This is our truth, tell us yours
As sex workers we occupy a strange indeterminate status, which can switch at any moment according to the position (or rather the politics) of the observer, just like the eponymous cat. We are mindless victims, unable to consent, apparently not even able to use social media, since tweeting makes you a member of the pimp lobby, rather than actually sex workers. At the same moment we are criminals, supporters of international crime, deviants who must be stopped by any means necessary.
Our bodies, fought over, the battleground of police, radical feminists and the Christian right can be in this indeterminate space since we are not considered as people, simply representations of a person to be held up or held down according to the preferences of those who support state sanctioned violence against us.
Never is this duality made clearer than by the attacks on websites where we advertise. Online advertising has transformed sex work, bringing us never before known levels of security and screening. From the very first email or text we can assess the client. anyone who has used Tindr, Grindr or any other internet dating site knows how messages can vary from abusive to polite, from crude to businesslike. Sex work sites are no different, and in a job where often all you have to go off is gut instinct being able to accept or decline bookings by the initial approach makes a huge difference. It is not fool proof, no screening is, however, the alternatives are far worse.
Street work, with all its attendant risks, is quite clearly far more dangerous than indoor work. It also puts the sex worker at a higher risk of arrest or harassment from the police. When the police routinely rape sex workers, anything that places us in their way is not only endangering us, but must be opposed by every organisation who claims to care about violence against women, LGBT people and people of colour. It is particularly trans people of colour, being massacred in the US with barely a voice raised, who face the biggest risk from street work.
Advertising online, with prices, and details of which sex acts you will and will not perform is also exceptionally important as part of the negotiation process. I have said a number of times that sex work is the sale of time and content limited sexual services, being able to clearly and openly state the content you are willing to do is vital in keeping to your own boundaries and having them respected. (A huge issue on sites like Backpage or Craigs list is sex workers in the US cannot be as explicit as ones in legal countries like the UK or Australia). Many people talk about the importance of informed consent, they need to see how this fits with sex workers, that we need to be able to have the consent conversations others promote as best practice.
When a site like Rentboy.com is raided the state is saying that these risks do not matter to them. For homeland security to be involved in this, claiming a vast international conspiracy would be laughable if it was not directly putting lives at risk. The police and homeland security showed why they have performed these raids now;
Homeland Security “will use its unique authorities to disrupt and dismantle such organizations and seize the millions of dollars in illegal proceeds they generate,”
There it is in black and white, they will disrupt and dismantle organisations and businesses which make our lives safer, so they can seize the money for themselves. There is a word for those who abuse and endanger sex workers and take our money without our consent, a nasty four letter word starting and ending in p.
We are not objects in a box, waiting for you to notice us, to determine whether we are victims to be saved or criminals to be prosecuted. We are humans, humans who bleed, humans who are raped, humans who are murdered, humans who will be harmed if the sites where we advertise are turned off and we are turned out onto the streets.