Selling Sex: A National Snapshot of Online Commercial Sex Advertisements

Tony Talbott | September 23 | 1:30 - 2:30 PM | Room 2582

This workshop will present findings from a one-day cross-sectional look at escort advertisements from every market in the US. currently is the largest advertiser of commercial sex in the nation. Law enforcement investigations and outreach efforts across the US have revealed numerous cases of human trafficking within the total universe of Backpage ads. A team of 60 volunteer researchers worked for 8 hours coding descriptive data such as number of ads, race, age, location, and so on. These are joined with US Census and other data in a comprehensive dataset of 400 Core Based Statistical Areas (CBSA) covering all 50 states and the District of Columbia. In addition to exploratory, descriptive analysis, quantitative and geographic analyses utilizing SPSS and ARCGIS explore relationships between ad data and potential explanatory variables such as percentage of male/female in population, poverty and income levels, and presence of major sporting/entertainment venues. Initial findings using state-level analysis have provided insights with implications for policymaking and advocacy efforts. E.g., preliminary analyses reveal that the per capita number of ads in a state is positively correlated with the percentage of females in that state’s overall population. In other words, commercial sex advertising appears to be driven by supply, rather than demand.

Presentation Objectives:

·         To present an overall description of the national online commercial sex marketplace

·         To identify factors related to the type and number of ads across the US

To discuss implications for anti-human trafficking and prostitution/sex work advocacy efforts.  

About the Presenter