I write this from a position of enormous privilege and fortune: My pantry is stocked, my bills are paid, and my Opal card is freshly topped up. But if an emergency should strike, the option of placing that quick ad on Backpage or a similar website is no longer available to me, or to any other worker.
As of this weekend, Backpage has been taken offline after the website was seized by the United States Department of Justice. Seven individuals involved with the website have been charged in a count federal indictment. The seizure of Backpage comes days ahead of US President Donald Trump signing the SESTA-FOSTA acts, two bills created with the intent of putting an end to sex trafficking that occurs online but that will, ultimately, have catastrophic results for sex workers of any kind who use the internet to find and screen clients, share resources, and communicate with other workers.
Despite some reports, not a single charge levelled against any of the individuals involved in Backpage was related to sex trafficking. In layperson's terms, if I use a website like Backpage, or Craigslist, or even Google Drive to advertise my services as a sex worker, or to share sexual content, the website itself can be held legally accountable for my behaviour. Given that many large social networks are US-owned and -hosted, there has been a panicked rush to restrict the sharing and posting of any sexual content, regardless of its country of origin, lest website owners find themselves in trouble with the law upon the bill's passing.
What this means for sex workers, even here in Australia where sex work is legal or decriminalised in some states, is that the rug has been pulled out from underneath us with little to no notice, leaving many panicked.
Without a platform to advertise on, a sex worker's income can dry up quickly; and even those considering brothel-based work find themselves at a loss, as brothels also advertise on the same platforms workers used. The effects of the bill don't stop there, though: As a sex worker, there are a few things that are vital to our work: This is, without doubt, something that will have an effect on any individual who uses the internet for sex, whether advertising as a worker, paying a worker, or even just sending sexy photos over email.
Sex workers lives are at stake, this needs to be international news. Do whatever it takes. International SWs head to your US embassy. Jessi was talking to me from her hospital bed where she was preparing for her second round of back surgery. She had just returned to work after her first spinal surgery when her main source of income, Backpage, went down for good. She said it accounted for 95 per cent of her client base.
Even with sex work, there is no comparison. Gay and transsexual sex workers have also lost websites critical to their business, including gay dating hook-up sites where they are able to chat with their peers and exchange information on health and safety.
I have never worked overseas so I have no idea what other platforms there are there. Sex workers are resilient. Things have fallen apart really quickly. An Australian-based website, Crockor, is picking up steam as an alternative classifieds portal for Australian sex workers. Continue the conversation with Matt Young via Facebook or Twitter. EVER wondered why women get questions that never seem to be aimed at men?
Balance, career, babies — the list goes on. The Balls Deep podcast is turning that trend on its head. But in doing so it has claimed unsuspecting victims as far as Australia. Men answer all the questions women get asked EVER wondered why women get questions that never seem to be aimed at men?..