Social media sites have long been hostile to sex workers, unfairly censoring their posts, shadowbanning them, and often deleting their accounts. Many of those targeted haven’t even broken the (archaic and arbitrary) rules, but are simply moderated because of the line of work they’re in.

Now, in protest against this constant surveillance and discriminatory deplatforming, Veil Machine, a collective of New York sex workers, is hosting E-Viction, a self-destructing digital art show. The virtual arthouse will exist online for just 12 hours before disappearing – which the group describes as “the only deplatforming you can prepare for in advance”.

“Sex workers are often the digital pioneers,” Veil Machine co-founder Sybil Fury tells Dazed, “and we saw that during COVID-19. As soon as lockdown started, sex workers were innovating new ways to maintain their intimate connections with clients – from virtual strip clubs to Zoom sessions.”

E-Viction is our attempt to apply the kind of innovation that sex workers exhibit online in order to create a new form of digital protest,” she continues. “The protest is a response to the intersecting forces of digital gentrification and whorephobia, which have severely impacted sex workers’ ability to survive in a time when many of us are working online.”

Visitors can expect cam performances from sex workers and artists, educational material about online censorship and legislation that threatens sex workers, as well as “raunchy” chat rooms, performer ads, and an online shop selling art and sex toys. There will also be a destruction event happening for the last half hour of the show.

“This is a multi-elemental show with educational, fantastical, intimate, and mysterious components,” explains Veil Machine member Lady Euphoria. “The experiences will blur the lilnes of reality and fantasy, and inevitably, protest.”

However, given it’s happening online, the project hasn’t been without its hiccups – namely that Instagram tried to censor it (OFC). “In an attempt to reach our community and promote the show, we’ve been threatened with being deplatformed,” Lady Euphoria tells Dazed. “The irony here is what has initiated the threats. Instagram found our brightly coloured graphics to be ‘obscene’, ‘containing nudity’, and ‘violating community guidelines’.”

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Sex workers protest censorship with this self-destructing digital art show by Brit Dawson

Aug. 19 2020

E-Viction will take place on August 21, between 12PM and 12AM EST (5PM-5AM BST) at e-viction.net. Entry is free (but CashApp and Venmo donations are welcome), and you can RSVP here.