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SESTA is just another extension of government abuse, not only of sex workers, but of the American people in general.

Sex worker Armageddon is upon us. At least that’s how it has felt since the Backpage censorship incident, a campaign spearheaded by Black liberal fave and 2020 presidential candidate, Kamala Harris. FOSTA (H.R. 1865), also known as the “Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act,” was just given the green light by the House and the vote on SESTA is impending.   SESTA is a separate but related bill, introduced by Republican Representative Rob Portman. It amends Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. This would allow the government to prosecute platforms and websites that are accused of facilitating sex trafficking.  A full service sex worker relayed to me: “It’s actually become safer for full service sex workers to travel alone rather than with a partner. If two or more sex workers are present you can go to jail not just for prostitution, but for trafficking as well. They’ll claim you trafficked each other.” The language of both FOSTA and SESTA blurs the lines between coercion and choice, effectively blending the two. This is their end game. Prohibition is nothing new, but people seem to be forgetting that when you subjugate one group of people, overall persecution of the wider population usually follows. We have witnessed this with the election of Donald Trump by white Americans. Many of the people who voted for Trump neglected to think about how his policies would affect them. They were so focused on their racism and on the continuation of BIPOC oppression, they didn’t realize that a lot of the Trump administration's policies would negatively impact them as well. SESTA is just another extension of government abuse, not only of sex workers, but of the American people in general. Because we live in a country where the majority of power and wealth is located in the hands of cis white men, anyone who is not that is at a disadvantage. Any fight, win, loss or stalemate for the liberation of oppressed peoples affects everyone. Our struggle is your struggle, because when the government enforces prohibitive laws that conflate independent autonomous labor with forced labor they are making it clear that this isn’t about sex trafficking or protecting human rights. It is about control.

Even though we still experience criminalization and discrimination, the internet is a somewhat safe space for many of us, especially important if you are a full service sex worker.

In the wake of the FCC vote to repeal Net Neutrality, many of us are wondering where we go from here. Responses to this move range from a dismissive “it’s not that deep” tone to an Orwellian apocalyptic loss of everything that was once known, loved and free about the  internet. Surprisingly, though this has been framed by some as a Democrat vs. Republican debate, there are many Republicans in favor of Net Neutrality, including Senator Susan Collins, who was one of a few Republicans who asked that the vote be delayed and discussed properly. I am not going to recount the history or importance of Net Neutrality at length, because a quick Google search will grant you tons of information from either side of the argument. Instead I will be discussing my understanding of, not only Net Neutrality, but a couple other prohibitive measures that I have heard about through the internet grapevine, that directly/indirectly impact marginalized indie sex workers. I live in the hood in a big city. There are both advantages and disadvantages to this. One pro is that I have lower rent. Cons: boarded up foreclosed homes and storefronts pepper my neighborhood. There is trash everywhere. Underemployed or unemployed young men wander and circle certain areas. And for some reason mail carriers half-ass deliver my mail over here. My quality of life is highly impacted by all of these things. Access to the internet also impacts my quality of life. For those of you who didn’t know, I am an indie artist, aspiring cartoonist, indie internet sex worker, single mother of one, and writer. Everything I do to scratch out an income is done via the internet. My internet future is now precarious. In an age of district redlining, racist mortgage lenders, and internet prohibition, how will I manage without having to resort to hooking, moving back in with family, or working multiple jobs outside of the home to make ends meet? If the repeal of Net Neutrality is as dooming as it sounds, I have a hard road ahead of me as an indie worker. For instance, what if companies decided to slow down service in areas like mine, with lower incomes and earning potential? They might decide that we don’t need access as much as wealthier neighborhoods. They might decide to charge for the internet the same way they do for cable TV, in packages that include what you want — but only if you upgrade to such and such a bundle and pay more. They might say they are offering a certain amount of speed, then turn right around and hamper it, with us never the wiser. Since I stream videos and cam for a living, I worry about the latter the most. How frustrating it would be if access to my personal website or camming webpage were slowed down to a trickle. How many customers I could lose over internet speed and the quality of the picture.

Sex workers are already criminalized, and these vague, underhanded policies are usually just the beginning.

Last week there was yet another uproar about a social media site updating its ad policy — this time it was Twitter and not too long ago, Patreon did something similar. Many vanilla (non-sex worker) Twitter users response was to make light of the situation or to correct upset sex workers by citing the changes were for Twitter’s paid ads as opposed to their regular posts. Part of this dismissiveness was because many NSFW accounts were also making a fuss about the change, even though it has virtually no effect on them because Twitter filters user content and “sensitive media” and graphic content anyway. But I think another small part of it is that people forget that most sex workers are self-employed. Some of us pay taxes just like other freelancers, yet we are booted or soft-banned from every platform we use. The fact that we aren’t able to buy ad space when Twitter literally filters EVERYTHING for their users anyway is frustrating and an unfair targeting of a marginalized community which already struggles against violence, stereotyping and criminalization. That this is dismissed or left unexamined by other Black Twitter users amongst other cries of racism and misogynoir on Twitter and Facebook, frustrates me. Sex workers have not yet found a 100% safe way to process payments for our independent online work. Clips4Sale is a great option if you have enough content to fill a store, and the 25% cut they take from your tributes isn’t too unreasonable. For those who want to forgo that option and keep all of their money the options become slimmer. Many of us hop from platform to platform amidst ever-changing rules and regulations. Decriminalization, and being able to use PayPal without fear of our money being frozen and stolen by the same people who watch our porn and own the streaming companies we work for, or by companies who aren’t FDIC insured, is another necessary solution.

In every action I take I am teaching my son not only about his own freedom, but mine as a Black woman and mother-artist and sex worker, because these are my intersections.

Many people have asked – both out of curiosity and vindictiveness – what I will tell my son when he is older about who I am and what I do. I rarely consider this because it is my intention that my son know me as a whole person throughout his life. There will be few major revelations on his end as far as my work goes, because I am very open about it. I am very genuine and outspoken and age-appropriately honest. Sometimes I do wonder what I would do or how I should react if my son expresses shame because his mama was or is a sex worker? I hope that I am raising my son well enough that he could be open with me about his feelings. I hope that the men I have allowed into my life will not inadvertently pollute his mind with sexist ideals about who his mother should be or what she should be doing. I hope that because I am allowing my son to be his whole self – in a way that I never was allowed – he will recognize that I am doing the same. My self-expression is very important to my parenting. In every action I take I am teaching my son not only about his own freedom, but mine as a Black woman and mother-artist and sex worker, because these are my intersections. These are part of my identity, as well as being bisexual, demisexual and an assault/abuse survivor. I want my son to see women like me as entire humans. I also want him to know that I am not as unique and atypical as I seem.

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