On review boards for commercial sex, buyers denigrate the women they rate and spin fantasies about sex acts. Rarely do these men wonder aloud about whether the woman or girl they're reviewing is a consensual sex worker or coerced, despite evidence that at least some of the providers are victims of sex trafficking. Nor do they seem to consider the humanity of the other person, who is often boiled down to her physical attributes and objectified. Hobby boards, as they're often called, have become integral to the U.
Trafficking task forces rely on the boards for enforcement activities. And for some of the women who depend on commercial sex for income and who have nowhere else to go, the sites are a resource to find clients — despite being havens for misogynistic content.
On the boards, women are compared to beaten down dogs and free-range chickens, their breast sizes among a list of physical descriptors available to the public. The Internet has long been a marketplace for the sex trade, where now defunct websites such as Back and Craigslist personals were demonized as hotbeds for illegal activity, including human trafficking.
Hobby boards aren't new either — one of the most infamous boards, which is no longer accessible in the United States, launched 20 years ago. InBack was seized by the government after the company was widely blamed for facilitating sex trafficking.
That same year, Craigslist shut down its personals section when Congress passed a new law that could hold websites responsible for hosting illegal activities, including sex trafficking. Since those popular sites shuttered, hobby boards have emerged as a greater hub for buyers, and in turn, for trafficking, according to Spectre.
The platforms are relatively anonymous, but most of the reviewers, who refer to themselves as hobbyists or mongers, are pd to be men. The power dynamics at play make these boards misogynistic by definition, Spectre said.
On a thread about what to text a girl, for example, one member called women a demeaning slur and jumped straight to asking how much a specific sex act would cost. Different boards enjoy regional popularity, and how women are treated depends on the site and its administrators. In fact, one of the most popular boards creates profiles for providers without permission, said a sex worker based out of Orlando, who goes by Sasha Benjamin. NBC has chosen not to name the boards to avoid driving traffic to them, as many of the sites are not yet widely known. They pop up on search engines, and much of the information they contain — such as contacts, prices and descriptions for a provider — is available to all visitors.
All available without .
You can see a lot — certainly everything you would need to transact. Boards tend to offer premium memberships that cost a fee.
These days, Spectre said, operating a review board is likely more profitable than running an ad site. It's impossible to know how many people listed on the boards are consenting sex workers or who is being trafficked, said the NYPD's Sharpe.
He warned that reviews in commercial sex are inevitable right now, including for trafficking victims. Police and researchers rely on the sites as a tool, looking for s of potential sex trafficking victims.
The NYPD has two officers who are dedicated to undercover operations, including monitoring hobby boards. When Mehlman-Orozco was working on her book, " Hidden in Plain Sight ," she saw a post on one of the boards about a woman with an apparent developmental disability whose description sounded like a trafficking case.
Mehlman-Orozco alerted police, who found the victim and freed her. Meanwhile, disdain for buyer-centric review boards runs rampant among consenting sex workers. They say the level of entitlement is higher among hobbyists, which can lead to dangerous situations.
Angelaa sex worker and social justice advocate based in Vancouver, Canada, who asked NBC only to identify her nickname, said manipulative clients can come from anywhere — but there are more of them on boards. She does not advertise on them and refuses to see clients from them.
Maggie McNeilla sex worker, activist and author who goes by her stage name, said that reviewers are trying to concoct an exciting story or fantasy, not an accurate appraisal. When Benjamin received an offer from a former political candidate, she took issue with some of his requests and declined the meeting.
He became hostile, she said, so she went on social media to warn the sex work community that she felt he could be dangerous. Despite all the negatives, some sex workers say they or their colleagues have to advertise on boards because there are fewer alternatives for them now.
When Back and other ad sites vanished, many sex workers who relied on the online marketplace lost their main platforms for earning income. Women were funneled into more dangerous situations, such as working on the street or with pimps, and reported facing physical violenceincluding rape, at the hands of their clients.
Partially because of this urgency, the sex workers' rights movement has gained traction in the U. Chattie advertised on Back before it was seized and now posts on hobby boards.
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