Girls and victim advocates describe photo studios in Oakland where girls pose in sets that look like bedrooms. Studios provide lingerie, wigs and makeup. For an extra fee, some studios will upload the X-rated photos and post online ads on behalf of the pimp. By posting the ads on sites based in other cities, pimps line up customers across the country and send the trafficked youth on "sex tours."
Youth Radio learned first-hand how easy it can be for a minor to tap into these resources. For research purposes, a reporter called a photo studio in East Oakland posing as someone wanting to break into the prostitution business. She was put in touch with a man who offered to manage her online marketing -- with payments made via PayPal.
She asked him if it mattered that she was only seventeen. He said "I wouldn't even mention it."
He said he would post ads to several of the popular online classifieds, including Village Voice Media's Backpage.com, where he had a "pretty good hookup" that allowed him to buy sponsored banner ads.
He also offered to upload photos.
"You can have a g-string on or whatever... but you don't want to get too nasty, because of the police, you know."
And he said he had a lot of experience writing his clients' personal descriptions on ads. An excerpt from the conversation:
"Are you a white girl, or black girl?" he asked our reporter.
She told him she is Latina.
"Oh, even better," he said. "So you can be like, 'Exotic Latina Beauty' and have the little stats. And if you speak Spanish, you say 'Se Habla Espanol'. You can't refuse money from Mexicans that don't speak English, because they're going to be your number one callers most of the time. You just make stuff up off the top of your head. You make it like a Victoria Secret catalog, basically."
In a follow-up phone call, this same man told a Youth Radio reporter posing as a pimp that he could market girls up and down the east and west coast--Vegas, Los Angeles, DC, and Atlanta.
Youth Radio Investigates: Trafficked, on NPR’s All Things Considered tells the stories of two teenagers who were trafficked on the streets of Oakland. The investigation uncovers how the city’s law enforcement has responded to a sex trafficking industry that is thriving in plain sight. The series continues on youthradio.org and The Huffington Post, where multimedia reporting goes deeper to reveal the varied perspectives of girls sold for sex on the streets and online, and a pimp "business plan" provided by prosecuters.