Why Social Media Sites Soft-Banning Sex Workers Matters
Sex workers are already criminalized, and these vague, underhanded policies are usually just the beginning.
Last week there was yet another uproar about a social media site updating its ad policy — this time it was Twitter and not too long ago, Patreon did something similar. Many vanilla (non-sex worker) Twitter users response was to make light of the situation or to correct upset sex workers by citing the changes were for Twitter’s paid ads as opposed to their regular posts.
Part of this dismissiveness was because many NSFW accounts were also making a fuss about the change, even though it has virtually no effect on them because Twitter filters user content and “sensitive media” and graphic content anyway. But I think another small part of it is that people forget that most sex workers are self-employed. Some of us pay taxes just like other freelancers, yet we are booted or soft-banned from every platform we use.
The fact that we aren’t able to buy ad space when Twitter literally filters EVERYTHING for their users anyway is frustrating and an unfair targeting of a marginalized community which already struggles against violence, stereotyping and criminalization. That this is dismissed or left unexamined by other Black Twitter users amongst other cries of racism and misogynoir on Twitter and Facebook, frustrates me.
Sex workers have not yet found a 100% safe way to process payments for our independent online work. Clips4Sale is a great option if you have enough content to fill a store, and the 25% cut they take from your tributes isn’t too unreasonable. For those who want to forgo that option and keep all of their money the options become slimmer. Many of us hop from platform to platform amidst ever-changing rules and regulations. Decriminalization, and being able to use PayPal without fear of our money being frozen and stolen by the same people who watch our porn and own the streaming companies we work for, or by companies who aren’t FDIC insured, is another necessary solution.
On Stripperweb, a popular sex worker forum that I have been a member of off and on for many years, there are ongoing threads related to the tenuous relationship sex workers have with payment processing platforms, cam and other content hosting sites, and social media sites. There are even threads related to Bitcoin and cryptocurrency, because many of us are trying to minimize our use of platforms like Paypal, Square Cash, Amazon, and other sites that either explicitly don’t allow sex workers (i.e. people, mostly women) to use them, or have ambiguous enough rules that we can get away with it until we either start making too much money or someone reports us or complains.
The fact that I pay taxes on the money I make from camming, yet cannot safely accept payment on most payment processing platforms — yet everything is fine when I go through another company that takes a wild cut for work I did — is ridiculous.
There is money in prohibition. People often assume that companies are messing up their profit when they soft-ban adult products, but paying attention to history shows us that that’s not the case. Prohibiting certain explicit goods only creates an underground demand — this is something that we argued about when Kamala Harris and the crew decided that closing down the adult personals section of Backpage was a good move toward ending sex trafficking through that site. It definitely was a great publicity move for her, but evil never dies, it only lies dormant. Also, people have a very bad habit of lumping sex workers and sex trafficking together. Denying women’s agency and invoking the lie of “protect the children” is an American pastime.
Curiously, Twitter’s Ad Policy change not only targets adult performers, but also erotic dealers of sex toys and lingerie. It also lumps sex work in with exploitative mail order bride services and uses vague phrasing: “Modeled clothing (such as lingerie) that is sexual in nature.” This begs the question: Who gets to decide what is appropriate and what is not? I remember posting a Hugh Hefner article I wrote on Facebook. It was flagged for being inappropriate. It was an article highlighting other porn producers and sex worker advocates we should supporting. There was no clear reason given.
Sex work is a profession, selling erotic fare should not be lumped in exploitative practices such as mail-order bride services, weapons or hard drugs (which is always the comparison made, as if bodies are a weapon). Nor should we only be bringing up HIV/AIDS and STIs during discussions about sex work as if the U.S. doesn’t have an overall problem with providing adequate healthcare and sex education, resulting in countless deaths, mainly Black.
Most people don’t care about sexual health or medical negligence until we bring up LGBTQ+ or sex workers. Policies like this target an already marginalized community that is made up of consenting adults and self-employed workers. Not being able to place ads or promote ourselves can affect our ability to generate adequate income. The fact that sex toys, lingerie, and dating sites are included makes it clear that this is definitely going to affect businesses even beyond those offering straight sexual services or products.
Sex workers are already criminalized, and these vague, underhanded policies are usually just the beginning. People shouldn’t forget how oppressors operate just because it’s something or someone that they consider frivolous or unworthy of protection.
Image: Justin Tallis/GETTY
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