• Nearly half of the kids — about 45 percent — were boys.

• Only 10 percent were involved with a "market facilitator" (e.g., a pimp).

• About 45 percent got into the "business" through friends.

Researchers Ric Curtis and Meredith Dank induced hundreds of New York's underage sex workers to open up about their "business." Their findings upended the conventional wisdom — and galled narrow-minded advocates.
Ashlie Quinones
Researchers Ric Curtis and Meredith Dank induced hundreds of New York's underage sex workers to open up about their "business." Their findings upended the conventional wisdom — and galled narrow-minded advocates.


EDITOR'S NOTE: Village Voice Media, which owns this publication, owns the classified site Backpage.com. In addition to used cars, jobs and couches, readers can also find adult ads on Backpage; for this reason, certain activists and clergy members have called attention to the site, sometimes going so far as to call for its closure.

Certainly we have a stake in this discussion. And we do not object to those who suggest an apparent conflict of interest. We sat quietly and did not respond as activists held symposiums across America—from Seattle to Miami—denouncing Backpage. Indeed, we were never asked for response.

But then we looked at the "science" behind many of these activists' claims, and the media's willingness, without question, to regurgitate a litany of incredible statistics. In the interest of a more informed discussion, we decided to write.

• More than 90 percent were U.S.-born (56 percent were New York City natives).

• On average, they started hooking at age fifteen.

• Most serviced men — preferably white and wealthy.

• Most deals were struck on the street.

• Almost 70 percent of the kids said they'd sought assistance at a youth-service agency at least once.

• Nearly all of the youths — 95 percent — said they exchanged sex for money because it was the surest way to support themselves.

In other words, the typical kid who is commercially exploited for sex in New York City is not a tween girl, has not been sold into sexual slavery, and is not held captive by a pimp.

Nearly all of the boys and girls involved in the city's sex trade are going it alone.

Curtis and Dank were amazed by what their research had revealed. But they were completely unprepared for the way law enforcement officials and child-advocacy groups reacted to John Jay's groundbreaking study.

"I remember going to a meeting in Manhattan where they had a lot of prosecutors whose job was to prosecute pimps," Curtis recalls. "They were sort of complaining about the fact that their offices were very well staffed but their workload was...not very daunting, let's say. They had a couple cases, and at every meeting you go to, they'd pull out the cherry-picked case of this pimp they had busted, and they'd tell the same story at every meeting. They, too, were bothered by the fact that they couldn't find any pimps, any girls.

"So I come along and say, 'I found 300 kids' — they're all perky — but then I say, 'I'm sorry, but only 10 percent had pimps.'

"It was like a fart in church. Because basically I was saying their office was a waste of time and money."


Jay Albanese, a criminologist at Virginia Commonwealth University who headed up the Justice Department's research arm for four years, says the findings of the John Jay study are among the most interesting he has seen.

"Whether you are a kid or an adult, the issue becomes: To what extent is this voluntary?" Albanese says. "Because you make more money in this than being a secretary? Or because you really have no choices — like, you're running from abuse or caught up in drugs? The question becomes: If Curtis is correct, what do we do with that 90 percent? Do we ignore it? How hard do we look at how they got into that circumstance? You could make the case that for the 90 percent for whom they couldn't find any pimping going on — well, how does it happen?

"It's a very valid question," he continues. "A policy question: To what extent should the public and the public's money be devoted to these issues, whether it's child prostitution or child pimping?"

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is the only agency that keeps track of how many children the legal system rescues from pimps nationwide. The count, which began in June 2003, now exceeds 1,600 as of April of this year, according to the FBI's Innocence Lost website (www.fbi.gov/about-us/investigate/vc_majorthefts/cac/innocencelost) — an average of about 200 each year.

Through interviews and analysis of public records, Village Voice Media has found that the federal government spends about $20 million a year on public awareness, victims' services and police work related to domestic human trafficking, with a considerable focus on combating the pimping of children. An additional $50 million-plus is spent annually on youth homeless shelters, and since 1996, taxpayers have contributed a total of $186 million to fund a separate program that provides street outreach to kids who may be at risk for commercial sexual exploitation.

That's at least $80 million doled out annually for law enforcement and social services that combine to rescue approximately 200 child prostitutes every year.

These agencies might improve upon their $400,000-per-rescued-child average if they joined in the effort to develop a clearer picture of the population they aim to aid. But there's no incentive for them to do so when they stand to rake in even more public money simply by staying the course.

At the behest of advocates who work with pimped girls, along with a scattering of U.S. celebrities who help to publicize the cause, the bipartisan Senate tag team of Oregon's Ron Wyden, a Democrat, and John Cornyn of Texas, a Republican, is pushing for federal legislation that would earmark another $12 million to $15 million a year to fund six shelters reserved exclusively for underage victims of sex trafficking (see related story, page 20).

Though the language of the bill is gender-neutral, some advocates point to the disproportionate influence wielded by groups who direct their efforts exclusively at pimped girls. They worry that anti-sex-trafficking funding might increasingly ignore boys and transgender youths, not to mention kids of any gender who aren't enslaved by a pimp but sell sex of their own volition.

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Amazing write-up! This could aid plenty of people find out more about this particular issue. Are you keen to integrate video clips coupled with these? It would absolutely help out. Your conclusion was spot on and thanks to you; I probably won’t have to describe everything to my pals. I can simply direct them here!

Vonne Monai
Vonne Monai

I am a victim of child sex slavery trade. I was held captive most of my life and they still stalk me. My horrible criminal relatives did this to me out of jealousy and to cover up their theft of my assets.They kept me isolated from everyone with slander.Jealousy and lies of others is what makes it easy for all of the people that participate in this. They also have the NYPD as well as other union workers to help because they use the services of the underage or barely legal girls.


i of course forgot to mention Epstein's lovely friends in the hedge fund and investment banking world. they wouldn't think twice about blowing their nose with 15 million dollars.


jeffrey epstein's buddies run the DOJ, and run congress. thats why they dont want to look into it. you'd start turning up too many of your colleagues as 'johns'.

"she told me she was 18" would be the new "i didnt inhale"

"he told me he was 18" would be... i dont know. sounds like a free-marketer campaign slogan. theyd probably want to legalize this 'entrepeneurial endeavor' and get rid of 'regulations on business'.

Feminists tell lies
Feminists tell lies

Where are all the underage children kidnapped and forced against their will by a pimp to have sex with the genreal public for money?

How come we don’t see any of the forced victims themselves complaining about it? Why don’t the “millions of forced against their will child victims” talk about how they were kidnapped and forced against their will by a evil pimp to have sex for profit?

I would like to have a interview with the “millions of forced against their will raped kidnapped child victims” So I could hear their stories. Where are they?

Why do we only hear from the anti-prostitution groups that received money and grants from the government, and not the millions of victims themselves? If there are Millions of them, Shouldn't the police and public know where they are?

Shouldn't we hear the millions of victims speak? Instead, none are found.

Do all men really love paying money for raping children who are kicking, crying and screaming, with no one willing to help? Are all men really evil like the anti-prostitution groups say? Because according to the anti-prostitution groups 100% of men in the world are evil child rapists.

Because only women help children and only men abuse them….right?

Jeff Lewis
Jeff Lewis

Sex Trafficking/Slavery is used by many groups as a attempt to outlaw all prostitution around the world by saying that all women are victims even if they do it willing. This hurts any real victims because it labels all sex workers as victims.

This is done by the media, aid groups, NGO’s, feminists, politicians, and religious organizations that receive funds from the government. There are very strong groups who promote that all adult women who have sex are victims even if they are willing, enjoy it and go out of there way to get it. These groups try to get the public to believe that no adult women in their right mind would ever go into the sex business unless she was forced to do so, weather she knew it or not. They say that 100% of all sex workers are trafficking victims.

They do this in order to label all men as sex offenders and wipe out all consensual prostitution. Which is what their real goal is. There is almost no one who challenges or questions them about their false beliefs. Therefore, the only voices you hear are of these extreme groups. These groups want to label all men as terrible sex offenders for seeing a willing adult sex worker. No one stands up to say this is foolish, the passive public says nothing.

These groups even say that all men who marry foreign women are terrible sex predators who take advantage of these “helpless foreign women wives”.

These groups believe that two adults having consensual sex in private should be outlawed. Since they believe that it is impossible for a man to have sex with a woman without abusing the woman in the process.

Sex trafficking is illegal and the pentities are very severe. It is very difficult to force someone to be a sex slave, they would have to have 24 hour guards posted and be watched 365 days a year, 24 hours per day. Have the threat of violence if they refused, and have no one notice and complain to the authorities or police. They would need to hide from the general public yet still manage to see customers from the general public and not have the customers turn the traffickers in to the police. They would need to provide them with medical care, food, shelter, and have all their basic needs met. They would need to have the sex slaves put on a fake front that they enjoyed what they were doing, act flirtatious and do their job well.They would have to deal with the authorities looking for the missing women, and hide any money they may make, since it comes from illegal activity. They must do all of this while constantly trying to prevent the sex slaves from escaping and reporting them to the police. They would need to prevent the general public from reporting them into the police. This is extremely difficult to do, which makes this activity rare.

Here are some good websites about sex trafficking:







I find the money thrown at just doing research on this topic utterly reprehensible. As a former teenage male prostitute in NYC I can tell you that there is nothing in your article that is new to me. I was selling myself on the streets of New York in the early '70's so I could have told you that male prostitution is just as prevalent as female prostitution. No need for million dollar grants and studies to unearth a bunch of statistics. As was mentioned in the article, the need is for shelters and treatment options for these kids. I did not have a pimp. I voluntarily sold myself to pay for a drug habit. Maybe if someone had offered me real help instead of coupons I might have taken advantage of it. Just sayin.


Are you fucking kidding me?!?! This is the third article that Westword has done this year trying to minimize/muddle the issue of underage sex trafficking. The only reason that they are beating this drum is because their parent company (Village Voice) doesn't want restrictions on the Adult Services advertisements in it's Back Page section (as happened to craigslist). That's it. Child prostitutes are not good for the VV's bottom line so they want you to decide that it isn't an issue. How incredibly sleazy. This time they are going to use an article with research claiming that the number of child prostitutes is overblown and only 10% have pimps (read: so they really aren't being trafficked). Maybe the pimps weren't keen on having their kids giving interviews or maybe the kids are doing it of their own volition, but that really isn't the point that they are trying to make here. The point that they are trying to make is that they should be able to advertise for prostitutes because no one knows how many are kids doing it under duress.

I agree that there is a dire need for more research into the topic, I agree that craigslist and VV should be able to advertise for "adult services", but I don't agree with Westword/VV's strategy of trying to muddle the issue long enough to protect their revenue stream until better data comes out. It is disgusting that you will print articles on a weekly basis trying to paint a sympathetic portrait of people who committed heinous crimes as adults because bad things happened to them when they were children, but you will shield an industry that is doing bad things to children.


V V isn't trying to muddy the conversation, they have merely exposed how irresponsible the anti sex trafficking lobby is when it comes to spending money. Its the anti sex trafficking lobby that is responsible for conflating adult consensual prostitution with everything else and they do this because the anti sex trafficking lobby profits off the criminalization of prostitution. In fact, they rely on the criminalization of a whole force of workers for their salaries.For example, I know that: "That's at least $80 million doled out annually for law enforcement and social services that combine to rescue approximately 200 child prostitutes every year." is really code for prostitution sting operations whereby FBI agents pose naked as clients then everybody is arrested for prostitution no matter what age and goes to jail whereby everyone's civil rights are violated and offered the state sponsored shamed based sex negative 'diversion' program.Yet its the prostitution arrest themselves that becomes the basis for future discrimination in housing, employment, education, child custody.....Clearly its already a very muddy issue