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Support for Sex Workers: How SESTA/FOSTA is affecting our rights

Playful Promises have always been, and always will be sex work positive, and fully support the right to work as a voluntary sex worker in conditions that are safe and secure. There’s a myriad of reasons for this, both personal and business-related, but to put it simply - we couldn’t call ourselves feminists if we did not support and respect femmes of all walks of life. 

Back in April, two acts were passed into US law: the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA) and the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) – designed to crack down on and eradicate sex trafficking. A noble cause, one might think upon first glance; but unfortunately, the legislation has had a dramatic effect on working conditions for sex workers across the globe.

Plenty has been written about the political ins and outs of these acts, but the main outcome is an attack on Internet freedom and an increased danger for sex workers. Previously, internet users and website/app companies have been protected by the “safe harbor” rule, which does not hold platforms/ISPs responsible for their users’ content. FOSTA/SESTA reversed this, which means that websites WOULD be responsible. The act equates sex work with sex trafficking with such a blurry lack of definition, and websites erred on the side of safety by just banning any sex work advertisement altogether. The irony is, by conflating sex workers with trafficking victims, this is likely to have a detrimental effect on the prevention of sex trafficking.

Websites that were used to establish safe conversation and screening (to the point where they reduced female homicide rates) have now either gone or removed sections used by sex workers. Many people have now been forced into dangerous situations, including going back to the streets, with reports in San Francisco that workers are going back to “exploitative ‘managers’.” There is a long history of homicides that show just how important it is to be able to screen clients, and not have to work on the streets.

Cracking down on sex workers has a trickledown effect for human rights, and in particular women’s rights. We’ve already discussed how lingerie brands often struggle with being able to use their imagery on (over 18 targeted) ads, and we’ve also had our adverts banned from retargeting services. Despite this concern over “sexual” imagery, the daily onslaught of messages, comments and dick pics from men that clearly cannot tell one woman from another are not able to be reported or are ignored. We are seeing Patreon mark lingerie pages as “Adult” and PayPal blocking nonsexual ASMR content creators (spurred on by masses of reports by trolls describing these women as “whores”). Despite society feeling somewhat more open to the idea of respecting women in 2018, we have real concerns that the future of lingerie e-commerce might be a dark one.  

Sex workers come in a myriad of different forms, from gender, to race, to age, to size; there is no archetypal sex worker, despite the stock imagery journalists tend to use. They look like the boy in the shoe shop, the cute barista that always spells your name wrong, the young mum chilling out in the park - the idea that sex work is “bad” implies that these people are less deserving of respect, which absolutely isn’t true. FOSTA/SESTA dehumanises sex workers under the guise of protecting women (very little is mentioned about male, NB or trans workers, the latter of which are the most at-risk. Women are scape-goats for political agendas, usually from the same people that seek to take away their autonomy), as this Vice documentary points out, there is an importance to putting a “face” to sex workers, but that also puts them in danger.

Enough has been written by journalists, politicians and others about what FOSTA/SESTA means - in this series of blog posts we spoke to various sex workers about their industry and what the crackdown has meant for them.


Erin Black -

What is your favourite thing about the work that you do? 

My favourite thing? It's tough to pinpoint a favourite thing, but probably, the ability to work at my own pace, how and when I want. Alongside that, this work as brought some of the most amazing people into my life that I'd have never met otherwise. I've been blessed to meet some of the kindest, brightest, most intelligent and talented people I've ever met because of this industry.  

How did you first start working in this industry?

I was in the restaurant industry for almost 13 years (since I was 16), and I just got so sick of it. I got sick of the hours, the low pay, and abuse/sexual harassment/body shaming/sexism of the industry. If my body was going to be criticized, abused, harassed, and put on display, I was going to the be one who decided the cost, not my employers.  

I was already active in kink/BDSM in my personal life, and a then-friend of mine was seeing folks for fetish work off of backpage. I asked her about it, she showed me, and 3 months later I quit my bartending job. I did go back to the industry for 1.5 years in a different capacity, but then decided that sex work made me 10x happier than any other job I'd ever had. 

What is a common misconception about your work that irritates you the most? 

One of the biggest misconceptions about how folks come into being sex workers, particularly full service in-person sex workers, is that no one would choose to do this work without some sort of forcing or coercion.  Some folks assume incorrectly that all full service in-person workers (providers) somehow lost the ability to make choices for themselves, and that’s nonsense. People Choose jobs for themselves literally all the time. No one demeans baristas, housekeepers, construction workers, or janitors for their job choices. Sex work is work. Assuming all in person, full service sex workers are coerced really does a lot of damage and actually ignores those in the sex trade who actually are coerced/trafficked. 

I'd like to state that I'm relatively privileged as far as in-person sex work goes. I'm white, highly educated, and cis-gendered. All of that helps me quite a bit. So the misconceptions I'm going to discuss revolve around a very specific type of in-person sex work; work that isn't street-based or survival-based. I can't speak to the experiences of street-based workers, nor would I ever attempt to. Which leads me to one of the biggest misconceptions about sex work, in my experience: 

Most sex workers are not rolling in cash. Depending on when a worker started, sure- they can be. But there's this idea that in order for sex work to be valid, you have to be rolling in dough and luxury goods and red bottoms. You don't. And most aren't. Lots of providers ('provider' is a term used to refer to full service, in-person sex workers)  are very much "middle class;" lots of providers are poor, too. That hourly rate? That makes up for all the hours spent posting ads, doing administrative work, and maintaining appearance. If folks think that providers are making their rate and basing hours on a 40 hour full-time work week, or even a 20 hour part-time work week, they're wildly mistaken. 

That brings me to another huge misconception- lots of providers don't see multiple guests a day. I know a lot of people who have gone weeks without being booked.  

Also, I'd like to state that if a provider structures their rates so that they do see multiple people per day, it's entirely valid for them to work that way. I'm of the belief that there's no wrong way to structure rates, and that folks should work however they feel most comfortable.

With a lack of “traditional” support systems available to sex workers, what sort of safety measures do you have in place? 

I honestly don't like to discuss this publicly, as our current safety nets are under a lot of scrutiny due to FOSTA. Most of our safety measures are community-based and online. Online groups, bad date lists, etc. There are other devices some folks use to help with safety as well, but most of it is largely community-based. 


How have you found the internet has allowed you to work? 

I've never worked without it. I started in this business 6 years ago- internet escorting is all I know.


Do you see this changing due to FOSTA/SESTA? Have you already noticed a change or been put out of work?

Things are already changing. Advertising platforms are self-censoring. Review boards are banning US IP addresses. Providers are losing or have lost their go-to advertising platforms. Our online safety resources are also self-censoring. I wish these platforms weren’t doing the governments job for it, but alas. 

Providers the world over are going through a pretty rough and scary time, particularly because sites that had been good for work for a lot of people are now disappearing. 

For me personally, a lot of these sites didn’t provide the return on investment to be viable (Backpage self-censored in the US over a year ago, and that’s when backpage became a non-viable ad platform for me. Prior to that most of my clientele came from backpage.), or id delisted myself from review sites before they self-censored and disallowed US members. I revoked my own access to their advertising platform before all of that. So the impact for me personally in my own work was felt before FOSTA got signed into law.  

However those sites were so important for so many providers. It’s not a small matter that these sites are gone. It will take time and effort to recover, and that’s not a luxury everyone has.

I'm particularly worried about the censorship FOSTA has already allowed to happen despite the fact that it's not even enforceable as a law  until January 2019. I'm of the opinion that  FOSTA is simply allowing companies that couldn't really enforce morality-based censorship the ability to now do so. Social media platforms are self-censoring; website hosting platforms are as  well. 

So while things have changed for me to a degree, they've changed for others a whole lot more, and those are the folks that need our help and attention right now.


What can non-SW do to help protect sex worker rights? 

Listen to sex workers, particularly the most marginalized sex workers. Stand with us and raise our voices. Fight stigma and advocate for our rights even when we aren't around. 

Is there anything else you’d like to add/say?

If folk would like to donate to emergency funds, outreach programs and legal organizations fighting for sex worker rights, they can do so with the following organizations: 


St. James Infirmary:

 Sex Worker Outreach Project USA:

 The Erotic Service Provider Legal, Educational, and Research Project: 


 Lady Valencia -

What is your favourite thing about the work that you do? 

My favorite thing about being a financial and professional Dominatrix is the power of having complete and total control over a man and his finances. 

  How did you first start working in this industry?

I started with BDSM in My personal life at age 18 but didn’t get into financial domination until a few years ago. I belong to a site called Fetlife and it was there that I first heard of financial domination.  I had no idea what it was so I did My research, started a Twitter, and it has been a journey from there.

  What is a common misconception about your work that irritates you the most? 

I’m sick of hearing that financial domination isn’t a legitimate fetish. To some people it comes across that Financial Dominatrices are abusing men against their will. That’s not the case. These men willingly pay.

 With a lack of “traditional” support systems available to sex workers, what sort of safety measures do you have in place? 

I never tell clients my real name or address. If I see a client in person I require a copy of his id so I can run a background check on him. I may turn away a possible client if he hasn’t sessioned with someone I know. I only session in dungeons. I always tell at least three people where I am. 

  How have you found the internet has allowed you to work? 

The internet is where you can be the authentic you. It’s easy to find like minded people with the use of social media and websites. It would be very difficult to run into financial submissives without the internet.

 Do you see this changing due to FOSTA/SESTA? Have you already noticed a change or been put out of work?

I’ve been noticing the internet becoming a stricter place for awhile now but have seen it become drastically biased and unsafe since the passing of SESTA/FOSTA.  More social media sites of sexworkers are getting shut down. I’ve had to, along with other sexworkers, get an encrypted email address.  SWers websites are getting shut down. Backpage has closed. Craigslist personals has been abolished. Review sites have shut down and it’s making screening and getting referencing of clients difficult. The shutting down of review sites has been very dangerous for escorts in particular. Fetlife now prohibits financial domination. More and more sex workers on twitter are getting shadow-banned. One nice thing, Switter, has popped up, it’s basically a twitter for sex workers. 

 What can non-SW do to help protect sex worker rights? 

Non-sex workers can start listening to sex workers. They can stop judging them and learn to at least be empathetic. Do they really hate Us so much that they think We deserve to die? Call one of your senators to tell them that you want  FOSTA/SESTA reversed. Champion for sex worker rights!