SpankChain Listens In: #SexWorkAMA Recap

*This AMA was not hosted or sponsored by SpankChain, we are not affiliated with any of the contributors and publishing this recap solely to amplify the important voices within our community.

In Case You Missed It: The Liara Roux Reddit #SexWorkAMA and the Demystification of Sex Work

We all know how easy it is to fall down a Reddit hole. Before you know it, it’s 5 AM, and you’re balls deep in Kennedy assassination conspiracy theories. However, there is some content on Reddit that’s worth a deep dive, like this past week’s #SexWorkAMA with Liara Roux and the team of sex workers, policy makers, organizers, advocates, researchers and experts they invited along. For those of you who may be unfamiliar Liara Roux is an escort, indie porn maker, and political organizer. Liara and co. teamed up to answer all the Internet’s questions about what sex workers do, why it needs to be decriminalized, and the state of the public policy around this kind of work, (spoiler: it’s not great). Now, we more than encourage all of you to check out the thread for yourself, but in the interest of saving you a few hours, we did you a solid and distilled some of the highlights from this important discussion.

Sex work is a JOB.

Kristen DiAngelo, sex worker, activist and Director of SWOP Sacramento raised a very important point about sex work: it’s work. #SexWorkIsWork, may as well be the rallying cry for sex work advocates, because only when we start acknowledging sex work as an industry, can we begin to fathom rights and protections for the people it employs. Legitimizing sex work takes it out of the shadows and with it, certain unsavory practices like trafficking. So long as sex work is cast off to the side as some sort of deviant behavior, which it is not, real criminals will continue to take advantage of the cloak of secrecy sex workers are forced to impose upon themselves.

Sex workers come from all walks of life.

The #SexWorkAMA is rife with personal tidbits about the lives of sex workers, as told by the sex workers themselves. It’s simply not true that all sex workers are forced into it against their will, nor is it true that all sex workers were abused or trafficked or at some point in their lives, (although some may have been). Many sex workers thoroughly enjoy what they do, while others look at it as just another source of income. The point is: if a person is being forced or coerced into sex work at any point, it’s no longer sex work, it’s a form of trafficking.

Sex work is more than just sex.

To put it very bluntly, sex work is not all about fucking — not that there’s anything wrong with fucking. Phone sex operators, strippers, and other kinds of performers are all some of the various kinds of sex workers. One escort in the AMA described being hired by a client, paralyzed by multiple sclerosis, just to come talk to him and cuddle. The umbrella of sex work is wide and varied, and while it does include sex, it also includes sex-adjacent behaviors that for whatever strange, societally-acceptable reasoning, people are slightly more willing to accept.

Sex work can be hugely impactful in sexually marginalized communities.

Sex workers often provide the vital, and essentially human service of sexual contact to persons who struggle to date or express themselves sexually. These individuals may be physically disabled (like the man with multiple sclerosis described above), socially maladroit, or they may simply feel unsafe or uncomfortable expressing their sexuality in the real world. One transgender man in the thread explained his anxieties about exploring his sexuality with stranger, for fear of how he may be treated, which in these Trumpian times of ours, is an especially valid concern. Sex workers create a safe and educational space for these sorts of individuals to embrace their sexuality freely.

Sex work does not promote sex trafficking.

Many prohibitionists and certain legislators like to confound sex work and sex trafficking to promote their political agendas. However, there is no conclusive proof that the decriminalization of sex work would necessarily promote sex trafficking. Mind you, gathering accurate data on both sex work and sex trafficking is incredibly challenging for obvious reasons. However, blaming sex workers for sex trafficking is like blaming sweatshop workers for child labor. Sex workers are not the reason humans, particularly children are being trafficked. The market for trafficked individuals is.

Current laws that target sex work actually make trafficking harder to stop.

The current political climate is not friendly towards sex work. Central to this AMA was a new law passed by congress, colloquially referred to as SESTA/FOSTA. If you want to read the full text of the law, feel free to do so here. Basically what this law does is make websites, (i.e. Craigslist and Backpage) liable for content posted by third party users. In practical terms, this means that if someone is using the site to traffic sex workers, the site can be held responsible. What this law does NOT do, is distinguish between consensual sex work and sex trafficking. Sex workers say this law further marginalizes them both socially and financially. Some also argue that the law is a limitation on their first amendment right to freedom of speech. Even worse, SESTA/FOSTA doesn’t effectively give trafficking victims any more rights than they had before. Instead, it drives traffickers offline, and in so doing, it also removes any digital evidence of their criminal activities. If you’re a cynic, SESTA/FOSTA is more of a “Christian”/“family values”/anti-prostitution law, masquerading under the guise of anti-trafficking agenda. It also directly contradicts an existing law that allows forum and third-party generated content hosting sites to exist.

Decriminalization and legalization are not the same thing.

It’s important to remember that decriminalization and legalization are not the same thing. Decriminalization would certainly make the lives of sex workers a lot easier, as they could be able to work without the risk of prosecution. Legalization, on the other hand, is a much more nuanced proposition. If sex work were to become legal, the government would have to do decide how it was legal, including any regulations and restrictions, such as those that already exist for legal brothels in Nevada. These regulations would create a barrier to entry that doesn’t seek to serve anyone but the institution putting them in place.

Consumers can play an active role in ending trafficking.

A lot of users in the AMA asked how they can ensure that the person from whom they are receiving sexual services isn’t being trafficked. This type of question raises and important conversation about consumer responsibility in the sex work industry. Many sex workers in the thread responded with pretty standard vetting practices — checking the service provider’s websites and social media, for example. One had the novel idea simply having a conversation with a potential provider. All of these are great ideas. Until the government makes it less risky for sex workers to talk about what they do, the value of consumer responsibility cannot be understated. So don’t be ashamed about asking those kind of questions, if anything, the person you’re talking to will be glad that you care.

You may be asking yourself, “Why does SpankChain care about sex work and sex work advocacy?” Well, for starters, all the models on our camsite, Spank.Live, are sex workers and we care about them a lot. We’re a community-first platform, and that community includes both our customers and our performers. A huge part of SpankChain’s mission is to empower individuals working in the adult industry, all of whom are sex workers, both financially and politically. All of our technology is aimed at giving both performers and consumers the tools they need to maximize their liberty, safety, and financial independence online.

Thank you to all of the people who participated, taking the time out of your day to educate the public about sex work. We appreciate your voices, efforts, and all you do.

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