Only playing stupid about sex trafficking? Pull the other one, Ashton

December 2010, Luxor

I have found Ashton Kutcher’s behaviour towards the Village Voice tediously adolescent, but I did finally comment on a blog post I doubt Kutcher wrote himself, despite his claim that he only played stupid as an actor. He won’t read the comment himself, either, and, if he did read all the material he boasts about here, why didn’t he run into long-published warnings about the misuse of data on children and trafficking?

Jul 03, 2011
Laura Agustin said…
And in Luxor, did you listen to me on the BBC panel? Or did you pull faces and groan every time I spoke, along with others from Hollywood? Were you interested in any of the issues I brought up, or did you simply ignore them and stand up to repeat the wrong statistic that the average age of entry into prostitution is 13? In order to get big applause? I had been talking about diversity amongst people who travel and sell sex, you changed the topic to bring up the erroneous figure of 13, which, if you have done the research you say you have, you know is simply taken from a single study and being misused horribly. You can’t claim to be knowledgeable about a field if you haven’t read a wide range of research – not emotional stories, not ideological rhetoric. Will you take a look at my book, Sex at the Margins? my blog, which has loads of resources your government agencies will never tell you about?

In the photos, Ashton is playing a role the UN wrote for him and other celebrities: pretending to be an expert. Above, he occupies main stage at an event I’ve described as a revival meeting in Luxor, Egypt, last December. I did not take this picture or witness this particular moment, but I was in Luxor at the same time because the BBC World Service flew me there. Also to play a role, no doubt about that, but is it too much to argue that nearly 20 years of reading, field work, publishing in peer-reviewed journals and successfully defending a phd thesis actually do constitute expertise?

Those are the reasons the BBC invited me to be the lone measured voice on the television debate Can Human Trafficking Be Stopped? which you can view on their website. There you will see the film stars heroically standing up for their cause, but the editors have manipulated the footage, changing the order of events, so you can’t see how Mira Sorvino attacked me personally, or understand that Kutcher stood  to declaim about the average age of entry into prostitution being 13 in response to my remarks about diversity amongst people who sell sex. Sex, lies and videotaping tells more of the story.

Now, because I support the Village Voice in its attempt to put facts in the foreground, I am holding them to the same standard they hold Kutcher to. In their Real Men article, the VV claims The thinly veiled fraud behind the shocking “100,000 to 300,000 child prostitutes” estimate has never been questioned, and that is also not true and a bit arrogant. I exposed the slip about trafficked children versus children at risk almost a year ago in a story about CraigsList, but then I suppose the VV means no Big Players questioned it. Or it means that when the authors googled for sources they didn’t bother to go further than the dozens of repetitive items that come up first simply because they sit on Big Players’ websites: media factories of one sort or another. No amount of seo tweaking can change Google’s inherent bias towards the Big Boys; you won’t find an independent like me at the top.

Kutcher writes

I’ve spent the last 2 years meeting with every expert on the issue of Human Trafficking that I can find, reading countless books, meeting with victims and former traffickers, and studying effective international models to combat trafficking.  We are working with the State Dept, the Department of Homeland security, and multiple NGO’s.

Isn’t it interesting that both Kutcher and Sorvino (the no-goodwill ambassador for the UN drugs and crime people, on the right in the second photo) place so much faith in the Big Boys – government and police? Kutcher has never spoken to anyone I know, and I know a lot of experts. As for his claim about countless books, maybe that’s because he can’t count.

–Laura Agustín, the Naked Anthropologist

11 thoughts on “Only playing stupid about sex trafficking? Pull the other one, Ashton

  1. Maggie McNeill

    Laura, I was interviewed by one of the reporters for that story (though my quotes obviously didn’t make the final cut) and you were one of the most important sources I pointed him to; I really wish he had contacted you! I think part of the issue was that there were three authors, and apparently the editors allowed the snarkiest of the three to set the tone.

  2. Laura Agustín

    Thanks, Maggie, and NJA had been in touch with me, too, and I had said ok to contacting me. I support their aim, if not their focus on AK, but they made an error in claiming to be saying something ‘first’. Journalistic hubris.

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  4. nikki junker

    I like your writing. It is interesting and I think you are after the truth, not whatever will support your point of view. I admire that.

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  7. Vegan Vixen

    I suggest that Ashton also speak with sex workers and learn how we’re affected by trafficking policies.

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