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Simple chart debunking the “average age” myth

Date: April 21, 2011

Politicians, media, and anti-trafficking/prostitution groups repeatedly claim that the average age of entry into prostitution is 13. I’ve debunked this myth before by pointing out problems with how the number has been reached, but here’s a more simpler, common-sensical debunking.

Assuming normal distribution, mean of 13 and standard deviation of 5, here’s a chart depicting what age of entry into prostitution would look like.

Average Age Chart

As you see, you’d have to accept that there are equal number of 5 year olds and 21 year olds entering prostitution, and also that it’s more likely to enter prostitution at age 0 than at any age past age 26. If this is your view of the world, your sense of reality is severely distorted.

Yes, we read about 12, 10, and 8 year olds being rescued from forced prostitution and other forms of commercial sexual exploitation. But they are in the news precisely because they are rare. Non-commercial forms of sexual exploitation (i.e. plain old sexual abuse) is much, much more common, but it doesn’t make the news the same way.

(Of course, there is also a possibility that the distribution is not normal, which might explain why we hardly see 0-10 year olds in forced prostitution. But it would also mean that there are *huge* number of 10-13 year olds entering prostitution to compensate that, if we assume that the average age is 13, and it just isn’t true.)

1 Comment »

  1. Emi, thank you for pointing out, in this and other posts, how unlikely this statistic is. So obvious once I thought about it for two seconds! I just wrote to Vanity Fair after reading their brand-new article “Sex Trafficking of Americans.” They quote that statistic in the first paragraph or two. SIGH. It’s attributed to GEMS, but with no comment or question from the article’s author.

    Comment by grrlpup — May 24, 2011 @ 12:24 pm

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