Incomplete List of Legal Discrimination Against Sex Workers
Version 2 - Currently Undergoing Major Revision, report errors to [email protected]
Compiled with commentary by Ashley Lake (blame me for mistakes!)
and a lot of help from community commenting (don’t blame them!)
Last updated 08/01/2018 (Added Rebrandly).
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License Creative Commons License
This is a living document - a combination of reporting and data tracking we will continuously update. We’ve found over 150 companies, institutions, and discrete products (like Skype or Youtube) that in some way discriminate or ban sex work or adult products OR have been shut down completely following increased anti-sex work legislation.
The license above means you’re free to reuse, reprint, download, quote, and remix this document as long as it’s not for commercial purposes and is properly attributed back here. That will let people print off a copy to hand to a legislator, take out parts to use for educational materials, truncate and improve on, continue working on if this original document becomes out of date and will also let people know where to go back to if there are errors that need correcting, and so someone (at this time Ashley) has accountability for those errors. We hope that the spirit of the document will be preserved in those efforts, but encourage critique in good faith. The google document permissions are set to allow downloading, copying (so you can have an editable copy), and printing.
We’ve augmented this list with commentary in specific sections, including some longer form discussion of the anti-sex campaign against sex workers currently being branded as anti-trafficking and another fairly lengthy bit on political grandstanding and crusading. If you are completely new to this topic and think a narrative might be more useful than a list, we might humbly suggest you skim the list after reading the introduction, just to get a sense of scale, then read those general informational sections first before giving the list itself a closer look.
As sex workers are not a protected group under US law, companies and institutions have a wide berth when it comes to setting policies to discriminate against people working in sex related jobs or at sex related companies - everything from full service sex workers and porn performers to people who make and sell toys or safety products. The US Government also just passed broad legislation that makes it riskier for online services to include sex workers. Called SESTA/FOSTA, the legislation equates all consensual in-person sex work with “trafficking”, putting sex workers in danger. It’s being followed by other laws that directly impact peer-led aid groups and direct harm reduction services. While “no platforming” is often referred to as a possible tactic against extreme racism or fascism, it’s possible the removal of sex workers from the internet is the best example of this idea in practice.
The passing of legislation like FOSTA/SESTA, aimed at sites that offer sex workers safe advertising, has been touted as a victory for trafficking survivors. But no additional funding was set aside for survivors and no new programs were created - instead the bill offered only additional criminal laws specifically mentioning facilitation of “prostitution”, clearly including consensual work. Evidence in the past suggested this approach would not help victims and today we are again seeing the terrifying stories sex worker advocates, internet freedom groups, and empirically informed anti-trafficking organizations feared play out. Bills that remove online resources for sex workers don’t fight trafficking, they increase it.
Groups that have done long term first hand research like Amnesty International recommend full decriminalization for all consensual sex work, but much of this document covers discrimination that applies directly to people who already do legal work (in America or elsewhere). It should be obvious that criminalizing sex work doesn’t end it - we��ve got three thousand years of evidence to look at.
“Torture, mutilation, fines, imprisonment, banishment, excommunication, and even the death penalty have all been deployed at various points, and none have succeeded in abolishing the sex trade. Nor have these punitive measures ended sexual abuse. All that ever happens is that consenting sex workers are forced to work in dangerous conditions and are further stigmatised for what they do.” - Historian Kate Lister
This list is mostly focused on the sex industry in the United States of America, but due to the global nature of many of these companies, the impact is felt worldwide. If you’re not a sex worker, and you’ve landed here, imagine trying to run your business, or just live your daily life, without access to all these commonly used things. Keep in mind that when sex workers are pushed off these platforms, they’re often pushed off altogether and permanently under any name even if they are not actually using that platform for sex work.
These policies also directly impact other marginalized groups - especially trans women and women of color - with “walking while Black” and “walking while trans” being memes for a reason. The idea of technology helping with these issues, rather than simply amplifying our societal issues at scale, is hard to take seriously while press salivates over the idea of Uber encouraging drivers to report people involved in the sex trade to the police based on their hunches.
This used to be a document available for public comments and participation. Unfortunately, some people decided to take advantage of that to actively destroy it, so I’ve had to lock it down. This is a big document but it may not be the most up to date document. Other resources are listed towards the end.
We are working on a list of recommended and safe services for sex workers, but it’s honestly a LOT harder, especially with the daily addition of anti-sex work TOS changes and the current constant loss of sex work specific sites. Here is the link: Technical Resources for Sex Workers.
This document is currently over 100 pages. I’m sorry.
Table of Contents:
Incomplete List of Legal Discrimination against Sex Workers
Banking and Payments
Self Promotion/Expression and Advertising
Social Media Platforms - Banned
Social Media Platforms - Ghettoized or Hidden, sporadically banned or suspended
Online Advertising Tools - Banned
Content Creation, Organizing and Distribution
Content Creation Tools
Content Distribution Platforms
Website / eCommerce Creation Tools
The Loss of Sex Work Friendly Resources
Websites - Sex work related services removed
Sex Work Advertising Websites - Online resources taken down or lost
Sex Work Sites - TOS Changes
Advertising / Safety Websites Impacted
Personal Life Services
Sugar Dating Sites
Other Applications or Services
Lost Safety Resources and Government Oppression
Safety Resources, Non-Profit Groups, Direct outreach and Harm Reduction
US Government Resources
Context: The Campaign Against Sex Workers Branded as Anti-Trafficking From “White Slavery” to Today
Epistemic Injustice in Press Coverage
Political Grandstanding and Crusading
Sex Work Abolitionist, Anti-Porn and Trafficking Alarmist Organizations
Misinformed Celebrities and Alarmist Media
“End Demand” and the “Nordic Model”
Legalization Vs. Decriminalization
Further Resources on This Topic
Resources For Sex Workers
Major Organization Positions on Sex Work
Peer-led and Sex Worker Inclusive Organizations
Articles on This Topic
Studies and Books
Financial discrimination is a huge issue for sex workers and extremely under reported in the media. Regardless of the kind of sex work they do, they’re at risk of losing their livelihood at any minute when kicked off a platform. They’re kneecapped in their ability to compete with everyone else, because the latest technical innovations don’t allow their access.
Sex workers don’t have the same options for banks, people willing to invest in them or their products and ideas, and are often limited to working with more abusive companies that take much higher fees for subpar quality services. There’s no real logical reason for this, though many have called it “high risk” as an excuse. There is very little data to back up sex work being higher risk than other kinds of online commerce.
Sex workers are often kicked off platforms even if they have nothing to do with their business. People report having personal bank accounts closed once the bank learned of their profession and they’ve been kicked off of personal fundraising platforms like GoFundMe while trying to get help from friends and family with healthcare.
The intentional conflation of “human trafficking” with consensual “prostitution” is designed to remove stability and agency from sex workers, because abolitionists really believe that sex workers do not deserve to have a life. They want them to not have any option other than “not be a sex worker.” This approach has never worked, only made sex workers poorer and unable to take care of their basic needs.
One good article on this subject is How the Financial Sector is Making Life Miserable for Sex Workers, by sex worker Tina Horn for Vice.
Banking and Payments
1. JP Morgan Chase Bank - Reported: XBIZ, Daily Dot, Daily Beast, Vice, Inc.
2. Bank of America - Reported: Fast Company
3. Capital One Bank - from personal experience (Jocelyn Mae), “Banked with capital one for over 4 years. Received a letter soon after the Eros raid. Said they could no longer offer services to me because my accounts weren't consistent with normal business/household expenses.