Cover photo from Carlos Osorio / AP.
This week, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft was charged with soliciting prostitution in Florida after hidden cameras allegedly showed him paying for sex inside a massage parlor. Police said the incidents occurred over the course of two visits to the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter, Florida, which took place approximately a month ago. He has pleaded not guilty to the two counts.
Kraft is one of 25 people charged with misdemeanors, State’s Attorney for Palm Beach County Dave Aronberg said at a press conference. Kraft, 77, is charged with two counts of soliciting a person to commit prostitution and was issued a summons to appear in court in April. Police had been surveilling the spa over “several months” and have video evidence of all who were arrested, they said.
Meanwhile, 67 miles away, in Vero Beach, 10 spas have been shut down in connection with human sex trafficking. It has been uncovered that multiple massage parlor and spa locations are connected with a large Chinese underground sex trafficking operation.
Lanyun Ma, a 49-year-old Orlando woman who ran East Spa in Vero Beach, has been charged with human trafficking in connection with prostitution in Florida massage parlors and this large trafficking network.
Ma was seen transporting numerous women with suitcases to and from the spa who are believed to be victims of human trafficking, according to her arrest warrant. Some stayed for a couple days, others for weeks.
“It’s very difficult to charge somebody with that,” acknowledged Detective Sgt. Phil Huddy, who supervises the detective division at the Vero Beach Police Department.
Police believe most of the victims came to the country on airplanes, but they don’t know for sure.
“There are basically like travel agents that go to these little villages (in China) where they’re destitute, poor and have no other way out, and approach families and approach females and say, ‘Hey, you wanna go to America?'” Huddy said. “Then when they get here it’s basically indentured servitude.”
Police are under no illusions about how far they’ve reached into the seedy human trafficking organization believed to be rooted in China and loosely tied to New York, Texas and California. Ma and her husband, Yongzhang Yan, owned several spas in Vero Beach, Sebastian and the Orlando area. Each spa generated tens of thousands of dollars per month, according to police.
So we know about Robert Kraft being charged with soliciting prostitution at a spa, and we know about multiple spas not too far away that are involved in human trafficking— Lanyun Ma was charged with trafficking at a spa just an hour’s drive away. Are the two connected? Could it be that Kraft purchased sex acts from a trafficking victim?
The reports aren’t clear yet, though it’s a possibility.
What’s the difference between sex trafficking and prostitution?
The legal definition of prostitution, according to common U.S. law, is defined as “the profession of performing sexual acts for money.” In contrast, the legal definition of sex trafficking according to the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 defines sex trafficking as a situation in which “a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age.”
The difficult thing is, not everyone in the world who is purchased for sex has been sex trafficked.
Even so, it’s difficult and sometimes impossible to tell the difference between a situation where someone has been forced, defrauded, or coerced into selling sex, and someone hasn’t been. As far as we can tell from what’s been reported, information has yet to be released confirming whether the individuals exploited in Robert Kraft’s case are linked to the Vero Beach trafficking ring case, or not.
Is porn connected to trafficking and prostitution?
What does any of this have to do with pornography? Why is a pro-love, pro-sex, anti-porn organization talking about sex trafficking and prostitution cases?
Well, as the facts have shown, porn, prostitution, and sex trafficking are all interconnected in notable ways that further fuel and support each industry.
Sociologist Dr. Michael Kimmel has found that men’s sexual fantasies have become heavily influenced by porn,  which gets awfully tricky when their partners don’t want to act out the degrading or dangerous acts porn shows.  As a result, individuals who consume pornography have been shown to be more likely to go to prostituted persons,  often looking for a chance to live out what they’ve seen in porn.  In one survey of former prostituted persons, 80% said that customers had shown them images of porn to illustrate what they wanted to do. 
And what about sex trafficking?
Well, more often than people realize, porn and sex trafficking are one in the same thing—porn can be visual recorded evidence that trafficking took place. And just like it can be difficult and sometimes impossible to tell the difference between sexual situations involving force, fraud, or coercion, it can be very difficult to tell the difference between a willing porn performer and a victim of sex trafficking. Sometimes, a porn performer can turn into a victim of situational sex trafficking.
But regardless of the context, the victim is not going to turn to the camera and announce they are being trafficked, and these images and videos make their way onto mainstream porn sites, where they are indistinguishable. In fact, even if the victim does register their distress, it’s still impossible to know, because rape and abuse-themed porn have now become mainstream. One female survivor, whose captor slept on top of her at night so she wouldn’t escape, watched her through a hole when she went to the bathroom, and listened to her phone calls with a gun pointed at her head, was forced to appear in a video that made the Sinclair Intimacy Institute’s list of “sex-positive productions”!  “Every time someone watches that film,” she said, “they are watching me being raped.”
As you can see, sexual exploitation of all types shares a variety of symbiotic connections to pornography.
Often they’re one and the same. You can hate a thing. You can be outraged by it. But if you continue to sustain and engage with the industry that helps give it life, what is your outrage worth? Make it count, be a voice against modern-day slavery. Join our cause and be a voice against sexual exploitation and stop the demand for sex trafficking through pornography.