To all the liberals who helped pass FOSTA/SESTA,
I am disappointed in you. I write this statement not out of anger, but out of frustration, out of concern, out of sadness. Considering how sex workers are viewed in society today, I’ll be as professional as possible. But quite frankly, how dare you.
FOSTA/SESTA stands for the “stop enabling sex traffickers act” and “fight online sex traffickers act”. The bill makes it illegal to assist or support sex trafficking online and amends section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. This act previously made online services immune from liability of the actions of its users, sex trafficking included. The bill was passed 97–2 in the senate and 388–25 house of representatives. The bill specifically targets sites like backpages and craigslist personals, where workers can openly post services. While in theory this may sound like a good solution for helping to eliminate sex trafficking, it will only make it harder to extinguish the problem.
I first got into sex work after visiting Amsterdam. I had been curious about sex work, specifically fetish work. When I visited the red-light district, I realized I had grown up with subconscious, distinctly American views of sex work. Dirty. Shameful. Dangerous. I came back to the US with new ideas of sex work and began to explore the business. I found my calling in fetish work. The artistry, beauty and psychological aspects drew me in. I became involved in dominatrix work. I view my job as more of an emotional therapist than as a sex worker. People come to me with fantasies/ideas they feel shameful about and I make them happen. We explore and grow through the process together in a nonjudgmental environment. However, if something were to go awry with a customer, I am on my own with no protection. Under FOSTA/SESTA I am now having to reconstruct my entire business. In the age of technology, the best way to seek clients is on the internet, especially in the occupation of sex work, which is still under the table. The argument was made that sex workers finding clients online endangers us, but many sex workers openly argue the opposite. It’s online, or the streets.
I do believe that measures should be taken to help stop trafficking. However, there must be a line dividing sex work and sex trafficking.
I expected this decision from the evangelicals, the conservatives, and the right. I believe sex work will always be viewed as shameful and sinful in their brains, it is so deeply embedded in the conservative belief systems of this country. You, on the other hand, I expected something different from you. I had more hope in you. You are supposed to be the voice of reason that emerges from the current Puritan political atmosphere during these tumultuous times. What happened to reproductive and sexual freedom? What happened to helping women?
Why does this bill matter to me? I am a sex worker. Yet what makes me different than a lot of sex workers is that I am a white female. I have a level of privilege that some of my fellow women do not. I am only supporting myself: I have no children nor crippling debt. I am sure that if I direly needed to drop sex work I could get by, but what about the women who needs sex work to survive. What about the woman who is supporting her family? The woman who uses sex work to just scrape by? FOSTA/SESTA will be a crippling weight upon their heads
In the game of “whack-a-mole,” players attempt to whack the mole with a wooden hammer. However, the mole will always evade the hammer by escaping into endless tunnel systems and holes. In this country, sex work is the mole, and you, dear reader, are the hammer. I think it is safe to assume the world’s oldest profession will not be squashed down by an ill constructed law. The mole will just switch from its known, national, traceable hole i.e. backpages, to an uncharted, international, even more dangerous hole. Illegal sex traffickers will now be harder to trace through the complicated mess of the innerweb, and the problem you set out to fix will only be complicated. Sites like Backpages and Craigslist not only allowed sex workers to find/funnel clients more safely, but they cut down on female homicide by 17%. In 2015, 41 sex workers were murdered in the United States alone, and that number doesn’t account for unreported incidents, which I guarantee are way higher. Now let’s add 17% to that, Eight more sex workers dead. 49 sex workers dead, people with aspirations, families, and stories of their own.
I am anti sex trafficking. I am anti child sex trafficking. I am anti doing any sexual act against someone’s will. I am on the same page when it comes to protecting sex workers, but I do not agree with FOSTA/SESTA. The underlying message of FOSTA/SESTA is that all sex work is sex trafficking. This statement could not be farther from the truth. There are so many branches of sex work that does not include trafficking and should not be treated as such, my line of work (fetish/domme work) included. By making such a rash assumption, we have set ourselves farther back in trying to solve the issue of eliminating sex trafficking. This bill was passed purely on pathos, or purely emotional appeal. I believe it is time we focus on the harmony of pathos and logos, blending empathy for sex workers with a logical approach about how to solve this problem.
Here is what it comes down to: If we want to eliminate trafficking, we should create an environment where sex workers have access to justice and health services without fearing arrest. It will be easier to eradicate traffickers if women could come to the law. To me, that sounds a lot like legalizing sex work, but America has such little regard for women that no one takes any political action. If we continue down this toxic pathway, trafficking will continue, and more women will suffer. Your shiny new bill will be stained with the blood of the sex workers who died for it.
That’s what it comes down to.