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CAASE: online message boards a ‘brotherhood’

Wed, Feb 20, 2013

Online Forums Research Presentation January 2013. Courtesy of Michelle Gavin Photography

The Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation has published new research regarding online message boards where men exchange information about buying sex in Illinois. The forums create a sense of brotherhood among men seeking tips on where to purchase sex and how not to get caught.

During a January 11 press conference at the DePaul University College of Law, author and lead researcher, Lara Janson, and CAASE’s executive director, Rachel Durchslag, each spoke candidly about new statistics developed from a three- month study of information posted by men on a popular website called the USA Sex Guide. They call themselves “mongers,” and for those searching, it is a “hobby,” a “game” and a “hunt” accompanied by graphic, often violent descriptions as well as ratings of sexual performance. Some use the site to describe how they excuse their behavior by stating that they are simply helping a woman in need. One post reads, “I’ve had luck once picking up a girl…she was standing in the middle of the street on the north side. She was holding a sign that said she was recently a laid off seeking help. Offered to get her food at the mcdonalds…and it led to some great sex for 60…the scene was not of a john picking up a pro but rather just civilians helping another. Isn’t that what we all do on this board?”

Others insist that prostitution is “the oldest profession,” an inherent part of the system, making exploitation completely excusable. The age-old adage of “boys will be boys” has become a trademark of the “brotherhood.” Over the course of Janson’s research, one john posted, “If she wasn’t selling, we wouldn’t be buying.”

Further analysis shows that the chat forums can actually serve as a deterrent. Johns will post messages about having been caught by law enforcement and will use the boards to gain assistance, consolation or advice from others. One wrote, “Well boys after 20+ years being in this hobby it has finally came to an end. I WAS BUSTED in Chicago. That’s all I will say for now regarding the bust. I will say I am OUT! But I need help to keep my record cleaned. Can you please pass on to me any attorneys that can get me exspunged (is that the word?) from this? I talked to 1 already but he said it will be in the Thousands of dollars to clear me! Please help. Also if you were busted can you txt me back and tell me what happened? I can swap stories with ya. Thanks usasexguide community for all these years of help!”

Rachel Durchslag, Executive Director

After reading such a post, johns may become less inclined to continue purchasing sex, and perhaps end their participation for good. Many continue their use of the site with caution, speaking in a coded language in hopes that a law enforcement officer investigating will not understand. They share experiences and discuss policies and new legislation in a joint effort to not get caught.

Though exact statistics are difficult to measure, researchers agree that the vast majority of women in the sex trade are homeless. They have entered the world of prostitution and trafficking as a means to survive. Some live with pimps, and according to Illinois johns boards, “have a tax to pay back” following each encounter. They are under complete control, and it is often dangerous to leave. Few have a place of their own to call home, and it is common for them to experience serious health consequences including sexually transmitted diseases, HIV, drug and alcohol abuse, and mental health issues.

Reportedly, police officers are more inclined to arrest a prostitute than they are a john. Men who purchase sex are repeatedly let off the hook with no more than a warning. The CAASE insists that in order for change to occur, there must be a cultural shift in how prostituted women are treated. Its research emphasizes the importance of equipping women with the proper skill sets that enable them to make a safe exit from the sex trade, and lead fulfilling lives after. Furthermore, Durchslag recommends “communities devote resources to the investigation, arrest and charging of customers using the full range of statutory penalties that exist in the federal law and the state law.”

Lauren Jensik,
StreetWise Contributor

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One Response to “CAASE: online message boards a ‘brotherhood’”

  1. Hmm is anyone else encountering problems with the
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