No more "Asian bunnies"

New York magazine drops sex ads.

By Lynn Harris
November 7, 2007 10:18PM (UTC)
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Quick, before you recycle: If you rely on New York magazine as your source for "Exceptional Asian Cuties" or "Russian Pearls," you'd better keep a few back issues around. The magazine announced yesterday that it would no longer be running ads for sexual services, including escort agencies and suspicious "massage." According to the New York Post, it's the 15th publication to do so this year.

As a result of the announcement, the New York City chapter of the National Organization for Women did something activists rarely get to do: claim victory two days before the protest. The group, which had called New York a "marketing arm of the organized crime world of prostitution and human trafficking," canceled the rally it had planned for tomorrow at the magazine's offices. Serena Torrey, a spokeswoman for New York, would not say that the decision to stop running the ads was a result of NOW's campaign. "It's just the right thing to do," she told the AP. She also appeared unconcerned by the prospect of finding another way to raise what NOW claimed added up to $10,000 a week in ad revenue. "The magazine is really prospering now and it's finally time to get out of a business that we were never comfortable being in," said Torrey.


Can't imagine that the timing of the decision was sheer coincidence, but -- while it's naive to assume that magazines' advertising and editorial sides always work in sync -- it's not that hard to believe that the magazine had been getting icked out. Assuming you do read New York for the articles, you may remember -- for one -- the magazine's recent harrowing and much-discussed report on how the system is failing sexually exploited children.

NOW's efforts are part of the local organization's broad and ambitious campaign against human trafficking in the New York City area. To be sure, not every "Punjab Princess" advertising in New York is doing "bodywork" against her will. And it's hard to imagine that Pink Orchid is going to close up shop just because it can no longer snare New York readers pretending to be looking for the Approval Matrix. But those are hardly good reasons to shrug and keep running the ads, or to dodge an opportunity to make a move based on principle. One of NOW's stated goals is to "shed light on how the trafficking industry is a part of the local economy and identify the legitimate businesses that do business with traffickers." At very least, it's a necessary reminder that women and men are trafficked not just in Bangkok, and not just in hidden brothels, but right next to our own crossword puzzles.

Update: This post originally stated, in error, that NOW claims that New York receives $10,000 "a month" (sic) in ad revenue from these sex services. NOW's claim is actually $10,000 a week. The post has been corrected.

Lynn Harris

Award-winning journalist Lynn Harris is author of the comic novel "Death by Chick Lit" and co-creator of She also writes for the New York Times, Glamour, and many others.

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