BBC: Coronavirus, Offline sex workers forced to start again online

Most sex workers meet customers in person. For them, the coronavirus spells economic ruin.

"The virus is a disaster for client-facing businesses - and sex work is no different," says Goddess Cleo, a dominatrix from London.

"Most of my income is generated from one-on-one sessions and events. I [normally] only make a bit of money through online avenues."

But like many others, Cleo has switched focus to digital since the lockdown came into effect.

Online dominatrix Eva de Vil says: "There's lots of new girls joining the scene right now - or offline sex workers moving online to help with finances."

And she has seen a growing appetite from her clientele for isolation-themed roleplay "clips" - on-demand videos not filmed live.

"It's not so hard for established cam girls like me to adapt to coronavirus. We're used to working [online] and from home," she adds.

Not so easy

But for many client-facing sex workers, moving online is not a simple solution.

"It's not about flashing ya nipple and earning big bucks", wrote UK sex worker Gracey on Twitter.

"It takes ages to gain an online following and even longer for [them] to buy your content."

Using the online platforms means having to give them a cut of earnings.

And there is a need to invest in equipment, including "tripod, decent lighting, sex toys, et cetera", which can be challenging to acquire during the lockdown.

"The marketing requires so much effort, it is unreal," Gracey says.

"I'm not brave enough to [be] naked online and [receive audience] criticism.

"The emotional labour that goes into camming is unreal - constantly chatting, trying to be yourself [and] pleasant."

Privacy is another concern.

It is much harder to hide one's identity online and video content can be stolen.

In February, for example, London-based OnlyFans saw 1.5TB of content-makers' pre-recorded videos and images leaked.

UK sex worker Lizzy says camming has become even more competitive since the pandemic began.

And data from the world's largest "camming" websites supports this.

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Coronavirus; Offline sex workers forced to start again online by Sebastian Shehadi and Miriam Partington

April 7, 2020


HUFFPOST: Legal Sex Workers And Others In Adult Industry Denied Coronavirus Aid

When Congress passed the massive $2 trillion bailout bill last week, it made sure that self-employed people or other independent workers could apply for loans or grants from the Small Business Administration. But there was one very specific ― and puritanical ― exception: legal sex workers and others in the adult entertainment industry.

The very first page of the online application says that in order to be an “eligible entity” that can receive monetary relief from the bill, an applicant cannot “present live performances of a prurient sexual nature or derive directly or indirectly more than de minimis gross revenue through the sale of products or services, or the presentation of any depictions or displays, of a prurient sexual nature.”

Prurient, which is defined by Oxford as “having or encouraging an excessive interest in sexual matters,” is a vague categorization that broadly includes thousands of workers in the U.S. As stated, the clause excludes everyone who works in the legal (and, worth noting, booming) sex industry including strippers, porn performers, producers, directors, sex toy manufactures and many others. It’s unclear whether this clause includes other professions that don’t explicitly deal in the sex industry, but do cover subjects that are of a “prurient sexual nature” such as sex therapists and authors of erotica novels.

“It’s so dehumanizing,” Jacqueline Frances, a stripper, comedian and author, told HuffPost. “They’re asking all of us, who work legally, to feel ashamed about what we do. They are actively making life harder for sex workers in this crisis.”

Andrew Stettner, a senior fellow at progressive think tank The Century Foundation, said it “makes zero sense” for any legal workers to be denied aid. “The relief packages passed thus far have neglected ― and often explicitly excluded ― the most vulnerable workers. Sex workers are no exception,” he told HuffPost.

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Legal Sex Workers And Others In Adult Industry Denied Coronavirus Aid by Alanna Vagianos

April 2, 2020


DAZED: 6 international erotic artists discuss freedom, kink, and censorship online

Sex and nudity are against Instagram’s community guidelines, which has triggered a plethora of creative eroticism that manages to swerve the platform’s censorship guidelines. Beyond photography of juicy peaches getting fingered and vagina-like flowers, illustration is the most explicit trend. The platform’s a treasure trove of fantasy fetishes and sexual pleasure painted in colourful cartoon graphics, with fluid brush strokes that make penis close-ups look majestic. If you don’t see sex as beautiful, then after a few scrolls on erotic art accounts, you will.

Some accounts are approaching the depiction of sex through an historical and anthropological lens. Sexual paintings and drawings existed in Ancient Rome, India, Persia and the Americas, then came to Europe later in the 18th century. Before then, there’s evidence of seductive nude subjects like Titian’s “Venus of Urbino” from 1534, and early 17th century paintings of women engaging in metaphoric sexual acts with birds, based on the Greek myth of Zeus turning into a swan to seduce Leda.

Sexual pleasure is universally relatable but it has always been taboo in the art world. Even as late as 1970, John Lennon’s graphic lithographs of Yoko Ono were taken down by police from an exhibition in London, and the 276-year-old art institution and auction house Sotheby’s only held its first ever erotic art sale just three years ago.

In 2020 though, thanks to all the regramming, sensual illustration has finally gone mainstream. It’s become a sex-positive movement, giving viewers a poetic perspective to celebrate manifestations of sexual pleasure. Interest piqued? Get to know the artists and illustrators re-drawing sex for the next generation online below.

ROBIN EISENBERG

Los Angeles-based artist Robin Eisenberg curates a wet dream-like perspective of outer space, full of pastel neon, sexually-charged alien females with realistically curvaceous physiques. It’s a place to eat pizza, send nudes, draw dick pics, and then lose yourself in passionate sex with all genders. A self-love sanctuary in the stars.

Why do you choose to explore sex in your art?

Robin Eisenberg: Sex and sexuality are such honest and powerful things, I really love exploring that in my drawings. I’ve always loved focusing on relatable and intimate moments, so it feels natural to incorporate sex. Maybe my art can help people to feel more comfortable with their own sexuality and their own bodies.

Why do female bodies inspire you?

Robin Eisenberg: It’s incredibly fulfilling to draw these alien superbabes who are so comfortable and cozy in their own skin. It makes me feel more comfortable with myself. I always hope that people who see my art come away from it with that same feeling. It makes me so happy when people tell me that they see their own body in my work and it makes them feel good about themselves.

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6 internal erotic artists discuss freedom, kink, and censorship online by Sadie Bargeron

April 1, 2020


VICE: How quarantine is inviting us to get creative with our kinks

Inspiration from the fetish-scene has been a solid undercurrent in the fashion industry for decades. Vivienne Westwood sold bondage gear to the punks in the seventies, Thierry Mugler’s outrageous creations in the 80s and 90s almost without exception had a dominatrix-energy going and the 1992 Versace S&M-dress is a staple in the wardrobe of every self-respecting celebrity.

Now, once again, fetish has come out of the dungeon and onto the catwalks. Last year, Louis Vuitton’s glittered-up harnesses made their way from the sex-party to the award show, worn by stars like Timothee Chamelet and Michael Jordan. More recently, Diet Prada made a nice fetish-overview of the latest fashion weeks. Balmain had their brown latex suits which fitted Kim Kardashian like a glove. Marni and Stella McCartney had the fluffy rabbit heads that used to belong to the territory of the furry-scene.

At Saint Laurent, Anthony Vaccarello combined three different fetish-y aesthetics in one look: rubbery sex pants, a silk scarf for a hint of asphyxiation and, of course, a fur coat -- the most classic fetish-item, and the ultimate kink of the founding father of masochism: Leopold Ritter von Sacher-Masoch. The models looked classy in the shadows and film-noiresque searchlights. It was slightly erotic, but it certainly didn't have much to do with dark fantasies.

Fetish, evidently, has been dragged out of the realm of sex into the realm of chic. It is more visible and socially acceptable than ever. How long will it take before latex pants become so mainstream that they are not associated with sex anymore, but with sticky, sweaty, weird smelling days at the office?

Probably some time, because of the current pandemic the world is dealing with. Offices are canceled (so we don’t have to wear pants while working), most fashion-events are canceled, and so is parading on the streets in general. A nightmare for the fetish-flâneur. On the plus side, however, all these restrictions offer us a way to rediscover what fetish really means in a private setting, beyond the trendy aspect of it.

As we speak, this is already happening. Shalva Nikvashvili, the Georgian artist known for his haunting masks is now working from home with his husband Sascha Bewersdorff, and they created what could be interpreted as a hybrid between pup-play and shoe-fetish. With a few months left to experiment, whole new aesthetics might emerge out of people’s isolation.

An example of what can happen when restrictions force people to rediscover their fantasies can be found in the work of Jan Švankmajer. The Czech film-maker (who’s almost complete oeuvre was shown last year in the Amsterdam film museum Eye) wasn’t restricted by an epidemic, but by the totalitarian communist regime: in the late 70s he was banned from making his stunning animated films.

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How quarantine is inviting us to get creative with our kinks by Tim Fraanje

March 27, 2020


REWIRE NEWS: Here’s How You Can Help Sex Workers During the COVID-19 Outbreak

As the number of COVID-19 infections in the United States grows rapidly, nightclubs and bars have shut down, public health officials have ordered people to “socially distance,” the stock market has tanked, and sex workers have begun to see negative impacts of the pandemic.

“I haven’t gotten any customers, so I’ve been cutting down on food,” Maya Moreno, a sex worker based in Brooklyn, New York, told Rewire.News. “A few people canceled because of flights, but I’m also not getting the amount of people reaching out like I used to.”

Moreno is shifting her focus to her OnlyFans account, a paid subscription content service, amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

Sex workers run a higher risk of virus transmission, as many jobs—like stripping, escorting, and massage work— require in-person gatherings and physical intimacy. The public health crisis has also meant lost incomes and a decimation of their industryStrip clubs closedMassage parlors closed. Online, sex workers across the country have shared updates about cancellations and declines in business. Those with access are moving online to subscription services like OnlyFans and camming, or shifting to other industries altogether.

Sex workers are usually self employed or independent contractors, and thus not eligible for unemployment benefits when out of a job. And there is no knowing how long it will take for the industry to bounce back, given the forecasted economic recession.

Here are a few ways you can help sex workers right now.

Donate money and supplies

Sex workers and advocates have set up emergency relief fundraisers in cities like New YorkDetroitPortland, and Las Vegas. Other sex workers’ rights organizations in specific localities, as well as online, are raising funds too.

  • Lysistrata: online sex worker mutual care collective
  • Red Canary Song: advocate group for Asian and migrant sex workers in New York City
  • SWOP Behind Bars: nonprofit providing community support for incarcerated sex workers
  • Green Light Project: Seattle-based harm reduction outreach group for street-based sex workers
  • Bay Area Workers Support: Bay Area-based sex worker resource organization
  • Coyote RI: Rhode Island-based sex worker advocacy grassroots organization

More comprehensive lists of emergency relief fundraisers can be found here and here, including international efforts.

Some groups, like Coyote RI and SWOP Brooklyn, are seeking donations of supplies. SWOP Behind Bars accepts book donations for incarcerated sex workers and those who will be released soon.

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Here’s How You Can Help Sex Workers During the COVID-19 Outbreak by Tiffany Diane Tso

March 26, 2020


SALON: Sex workers are stressed, anxious and depressed amid COVID-19 pandemic

As non-essential businesses close to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus, American workers are experiencing layoffs, pay cuts, and a whole lot of financial uncertainty. While on-the-books workers are being encouraged to file for unemployment and/or possibly being aided by Congress's Families First Coronavirus Response Act, American sex workers are unlikely to benefit from either of these measures.

"Sex workers cannot file for unemployment and are denied access to several aspects of the formal economy such as paid sick leave and healthcare,"  Emily Coombes, a researcher and organizer based in Las Vegas, told Salon in an email. "Overall, the public needs to know that not only are sex workers being hit hard by the spread of this virus and response to a growing global pandemic, but also how sex workers are missing from a lot of general conversations about supporting workers through self-isolation."

The Las Vegas Strip has shut down, putting service workers in a precarious situation — particularly sex workers. Sex work is notoriously precarious labor, meaning many sex workers were already struggling to make ends meet prior to the pandemic, especially those already marginalized in society.

"Black, brown, trans and queer workers, sex workers who are housing unstable, sex workers who are chronically ill or living with disabilities are all particularly at risk for negative impacts," Coombes said. "There are essentially no secure safety nets for sex workers when there is a massive shutdown or quarantine like the one we're in now; what sex working communities often end up relying on to get by is mutual aid and emergency funds."

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Sex workers are stressed, anxious and depressed amid COVID-19 pandemic by Nicole Karlis

March 22, 2020


SBS NEWS: Banks accused of 'slut-shaming' for refusing financial services to sex workers

Banks have been accused of "corporate slut-shaming" for refusing financial services to sex workers, with NAB singled out as "absolute worst hypocrites".

Victorian MP David Limbrick says a number of banks have contacted sex workers in recent weeks to tell them their accounts have been cancelled and to take their business elsewhere.

The Liberal Democrat said sex shop workers were also being discriminated.

"I condemn these policies which effectively amount to corporate slut-shaming," Mr Limbrick told the upper house on Tuesday.

"The absolute worst hypocrites are NAB, who simultaneously claim all sorts of virtues in their human rights, diversity and inclusion policies while treating sex workers like lesser human beings.

"I'll continue to publicly shame NAB until they change."

NAB stopped servicing brothels and escort agencies earlier this year to comply with anti-money laundering laws, bringing it into line with all other major banks, a spokeswoman for NAB told AAP.

"However, we do provide banking services to sex workers who operate independently and legally and have no plans to change this policy," she said.

"We encourage customers who work in the sex industry to contact us for more information."

Read the Full Article:

Banks accused of "slut-shaming" for refusing financial services to sex workers by SBS News

Nov. 9, 2019


ADVOCATE: Margaret Cho on BDSM, 'Polyamory-Fatigue,' Wanting To Die Alone

Margaret Cho grew up in San Fransisco, coming of age at the start of the AIDS crisis. Her parents owned a gay book store; Cho worked at a lesbian BDSM collective and had a brief stint as a dominatrix. It was during this time Cho started asking the question, "In the age of AIDS, what does safe sex mean? And how do we still make it exciting and fun?"

The answer came in the form of a long leather whip. She describes BDSM as the perfect place to engage and celebrate sexuality in a way that felt dangerous, without being dangerous in a way that would transmit HIV or other infections.

All of these experiences have fed into her comedy career, the cornerstone of which has been marked by her candor. Before nonmonogamy had entered the mainstream consciousness as it has today, Cho was talking about it onstage and in interviews, just as she would speak about people's disbelief over her bisexuality, her experience with sex work, and more recently, her newfound "polyamory-fatigue."

Cho speaks about all this on the LGBTQ&A podcast, and opens up about why she now plans on being single for the rest of her life.

Jeffrey Masters: Do you have any grand theories to why people are still so wary of bisexuality?
Margaret Cho: I think it's because people use bisexuality as the lie before they get to the truth. You're acknowledging your otherness, but you're not willing to go all the way. To say you're bi, a lot of people when they're coming out, they'll stop at bi at their first utterance of who I am. I'm going to give you bisexual. I'm going to give this lie to my parents so that maybe there's hope for them to hang on to this idea that I could be straight.

Before we had gay marriage and before we had this idea of being able to have families, bisexuality gave you a little bit of a sliver of that ticket to normalcy. Bisexuality is seen as this strange thing of dipping your toe into the pool of otherness, but not all way all in.

JM: Was there comradery between you and other famous, closeted queer women before you came out? 
MC: I remember I was sitting on Lea DeLaria's lap in, gosh, 1991. My manager at the time was so panicked that I was gay and he was like, "You know, you have to present yourself as straight. I don't care what you do or who you are. As far as we're going, you're straight."

I was just really scared into a feeling of Wow, this feels really scary and unsafe.

JM: I was actually under the impression that you were open about being bi, even early in your career. 
MC: I always was, but at that time, I don’t know we could even call it that. I had grown up in a very gay-positive environment — my parents owned a gay bookstore and there were so many examples of very, very exciting things happening around me with Harvey Milk and this gay pride parade that was growing and growing and growing every year — but there was a real confusion around bisexuality.

Even my parents, they're fine with gayness, they're fine with straightness, they have a real problem with bi.

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Margaret Cho on BDSM, 'Polyamory-Fatigue,' Wanting To Die Alone by Jeffrey Masters

Sept. 25, 2019


GQ: Why Chronic Pain Sufferers Are Turning to BDSM

“No pain, no gain” is a rallying slogan employed at both the beauty parlor and at the gym. Sometimes after a workout, you might even get a massage, which is quite literally the act of inflicting pain to the point of relaxation.

It’s why those who go looking for pain are often labeled perverts. It’s why those who live with it near-constantly (chronic pain) are often considered abject. Oftentimes, the two are interlinked. Kink and BDSM scenes are no stranger to the disabled and those living with chronic pain (some living with chronic pain self-identify as disabled, others do not). Which might beg the question: why do those living in pain seek out more pain?

According to Emma Sheppard, perhaps the leading (and one of the only) academics whose research centers on kink and chronic pain, there isn’t a causal link between the two, so much as there is a common understanding. After interviewing several people who lived with chronic pain and engaged with kink play over the course of 18 months, Sheppard found that BDSM was a useful tool—and perhaps a more common one than previously thought—for the disabled to communicate and control their pain. While the participants were primarily sexually submissive, Sheppard also interviewed doms (someone who takes on the role of the sexually superior and controlling), as well as switches (someone who veers between the two). What seemed to draw each of these participants to kink was the element of control.

"Controlling pain is important. Whether that be resting to decrease some pain, using painkillers if they work, moving position at the simplest level. Kink is taking this to its natural conclusion by making pain to control,” one participant from Sheppard’s study explains. Other participants used kink as a distraction from their pain, while another viewed pain as merely a practical consideration, Sheppard tells me. “A couple of participants (who were switches) felt they were less able to do painful things to others during play, but that willingness and ability shifted as they became more accepting of their pain.”

Having lived with chronic pain for the better part of a decade herself, Sheppard’s research into the link between kink and her condition exposes uncomfortable truths in terms of society’s norms around sex and pain. “We don’t like acknowledging times when pain is the point,” she writes over email, “and there’s this expectation that we always want that pain to stop—that stopping pain is a big concern (or should be) for people in pain, especially chronic pain.” The focus on pain’s end and its cure is an “ableist norm” which shape the unpained person’s understanding of those living with chronic pain.

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Why Chronic Pain Sufferers Are Turning to BDSM by Emma Madden

Sept. 25, 2019


OPEN DEMOCRACY: Rights, rescues and resistance in the global movement for sex workers’ rights – introducing the series

The sex worker rights movement has grown significantly over the past two decades. Sex workers have organised to demand recognition of sexual labour as labour; challenge stigma, discrimination, and all forms of violence, including by law enforcement; improve working conditions; lobby for full human, social, and labour rights; advocate for the decriminalisation of sex work; and provide peer-based support and services. Many sex worker organisations also organise and support migrant sex workers in an effort to address the specific challenges they confront, such as racism and xenophobia, precarity due to their im/migration status, lack of access to health and other services, vulnerability to exploitation and violence, and the risk of detention and deportation.

Since the 1990s, sex workers have also had to contend with the expansion of the global ‘anti-trafficking industry’ with its strong anti-sex work, criminal justice, and border control agendas. Sex worker organisations in Spain, Thailand, and India, for example, pointed out in a recent report from the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women that trafficking was “an issue that was introduced [or indeed imposed] from outside the industry itself, propelled by a moralistic agenda, that organisations have felt obliged to understand, in order to counter the harmful effects of conceptually conflating trafficking and sex work.” In many countries, anti-trafficking policies and interventions have targeted sex workers with highly detrimental impact.

This has taken the form of greater police surveillance of the sex industry; raids on sex work establishments; forced detention in rehabilitation centres; arrests and prosecutions of sex workers as traffickers; and deportations of migrant sex workers. All of these undermine and ignore sex workers’ agency as well as their legitimate demands for better working conditions and human, social, and labour rights.

Further, the crucial role of sex worker organisations in promoting the rights, safety, and security of sex workers and addressing working conditions in the industry has largely gone unrecognised by national and international policymakers, donors, and some non-governmental organisations. The ideologies, assumptions, and agendas that fuel the anti-trafficking industry have also resulted in the exclusion and silencing of sex workers when it comes to the development of policies that directly affect their lives and work. Over the last ten years, this trend has certainly been evident in countries where governments have enacted laws that criminalise the purchase of sexual services.

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Rights, rescues and resistance in the global movement for sex workers’ rights by Borislav Gerasimov & Annalee Lepp

Sept. 23, 2019