An outstanding article from The Prostitution Experience rebuts the notion that prostitution somehow becomes OK at the age of majority, or that child and adult prostitution can be disentangled. FreeIrishWoman writes:
This is the dichotomy of adult and child and they are viewed as very separate, very distinct, so that there is a clearly perceived line between these stages, these ages, but in fact it is not a line. It is a bridge. It is a bridge that spans the in-between; that gap that connects the points in the lives of so many women who were prostituted first as children then as adults. I lived that bridge in my own prostitution life, when I was turning from a child into a woman, and I was used sexually for money on most of the days that made up my adolescence, as I was before in childhood and afterwards in early adulthood. And here is the crux of the matter: it was all the same nightmare to me…
Added to this, men who buy sex are obsessed with the act of despoilment; they are, as a group, blatantly obsessed with the desire to fuck the youngest girl they can find. The upshot of this of course is that there is great commercial value placed on youth in prostitution. I have thought at length and written a little about Prostitution and the Commercial Value of Youth, and I know both that this exists as a reality in prostitution and that is speaks with great clarity to the putrid sexual selfishness I’ve just mentioned…
By drawing distinctions between trafficking and prostitution, between under and over eighteen, some well-intentioned anti-trafficking organisations acquiesce to the perpetuation of a system known to be extremely violent and damaging while continuing to stigmatise and blame most of its victims. This stigmatisation maintains the disempowerment and marginalisation of the same population these groups want to help. It also empowers the predators who prey on our most vulnerable, whether under or over eighteen.
Prostitution: Factsheet on Human Rights Violations
The average age of entry into prostitution is 13 years (M.H. Silbert and A.M. Pines, 1982, “Victimization of street prostitutes”, Victimology: An International Journal, 7: 122-133) or 14 years (D. Kelly Weisberg, 1985, Children of the Night: A Study of Adolescent Prostitution, Lexington, Massachusetts, Toronto).
New York Times: “For Runaways, Sex Buys Survival”
News Roundup: Age of Entry into Prostitution Declining
Salon: Atlanta’s underage sex trade
The problem isn’t restricted to so-called Hotlanta; Herbert notes, dispiritedly, that “the overall market for sex with kids is booming in many parts of the U.S.” But the city’s role as a convention and travel hub has given it a particular boost. And advocates say that the prevailing preference for ever-younger prostitutes — fueled by “the cultural emphasis on the sexual appeal of very young women and girls” and “the widely held belief among johns that there is less risk of contracting a disease from younger prostitutes” — has pimps and sex traffickers recruiting more at-risk kids than ever before.