Sex Workers Have Their Own Heroes

Only adding to the canon of amazing sex worker representations which we've seen this year, Tina Horn and DC Comics released SFSX [THR], a comic book featuring a freedom-fighting sex worker.

And speaking of famous sex workers, Aileen Wournos is someone the mainstream probably didn't expect to become an icon, but as usual sex workers proved that civilians just don't get it [VICE]. I mean - have you heard of men?


On September 20, the next phase of the case challenging FOSTA/SESTA moved forward [Open Access Government] in court. The case was initially dismissed because the court said the plaintiffs were not the right groups or people to challenge the law (you can't challenge a law that won't affect you in court - it's called "having standing") but the plaintiffs, which include Human Rights Watch, Woodhull Freedom Foundation [Slixa] and Electronic Frontier Foundation, returned to say that the court applied an incorrect standard to determine if they have standing.

Liability and litigation against websites has continued, though. Last year 90 survivors of trafficking were the plaintiffs in a civil (not criminal) claim against Salesforce for providing data tools to Backpage. The judge hearing the case looks like he's about to dismiss the claim [Reason].

But despite the impact that the loss of these platforms have had on sex workers, the DOJ and DHS (DOJ took down Backpage, DHS took down Rentboy) have continued to investigate the websites [Gizmodo] which became more popular in the wake of losing those sites.

And websites have continued to go after sex workers all on their own, and Twitter has begun asking sex workers to verify [VICE] that they aren't bots by demanding phone numbers. The move hearkens back to just a few years ago when Facebook adopted its Real Name policy [Wikipedia].

Remember Those We've Lost

Sadly, the stories of sex workers who have become targets of violence are too common in the news and popular media, sometimes by a single individual. Trigger and content warnings for the ones below.

Showtime has just released a five-part series [Refinery29] on the Jeff Davis 8, eight women who were murdered by a serial killer in the Louisiana Parish of Jefferson Davis. The series is based on a book, Murder in the Bayou, which goes into details of the still-unsolved crime.

Northern Ireland was the latest country to legitimize the Nordic Model of criminalization where clients are penalized, implementing the practice in 2015. After several years of study there has been no change in trafficking, purchasing, or selling - but there have been in significant rises in violence and stigma against sex workers [].

Ed Buck was arrested and charged with "operating a drug house" [VICE] after a young man survived an overdose in his West Hollywood apartment. Buck, a wealthy Democratic donor, has long been known in the community to target Black men who are believed to have been engaged in transactional sex, and have them inject methamphetamine to the point of overdose. Two men, Gemmel Moore and Timothy Dean, passed away in Buck's apartment over the years but he has never faced more than vocal outcry from the local community.

And there is no way to talk about violence against sex workers without talking about violence against the trans community more broadly. With 18 deaths of trans women of color so far this year, the American Medical Association has called anti-trans violence an "epidemic." [NYT]  Earlier this month Pose star Indya Moore memorialized the 16 black trans women who had been killed [Teen Vogue] through her accessories at the Fashion Media Awards, including a purse with the image of 17 year old Bailey Reeves. Elizabeth Warren also brought the issue forward, naming all 18 women in her opening remarks [ABC News] at the LGBTQ Presidential forum held on the 20th.

So Much on the Horizon!

On October 17, DC's DecrimNOW Campaign is getting a City Council hearing on a bill to fully decriminalize sex work in the District of Columbia. It will certainly bring out amazing advocates and allies to share their voices in front of the Council, and the hearing itself will be a huge moment for celebration in the push for sex workers right in the United States.

On October 8, the Supreme Court will hear three cases on employment discrimination against LGBTQ people [Newsweek]. The cases are on whether an employee can be fired for sexual orientation (two different cases, which will be heard together) and gender identity (which will be heard after), a major issue for many queer folks.

Will They/Won't They?

On October 10, CNN and Human Rights Campaign will host a Presidential town hall on LGBTQ Issues [CNN]. While decriminalization holds overwhelming support with LGBTQ  organizations, it is not clear if there will be a question on the topic of sex work, or the repeal of FOSTA/SESTA. At the Presidential forum on LGBTQ issues that was held in Iowa on September 20, the issue was called into the room when a protester shouted "End FOSTA/SESTA! Protect trans sex workers!" [] during an answer on gun violence from Sen. Amy Klobuchar. It was a wise choice, as Sen. Klobuchar was the Senate sponsor of last year's trafficking legislation which included numerous references to employing "end demand" techniques to increase policing of the sex trade.

And apparently we're impeaching the motherfucker already. Lord almighty. Back to the grind.


Read more Kate's Account columns here.