Censorship for online sex content has been hitting the industry hard of late. Patreon dealt a blow to NSFW community members back in late 2017 when it banned crowdfunding to produce pornographic content. Today the controversial FOSTA bill has been signed by President Trump. The ‘Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking’ bill passed Senate in March.
Whilst the controversial bill is aimed predominantly at sites like Backpage.com, it poses risks to online content on various platforms., including social media. Even before the bill was passed, Craigslist removed its “personals” section. But by going against free online speech, will the FOSTA bill undermine its own aims? Many sex workers fear that it will make their work less safe, as it will be driven offline.
Not all sex workers offer ‘sex’. Some provide videos or chat services. There are multiple sites like Adultwork, Chaturbate, YouKandy, not to mention various porn sites. Subscribers can pay to view content. If these sites are banned from screening such content, then the workers will not be able to advertise their clips online. They will either need to resort to contacting repeat clients, or scrolling through social media to find potential new clients.
This means more time sourcing work, than actual time spent working, which will cost these people dearly. Not only that, but the bill makes out these people are victims. They are not. Most of them choose the vocation they are working within, as it suits their lifestyle. Not to mention, they may actually really love what they do. Workers who offer the ‘Girlfriend Experience’ can have intimacy with a stranger, which may be much more appealing to them and their clients than intimacy within a bona fide relationship.
Pushing the movement underground
I whole-heartedly agree that sex trafficking is immoral and completely wrong, but the point is, those who are trafficked are not being given a choice. They are being forced into it, to pay their way into ‘freedom.’ The actuality is they end up being a prisoner to their ‘rescuer.’ A perpetual Stockholm syndrome of sorts. Not only that, but a lot of these victims are under-age and cannot consent. Sex workers, on the other hand, can and do consent.
Censoring free online speech won’t help sex workers, and in my opinion it won’t help victims of trafficking. The operations will still occur, but just offline. And those faceless victims will go on to be exploited. Which is a sad turn of events that will have global repercussions. Women’s rights are already in a fragile predicament in many countries. In warzones, rape and sexual violence are used against women (Rohingya crisis, Democratic Republic of Congo). Countries like India treat women as the weaker and inferior gender, to be abused and sold off into marriages.
We’re not just talking about females either, males can be subjected to trafficking too, either for modern slavery or sexual exploitation. The most vulnerable are children, particularly those who are orphaned or fleeing war-torn lands and political persecution. They do need to be protected, but will a bill that targets online freedom of speech hold much hope for these individuals? I hope for their sakes it does. Otherwise it will just be another failing of the Trump administration, along with the Second Amendment reformation.