"Sexploitative" journalism?

Korean community leaders chastise the San Francisco Chronicle over its breathless "Diary of a Sex Slave" series.

Published October 26, 2006 11:42PM (EDT)

On Tuesday, Korean community leaders collaborated in a serious smackdown of that masterpiece of peephole journalism, the San Francisco Chronicle series "Diary of a Sex Slave" (previously covered by Broadsheet here). Like many other readers, the Korean critics bashed the gratuitous "sexploitative" nature of the story, which profiled one young South Korean college student who ended up being trafficked to California for months of grueling sexual servitude. "[T]he 'Diary' series dwells at length, and with questionable purpose, on the titillating details of one individual's forced sex acts and non-typical family history," argued the editorial, which was signed by nearly 50 organizations and prominent Asian American leaders.

The letter also objected to the series' focus on Korea's sex trade, arguing that "the outrageous claim that 'many' Koreans support their families through prostitution" misrepresented the role that the sex industry plays in the Korean society. The critics suggested that the series should have concentrated on the "work of local advocacy groups, in cooperation with enforcement authorities, to help trafficking victims."

Well, sure -- if that was the point. But the story began -- ontologically speaking -- with one young Asian coed being locked in a dirty room in an undisclosed location to have sex with a dozen men a day until she was so sore.... you get the point. Larger issues -- the prevalence of sex slavery in San Francisco (a.k.a. the local angle) and the overwhelming influence of the sex industry on Korean culture (a universal tale emblematic of a trend) do help justify all those column inches on discarded condoms and exotic bikinis.

Still, this dispute goes to show that when it comes to stories about women and sex, nobody can resist the temptation to fluff facts for a good money shot.

By Carol Lloyd

Carol Lloyd is currently at work on a book about the gentrification wars in San Francisco's Mission District.

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