COVID: Same song, 2,529,085th Verse:

As the world remains in reaction mode to the ongoing spread of the coronavirus, calls are still being made to increase support for people in the sex trade to get access to the various forms of relief being offered.

Scotland is pledging funds to support organizations which work with sex workers - but of course only to groups who see sex work as violence, while the Netherlands is officially shuttering the red light district until September [The Observer].

In New Zealand – the only country where sex work is decriminalized for citizens – the sex industry is opening back up [NewsHub] amidst what appears to be an elimination of the virus [the Lancet], but with clear policies for how sex workers can adapt to the new risk level. In Spain, the crisis has also exposed some more nuanced complications. While brothel owners furloughed some of their main staff (such as hostesses and bartenders), sex workers themselves were tossed out entirely, catalyzing sex workers rights activists and organizations like Otras to begin a newly-invigorated fight for recognition.

As the pandemic goes on, more stories are coming of people going back to sex work, including those in the foster care system [New York Times] (trigger warning: there were some lines where I thought "well that's stigmatizing to me, but it's your life you're describing here and it's valid,") and those who were supplementing other forms of income [Forbes].  

And the movement lost a champion of the lives of sex workers in Mexico City. In the week of May 6, sex workers gathered to remember Jaime Montejo [LA Times], advocate and co-founder of 'Street Brigade to Support Women Elisa Martínez,' who passed away of COVID-19 at the age of 56. In his memory, some people danced, many cried and even more chanted “Who does the corner belong to?/ The women who work there!”

It's Harder Than Everyone Thinks

After the initial calls for everyone to just hop on the internet when in-person work became significantly riskier, outlets are finally showing that, much like every other areas of sex work, it's not as easy as everyone thinks. While Vice looked at how expensive it actually is [VICE] to make a living in virtual venues, Tits and Sass explored how "influencers" are getting in the game [Tits and Sass], only to set unreal expectations and ignore the sex worker community that's made these platforms relevant.

But of course, some people are making it work for them. One Dominatrix is using Animal Crossing to continue berating men [Pink News].

There remains a fixation on the shift to virtual sex work, as Beyonce name-dropped OnlyFans [Complex] and Blac Chyna [Tits and Sass] begins a docu-series [Metro] looking at people who have been doing well on the site.

Anti-porn groups are taking cues on using the same tactics for bringing down websites and really love hurting vulnerable people when they're down, with some organizations pushing for credit card companies to stop processing payments [Reason] to PornHub, who has recently been under fire for some of the content that gets uploaded to their site and their monopolistic business practices [Slate] which have led to a downward-trajectory of labor practices in the industry.

SCOTUS Hops on Zoom to talk Prostitution

This year has been a shocking docket for a Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS), which everyone is curious to watch. In order to try and continue their work amidst distancing orders, the Justices have moved onto telephonic hearings for the first time, and making live-streaming available to the public. Almost two weeks ago the Supreme Court heard what is hopefully the final round of the case of the anti-prostitution pledge [HIV Plus], a 2003 requirement in international HIV/AIDS funding which forces the organizations receiving funding to fight HIV to have an organizational policy against sex work. This is not the first time that SCOTUS will hear about this pledge – in 2013 the pledge was struck down as infringing on US-based groups' First Amendment/free speech rights. This time around, the case is involving international affiliates' requirement to have a policy. The decision should come down this summer.

Curious about the other potentially history-making SCOTUS cases?

June Medical is challenging a Louisiana law which created an unreasonably high standard for abortion clinics, and will cause several clinics to close completely. The Little Sisters case centers on the ability of an employer's healthcare plan to refuse to pay for birth control under a religious exemption [Vox]. Two cases were combined to decide whether or not the Federal protections against employment discrimination apply to LGBTQ people [NPR] (one plaintiff was fired for being gay, another, Aimee Stephens – who passed away this week [Washington Post] – was fired for being trans.) And two cases, one centering on a House of Representatives Committee's investigation, one stemming from a criminal case in New York, will look at the ability of other bodies of government to investigate the President [Newsweek] for crimes and misdoings.

Don't worry. SCOTUS is having the same problems as the rest of us, by the way. Justice Sotomayor keeps doing the equivalent of "Oh, sorry, I was muted, I do have a question." and someone else forgot to put on the mute button for this beautiful moment of humanity 🚽

Sexually Prurient? Court Says No.

This week a Wisconsin judge offered a good decision surrounded by not-thrilling language that said strip clubs are allowed to apply for the Paycheck Protection Program [Bloomberg Law], as they do not meet the legal limit on sexual prurient businesses. The SBA also confirmed that people who are self-employed are eligible for PPP.

Still Fighting, Still Coming Together

We're only a few short weeks away from this year's International Whores Day! To get updates, follow @IWDNYC and to sign up for the live-streaming event from NYC that day, check out the eventbrite here.

Back to the grind.