Companies will not change ‘til they learn that discriminating against sex workers gets them more flak than providing services to sex workers. – Molly Crabapple
I’ve been writing for several years now about the slow turn of public opinion in sex workers’ favor. Despite the efforts of prohibitionists both in and out of governments to depict us as pathetic, broken victims or evil, calculating criminals (when we’re not depicted as both simultaneously), our voices are increasingly being heard and we are winning ally after ally. Health organizations, human rights organizations, UN officials, academics and even some feminists and journalists are increasingly recognizing that the prohibition of consensual sex is a dangerous abomination that helps nobody but the police state.
This terrifies the prohibitionists, whose entire agenda depends upon keeping sex workers isolated and friendless and the average person misinformed about our lives and work; accordingly, they’ve embarked upon a campaign to bury sex workers alive, to return us to a state of voicelessness so they can again pretend to speak for us while working against us. As Charlotte Shane explains at length in a recent essay, prohibitionists are now harping on how sex work is “hidden” while simultaneously recognizing that clients have no trouble finding us. In a pathetic, yet dangerous attempt to make their fantasy of “invisible, voiceless” sex workers trapped in a “dark underworld” true, they continuously attack the online advertising which makes us anything but “invisible”, pretend that the many sex workers who speak online are “privileged” and “unrepresentative”, and ridiculously brand all of our allies from the UN to Human Rights Watch to academics who study the sex industry as “pimps”.
Though the erasure of many millions of people is obviously impossible, that never stops governments from trying (usually by turning their countries into police states and increasing levels of violence to near-genocidal proportions). I’m happy to report, however, that the attempts are beginning to attract such bad publicity that at least a few of them are starting to fail. On Sunday I discussed the backlash against a police department that thought it would be hip and fun to “live tweet” their destruction of peaceful citizens’ lives via a prostitution sting. Operation Choke Point has attracted a lot more opposition than the “authorities” would have liked, and now another supposedly-private company’s vile behavior (almost certainly resulting from or at least inspired by Choke Point tactics) has resulted in another public relations nightmare for the perpetrators. Stephen Elliott has a good summary on The Rumpus:
Eden Alexander…had a nearly fatal reaction to a commonly prescribed prescription drug and, because she’s a sex worker, it was assumed to be related to drug use…because she wasn’t treated she developed a staph infection. A fundraiser was started for her on GiveForward, a Kickstarter like service [which] helps people seek funding for medical bills. GiveForward processes payments through WePay…which is like Paypal. A webcache copy of the fundraising page is here…She had raised over $1,000…[when] she got a note from WePay saying her fundraiser had been cancelled because the service cannot be used in connection with pornographic items…
Yes, they classed a human being (or her medical bills) as a “pornographic item” because she happens to be a cam girl; keep in mind this is a company originally started by two guys trying to raise money for a bachelor party, including “bottle service at a club” (i.e. strippers), a company which has welcomed everyone from revenge porn scammers to abortion prohibitionists. But somehow, a sick woman who retweeted some things an eavesdropping bluenose didn’t like was beyond the pale? Yeah, I smell the government’s nasty hand in this.
Fortunately for Eden, Molly Crabapple and other allies with loud social media voices started calling attention to her plight within hours after WePay kicked her in the face last Saturday morning (May 17th); the Rumpus article appeared early that afternoon, and was followed by a number of others on various blogs and news sources. Even the Daily Mail picked it up, though in typical Mail fashion the story concentrated on the tragedy porn of a dying woman’s desperate and hysterical tweets rather than the unforgivably-callous action which precipitated them. Soon WePay realized it had made a serious error in assuming “nobody will care what we do to a filthy whore anyway”, and issued a mealy-mouthed apology citing unspecified “rules” for the evil, stupid decision. But whatever those mysterious “rules” are, they apparently don’t apply to another funding platform named Crowdtilt, whose founder reached out to Eden’s friends and invited them to start a new fundraiser on his site; they did, and the funding goal was exceeded within hours thanks to all the publicity (as of this writing, more than 8x the amount WePay tried to deny her).
Ironically, the prohibitionists’ attempts to render sex workers invisible and mute, to bury us alive in unmarked graves and even erase us from history, are beginning to backfire on them. Not so long ago, prostitution “stings” came and went with little media attention and many businesses discriminated against known sex workers without a peep from anyone outside the sex work community. But once the whore-haters’ hubris grew so great they began to actually believe in their own mad sexual fantasy of “abolishing” us from all existence – past, present and future – the cacophony of violence and lies they have raised could not help but attract the attention of good people who previously hadn’t thought much about whores, and whose attention we might never have been able to attract on our own. Eden Alexander’s fundraiser was far more successful than it would’ve otherwise been; Prince George’s County’s “sting” failed utterly instead of catching the usual modest harvest of victims. Pay attention, prohibitionists: we’ve lived in this world since long before anyone conceived of the idea of controlling others via organized violence, and we’ll be here long after that idea is consigned to the historical rubbish-heap along with human sacrifice, chattel slavery and other such atrocities. And all your attempts to make us disappear only succeed in increasing our visibility.