This story, and how it is being reported, has left my mouth literally hanging open.
Wow. Just wow.
So, some newbie traffickers scouted and groomed vulnerable girls on social media sites, lured them to a rough part of town, stripped them naked, took nude photos and then blackmailed the young victims into working as escorts. And then took their money.
The girls who resisted were physically beaten.
The traffickers? Two fifteen year old girls, and one sixteen year old girl.
The story has been reported in a number of places, and I would like to focus on three aspects of the coverage in particular.
The first question is obviously How the hell does something like this happen?, and Who can we blame?
Patrick McGuire, writing for vice.com, claims that “The basic mechanics of pimping culture are easy to learn about.”
Really, Patrick? And what ARE the basics of pimping culture, pray tell?
Looks like it begins and ends with black men.
It also appears, from tweets gathered by the Ottawa Citizen, that these girls were unabashedly styled by gangsta-pimping culture. Tweets like “Ain’t no problem like a hoe problem” speak to the chilling level of distance the accused put up against their victims who they were absolutely terrible toward.
It doesn’t appear that any men, let alone black men, were involved on the pimping side of the equation in Ottawa, but that hasn’t stopped the media from trying to associate any instance of pimping with black men. If they weren’t actually, physically part of the whole rotten mess, well, they can still be held responsible, because HIP-HOP.
Yeah, popular culture doesn’t glamorize conspicuous consumption and exploitation except through the lens of black culture and music.
And hip-hop is a monolith art form representing one unified point of view with absolutely no nuance or alternate perspectives at all. It’s all just hos and bitches and pimps and guns and drugs and power and control, right? And hell, there are no WHITE hip-hop artists, or WOMEN either.
I’m a nice, middle-class white lady who happens to be a big fan of hip-hop and rap music. I absolutely love the emotional intensity and anger and defiance and authenticity of hip-hop music. It’s also hella fun to dance to! I feel like such a bad-ass mutha down in the laundry room folding my kid’s clothes singing along to We Still In This Bitch.
I’m in my zone I’m feeling it
Stop blowing my buzz quit killing it
So buy another round
They tried to shut us down
About an hour ago
But we still in this bitch
Turn this shit up loud
And buy another round
They tried to shut us down
About an hour ago
But we still in this bitch
Is there misogyny and a glorification of violence and negative stereotypes of various social groups in hip-hop music? Yep. Not all of it, but definitely there. So what? Do we really want a culture completely washed of any and all negativity? Nothing but Smurfs and sunshine and rainbows and cupcakes?
Every genre of music has elements of misogyny and violence and negative stereotyping. And plenty of them have misandry, too. Hello, Carrie Underwood, murdering your lover without a shred of remorse because he cheated on you!
Singling out black culture and black music as being particularly egregious, and then trying to link it to a case of human sex trafficking is just straight up racism. The traffickers were teenage girls. Two of them were white girls. There were no black men involved in this case, on the pimping side, period.
This brings me to the second aspect of media coverage I would like to address. Who stepped in to help the girls being victimized? Who took a stand and put a stop to what was going on? Who was confronted with the fact that the victims were being coerced and knew that it was just wrong, wrong, wrong?
Yeah, that would be the johns. Men called up an escort service, looking for sex in exchange for money, and when they realized the girls were desperately underage and deeply emotionally upset, they intervened.
In one case, the john drove the young girl home.
In another case, the john lied to the pimps and said they DID have sex, when they really didn’t, and that girl was taken home, too.
In a third case, the john flat out refused to have sexual contact with someone who was clearly a minor.
Men who want sex without all the bullshit that typically comes along with a relationship with a woman are demonized and treated like sub-human scum in our culture. The typical portrayal is to paint the women as innocent dupes of the patriarchy and the men as evil exploiters who care nothing for the person they are paying for sex.
Overall, the attitudes and habits of sex buyers reveal them as men who dehumanize and commodify women, view them with anger and contempt, lack empathy for their suffering, and relish their own ability to inflict pain and degradation.
That attitude completely dehumanizes women who work in the sex trade, and it dehumanizes the men who hire women for sex work. The johns in Ottawa had the perfect opportunity to treat the young prostitutes with anger and contempt, to show no empathy for their suffering, to relish the ability to inflict pain and degradation.
Guess what? They didn’t. They responded as decent, loving, caring men and took steps to protect and help the girls.
One of the older victims, who was seventeen, reported that she was in fact, raped by a john, who dressed her in a pink bikini and then paid her $180 for two hours of her time. Since we know absolutely no details of how that encounter went down, why the hell isn’t the transaction being reported as an alleged rape?
Well, that’s because everybody knows johns are evil scum who relish degrading and hurting the women they are paying for sex, right? This is in a story about johns who did EXACTLY the opposite of degrading and hurting. They protected and assisted.
And now for the third point in how the media is reporting this case: THE EVIL SCUM WERE TEENAGE GIRLS. And the media is desperate to find some way to give them a pass. Gangsta culture! Lack of adult supervision! Jezebel wants to just straight up blame MEN for how the girls behaved:
Although the media is no stranger to “mean girl antics,” there is something especially chilling about the thought that three teenaged girls could have internalized misogynistic values to the extent that they’d brutally assault their own peers and treat them as chattel.
Why, the poor little ducks might have been victims themselves!
This is the same group of women who gleefully called fifth grade boys “psychopaths” for conspiring to murder a classmate. There was no effort to understand how the boys might have been victimized themselves, resulting in a desire to kill a classmate they found unpleasant and mean.
While I do think the parents of these girls, both the victims and the perpetrators deserve a giant slap for not being more involved in their daughter’s lives, the responsibility and accountability lies with the teenage girls who decided to assault, blackmail and forcibly prostitute their vulnerable peers.
This is my favorite part from the Ottawa Magazine coverage of the case:
Of the 12 teenage girls I spoke to at the beach that day, eight were Facebook friends with at least one of the suspects. Five said they had been invited to their parties. Among those was Anna*, a Grade 9 girl with long dark hair pulled back in a messy braid. She said she had known L.N. since Grade 1. Every Wednesday for a period of about two months, she would get several texts from L.N., inviting her to hang out on the weekend. “I actually really wanted to go, but my mom wouldn’t let me.”
My mom wouldn’t let me. Thank god for that mom. She did her job. See? It is possible to set limits and boundaries and face down opposition from your teenage daughter and make the right call when she clearly would NOT have.
The reality is this: evil lurks among us. And sometimes evil comes in the form of pleasant white girls who excel at school and babysitting. When we try to pass off responsibility onto black culture or johns or misogyny or anything other than the evil itself, we make it easy for that evil to flourish.
The idea that teenage girls are exempt from being understood as just straight up evil is part of a larger cultural narrative to promote the interests of girls over boys, to define the feminine as better than the masculine, to hold men accountable and treat women as victims, to deny the basic decency and kindness of men who refuse to behave in ways that women define as acceptable, to blame everything violent and ugly and exploitative in white culture on black men.
When a couple of long-haired, pretty girl psychopaths decided to abuse and batter and exploit other girls, it defies our beliefs about women and kindness and their supposed superiority. If only women ran the world, it would be a much kinder place?
Not if these young women ran it, it wouldn’t.
The only decent people in this story were the johns. Let’s let them run the world.
Lots of love,