John-Shaming: Coming to a Town Near You?

Photo: Tom & Dee Ann McCarthy/Corbis

Whether or not you think prostitution is inherently exploitative, it’s clear that traditional police tactics that focus on the sellers of sex disproportionately punish poor, young, coerced, and disenfranchised people. (Not least of all because of the police, who are sometimes more abusive than pimps.) But will targeting johns end demand and liberate sex workers forever? Or will it merely dry up the their much-needed income and force prostitution further underground? There will be plenty of opportunities to study it, because, according to The Atlantic Cities, demand-side policing has arrived. Cities pointed us to Demand Forum, a compendium of all the existing programs targeting johns. Some 825 cities have programs, including “john schools,” like the alcohol education classes for DUI offenders, that raise as much as $100,000 a year for victims of the sex trade. Others use the “reverse sting” — female cops posing as prostitutes. Others use john-shaming, which can include putting the names of offenders on the Internet, in the news, on a billboard, or writing letters to the families of johns. Which demand-side anti-prostitution tactics are likely to befall the johns of your hometown? There’s a handy map.