Today marks one year that FOSTA (Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act) And SESTA (Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act) were passed into law. In this one year, I’ve seen my community of sex workers and trafficking survivors struggling to survive. My sex worker siblings are being evicted because they can’t pay their rent, they’re taking riskier dates and ignoring their intuition out of sheer desperation. My trafficking survivor friends are still living in homeless shelters, on the streets and going back to abusive pimps to be able to feed their kids.
I know personally I almost got raped and drugged by a trick since this was made into law because I was so desperate for money I stopped screening clients. “Screening” for sex workers can mean anything from a simple phone conversation to requiring references, photo ID and proof of workplace. But if you’ve removed a sex workers’ ability to get ANY clients, that means the few who come along are usually more dangerous dates and the sex worker is so hard up for cash that screening becomes a luxury.
I have seen traffic on the “track,” or place where outdoor sex workers work, increase five-fold with girls who used to work Backpage. But nobody is listening to us when we say this. The track is without a doubt, historically, one of the most consistently dangerous ways for a sex worker to work. But what these laws have done is to bifurcate the sex industry so that there is now only high income, career escorts (usually white) who are little effected by these laws and everyone else, who whether or not they advertise online or on the street, face the worst of the worst of clientele who are taking advantage of this horrible time for us. SESTA and FOSTA have effectively turned the internet into the street for new sex workers or sex workers attempting to re-establish a customer base after being knocked down last year. Review boards (sort of like Yelp! For sex work) take advantage of desperate sex workers by charging nearly $200 to work some of the more reputable and safer websites, meaning if one is already privileged than they can make money safely in this climate, but if not then you’re just fucked I guess.
I personally don’t even screen clients anymore, which is to say I take almost no safety precautions to protect myself because it’s so hard to get any serious inquiries at all. Most good clients, safe and respectful ones, are laying low right now and many of the free sites (not all) attract customers who PNP (party ‘n’ play or use drugs) which means, as I did, one could be walking into a date with a customer who’s been up for days doing meth in a hotel room and is not in the safest state of mind for a sex worker.
I have had to supplement my sex work with working at McDonald’s, a pizza parlor, as a maid and as a freelance writer. My status as a very vocal and public sex worker means it has been almost impossible for me to get a good paying regular job. And I’m lucky enough to have a college education, of which many people have not had the privilege. So I can’t do sex work but no one will give me a regular job cause I’m a sex worker. So I’m being punished for a job I can’t even do successfully anymore.
It’s not okay that sex workers should just have to forgo safety in order to feed our kids or pay rent or eat. But honestly, I’ve accepted that I might get raped, I might get robbed, I might get killed. In what other profession on earth do people just accept they might very likely get raped or murdered? This is ridiculous and I’m calling on the legislators who wrote and voted for this bill to repeal it NOW. Every day that goes by that this is not repealed is a day when I believe the house and senate are sending a clear message that it’s okay to murder sex workers because they have broken the law. And I don’t want to die. I don’t want to be raped. Please. Help us NOW.