As much as adult workers and sex workers tried to warn everyone that the potential over reach of the FOSTA/SESTA bill, that was passed as a package deal, would have devastating consequences to our right to free speech online, no one really listened. While I am not surprised by that because let’s face it, people love to watch porn, employ sex workers, go to strip clubs, read erotica, etc. while often simultaneously or subsequently denying the value of the sex worker providing the service. Sex workers are rarely listened to or valued on an equal playing field. And while that is somewhat slowly changing it is being met with heavy and aggressive opposition.
Victorian ideals about shameful sexuality are so deeply ingrained in this society we cannot even be honest with ourselves when it comes to what gets us off.
*Think “respectability politics”*
2019 ushers in the FOSTA/SESTA bill into full effect. As of now, all measures taken by websites are premptive in effort to protect themselves from the broad and non specific verbiage of the bill. I urge you to take a look at this bill and see if you can grasp some of the problems. An important note is that the bill conflates consensual sex work and sex trafficking which is highly problematic because it implies sex workers have no agency and therefore are victims that need to be saved. If you have not heard the term sex worker prior to this, sex work encompasses all adult work, e.g. strippers, burlesque, porn performers, escorts, peep show, pro dominatrix/pro submissives, web cam performers, phone sex operators, etc. if your work is for an audience of 18+ years old, you fit in here.
Here is the bill:
IN THEORY, it sounds great, because who wouldn’t want to stop sex trafficking?! No one should EVER be forced to do something they don’t want to, or kidnapped and tortured to be sold into sexual slavery. (There has been a lot of research done that shows only about 3% of humans trafficked are for sex slavery, while the largest percentage at over 50% are trafficked for migrant slave labor. I am looking for a scholarly article to link to.)
The problematic part comes in section 4 which amends section 230 of The Communications Act of 1934 (see article 1 for in-depth explanation, not scholarly, but cited and referenced) which is where it effects EVERYONE posting sharing creating sexual content of any kind, even if it’s just stock BDSM photos on your private tumblr account.
Please read the articles (most were written at the beginning of the year when the bill passed) and make up your own mind about what this means for sexually expressive consenting adults, and if you think it is constitutional, or do you see how respectability politics and morality laws are becoming a very real thing of the present, again? Sex trafficking is the blanket they use to justify their legislative actions because again who would ever support sex trafficking?
Regardless of what you think or come to know from doing your own research, I guarantee this will come to a head in the new year and we'll either see it amended to provide more specific definitions or it will continue to erode away our internet freedom, freedom of speech and freedom of artistic expression.
Be kind to one another. Don’t assume sex workers are victims that need to be saved. Know the difference between sex trafficking and sex work and do not conflate the two.
Practice your right to free speech and speak out.
Also maybe it’s time to question or rather investigate our beliefs on sex work(ers). From where did our beliefs on the subject develop? Have our other views about sexuality and intimacy evolved since we first understood what they were? How much shame do we carry around our sexual expression and to what end? How do repressed beliefs about sexuality and sexual freedom for consenting adults effect our society as a whole?
* “Trafficking and Prostitution Reconsidered: New Persepectives on Migration, Sex Work and Human Rights” By: Kamala Kempadoo, Jyoti Sanghera, Bandana Pattanaik*
* “Sex Work Matters: Exploring Money, Power, and Intimacy in The Sex Industry” by Melissa Hope Ditmore, Antonia Levy, Alys Willman* note; a collection of essays by sex worker scholars and activists on the economics and sociology of sex work
1. [https://www.vox.com/culture/2018/4/13/17172762/fosta-sesta-backpage-230-internet-freedom] note; this was written 8 months ago.... this has been ongoing for 8months sex workers have watched their platforms be destroyed and now it’s spreading to every website and online forum.
2.HIGHLY RECOMMENDED READ [https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Ronald_Weitzer/publication/228146032_The_Social_Construction_of_Sex_Trafficking_Ideology_and_Institutionalization_of_a_Moral_Crusade/links/54f8c6900cf210398e96ca5f.pdf]
note; a little lengthy and heavy on the scholarly side if that is not your thing, but it is truly a brilliant research article with an extensive list of works cited