Trafficking Survivors Don’t Want SESTA, We Want to not be Dying in Poverty
Panhandling on the street is hard. People usually don’t look at you. It’s easy to feel like shit. All of the other survivors of trafficking I know are in the same boat; starving, desperate and dying. Kamala Harris and other politicians think a bill called Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act is the answer, but it’s not. SESTA will make website hosts themselves criminalized for any assumed trafficking that happens on their site. Why might this be a bad thing, you ask? Well I’ll tell you.
First to introduce myself, I’m a professional sexual priestess and one badass sex goddess. I’m not doing much sex work anymore but I refrain from calling myself an “ex-sex worker” or “former sex worker” because I see this identity as highly fluid. Once a ho, always a ho in the eyes of society so that’s just part of who I am. Always. I’m a very public and “out” sex worker, so this has come at a price at times when potential partners no longer want to date me, or coworkers at vanilla jobs are made uncomfortable by me. I started in sex work by force as a teenager in the Bronx. I had a pimp and worked the tracks like all of those stereotypical tropes people like Kamala Harris seize and capitalize on. I can still remember him telling me to get his name tattooed right above my vagina “so everyone will know who’s property you are.” I’m a sex trafficking survivor but I don’t identify as a fucking victim. So all these rich political assholes trying to rescue us from our supposed victimhood can go fuck themselves.
After I got out of my trafficking situation I went on to do sex work by and for myself and found it to be a beautiful way to the-write a dis-empowering experience and create a whole new ending. I worked as an escort, mostly on Backpage and Craigslist, and also worked as an adult film performer. I loved it. It is so empowering as a person who has been beaten, raped, exploited and abused (all by cis men) to turn the tables and exploit men’s desire for this body, this touch, this pussy. There is no such thing as labor that is not-exploitative under capitalism so we gotta give up the ghost on that one.
I have a lot of concerns regarding the SESTA bill set to (probably) pass the senate. A similar bill, FOSTA (fight online sex trafficking act) has already passed the house. The majority of the sex worker community I am apart of as well as the trafficking survivor community I’m connected to. FOSTA (Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act) and SESTA (Stop Enabling Sex Trafficking Act) are gross oversteps of government and intentional conflation of sex trafficking and sex work as a means to control the bodies of marginalized populations, including most notably low-income folks and those experiencing homelessness, People of Color, Queer and Trans sex workers and women. This is government backed paternalism. Essentially, both of these bills are being proposed and touted as the answer to solving the problem of sex trafficking by holding websites themselves legally responsible for any suspected trafficking that might have been “enabled” by the websites themselves. Why is this bad? First and foremost these bills are red herrings. They are deliberately written in manner’s that are deceptive to the general public about what the government is defining as “help” to sex trafficking victims. Another problem is that nobody is asking sex trafficking survivors directly about what we know from experience could help decrease trafficking. You know why that is? Because the answer is decriminalization of sex work. And politicians aren’t interested in making the bodies of marginalized people more free, they want our freedom and agency restricted and government owned. These bills do not address the problem of going after the actual trafficker, just websites in which potential trafficking (a broad definition under federal law) may have taken place. They are encouraging broadening the definition of trafficking even further so as to erase sex work and thusly couch their efforts to quell the autonomy and freedom of sex workers by waving a shiny new penny in front of the public and saying, “look how much we’re helping poor little trafficking victims? Oh, what about their rights? Oh don’t worry about that.” Well, I don’t need your fucking help nor did I ask for it. What I and other survivors of trafficking need is to not be forced to live on the streets and die in poverty, desperation and agony because we are made completely invisible until it’s time for government to use our stories as a means to further criminalizing consensual adult sex work.
When I started advertising on Backpage, for example, I felt so safe compared to having to work out on the streets. These websites are a huge harm reduction tool because we only interact with who we want to interact with and we can do it in the safe and controlled environments of our own homes. Additionally, we are better able to seek out more clientele and a clientele that can afford to pay a great deal for the experience of being with a professional. It elevates our business and gives us so many options that we don’t have to see who we don’t want to and we can have the luxury of making potential clients go through a more rigorous screening process, to even further insure the safety of the interaction. As well as having the opportunity to just see if the client would even be a good fit for the type of services you offer, so as to make sure the session is more enjoyable for the worker and the client.
I am a trafficking survivor. My needs are survival; food, money, housing, healthcare. This bill addresses none of my concerns and exactly zero of the problems I face everyday as a result of being a trafficking survivor. I don’t need anyone to rescue me. I need politicians to ally themselves with me and other silenced communities and use their power to uplift us rather than serve their own egos. Trafficking survivors are exactly that; we are SURVIVORS. And we want rights, not rescue.