Johns are people, too

A married Oakland officer forced a 17-year-old prostitute named Celeste Guap to have sex with the promise of protection from arrest. Guap, now 19, found herself in trouble this year and asked him for help. When he refused, she informed on him with the Oakland Chief of Police. The next day, the married police officer committed suicide.

Guap claims to have had coerced sex for protection with over 30 Bay Area police officers. So far, four have been fired, and at least seven disciplined. “Coerced sex,” as any feminist will tell you, is synonymous with rape.

The chief administrator of Oakland said while announcing the discipline, “Oakland holds its police to the highest standards.” Well, it might be a start.

Recently, a new website was launched that encourages outing alleged johns. The website provides a form for taking down license plate numbers of vehicles engaged in suspicious activity. “It will just take two minutes,” it helpfully advises. Would that a trip to the DMV were so simple and convenient.

The Oakland police have been publicly outed as sex traffickers, as child abusers coercing illegal sex, but still Oakland believes it has the moral standing to encourage citizens to become vigilante sex cops. The license plate is identified and the city sends a “Dear John” letter to the address, where wife and kids might be interested to know Daddy was driving in a “high prostitution area” accompanied by a lecture that “prostitution is not a victimless crime and is associated with kidnapping, human trafficking, and sexual exploitation of children.”

You don’t say.

John-shaming is part of the new anti-trafficking strategy of “helping” sex workers by arresting their clients, and/or forfeiting the clients’ cars. Known as the Nordic model, it has been gaining popularity with prohibitionists since Sweden implemented it in 1999. Ex-president Jimmy Carter, who still teaches Sunday school in Georgia, endorses the Nordic program. Maybe he doesn’t understand it also includes arresting providers as well as their clients, humiliating them, forcing the women to plead guilty, then “diverting” them to a special court where—if they attend lectures and confess in group therapy to the evils of their chosen profession—they can have the guilty plea expunged.

Not only is this degrading, but it is ineffective as well. John-shaming simply doesn’t work. Studies show there is no decrease in commercial sexual activity with the Nordic model.

Most johns who are arrested along with the provider are low-income, because those are the men who use streetwalkers. Middle-class clients use the internet to find independent providers who work indoors. The elite, including politicians and judges, can afford an even more secure rendezvous brokered by discreet agencies or simply put a mistress up in style.

Promiscuity in itself is not a crime, and giving a woman a penthouse, car and jewels for sexual favors is also not criminal. Many expect sex after a dinner and a show. Somehow, exchanging a few hundred dollars upfront for no-strings-attached fun is transformed by our outdated laws into a criminal act. John-shaming is the modern version of the Puritan practice of putting sinners in the stocks. Instead of Cotton Mather’s frown, we get Catherine Cortez Masto’s uplifted nose.

There are victims in the crime of prostitution, but it is not the provider and her client engaged in a willing transaction for a desired service. It is rather the U.S. justice system, common sense and compassion that are the real victims of the government’s war on commercial sex.