In small midwest US towns, the fracking boom leads to a fracking boom, if you catch my drift

In the NYT today, a feature by John Eligon about Williston, North Dakota, a new fuel boom town situated atop rich shale oil formations. Migrant laboring men come here from all over, in search of jobs. And, sex. A growing number of female locals complain of sexual assault, and the sense that they are now living in an increasingly hostile, unsafe environment for women and girls.


    1. That’s why the old Time Square was such a paradise for women to walk through, safe in the knowledge that the peep shows and porn shops have taken care of all the men who have the fire down below.

      1. I was being glib…. my reading of the oil boom towns in North Dakota has lead me to think that the biggest problem there is typical for boom towns — housing. It isn’t just thousands of young horny males behaving inappropriately toward townies, but married men too who are working there for long stretches without their wives and children. Even prostitutes need cribs and there’s none to be had. Halliburton’s biggest priority has been getting the oil out of the ground and of course, profit, not providing places for the workers to live.

        Meanwhile, curious the shortage of working ladies and gents. They don’t call it ‘the oldest profession’ for nothing; there’s always plenty of work to be had most any place, but especially towns like those. I wondered if it isn’t a seasonal thing – who the hell would want to spend winter in North Dakota? NoDak is one of the least populous states in the country. For the kind of money those guys would happily pay for sex, a prostitute could rake in a year’s worth of income in three or four months and go home, and work when the weather was much more accomodating. Therefore, the local girls are particularly harrassed in winter.

        I was trying to picture the same bidding war going on to hire the favors of two working girls, ‘Okay, here’s the deal… we’ll pay you $7K to strip and pour us beer for an afternoon, while we guys get drunk and watch extreme sports on the television.’ ‘No sex?’ ‘No.’ ‘Not even a blowjob.’ ‘Not unless you want to arrange that seperately.’ Would they have turned down the work or been insulted by the proposition? If the town girls were offended even by the initial offer, why didn’t they walk away rather than listen to the bidding go up?

  1. Both my parents’ families are from that area, and I’ve spent much time in NE Montana and the area around Williston. It is getting pretty weird up there. The proverbial mixed blessing, good economic times for the long-term residents, functionally zero unemployment and high wages, but predictable troubles. People with no investment or interest in the community, extremely tight housing market (basically Manhattan rental rates, in a place that is decidedly NOT NYC), etc. There is a bit of a chicken-and-egg problem in that there isn’t enough appropriate housing for people to bring their families (or, for that matter, amenities to attract families), though there are now the jobs to theoretically sustain that housing and those amenities. Yeah, definitely weird up there.

  2. To be clear, this is western ND, where the population density is “spiking” from 1 person per square mile up to “1-10″ people per square mile. It sucks for people living out there because the large cost of living inflation from the oil workers moving into an area that is very much unequipped to support them essentially means they can’t afford to live there now.

  3. Deadwood revisited.

    Such has always been the way with resource-extraction boom-towns. For most North Americans, and even for most single young male North Americans, they’re pretty hellish places to live, filled with opportunistic human predators pushing every social pathology in the book. I feel terrible for the women and girls who are stuck in towns like Williston.

    1. I understand what you’re saying, and completely agree with the spirit of your comment, but I’m sure we both can agree that fracking isn’t slang for ‘making love’ but rather is slang for ‘fcuking’ which is a generic term for sexual penetration of all sorts as well as an explicative and word-modifier. Of course, if you counter-argue that using the word fracking serves to minimize and lighten hideous sexual assaults, I can agree with your reasoning.

      However, I think the fracking headline is not necessarily referring to the sexual assault, but more the men looking to purchase it, and the women (and men too!) traveling to these boomtowns to provide compensated sexual services. As icky as some of might find the idea, these municipalities need to legalize and regulate brothels and free-lance sex-work, prohibit ‘street-walking’ and encourage workers to solicit on the web or publications. 

      (edited by author – original comment didn’t have the name which appeared upon refresh.)

    1. Only if you think human males are rapacious beasts who are unable to control their baser instincts.  Not that I’m against legal prostitution — in fact I’m for it.  But for the most part men seem able to refrain from sexually assaulting women without having to resort to soliciting prostitutes.

      1. “Jessica Brightbill, a single 24-year-old who moved here from Grand Rapids, Mich., a year and a half ago, said she was walking to work at 3:30 in the afternoon when a car with two men suddenly pulled up behind her. One hopped out and grabbed her by her arms and began dragging her. She let her body go limp so she would be harder to drag. Eventually, a man in a truck pulled up and began yelling at the men and she got away, she said. The episode left her rattled.”
        So whats that ratio of would be rapists to non-rapists? 2:1?
        In that case I would say that the men in ND are not capable of refraining from sexually assaulting women.

        1. I think we’re on the same side here.  What I’m saying is “but prostitution isn’t legal there!” isn’t a valid excuse for committing rape or sexual assault.  High levels of sexual crimes are an excuse for enforcing the laws against those crimes, not for legalizing prostitution.  (Again, I support legalized prostitution for other reasons.)

          1. The question is not whether the lack of legalised prostitution is an excuse for sexual assault. The question is whether legalised prostitution would reduce sexual assault.

          2. That would set a fucking horrifying precedent.  “I can’t be held responsible for my actions, your honor.  This county unfairly prevented me from accessing prostitutes and since we know human males are vicious animals and not morally culpable it is the county that is at fault for that young lady’s rape.”

            I’d much rather adhere to the romantic fantasy that human beings are morally culpable agents that have a choice of whether or not to commit crimes and may be punished accordingly.

          3. wysinwyg, you’re still making the same mistake. I’m just going to repeat the same thing I said: the question is not whether the lack of legalised prostitution is an excuse for sexual assault. Because it’s not. The question is whether legalised prostitution would happen to reduce sexual assault.

    2. Or an argument for legislating the development of boom towns. These places have a well documented history of attracting a whole bunch of greed and crime. Fortunately they don’t seem to be inclined to hunting down and murdering the natives anymore, but it’d be hard to argue that they’re any better off.. either people are forced to leave their homes because they can’t afford to stay, or the surrounding environment is made unlivable by the industrial operations.

    1. Dude…masturbation causes impure thoughts, which causes marijuana use, which in turn causes every sort of sexual perversion imaginable, up to, and including legitimate rape. Looks like someone needs to go back to Sunday school ;)

  4. I REALLY feel like this headline and then first few sentences are making light of sexual assault!  Rape is not sex!

  5. Great, another reason Fracking is bad for us.  I guess turning groundwater flammable and cancerous and creating earthquakes weren’t enough.

    Hey I know, HOW ABOUT WE STOP FRACKING.  What? People are making money off it? Oh. Forget it what was I thinking.


  6. Gosh, so witty and never done before– a rape joke! WOW THAT JUST BLEW MY MIND!

    See it is funny, the women near the fracking are getting raped and harassed! Get it! Fracking BOOM! Oh that’s comedy gold!

    1. Yeah, it’s hard to overlook the rape-joke fail in that headline. The post too; maybe not in the post at least if that one sentence said instead, “A growing number of female locals ALSO complain of sexual assault . . .”

  7. Sorry to  dump on the headline,  but as all BSG fans know, “fracking” is destruction of subsurface shale, and “frakking” is a dirty word, replaced in later aeons with “fucking.”

  8. Same thing happened in the oil sands in Canada when they got rolling. Heard stories of people living in garden sheds for big city apartment rates, and paying thousands for couch spots. Drugs and violence followed the wealthy young men. Oil companies are used to setting up in 3rd world hell holes without giving a crap about the locals, and we expect them to act differently at home?

  9. There’s no direct argument for green energy or against fracking here. It’s brought up because fracking has certain negative on-going “externalities” that large solar arrays do not, one of which is boom-towns in remote areas (the subject of the NYT piece).

    The companies running these fracking operations could invite government regulation and pay more local taxes (instead of demand tax breaks) to ease such situations, but of course that would undermine the “free” market and Liberty(!) and open the door for horrors like union organising.

  10. I doubt anyone’s looking for more arguments against fracking.  Anybody who can’t be convinced by the existing data will not respond to argument or reason.

  11. ???

    Your supposition is nonsensical. You think the article is critical of the practice of extraction via fracking technology??

    Didn’t read it, did you?

  12.  which would of course require government subsidies to exist in the first place

    Which there should be. Two forms of energy, one sustainable, the other not.

  13. He (and I’m bettingBGThree’s a “he”) made it clear why he makes that repulsive assumption: stupid progressive women who’ll “put out” for anyone associated with a liberal cause but sneer at those hard-working conservative guys.

  14. It probably would be identical.  Which is why suggesting a cause/effect relationship with fracking can’t be serious (it does offer a nice BSG pun of course).

    One might as well say that fracking is responsible for halitosis, or clogged sink drains, or the designated hitter rule.

    A gradual, phased in fracking development, using local construction resources, would have no effect that the local female population would notice, other than perhaps increased family incomes.

  15. Wait.  Are you talking about petroleum industry technology or Catholic birth control technology?  I’m getting confused.

  16. It’s actually completely the other way around.  I happen to be the last Real Conservative [tm] in the USA and these progressive liberal women are just lining up.  Missus Kagehisa has been macing them, I tell you!  With an actual mace!

    But I hear the modern neo-conservatives can’t even get any lovin’ even from conservative women, though, much less liberals. Maybe that’s why they are so cranky.

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