O.school Opposes FOSTA/SESTA and SB1204

As a platform dedicated to consent and pleasure-based sexual education, O.school stands in categorical opposition to the Federal FOSTA/SESTA legislation and the proposed SB1204 legislation in the California Senate. Our core mission is to dispel fear, stigma and misinformation surrounding sex, and that means fighting for the rights — not rescue — of sex workers, and speaking out against bills and ideologies that are designed to harm and further marginalize an already vulnerable and stigmatized population.

Pervasive stigma against sex work — and a limited understanding of consensual sex work and FOSTA/SESTA’s provisions — led self-proclaimed feminist advocates like Amy Schumer and Seth Meyers to lend their celebrity voices to PSAs in favor of these proposed laws. However, folks like them need to be firmly called in so they understand why this legislation is so destructive, why consensual sex work is not sex trafficking, and why opposing whorephobia is an inexorable part of opposing systemic sexism.

Sex workers are disproportionately LGBTQ and people of color, and these laws will hit those communities the hardest. Trans people of color are already subject to violence, trauma and over-prosecution, and we need to understand that laws which further punish and stigmatize them will only make their survival more difficult.

To the millions of people who are in support of the burgeoning #MeToo movement: you cannot truly create a culture of consent without protecting the rights of sex workers. You cannot truly advocate for an end to rape culture without advocating for sex workers so they, too, are free to seek help when they are harmed without being further victimized and criminalized.

We believe this is one of the most pressing feminist issues of our time.

WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SEX WORK AND SEX TRAFFICKING?

Although sex work and sex trafficking are frequently conflated, they should not be. Sex work is the consensual exchange of money or goods for sexual services. Escorts, strippers, cam girls, porn stars, nude models, pro doms, erotic massage therapists, and phone sex operators all fall under the sex work umbrella.

Sex trafficking involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain the sexual labor of another person without their consent.

WHAT IS SESTA/FOSTA?

Last month, the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA) and the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) passed in both the Senate and the House amidst a din of deeply misinformed voices. The legislation was designed to hold websites liable for content that facilitates sex trafficking, which, at first glance, seems like a useful tool in fighting the extreme abuse that often goes unchecked online. However, the bills also delivered a crushing blow to those who work in the sex industry — it included both trafficking and consensual sex work as targets for crackdown. This only pushes people who are merely trying to make a living further underground and away from online community safety nets.

WHAT IS SESTA/FOSTA’s IMPACT?

Because of FOSTA/SESTA, sex workers are presently losing access to spaces they previously relied on to communicate and share information about clients, “bad date lists,” legal help, and any information used to keep them safe — and alive. If that wasn’t enough, the bills also fundamentally threaten freedom of speech online by undermining Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which once protected online intermediaries from being held liable for their users’ speech. The fear of being charged with criminal and civil offenses has already driven sites like Craigslist and Reddit to shut down their personal ads, and sites like Instagram and Twitter are much more likely now to shut down any accounts that support sex work or even post the #sexwork hashtag in solidarity lest they be held accountable for supposedly supporting “sex trafficking.”

This is censorship, and a direct attack on how we all use the internet.

WHAT IS SB1204?

Similarly, California’s SB1204 — up for a vote on April 10th — expands the definition of what it means to “encourage” sex work. Legislation that was once designed to prosecute sex traffickers and violent pimps is now being manipulated to include any civilians who are supporting sex work or sex workers, whether that means working at a sex work outreach center, offering your partner who is a sex worker a ride to their gig, or even designing someone’s sex work website.

WHAT CAN WE ALL DO TO HELP?

O.school is committed to creating and nurturing a culture of sex positivity, which means that all people should be supported for their consensual sexual choices and protected from abuse. Bills like FOSTA, SESTA, and SB1204 stand directly in the way of that, and directly impact our ability as a third party provider to provide a space to educate people about sex workers’ rights.

What we can do, however, is donate money to organizations on the ground fighting for sex workers’ rights, employ sex workers on our platform as Pleasure Professionals, and raise awareness about how these destructive bills are impacting sex workers, sex educators, and your freedom of speech online. Visit www.o.school for more.

  1. If you live in California, call your state senator NOW and ask them to oppose SB1204.
  2. Donate to organizations helping sex workers survive, like SWOP, the Desiree Alliance, and the Lysistrata Mutual Care Collective & Fund.
  3. Educate yourself further about FOSTA/SESTA.
  4. Reach out with support to your sex worker friends and family and let them know you’re holding space for them.
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