As they crack down on sex workers and pass outrageous new laws, our politicians and moral crusaders make some bold claims: Hundreds of thousands of children are at risk of sex trafficking is one oft-cited figure. Kids are entering sex work at an average age of 13, says another. But is any of this true?
Good data is hard to come by in an industry kept largely in the shadows. That’s why, from 2012 to 2014, we spent nine months walking a stretch of road in Las Vegas well known as a gathering point for sex workers and their customers. We were part of a team who tailed along with those sex workers as they plied their trade, ducking into cars and alleyways to sell their services. We handed out condoms and other harm-reduction material, and we had a definite purpose — we were researchers, paid through an Obama-era grant from the US Department of Justice.
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