A "sugar daddy" dating website is now advertising in the Metro in a big way. Arrangement Finders has started a campaign on a local billboard. Fox 25's Kisha Henry shows us why some say it will only add to Oklahoma's already dangerous prostitution and human trafficking problem.
The billboard reads: "Hey students, need a summer job? Date a Sugar Daddy"
The ad space is owned by a local company called Vital Outdoor Advertising. They didn't return our phone calls, but through Facebook they posted that they do not own the advertising space. However, their website shows they do. (See attached pictures) They may not be talking about the billboard, but other people had a lot to say about it.
"..... Speechless," says Anderson Harrison, an Oklahoma City resident, as we show him the billboard. He shakes his head.
"It's ironic that something like that should go up in such a conservative state," says Joyce Broils-Hill, another Oklahoma City resident, who also shakes her head in distaste.
"I thought-- oh my gosh! Do the people of Oklahoma not realize what's going on?!" says Dr. Lori Basey, President of No Boundaries International, a non-profit that fights human trafficking.
"It's a billboard literally trying to recruit and exploit our young people," says Brian Bates, creator of JohnTV.com, a website dedicated to exposing men who indulge in the exploitative business of prostitution.
Both Bates and Basey have made their life's work trying to end prostitution and human trafficking, but they say that's exactly what this billboard-- targeting students-- leads to. "I can say that I have actually documented girls as young as 11-years-old working the streets of South Robinson," says Bates.
"The people who pull up, they don't say- Hi, what's your name? They say- What can you do for me?" says Basey. "These kinds of images normalize this crime," she adds.
Bates and Basey say there's no line between working the streets and working the Internet. "What it really boils down to is you have predator men that are looking for some sort of sexual activity, and they're willing to trade something of value for that. That is prostitution. It doesn't matter how fancy you wrap it or what kind of a bow you put on it. It's prostitution," says Bates. "You have people that are in desperate situations. You have men that are willing to exploit that desperate situation, and you have young people that don't think those decisions through," he adds. He says if the ad targeted middle aged women, who fully understand the decisions they're making, that would be a different story. "A lot of us know 17, 18, 19-year-old young ladies and men make a lot of bad choices. This is a bad choice that can literally haunt them for the rest of their life," he says.
And, the Internet keeps a record. "They think- 'well, nobody's going to know.' What they don't realize is that to sign up to sites like this, you have to give over your identity to these sites and they database that information. Later in life, you become somebody successful. If you think for one minute that these unscrupulous sites won't use that database information to expose you for their gain, you need to think again," says Bates.
"Decisions you make today will affect your outcomes tomorrow," says Broils-Hill. "You may not want to work at McDonalds or Burger King, but at least you'll still have your dignity, integrity and honesty.... and you can't get that back once it's gone," she adds.
In other cities, the billboards have gotten more racy. One reads: "Because the best job is a blow job." Bates and Basey hope the ads are stopped before they reach that level, and they hope young women in need will find their money elsewhere. "The only positive that comes from this is, luckily, a mile-and-a-half down the road from that billboard is another billboard that has the exact opposite message," says Bates. He's referring to an ad from OATH that reads: "She's only 13! Stop sex trafficking!"
"That billboard is actually out there trying to protect our young people, where the billboard we're here talking bout is there to exploit them," says Bates. "We have companies here in the city that will actually allow their property to be used to market such services. It should be concerning to all parents. It really should be concerning to everyone in Oklahoma City," he says. "These girls make the decision to do it 'one time' for a temporary situation and they wake up Monday morning and they're a prostitute."
Arrangement Finders did not return our phone calls.
Wednesday evening, Vital Outdoor Advertising posted on Facebook, "We don't own this billboard, but the ad is coming down. Thank you for your concern." However, the company's website lists they do own the billboard.