The reason we don't hear more about Black serial killers is not because they don't exist. It's because their victims are rarely newsworthy enough to get the same amount of coverage as white victims. This essay contains discussion of serial murder and r/pe. Please use discretion. Even the most depraved and gruesome of the white serial killers who dominated headlines once upon a time continue to be intimately and sometimes even fondly explored through television, film, podcasts, and other forms of entertainment. The most prominent of these killers, who continues to dwell in the social imagination long after his execution, is Ted Bundy—idealized in a way that frames his crimes as more sophisticated than they really were and his acumen as more impressive than it really was. Our culture’s framing of white serial killers like Bundy as tortured geniuses only serves to memorialize them while allowing their celebrity to overshadow the lives they stole. It’s irresponsible. As is this same culture’s neglect for the crimes committed by Black serial killers, so much so that many people continue to say they’ve “never heard of a Black serial killer” and the myth they don’t exist is regularly perpetuated. I bring these two things into conversation with one another because I believe their connection is significant. These two phenomena—both the glamorizing of white serial killers and the obscurity of Black serial killers—are so prevalent because white men are continually afforded humanity and individualism while Black men are pathologized as inherently violent and animalistic, and because society devalues the victims that Black serial killers primarily target. The documentary “Unseen” (2016) focuses on the crimes of Anthony Sowell, a man who served fifteen years for a rape he committed in 1989. In early 2009, a woman named Gladys Wade filed a police report against him, stating that he had sexually assaulted her and tried to kill her. Despite there being visible bruises and blood on her neck, police called her claim “unfounded” and determined that there was “insufficient evidence” to make an arrest. In their report, Wade was described as “not credible” as a victim. That same year, Vanessa Gay was held hostage and raped by Sowell. She also found a decapitated body decomposing in his home. Gay managed to convince Sowell that she wouldn’t tell anyone about what he’d done if he let her go. She called the police to inform them about what had happened and what she had seen, but because she never filed an official police report, the incident was never investigated.
The whorephobia among incels is rooted in their disdain for the autonomy involved in women choosing to do sex work and their anxiety about women earning money from it on their own terms. This essay contains discussion of the serial murder of sex workers Whorephobia is older than the Bible. It's undoubtedly been around for as long as the sex work profession has. That's why it makes “cultural sense” that incels have directed a significant amount of their vitriol at women who do sex work. Incels are a violent hate group of male supremacists, intent on terrorizing the world because they lack the sex lives they feel they are owed. But let's be clear, sex is not what incels want the most. What they want is total dominion over women, and they understand sex as a tool of male dominance, because they are misogynistic extremists at their core. The whorephobia among incels is rooted in their disdain for the autonomy involved in women choosing to do sex work and their anxiety about women earning money from it on their own terms. This is why David Wu organized a mass reporting of sex workers to the IRS this past week, declaring that these women are “getting a free ride via beta bux and a broken sexual marketplace that is rigged in the favour of females.” This is just the latest instance of incels throwing very public tantrums. They are nothing if not petulant, and violent. I've written about how notorious serial killers Edmund Kemper and David Berkowitz both admitted to their proto-inceldom, identifying their inability to form relationships with women as the reason for their killing sprees. I'm willing to bet this motivation is more common among serial killers than we are currently aware, but one confirmed common motivation among them is whorephobia. Earlier this year, a man named Juan David Ortiz was arrested and charged with the murders of four sex workers, but I believe it's likely there have been more murders that he may or may not confess to in the future. As a border agent for over 10 years, who sometimes worked with human trafficking survivors, he almost certainly used this position of authority as a way to target victims. This man is no anomaly, unfortunately. Gary Ridgway, Robert Pickton, Robert Hansen, Darren Deon Vann, Shelly Andre Brooks, Antwan Maurice Pittman, the Long Island Serial Killer, Peter Sutcliffe, and of course the infamous Jack the Ripper, and more all targeted sex workers. These are just some of the names that we know of. Google them at your own discretion.
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Black, Brown, poor, and trans sex workers absorb most of the stress and violence and are erased constantly. Incel is such a strange word to me. It’s not a term I use often. Like, “cock” and “cuck,” the word incel conjures up a “lone wolf” white boy who sits on 4chan counting his colored and gendered enemies, plotting mass destruction. I returned to Twitter after a light weekend break to see a new hashtag making its rounds—a man who calls himself David Wu started a campaign against camgirls and other cyberthots on Facebook and it made its way over to Twitter. Cisgender, presumably heterosexual incels were reporting “thots” to the IRS because, apparently, “hoes don’t pay taxes.” The main folks being targeted were women who use and advertise SnapChat Premium accounts. Although the word “thot” connotes a Black woman and has been specifically weaponized against Black women and girls’ sexuality, it was cisgender white women who apparently felt the most attacked and were the loudest voices “fighting back” against the incels. During this social media moment of mass harassment and hysteria, I saw the phrase “this is a war on women” from white and Black women alike, and many were not sex workers or directly related to the community at all. I wondered what each of them meant. Often the category of “women” excludes trans women and nonwhite or Black women. Deviant women, often not considered women at all. But then there are other classes of women within those classes, like women who are sex workers. Sex workers are comprised mostly of cis and trans women but there are men in this profession as well. However, this campaign solely targeted women, and used a racialized word to further drive home their point: to target working class and poor women, mostly women of color.
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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.
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