I watched local journalism and producing talent Cerissa Tanner's excellent report on teen prostitution in Oakland and I have a lot of respect for police, procecutors, and organizations who try to help child and teen prostitutes break out of the lifestyle.
Whether targeting the prostitutes or their pimps, the challenge is providing meaningful alternatives for people who may have been tossed on the street by their parents, and who feel that educational and professional opportunities are not really part of their world.
A couple of weeks ago a nice big white SUV dropped two kids off on my street corner. They looked to be about 13-14. One was a boy, dressed in a sort of girly way and wearing makeup, and the other was a plump, sullen girl. They proceeded to sit down in front of my door and smoke crack. They sat there for a long time talking animatedly. The boy would occasionally accentuate his words by pointing his hand like it was a gun he held sideways, like the gangsters do on TV, and saying, "POW! POW! POW!". It was pretty clear they had been working - what else would a middle class white guy have been doing with a couple of crackhead kids dressed like, well, prostitutes?
Now, here's my question: we can target these kids, and we can target their pimps, and maybe some day there will be meaningful education reform that can address some of the structural issues at play here. But who is addressing the middle-aged, middle class guy driving that SUV, who thinks it is his right in life to come into my neighborhood and purchase a 13-year old boy and girl for his use? Where are the organizations talking to these individuals about their choices? They are, after all, the only individuals in this game with power to make real choices about their lives.
In Sweden prostitution is legal, and they prosecute the johns, but that's no good either: the burden of proof for a crime rests with the prostitute, and they need their income. They're not going to bust their customers. Duh.
I don't know that there can be any single solution, but here's what I'm going to do. White SUV guy: next time I see you, I'll write down your licence plate number. Maybe I'll create a special web site where I publish licence plate numbers and photos of people just like you. Because I bet in your community you act like you are not part of this problem. And from where I'm sitting, it looks like you fucking create this problem.