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Monday, January 17, 2011

"Pornland" Reputation Built on Speculation.

Posted by Sarah Mirk on Mon, Jan 17, 2011 at 3:21 PM

In case you missed it in Good Morning News last week, the O had an important article last Friday about how Portland's reputation as a sex trafficking hub is based on completely speculative numbers. Not that prostitution isn't a problem in Portland—it is—but the data doesn't show that it's as big of a problem here as national media has made it out to be:

It turns out the belief that Portland is a hub is unreliable, too.

In the span of two short years, the city known as one of the nation's most livable has become a magnet for national media reporting on child sex trafficking. With cameras rolling on 82nd Avenue last year, Dan Rather dubbed the city "Pornland" in a documentary.... But as hundreds gather in Portland this weekend for the third-annual Northwest Conference Against Trafficking, with talks by U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden and actress Daryl Hannah, an examination by The Oregonian reveals that no one really knows if the problem in Portland is any worse than anywhere else.

But clearly the reputation is hard to beat. Numerous outlets over the weekend reported on attractive individual Darryl Hannah riding along with Portland Police to strip clubs. She's quoted at face value as saying: "I was shocked at what I learned. Most of the girls in these strip clubs are not just girls looking to make cash, a majority are represented by pimps."

...Which is exactly the kind of speculative statistic that the analysts say are often just talk, no data.

Also, bizarrely, just four days this time a year ago, the Oregonian and reporter Hannah-Jones ran an article backing up exactly the "sex trafficking hub" paradigm that the long-term article throws out the window. Headlined "Human Trafficking Thrives in Portland", the article started with the premise that "Oregon, advocates and law enforcement officials say, is a growing hub for forced prostitution and servitude" and nowhere in the article did it second guess the idea. Update: I fucked up and thought that article was from this January. It's LAST January. Now it's not weird—2010 paradigm of porn hub out, 2011 paradigm of not-porn hub in.

Anyway, I'm glad to see a critical take on this idea of Portland as a hub, after its been hammered into the city for years. Not being the epicenter of human trafficking in the USA shouldn't hurt much-needed projects like constructing a shelter for sex trafficking victims, but when we do work on those projects, public officials and media should at least be working with facts, not hype.

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