CULLMAN, Ala. – Kathy Wilson, Chairperson of the Cullman County Human Trafficking Task Force, shares the work of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) and its list of entities whose policies may encourage sexual exploitation:
The NCOSE is the leading organization exposing the links between all forms of sexual exploitation such as child sexual abuse, prostitution, sex trafficking and the public health crisis of pornography. Sexual exploitation encompasses a wide range of sexual abuse, regardless of age, including sexual objectification, sexual violence, pornography, prostitution and sex trafficking. The mission includes any actual or attempted abuse of a position of vulnerability, differential power or trust, for sexual purposes.
These forces have always been at work in our society, but in America today their chasms loom larger, deeper and darker than ever before. Their icy chill has touched us all.
Yet the light of human dignity and inherent worth burns strong. We believe every human being deserves the opportunity to live life to its fullest potential without sexual harm: to pursue dreams and ambition, express creativity and talents, seek beauty, truth and faith, experience hope, joy and love with family and friends, to thrive. This is the mission of the NCOSE.
The NCOSE was founded in 1962 and, since that time, has evolved to advocate for a world free from all forms of sexual exploitation.
Wilson attended a conference where the NCOSE presented, saying, “Once I found out the valuable information that the center has, I wanted our local community to know.”
The NCOSE conducts policy activism through projects like the “Dirty Dozen” list which targets 12 corporations or organizations it says facilitate sexual exploitation. The 2019 Dirty Dozen list was recently released.
Said Wilson, “If we can be an informed society, then we can stop the sexual exploitation of our children. It’s time to find the moral compass within us all.”
The following is the 2019 Dirty Dozen list.
The NCOSE will continue naming and shaming until these mainstream contributors to the normalization of sexual exploitation no longer stand in allegiance with pornographers, sex traffickers and sex buyers and join the fight for the right to live “sexploitation” free lives.
The 2019 Dirty Dozen (From the NCOSE website)
Amazon – Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer, is known for lightning fast shipping and selling virtually anything online. While their corporate policy ostensibly prohibits it from selling pornography, Amazon.com is promoting material that sexualizes children and normalizes the dehumanization and sexual commodification of women. Amazon Prime inserts unnecessary, gratuitous nudity and simulated sex scenes into many of its original programmings, and provides faulty tools for blocking unwanted recommendations for sexually explicit programs. Items for sale on Amazon include child-like sex dolls, photography books with eroticized child nudity, pornographic magazines, and clothing items, and more. Their Kindle e-reader is riddled with sexually explicit content containing incest, babysitter, and group-sex themes.
EBSCO Information Services – The company offers online library resources to public and private schools (K-12), colleges and universities, public libraries, and more. In its advertising for schools, it promises “fast access to curriculum-appropriate content.” However, its Explora, Science Reference Center, Literary Reference Center, and other products, sometimes provide easy access to hardcore pornography sites and extremely graphic sexual content. Notable Progress: We want to acknowledge that EBSCO has made significant progress over the last two years, particularly in educational databases meant for elementary students and also in those meant for middle school students. Just two years ago basic searches for innocent search terms like “7th grade biology” or “respiration” would yield results with pornographic images or explicit instructions on risky sex acts. Now, searches for even pornographic terms often yield no result in these databases. We are grateful that EBSCO took on constructive criticism from the NCOSE, and others, to address those problems.
Google (including YouTube, Chrome, and Google Images) – Google is a vast corporate empire, and there have been some important steps forward that Google has taken to combat sexual exploitation, including responses to NCOSE activism to remove pornographic apps from GooglePlay, ceasing pornographic Google Ads, improving WiFi filtering tools, and improving the visibility of the SafeSearch filtering option in Google Images. .Advertisers like Walt Disney Co. and AT&T are suspending advertising with YouTube over mounting concerns about the platform being used for the eroticization of children and for pedophile networking. Two days after Google claimed to be finally fixing this problem, The NCOSE’s Haley Halverson researched claims of pedophile rings, child erotica, and child exploitation on YouTube and found alarming results confirming the original reports and continued use of the platform for exploitive purposes.
HBO – A division of Time Warner, it is an American premium cable television network that has consistently produced content which normalizes rape myths, sexual violence, and commercial sexual exploitation through with sexually exploitive depictions of sex and sexual violence. This has been displayed over the years through shows like Game of Thrones and The Deuce. The HBO GO home streaming service and app make accessing this exploitive content even easier.
Massage Envy – From Hollywood, Capitol Hill, Silicon Valley and beyond the #MeToo movement has revealed the prevalence of sexual harassment and assault in our society. But at your local massage studio too? Yes! Massage Envy has been, and is being, sued by hundreds of women for failing to take appropriate measures when a massage therapist sexually harasses or assaults a client. Among a number of poor policies, the company has hidden clauses in customer agreements which force women to surrender their rights and many former employees report being trained to do all in their power not to encourage police to show up at their locations. Massage Envy does not even require reporting of suspected assaults to the Massage Therapy Board and a number of cases against Massage Envy involve prior complaints of sexual assault by customers being made to management and them doing nothing about it, thus allowing perpetrators to continue preying on vulnerable clients. While reports of sexual assault abound at other massage establishments, Massage Envy is the largest massage chain in America, with more than 20,000 therapists and 1,200 locations. Massage Envy has long known about the problem of assaults on their tables and yet only recently made serious policy improvements to try to curb and deal with these reports. We applaud their progress, while deploring the length of time it took for such movement to be made, and call on Massage Envy to take a stance of complete transparency and accountability when it comes to further addressing these horrors.
Netflix – Netflix has become a staple of at-home entertainment. Over 51 million users subscribe to Netflix in the United States alone. While the streaming platform provides hours of entertainment with both existing and original programming, a Netflix subscription also includes sexually graphic and degrading content. Netflix often produces media portraying gratuitous nudity, graphic sexual acts, and even graphic depictions of sexual assault. Currently, Netflix provides over 300 original productions, ranging from serious dramas, laugh-out-loud comedies, and even animation. Most of Netflix’s most popular (and most heavily-advertised) original shows are rated TV-MA (mature audiences only) frequently containing graphic sex scenes, nudity, and violence. Researchers at NCOSE recently looked into 10 of the top original Netflix titles and found that 9 out of 10 featured on-screen sex scenes. By depicting these issues so graphically it both increases the likelihood that a victim of past assault will be negatively triggered by the content, and it decreases the likelihood that viewers will thoughtfully analyze the harms of sexual exploitation. It would be easy for Netflix to portray the harms of sexual violence or lack of sexual consent without simultaneously “profiting” from a sexually objectifying and voyeuristic motif. Parental controls and rating displays need to be improved: while Netflix does provide parental controls in order to help protect young audiences from viewing this content, unfortunately, these parental controls are easy for tech-savvy children to get around. Further, Netflix does not make TV ratings clear when a user accesses Netflix through a third-party device, such as Apple TV, Amazon Fire, or Roku. App Rating for Netflix: Currently, Netflix self-rates itself as suitable for ages 4+ on the Apple App Store. This is a seriously misleading rating considering the high rate of content on Netflix containing graphic sex acts, gratuitous nudity, and extreme depictions of sexual assault. We request that Netflix changes its self-rating on the App Store to be 17+.
State of Nevada – Nevada is the only state in America with legalized brothel prostitution, in select counties. As of February 2018, there were at least 21 brothels active in Nevada. While some may claim that legalization provides better regulation and increased safety – the truth is that sexual violence, racism, and socioeconomic disadvantages are inextricable from the prostitution experience. Nevertheless, nearly 81% of the voters in Lyon County, Nevada voted to keep brothels legal in 2018. This made 81% of Lyon County citizens complicit in the sex trade, and therefore complicit in the sexual exploitation (and even sex trafficking) of countless women. One woman who survived being prostituted in two legal brothels in Nevada stated: “We did not have the “independent contractor” freedom to turn down buyers. Management required us to line up when someone arrived at the brothel. Once picked from the lineup, we would bring the sex buyer back to our room where he was allowed to do whatever he wanted with us… The violent-natured men I encountered in legal brothels are no different than the men buying sex on the streets. I cannot count the number of times I physically fought with men in the brothels and how many times I have been raped because I was too scared to fight back.”
Roku – Roku, a leading media streaming company, provides its users with the ability to stream television programs, movies, music, and more, on their personal devices. Unfortunately, Roku also facilitates access to hardcore pornography channels through hundreds of private and hidden channels. Pornographers are well aware of the backdoor Roku has left open to them. They widely advertise for their private channels and applaud Roku in forum after forum for being the go-to streaming device to permit this material. This stands in sharp contrast to the policies of other streaming device industry leaders such as Apple TV or Amazon’s Fire TV, which have rightly kept hardcore pornography off of their systems.
Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue – Since 1964 this magazine has sexually objectified women for sport and profit. The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue would be more aptly named the Sexploitation Issue. Women of all shapes, sizes, and ages deserve more than being reduced to body parts for men to ogle. This magazine is sending a message that women’s bodies are for public consumption, and any retailer that displays and sells it is condoning the toxic culture of entitlement to the female body. These images are not designed to be empowering. Rather, they are designed to portray women as sexually desirable and available to the male customers purchasing this magazine. Women who have achieved remarkable athletic feats do not deserve to be put back into the box of male sexual accessibility in order to promote “body positivity.” This is a growing cultural recognition. For example, Ada Hegerberg the world’s best soccer player was asked to twerk on stage after receiving the 2018 Women’s Ballon d’Or Award. The host was widely condemned for the sexist overtones that sought to focus on Hegerberg’s sexuality instead of her accomplishments. Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue is the magazine equivalent to this scandal. In 2015, the cover featured a model revealing a portion of her pubic area. After more than 30,000 complaints were filed, Safeway quickly moved the magazine away from checkout stands and stated that two-thirds of the cover would be out of sight. Patrons have a right to shop free from exposure to soft-core pornography in the checkout line.
Steam – Steam is a popular distribution platform, owned by Valve Corporation, which sells thousands of video games for PC, Mac, Linux box, mobile device, or even televisions, in addition to connecting gamers with community forums on its website. Despite hosting approximately 35 million users who are minors, Steam also facilitates video games that promote themes of sexual violence, exhibitionism, and rape. When video games include sexually graphic and degrading themes the user is not only a voyeur but an active participant in staging the scene. As our society suffers from the consequences of campus sexual assault, military sexual assault, and rising child-on-child sexual abuse, we see that normalizing the sexual use (and often abuse) of others in video games is irresponsible on the corporate and social level. In June of 2018, after receiving backlash from gamers about working to remove rape-themed games, Steam instituted a new policy to “allow everything onto the Steam Store, except for things that we decide are illegal, or straight up trolling.” As soon as this new policy launched, the number of games tagged for “nudity” doubled from approximately 700 games to around 1,400 in just four months—and now there are over 2,000 games with this tag. Even when a user has filters on, pornographic video games that clearly portrayed penetrative sex acts are still accessible with a mere two clicks. Many of these titles not only contain “nudity” but also contain graphic sexual acts, sexual violence, sexualized child-like characters, and/or stripping and prostitution.
Twitter – For years, Twitter has done little to stem the overwhelming tide of sex trafficking, prostitution, and pornography accounts on its site. In fact, media reports suggest that as many as 10 million Twitter accounts may include explicit sexual content. Twitter prides itself as being a platform for “free expression” yet refuses to remove accounts posting likely advertisements for sexual slavery. Twitter is being used to advertise prostituted persons and sex trafficking victims for purposes of commercial sexual exploitation, often via pornographic images or webcamming. Sometimes these tweets include offers to meet in person for “escorting” services, and sometimes they ask users to follow and pay for nude images, videos, or live streaming. It has been documented by law enforcement that pimps and sex traffickers often either coerce trafficking or child sexual abuse victims into making such social media or advertising posts or create the posts themselves in their victim’s name. This is what was found to happen on Backpage.com—the notorious classifieds ads website that was recently shut down by the Department of Justice for knowingly facilitating sex trafficking. Further, Twitter has come under fire for the vast amount of cyber-based sexual harassment, revenge pornography, and even sexually exploited images of children on its platform. We know that pornography is inherently tied to cyber-based sexual harassment, whether in the form of revenge pornography, being spammed with pornography, or having one’s virtual identity co-opted by tags to pornography. Twitter is filled with pornography that supports rape myths, normalizes adult-with-teen-themed and incest-themed exploitation, and reinforces degrading racially charged sexual stereotypes. These include ads for prostitution webcamming and in-person encounters. Disturbingly, recent news reports show that pedophiles have also begun migrating to Twitter, and no doubt use Direct Messages and other tools to share information about accessing child sexual abuse images (i.e., child pornography).
United Airlines – The commercial passenger carrier has come under public scrutiny for a variety of incidents that revealed inconsistency in policies and aircrew training – from forcing a pet into an overhead compartment where it died to physically dragging a doctor off a plane. Now United Airlines is placed on the 2019 Dirty Dozen List, which names 12 mainstream contributors to sexual exploitation, for systemic outbreaks of inappropriate aircrew reactions to sexual harassment on their airplanes. Sexual harassment includes but is not limited to, unwanted sexual advances or attention including physical actions, speech, and viewing pornography in-flight. While cases of these actions have occurred on virtually every airline, United Airlines aircrews have apparently received ineffective training due to consistent failures in addressing sexually harassing actions, speech, or pornography-use. For example, United Airlines appears to have struggled with protecting flight crews and passengers alike from sexual harassment. Further, United Airlines appears to be chronically ill-prepared to address the growing problem of pornography on airplanes and the ensuing culture of sexual harassment that this fosters. While most airlines have a policy on paper against in-flight pornography use, they are not adequately training their in-flight crews or support staff to ensure they A) are consciously aware the policy exists or B) know how to enforce it.
For more on the NCOSE, visit https://endsexualexploitation.org.