Politics and Pornography
Last week in politics: Bernie Sanders had his little rally in Brooklyn, the President took his ball and went home from his most recent North Korean summit, and the first woman of color who has ever been a very serious contender for that same office declared in an interview that she is personally in favor of decriminalizing prostitution!
Now – those first ones could probably just be termed “business as usual (or whatever passes for usual in 2019),” but that last thing is kind of craw-sticker, huh? Especially if you know almost literally anything about Kamala Harris’ history or aims as AG of California or as a US Senator. And it’s particularly notable in the same week as the International Sex Worker Rights Day.
If you follow any adult entertainers on social media, it’s likely in the last year you’ve seen lots of think-pieces about and cries for the repeal of FOSTA/SESTA. If you don’t (or the ones you do follow just aren’t big readers), the really, really abridged version is this: a federal law was signed into being last April that made life pretty miserable for lots of different groups for lots of different reasons. It does nothing demonstrable to “curb” online sex trafficking, and takes platforms away from groups who already have so few spaces available. FOSTA/SESTA is the boogeyman behind the end of Craigslist personals, certain factions of Reddit, and Tumblr’s silly, sad implosion back in December. The law’s deliberately vague and poor wording strongarms any user-generated or user-contributed platforms (think Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Wikipedia) into hyper-censoring, or removing some subjects from discussion entirely.
Ms. Harris was a proud and vocal supporter of FOSTA/SESTA and voted in favor along with Mr. Sanders, it’s worth mentioning, of passing the sloppy and ill-defined bill along to the President to make it official. Oh, for the fun days when politics was fair game for slutty gay porn parodies.
When you tie that support to Kamala’s oft-criticised history as the Attorney General of California (she’s about as anti-sex work as they come, thanks to the rise in popularity of SWERF feminism), it makes for a real squinty-eyes-of-confusion viewing to watch her talk about her brand new, lightly felt, deeply held belief in the idea of “decriminalization.”
If you’re reading this and thinking, “yeah, but this doesn’t affect me. The pornstars I watch aren’t hookers or being trafficked. Who cares?” I have some bad news: the pornstars that you watch are sex workers. So are gogo boys. So are the dudes on Chaturbate and Flirt4Free. And a huge percentage of them have, or have had, profiles on Rentmen. The fantasy divide between what people think is acceptable (porn is normalized so porn is acceptable) and what is not (escorting makes folks uncomfortable and so it is not acceptable) is wet-rice-paper-thin.
These laws, and politicians like Harris who take advantage of already exploited groups to look like “heros” for their “rescue efforts” to voters, affect everyone who makes their livings from sex. Porn, cams, hustling, sucking dick for dollars – we are all endangered, whether we fully understand that or not.
To hear Kamala talk about how she’s suddenly an advocate for sex workers when she’s worked so hard to prosecute them directly and remove platforms like Backpage that provided useful screening capabilities and low cost advertising, is a wee bit like hearing Trump talk about his efforts toward bipartisanship. You just wanna ask “where did you hear that word? Who said that to you?”
Beyond the dangers of involvement with law enforcement, and the intense social stigma that can come from being an ‘out’ sex worker (ask literally any performer if it’s all been milk and honey for them since they started filming) of any stripe, there is always danger in having your bank accounts or credit cards cut off, even when you’re operating in completely legitimate realms like porn or cam work. And this isn’t gonna make anything any better.
Adult entertainment brands (from high end studios to your neighborhood online cockring sellers) have enough trouble with just being able to easily accept credit card payments. The best ones never pass that trouble along to their customers, but ask and you’ll hear endless dramas about chargebacks, refusals, and flat inability to access processing and banking services they are legitimately entitled to, much like the explosively growing cannabis industry.
Kamala Harris can add her decrim talk to the pile of stuff she thinks will win favor with “the kids.” But as a prosecutor and Senator she’s offered no evidence she’s worried about sex workers or for that matter knows anything about Snoop or Tupac.
Kamala: Thank u next.
Tyler Dårlig Ulv is an Ontario-based blogger and professional companion. He has worked for Rentboy.com, Manhunt, and contributed to publications like Queerty and Thought Catalog. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram, or find out more about his work at his website and blog. Tyler lives full time in Toronto.