L.A. County plans to shame ‘johns’ who solicit prostitutes

Fourth district supervisor Don Knabe proposed a plan to publicly shame "johns" who solicit or purchase sex.
(Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles County officials plan to launch a “john-shaming” campaign to publicize the names and faces of people who solicit sex from prostitutes as part of a campaign against child sex trafficking.

The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to ask county attorneys to return in 45 days with a plan to “provide for the publication of the names of individuals convicted of soliciting prostitution...with a particular emphasis on individuals that solicit minors who are victims of sex trafficking.”

Supervisor Don Knabe, who presented the proposal, wrote that “displaying photographs of the so-called ‘johns’ on the Internet, on billboards and other public places should create a large disincentive to participate in this sickening endeavor.”

Supervisor Sheila Kuehl said in the past there was a “double standard” in which sex workers were blamed, but their customers were not.


“I think actually public shaming, as ancient as it is -- probably 1,000 years old or more -- could be effective,” she said.

Other local governments have employed a similar strategy. The Orange County district attorney’s office set up a “Sex Purchasers” website and has asked county police agencies to contribute photographs of offenders for posting.

The practice has been controversial. In the city of Richmond, Calif., the Police Department posted pictures of men arrested in prostitution stings on Facebook, after which others added detailed information about the men, including home addresses.

Follow Abby Sewell on Twitter at @sewella for more county news.