Also.Also.Also: Sex Work Is WORK, And It Should Be Respected

All week I have been craving a deep dish pepperoni pizza AND GUESS WHAT I AM HAVING TONIGHT!!! A deep dish pepperoni pizza and a beer for dinner. What movie should a watch?


Queer as in F*ck You

I literally will not even pretend that I am cool about this. I am a overly enthusiastic cornball who is so proud of our team and CONGRATULATIONS DREW and CHRISTINA FOR BEING PROFILED MOTHERF*CKING VOGUE!!! On a Brand-New Queer Podcast, Hosts Christina Tucker and Drew Gregory Ask: ‘Wait, Is This A Date?’

Did you hear me?? I said V O G U E

A gif of Miranda Priestly putting on sunglasses with a lot of attitude

And if you haven’t listened to Autostraddle’s new queer dating podcast, “Wait Is This a Date?” what are you waiting for? It really is that excellent, and I’m not saying that because I’m the boss around here — I’m saying it because the first episode unexpectedly made me cry buckets. So there.

Speaking of queer media that I love! Kristen Arnett has a new column at Catapult, Love, Dad, where Kristen will ruminate on Dad Culture, queerness, and taking care of the people we love. Here’s the first installment, and it’s excellent: Let’s Crack Open a Couple of Cold Ones

Megan Rapinoe Is Done Answering Questions About Retirement

Czech Olympic Snowboarder Sarka Pancochova Marries Her Girlfriend and these photos are super cute, I won’t lie! (Speaking of which, did you hear that Jacqueline Toboni got engaged in the most Finley way possible?)


Saw This, Thought of You

To quote the one and only Rachel Kincaid, “this is unsurprising and also still so fucked”: OnlyFans to Ban Sexually Explicit Videos Starting in October

I will admit that I’m not the most versed person to talk about sex workers rights (and we’re working on getting a longer, well-researched and thoughtful piece for you all in next few days), but I damn sure that sex work is work, and that by limiting the avenues in which workers are able to safely do their jobs puts everyone in danger. I know that OnlyFans rose to fame and made its money on the back of sex workers, only to turn around and leave the in the cold as soon as it became convenient to do so. I know that doing it during a still-ongoing pandemic just as rent and eviction moratoriums are ending is especially and unspeakably cruel. And I realize that I am rambling out of anger in this moment, so let’s go back to Rachel Kincaid: “this is so fucked.”

The White Lotus Did Belinda Dirty, But Natasha Rothwell Shined Anyway

Himani found this for you, and I trust her research skills wholeheartedly: Trusted Emergency Responders for Donations for Haiti’s Earthquake (Remember, friends don’t let friends donate to the Red Cross!)

Related: Haiti Cannot Rebuild Without Political Sovereignty

What Happens When All Your Co-workers Quit? “As a record number of Americans leave their jobs, those who can’t are working themselves sick.”

How to Help Someone With Depression. Laneia and I both read this and think it’s helpful and that you should read it, too!


Political Snacks

America Has Never Listened to the People of Afghanistan. It’s not too late to start.


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Carmen Phillips

Carmen is Autostraddle's Editor-in-Chief and a Black Puerto Rican femme/inist writer. She claims many past homes, but left the largest parts of her heart in Detroit, Brooklyn, and Buffalo, NY. There were several years in her early 20s when she earnestly slept with a copy of James Baldwin’s “Fire Next Time” under her pillow. You can find her on twitter, @carmencitaloves.

Carmen has written 515 articles for us.

30 Comments

  1. I did a little bit of sex work via Craigslist before they shut off that option. I was on Tumblr for the LGBT+ content, sometimes adult-oriented, until they shut off the latter much harder than their male-gazey cishet content. I am still on Fetlife post their semi-purge of more extreme/”deviant” content, none of which was to my personal taste, but I still protested against it and have somewhat soured to the site in recent years. I have heard similar happening on other popular sites I don’t use. The Onlyfans thing isn’t remotely new.

    What they all have in common: They grew big enough that they stopped being niche and started being mainstream. Once they hit that point, they start seeing *international* economic pressures which threaten their continued existence unless they assume some minimal level of “respectability”. This means purges, and those purges hit vulnerable groups hardest. So long as Saudi Arabia, China, Russia, US, and UK are allowed to effectively play moral police on the international stage, this kind of thing will keep happening.

    It’s not all bad, but even when it does good, the results are… mixed. And sometimes it’s just bad. I’m not sure that there are even any solutions here, aside from the agonizingly slow grind of changing the world as a whole.

    • More human trafficking is in domestic work and farm labor, both fields that place high demand on people’s bodies, have no labor protections, and tend to have horribly exploitative wage practices including for people who entered them willingly.

      And yet you rarely hear about how degrading those jobs are, or how inherently bad and dangerous they are, because trafficking happens in them. Maybe think about why that is, and actually listen to sex workers who entered that work for a myriad of reasons and who have been speaking up about what things like this do to them for *years*. And maybe focus your attention on labor rights and protections from trafficking across these three fields.

        • despite the difference of opinion, it seems likely that both perspectives are correct given that the discussion is about a diverse group of people, who all have different circumstances and especially levels of acceptance.

          perhaps it’s worth it to consider what folks agree on – people who do sex work deserve options and protections that allow them to be safe and make choices. specifically focusing on what they need in the immediate, rather than what they are.

          suggesting here that it doesn’t help those workers, or anyone, really, to argue about what the proper framework to view the practice is. improving their safety and ability to support themselves while facilitating choices to continue or transition out would be a better use of resources (specifically energy) and could be a faster way to address the issue. surely none of wants any one who doesn’t want to do sex work to have that as their only option, but addressing unfair criminality and safety issues for those who do the work seems like the first step.

          to me, that would look something like significant penalties for trafficking, decriminalization and support for individual workers paid for by regulated, taxed infrastructure for facilitators.

        • Just about every grocery clerk or field laborer or dishwasher or receptionist wants out too (hence sex workers without better options not opting to switch to those sorts of jobs).

          Not liking your job doesn’t mean it’s not work. And a job being work doesn’t mean it’s not exploitative.

          But the solution to exploitative jobs isn’t to make them illegal – it’s to increase worker protections, empower the workers, and change the system that leads to people needing to do work under exploitative conditions.

      • This comment is just in response to Shura…

        I work in the international development field on gender and lgbt issues. The most common type type of humn trafficking is sex trafficking (including in the United States). Labor human trafficking is a problem, but it isn’t the largest part of human trafficking. Labor trafficking is also more common outside the US and in countries where there are no labor protections.

        https://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/human-trafficking/global-report-on-trafficking-in-persons.html

    • Happy, thriving sex worker here, please never speak for me again Celia, thanks.

      Absolutely everyone doing any job under capitalism is exploiting their body for money. It’s only because my job happens to be tied to sex that you find it a problem. Projecting some internalized shame here, perhaps?

      Would love for you to dive into the term “SWERF” and do some reflection. The human trafficking angle is just the latest excuse / red herring used to demonize sex workers, this time with a really annoying paternalistic “it’s for your own good” bent. Please stop.

    • I think this assertion/viewpoint/opinion is myopic. Perhaps from your experience and the experience of others you’ve met, sex work is all the superlatives that you threw out there but do your experience or the experiences of those you know are not the only experiences that exist.

      Most of my life, all I ever heard was how bad sex work was. I even saw the ravages of it when I went to certain neighborhoods growing up and in my early 20s, I knew some people (men and women) who did it to support their substance abuse. So yeah, I had an extremely negative view of sex workers and sex work.

      Then a good friend took me to a private BDSM exhibition (unbeknownst to me) where I met sex workers, dominatrices, professional subs, etc. who loved what they did. I got to know them and realized that they and many people in that circle who absolutely love what they do. Those encounters even gave said friend the courage to step into the business and she’s happier than I’ve ever seen her because a part of her is now satisfied that wasn’t before plus the money is great for her (she’s extremely attractive and expensive). Since that day and after having many talks with my friend, my mind has been changed altogether when it comes to voluntary sex work.

      I’m not saying sex trafficking doesn’t exist because it 100% does and the media and organizations who pour money into prevention, rehabilitation and the creation of laws are doing amazing work; however, that is only one side of it. There are people who openly talk about voluntary sex work but get drowned out or demonized because in the eyes of many by simply opening their mouths, they are legitimizing or condoning sex trafficking or those same people won’t say anything at all for fear of being stigmatized and ostracized. Either way you’re not going to hear their voices as loudly or as often which is actually a win sex trafficking AND for those who are trying to fight it. For the traffickers it means that governments will still see selling sex as sinful and repulsive, so they allocate funds only to win political points but do little else (especially when it comes to women of color). For those fighting traffickers, they can hold up the abused as the only face of sex work and they don’t have to think about how their work can sometimes be abusive and detrimental to voluntary sex workers.

    • A lot of types of work has the potential to be degrading and exploitative – that doesn’t make them not work. How does telling sex workers that their labor is not legitimate help end trafficking or improve working conditions? I think that we do need to do more as a society to end human trafficking, but we need to approach it in a way that gives the people at risk of exploitation more options, not less.

      Only Fans was a way to engage in sex work remotely – a lifeline during this pandemic. What possible safety benefit would result from taking that option away?

    • Hmm

      I’m sex worker.

      To anyone who says it’s not work, I just have to laugh at the absurdity of that assertion. It bloody is work and I’m so deeply proud of it. I bring more joy and value to peoples lives with this job, than with anything else I’ve been paid to do.

      I challenge the person who used the term degrading to really ask themselves where this repulsion is coming from. There is so much misplaced emotion charging the discourse surrounding sex work. Yes it is abject, yes it involves body and in my case, femininity. Let it be heard – some people feel shame about it, yet it is in no way intrinsically degrading. Unless you’re describing your own experience, using the term degrading is way way out of line.

      I will also say about trafficking and exploitation – it’s a world that is deeply nuanced. What falls under the banner of sex trafficking is not always the torture porn fantasy trope. The frenzy of hand wringing surrounding sex work borders on moral panic, and often exploits and co-opts the stories of vulnerable people and steals their voices. Usually this results in outcomes that only make those people even more vulnerable (for instance fosta/sesta)

      One last point: when you say that sex work is not work, you exclude us, and instantly become a swerf

  2. Tumblr, sold to Yahoo off the strength of sex work (in 2013): $1.1 Billion
    Tumblr, after restricting adult content (in 2016) as part of Verizon acquisition: $712 million
    Tumblr, after restricting adult content (in 2019): -30% of user traffic since 2018
    Tumblr, sold to Automattic (in 2019): $3 million

    Imagine watching another company lose $1.097 Billion and thinking that’s a strategy you want to emulate.

    • this is so insightful. but i think the OnlyFans people are looking at that & knowing they will cash out big. and then whoever buys the platform will think that the star power on the site will be the difference this time. it feels like another example of how billionaire-ism is, well, bad.

      if the rest of the world had your ability to contextualize the macro and micro perspectives, we would probably be making better decisions about things like vaccination and boosters versus global immunization.

      thank you yet again for the perspective.

  3. i highly recommend doing a little bit of research about what is happening that has pushed OnlyFans to drop explicit content. i see a lot of people making the same mistake that they did when covering the pornhub shift.

    there are always SWERFs and conservative orgs trying to limit sex work, but the legitimately terrible company policies are what made the campaigns against Phub and now OFans stick. pornhub and associated parties are being sued by dozens of people for the platform’s failure to regulate and promptly remove illegal content (be it csa media, secret cams, revenge porn, whatever) prior to the change in their validation policy which came WAY too late. OnlyFans has now had their inadequate age verification system and overly lenient moderation policy exposed by the BBC so it should be no surprise that cc companies are looking at the writing on the wall and don’t want to be involved in yet another scandal or lawsuit working with companies hosting and distributing abusive content.

    OF is not a good company and it’s so messed up that it became the most viable place to do SW. they have had time to fix known issues and they just didn’t. they have the cashflow, they just didn’t think a reckoning would come so they continued to prioritize profit and now their creators are suffering the consequence.

    • this is really insightful, thank you.

      i think the criticism remains valid (noting you didn’t say otherwise), but it’s helpful to know that when the company tries to spin it as “we had no choice”, the truth is they took an easy/’palatable’ out to avoid having to deal with their deficiencies and ~puritan influence.

  4. When women* and trans* people of color (particularly Indigenous women* and from the Global South) speak out against exploitation in the sex trade industry, why is this dismissed as SWERF and conservative? When it is pointed out that survival sex in many countries is deeply rooted in colonialism and neo-liberalism, why is this attacked as anti-feminist? Many women in the Global South have been pointing out that the sentiment of “sex work is like any other work” is a white concept from wealthy countries and that they feel sold out by it.
    People working in survival sex and sex work have very different and opinions and demands, and it is irritating to hear “just talk/listen to a sex worker” (when one points out problems with the “sex work is regular work”) as if all had the same beliefs. Many people doing survival sex actually say they want sex work outlawed. And prostitutes who insist that they are prostitutes (or survivors) and not sex workers are shouted down by non-sex workers because they are not considered to have the “right” opinion.
    I am disturbed by the aggression and hostility in many public and online spaces when this topic is discussed and how people are silenced who don’t rally behind “sex work is work and should be celebrated, hurray.” Including the ones who are or were in the sex trade and are speaking from their experience.

    @herekitty: Great thanks for the link to the Red Nation podcast. The correlation between sex trade, militarization, colonialism and global imperialism is argued very eloquently.

  5. i really dislike the terms ‘terf’ and ‘swerf’. folks who embrace those ideologies don’t seem radical in that bigotry is common as is the desire to exclude marginalized groups/identities. those ideologies don’t really seem feminist to me, despite supporting a general idea that women deserving to be treated equally, the bigotry involved to achieve the exclusions they seek goes against the very idea of equality.

    someone more clever than me has likely thought of a better way to describe this, and i just haven’t seen it.

  6. @rootypoot, thanks for your comments (and that fierce Aunty Maxine user icon). I didn’t want to get involved in the overall “sex work is work” conversation because it is a more complicated situation and hard to capture via comment on Autostraddle. I actually think the problem is the slogan “sex work is work” is part of the problem.

    I have no problem with people engaging in voluntary sex work, especially in countries where it is legal. But there are caveats to that. Technically survival sex work is voluntary and sex work to support a habit is voluntary. I don’t want to write a super long post, but there is an entire conversation to have around what constitutes “voluntary” sex work. Often people use that term and they have s specific meaning others may not share. Even in countries where it is legal, you see coercion and manipulation of people to engage in sex work. You also see sex trafficking because the policing of those industries doesn’t take into account trafficking. Again for me, my frame of the conversation is, “What laws, protections, and oversight, and supports need to be in place to truly make sex work safe, viable, and legal”. IMO, that allows space to discuss trafficking, those who engage in survival sex work, and truly voluntary sex work.

    Again, personally, people should be able to make the choice to engage in sex work if it is 100% their choice free from coercion and desperation. I understand the need for people to say “sex work is work” because we need to end the narrative that someone engaged in sex work is “bad or broken” but we haven’t gotten to that point. And what I see happening is fighting over sex work as exploitation versus sex work as a valid labor choice.

    I know others won’t agree but after working 17 years either directly/indirectly in human trafficking, this is where I have landed.

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