Northeastern urged to ‘tell the truth’ about Boston Phoenix archive’s sex ads
May 03, 2019
Boston Herald by Marie Szaniszlo and Joe Dwinnell
A state senator who’s led the fight against human trafficking wants Northeastern University to “tell the truth” and hold a forum on the Boston Phoenix’s “disgusting business model” of deriving income from prostitution ads, now that the school holds the defunct weekly’s archives.
“You can’t continually whitewash history. Northeastern should tell the truth about the disgusting business model,” said state Sen. Mark Montigny, a New Bedford Democrat and the original author of a 2011 law making the trafficking of humans for sex or forced labor a crime in Massachusetts. He was one of several officials and advocates to weigh in on the Phoenix sex ad controversy at Northeastern.
“I can’t stand the historic glorification of pimps; they are human traffickers,” Montigny said. “Put on a forum on how destructive it is. It’s not sex; it’s rape in many cases.”
Since 2015, Northeastern’s Snell Library has showcased an archive to highlight the work of Phoenix reporters who tackled clergy sex abuse, AIDS and other issues of their day, yet remained silent about the sex ads that helped pay their salaries, author Casey Sherman wrote in a Herald column Friday.
Sherman argued that the Phoenix’s revenue model relied heavily on the suffering of young women who may have been forced to work at local spas promoting “beautiful Asian girls” in the newspaper’s back pages. Yet the only mention on Northeastern’s website about the Phoenix’s ties to the sex trade is a reference to its ads for “romantic mates.”
Northeastern officials did not return multiple requests for comment yesterday.
City Councilor Annissa Essaibi-George said the university owes it to “those who have been and continue to be trafficked” to acknowledge the role the Phoenix played in Boston’s human trafficking industry.
Toni Troop of Jane Doe Inc., a statewide coalition against sexual assault and domestic violence, said, “Human trafficking remains a pervasive issue in our communities, and making progress towards prevention requires clearly and unambiguously calling out the ways in which trafficking is perpetuated, often in plain sight.
“Northeastern University’s role in our community demands that they be both transparent and authentic,” Troop said. “Rather than dismiss, expunge or walk away from this collection, NU has the opportunity to shine a light on the tragedy of human sex trafficking and the social, economic and political forces at play. … We urge the school to adopt language in its marketing materials that reflects, rather than minimizes or dismisses, the seriousness of these issues.”