October 25, 2016

CNN Attempted to Normalize Prostitution in the Latest Lisa Ling Report

Award-winning journalist, Lisa Ling’s latest report on CNN’s This is Life went inside the Moonlight Bunny Ranch, a legal brothel in Nevada owned by pimp Dennis Hof.

This episode was a display of socially irresponsible journalism that normalized the inherently exploitive organized sexual exploitation industry.

Does Lisa Ling think that a world where men can freely buy women’s bodies is compatible with gender equality or safety?

Ling’s failure to question the sexual exploitation inherent in a system that offers male sex buyers their choice of “blondes, brunettes, a fresh face or seasoned professionals” and sex acts from a “menu” is appalling.

One woman who Lisa profiled as an autonomous “brothel worker” was Katherine Stone, an aspiring lawyer whose family was devastated after a fire scorched their property and left them with nothing. After this calamity, Stone agreed to auction off her virginity as a part of the “America’s Next Top Bunny Ranch Virgin” competition sponsored by Hof.

Tragically, Ling portrays Stone as a woman who is choosing a career path, but what I see is a young woman with economic desperation as her coercive pimp.

Our society should seek to protect the economically vulnerable, not “auction them off” to be used as sexual objects by the financially privileged. The fact that Moonlight Bunny Ranch owner Dennis Hof welcomed Stone into his virgin auction is further proof of the commercial sex industry’s predatory dependence on women primed for prostitution through homelessness, poverty, incest, and sexual assault.

Promotional copy from Hof’s virgin auction webpage explains that contestants are judged on “hymen hygiene, poise under sexual pressure, degree of virtuosity, ability to resist temptation, non-intercourse sex skills, and finally, how they actually perform sexually when they lose their virginity to the $$$ highest bidder. . . .” Moreover, Stone’s virgin purity is purportedly “being safeguarded 24/7 with a multi-pad-locked custom leather chastity belt made specially for her . . . .”  A spectacle reminiscent of Medieval misogyny occurring in the 21st Century deserves outrage, not a glossy commercial masquerading as a journalist endeavor.

By his own admission Hof is a man who “dates” women in his brothel. In plain English this means he engages in sex acts with his “employees.” This is sexual exploitation, plain and simple—the kind of sexual exploitation that in any other context would get him fired, but which Ling fails to recognize.

Instead, Ling characterizes Hof as a “sales trainer” and “self-made millionaire.” There is nothing self-made about Dennis Hof. His millions have come at the expense of the thousands of women who Hof has made living off of selling.

Ling’s attempt to get “beyond the reality show veneer” of Hof’s Moonlight Bunny Ranch was an abject failure.

CNN and Lisa Ling owe an apology to survivors of prostitution, and should do the due diligence required to conduct a full report on the extensive and well-documented harms of legal organized sexual exploitation.

To begin, Ling should review the study of prostituted persons from nine different countries which found that 71% were physically assaulted in prostitution, 63% were raped, and 89% “wanted to escape prostitution, but did not have other options for survival.” These research findings reveal the stark contrast between the sanitized picture of prostitution presented on This is Life and the real lives of prostitution survivors.

To read the stories of amazing women and men who survived commercial sexual exploitation visit http://www.worldwithoutexploitation.com/.

Lisa L. Thompson

Vice President of Research and Education

Lisa L. Thompson serves as the Vice President of Research and Education for the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, where she oversees NCOSE’s strategic planning for increased public understanding of sexual exploitation related issues. To this end Lisa conducts analysis, develops research initiatives, and liaises with a wide-range of public officials, non-profit organizations, institutions of higher learning, and academics to generate collaborative action to combat the full spectrum of sexual exploitation especially as pertains to the harms of pornography, stripping, prostitution, and sexual trafficking.

Lisa joins the NCOSE following nearly two years with World Hope International (WHI), where as its Director of Anti-Trafficking, Lisa administered WHI’s anti-trafficking and sexual-violence recovery programs in Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Liberia and Sierra Leone. While working for WHI Lisa also served as a steering committee member of the Faith Alliance Against Slavery and Trafficking (FAAST), a collaboration initiative she helped found, and as a reviewer for the Journal of Human Trafficking.

She has written on the subjects of sexual trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation for publications such as Christian History and Biography, Caring, Mutuality, PRISM, and Social Work and Christianity. Lisa is a contributing author to Hands that Heal: International Curriculum for Caregivers of Trafficking Survivors, as well as the book Global Perspectives on Prostitution and Sex Trafficking:  Europe Latin America, North America, and Global in which she contributed chapters about the use of torture by pimps, as well as the policy conflicts between sex trafficking abolitionists and HIV/AIDS advocates. She is the co-editor of a special anti-trafficking edition of the North American Association of Christians in Social Work journal Social Work & Christianity and has provided expert testimony to the U.S. Congress. Lisa routinely speaks about sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation (i.e. prostitution, pornography, stripping), and facilitates anti-trafficking training events for a diverse range of audiences.

Additionally, Lisa served for more than 12 years as the Liaison for the Abolition of Sexual Trafficking for The Salvation Army USA National Headquarters. In that role she pioneered strategies for The Salvation Army to create recovery services for survivors of sexual trafficking and advocated on public policy issues and initiatives related to combating sexual trafficking and other forms of commercial sexual exploitation. Lisa chaired The Salvation Army’s North American Anti-Trafficking Council and directed its Initiative Against Sexual Trafficking. Previous to her arrival at The Salvation Army, Lisa served as Policy Representative for the National Association of Evangelicals’ (NAE) Office for Governmental Affairs in Washington, DC, from 1998 to 2001. While there, she was heavily involved in NAE’s advocacy efforts seeking passage of legislation now known as the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000. She has also worked for consulting firms managing Community Develop Block Grants programs in Kentucky, and taught English as a second language in the People’s Republic of China.

Lisa earned her Bachelor of Arts in Government from Western Kentucky University, and her Master’s degree in Leadership, Public Policy and Social Issues from Union Institute and University.

Further Reading