But then the Voice took its criticism of Kutcher’s campaign further. In April, Kutcher told CNN’s Piers Morgan while promoting his “Real Men Don't Buy Girls” campaign against child prostitution that, “It’s between 100,000 and 300,000 child sex slaves in the United States today,” referring to how many kids are lost to prostitution in the country every single year.
The Voice says that number as a statistic “was hatched without regard to science. It is a bogeyman.”
The number, which came from two University of Pennsylvania professors, Richard J. Estes and Neil Alan Weiner, actually represents the number of children Estes and Weiner considered “at risk” for sexual exploitation, not the number of children actually involved, according to the Voice.
And law enforcement records, according to the Voice, show that there were only 8,263 arrests across America for child prostitution during the most recent decade. That’s 826 arrests per year, not 100,000- 300,000, as Kutcher quoted.
But to be fair, the numbers Kutcher used have been used in a plethora of places before, in papers such as USA Today, by international organizations such as the United Nations, and by networks including C-Span.
The Voice concludes, however, that “there are, quite simply, no precise numbers on child prostitution.”
Kutcher is none too pleased with the Voice’s conclusion, which was made in an article snarkily entitled, “Real Men Get Their Facts Straight.”
Hey @villagevoice if you ever want 2 have a productive conversation about how 2 end human trafficking as oppose to belittling my efforts lmk
Kutcher also challenged the Voice: “How many of your girls selling themselves in your classifieds are you doing age verification on?” and then tweeted a link to an article about a 15-year-old sex trafficking victim who sued Village Voice Media for allegedly turning a blind eye to prostitution ads:
The Village Voice responded on Twitter to Kutcher soon after, tweeting:
And then issued him a challenge:
OK @aplusk, we'll bite. Tell us the hard facts you have collected. We'll fact-check for you.
Kutcher responded by linking back to a post he had written about human trafficking numbers on Quora, an online question and answer forum, on June 24:
My perspective on human trafficking Data written June 23.. http://t.co/qAr5nn3
In the Quora post, Kutcher acknowledges that “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.” Which is pretty much what the Voice said about child trafficking having no precise numbers.
Can we all stop fighting now?
Watch his PSA below: