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Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis Resign From Their Shady Anti-Sex Trafficking Organization

Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis making serious faces.

Things keep getting worse for actors Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis. The married couple has been in hot water ever since their letters to a judge in support of convicted rapist Danny Masterson were leaked to the public. The three have been friends for years since their time on the hit TV series That ’70s Show. Because of the backlash, they both appeared in a mea culpa video that they shared on social media, giving what seemed like a HIGHLY scripted apology. Many think they only released the video because their letters were leaked to the public. The couple wanted to vouch for Masterson’s character in the hopes that the judge would be more lenient with his sentence. These letters, rightfully, were not received well by the general public! Now, Kutcher and Kunis have announced that they are stepping down from their prominent roles in their anti-child-sex-trafficking organization.

The organization, Thorn, targets sexual abuse and exploitation via internet technology. Kutcher founded Thorn in 2009 with his wife at the time, fellow actress Demi Moore. Kutcher has now resigned from his position as chairman of the board and Kunis resigned from her role as an observer on the board. Kutcher gave some rather interesting statements to the Thorn board. He wrote in a letter to the board (shared via Time Magazine), stating “Victims of sexual abuse have been historically silenced and the character statement I submitted is yet another painful instance of questioning victims who are brave enough to share their experiences.” Again, why would he write these letters in the first place? And you really learn that big of a lesson purely from public backlash? The lack of self-awareness is staggering.

Kutcher went on to say that essentially he and Kunis were reflecting after having long conversations with survivors and employees at Thorn. This led them to step down as they thought it would be more of a distraction to stay on in their roles. Kutcher apologized and said he was proud of the work they had done, adding, “I cannot allow my error in judgment to distract from our efforts and the children we serve.”

So what is Thorn anyway? Thorn partners with internet sites and law enforcement in the name of saving children from sexual abuse and trafficking. But apparently, of their 31 nonprofit partners, 27 of those target adults and work to abolish consensual sex work. Algorithms can’t seem to keep up with the complex nuances of sex and the internet. Pro-sex work advocates and workers themselves have been troubled by some of these “advocacy” partnerships. America’s FOSTA law (Fight Online Sex Trafficking) which shares similarities to Thorn’s partners, claims that consensual adult sex work is the same as the trafficking of children. For example, if a woman has consensual sex for art or for profit, this form of online speech can be interpreted as an internet crime similar to sex-trafficked children. 

Fordham Law School takes issue with FOSTA. They released a blistering statement: 

“Within one month of FOSTA’s enactment, thirteen sex workers were reported missing, and two were dead from suicide. Sex workers operating independently faced a tremendous and immediate uptick in unwanted solicitation from individuals offering or demanding to traffic them. Numerous others were raped, assaulted, and rendered homeless or unable to feed their children. These egregious acts of violence and economic devastation are directly attributable to FOSTA’s enactment.”

Another entity that has seen some negative impacts from FOSTA, is (surprisingly) law enforcement. Many think this law has made sex trafficking cases harder to track since they don’t have ads that they can subpoena, for instance. And FOSTA makes it harder to get digital records to aid in proving crimes. 

Thorn specifically has faced backlash as far back as 2011. But in 2017, Kutcher testified on his organization’s behalf before the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. Sure, these events can be a circus, but not on topics like sexual abuse and trafficking. For such a monumentally serious topic, you would expect Kutcher to complete his due diligence. However, he received criticism for presenting sex-trafficking numbers that didn’t add up. The general consensus on Thorn is that there’s some shady stuff happening to market an organization in a field that is highly sensitive. And equating consensual sex work with child trafficking is not helpful. It’s clear that the internet is rapidly changing and our networks and laws cannot keep up with it. But with Kutcher and Kunis stepping down, maybe Thorn can have a complete turnaround. 

(via Time Magazine, featured image: Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)

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