Due to its elusive nature, and the fact it is only legal in the US in the state of Nevada, we have a limited grasp on the economic scale of the commercial sex industry. What kind of people are behind it and how do we to truly make it safer? The data we do have suggest that this underground industry brings in more cash flow to the U.S. than drugs or gun trades do in most major cities. “Atlanta had the largest underground commercial sex economy in 2007 at $290 million, [while] Denver had the smallest at $39.9 million.” This isn’t much of a shock to me since the Porn industry, which is also has a limited paper trail has been estimated to have made a gross annual amount akin that of the NFL. However when the average person without experience of these silicious services or friends, loved ones or themselves taking part in sex work we often think of danger.
From the stance of public health the primary concerns are clearly linked to that of STD prevention, but from a political and justice standpoint they often conjure the worst abuses of pimps and sex-trafficking. These are all things we have seen a steady decline in within developed countries or areas with lower poverty rates, especially as the industry moves off the streets and onto the web. There are a multitude of benefits in the ease of todays technology where our Car drivers can rate us, and we can rate them as well as immediately reach out to a company like Uber or Lyft if there is concerning behavior or a bumpy ride. While it may be in code, online prostitute or escort services are very similar, allowing women to warn others of a dangerous client and get recognized for their under sheets or pillow talk skill sets. However you feel about, or they feel about this career path, one thing is for sure, your local Dominatrix or Master is putting in work. Of all the jobs that use trafficked labor (farming, maids and ambassador’s assistants all face similar issues) this one is the most taboo to our society and thus the law is always proposing new ways to deal with it.
As of this April The newest measure was signed in- known as the FOSTA-SESTA bills (Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act and Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act). This package was opposed only by 2 senators, one Democratic and one Republican. Because almost everyone can get behind stopping sex trafficking and all the other truly immoral acts like child abductions and pedophilia that are nightmares to imagine in our communities. I firmly believe doing any job should never being coerced in any way, such as coerced by violence, blackmail or enslavement. As Aurora Morris adds, “Defining and policing sex trafficking, however, is a much more complicated issue.”
Advocates for the safety and rights of sex workers, including ACLU have come to believe these bills will create more harm than good due to the overarching way the law was written. Thus making it a federal crime to post any sexually related solicitation ad online, and enforcement can even go as far as warranting access to all private messages. Even legal establishments such as strip clubs have found increased harassment from the law. Raids often take place in coordination with ICE, a department under Homeland Security that has been well covered in recent media due to the separation of immigrant and refugee families. During these raids if those “rescued” don’t immediately identify themselves as trafficked, they could face both prostitution charges and deportation.
Having these fall under the guise of possible sex trafficking, and pretending the result aided in making things safer on paper only further muddies the issue. Right now, the implications of these bills have been felt most immediately in the FBI shutting down of notorious free to post pages such as the Craigslist Personals (truly favorite of mine, especially the missed connections section) and even imposes accountability via hefty fines to internet service providers. This further elevates sex workers to go back to nearly archaic methods of communication with a lack of screening social media and “bad-date” boards allow.
‘We’re trying to figure out how many of us are literally dying because of this law that’s supposedly trying to keep us safe’
-Colette, 36, San Francisco and L.A., Mother and Dominatrix
This is still hope if more people become aware of FOSTA-SESTA and what it means. Contact your State senator and let them know you care- That we should have sound policies that can both protect and empower our communities!