the uncovering
October 30, 2017 10:29 PM   Subscribe

Patreon moves to restrict adult content on its crowdfunding site. Patreon’s Discriminatory Porn Policy Hurts Creators Who Need the Most Protection. The real consequences of Patreon's adult content crackdown. So what now? [LINKS MAY HAVE NSFW CONTENT FROM THIS POINT ON] Patreon Hears The Hoofbeats Of #Pornocalypse.

Adult Content Creators: Patreon Is Doing ‘the Exact Opposite of What We Asked For’

To Survive The Pornocalypse: Share Our Shit Saturdays (#SoSS)
Such as: worrying about how the free and independent open web (which means, those of us whose stuff is on our own domains and servers, not on some “free” social media site or blogging/picture service that can change the rules without notice) are going to survive long enough that we’ll still be here when the rubble stops bouncing. Because this shit cannot last. Blockchain tech and peer-to-peer and strong crypto and supercomputers in every pocket and software radios strong enough to bounce streaming video off of hobbyist drone balloons in the jet stream and more awesome cryptoanarchist shit of that sort that I’m too old and slow to understand: it’s not just coming, it’s already here, it’s just not been patched together properly yet. And when that happens, Facebook is dead. PayPal, Visa, Mastercard? Dead. Patreon and all the other crowdfunding middlemen? Dead. Twitter and Google? Dead. Oh, we’ll have things that look like social media and payments and search and crowdfunding, but they won’t be gatekeepers, they won’t be censors, and they won’t suck more than a microfraction out of any transaction. Because if they try, they’ll be ignored and replaced in real time.
Sex blogger SOS: Share Our Shit
However, when platforms like this strip ‘adult’ from their services, they are banking on the fact that you won’t care. That it won’t make a difference to you because adult content is embarrassing and shameful: no one’s going to share a link to their favourite porn site, or their favourite bit of erotic writing, so really who’s going to notice if all that shit disappears?

I’ll notice, gang. I will notice. And I hope you will too.

So here’s my SOS: share our shit.
An Open Letter to Patreon
We’re writing you today both as adult creators and concerned individuals about free, legal, expression. We’re deeply disappointed in your handling of clarity with regards to adult content on your platform, and the mixed messages we have been receiving. Not only that, the most vulnerable among us – disproportionately queer, trans, disabled, people of color and those whose first language is not English – are literally scared for our lives. After hard-won fandoms finally supporting us on Patreon, just one missed payment can mean homelessness.

Over the last couple years we have been courted by you, worked closely with you on promotion, creation, and even website features, and have been assured by you that Patreon was a home for all types of creators – including those that make adult content. And it’s been well reported that you were ending “payments discrimination against adult content” – something you proudly confirmed to us in email and behind the scenes in one on one messages with your employees.

However, there has always been an issue with your stance on “porn” versus “adult content.”
prior:
#Pornocalypse Comes To FetLife
#Pornocalypse Comes to Twitter
back in August:
The Women Who Sell Nudes On Patreon - "An erotic modeling micro-economy is growing on the crowdfunding platform"
posted by the man of twists and turns (77 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
 
Huh. Maybe I’m just behind the times w/r/t “sex positivity” and however we’re using that term these days, but I find myself surprisingly okay with Patreon making a distinction between paying people for sex education content (allowed) and paying people to perform sex acts on cam (not allowed).
posted by Catseye at 1:42 AM on October 31 [8 favorites]


This is really shitty. Sex workers as it is already have a hard time finding regular income especially when payment processors are overly cautious and block them from every avenue. In the early days of Patreon Jack Conte made a big deal about adult entertainment & sex work being okay (a friend was part of the push to make it so) and now they've gone against their word.
posted by divabat at 1:54 AM on October 31 [26 favorites]


On one hand, I support the right of a private company to make wholly arbitrary decisions on who to allow and block on their platform, and to arbitrarily change the rules on the fly. This is how we can, for example, get rid of nazi infestations on social media platforms (ignoring, for the moment, the infuriating ineffectiveness of said platforms at actually getting this done, but that's another story).

On the other hand, fuck puritanism. This sort of bait-and-switch with potential repercussions for a group of users who are in a particularly precarious position doesn't sit right with me. They're within their rights to do it, sure, but that doesn't mean they should. How the rules are actually enforced remains to be seen, and I hope it won't turn out badly in the end, but I sure wouldn't want to live with this kind uncertainty.

(Also, as someone living in a country with a functioning social safety net, "sex work as the only alternative to homelessness" being a thing in a developed country in the first place, as indicated in the linked articles, is fucking doubleplushorrifying. Sex work if you have a choice? Great! If you don't? *shudder*. Sex work being the only recourse for anybody but a victim of human trafficking in a rich country like the US of A is outrageous beyond belief.)
posted by jklaiho at 2:44 AM on October 31 [22 favorites]


I have a friend who used to camgirl and made enough money from that venture to escape an abusive life out in the countryside, put herself through college, and was able to seek out the mental health services that she needed

like mentioned above, this isn't just some 'sex positivity' thing. the people who resort to performing sex work in an underground economy tend to be those who are already vulnerable - they risk engaging with folks who can harass and intimidate them through unchecked stalking in order to make a living for themselves that doesn't require them to be abused by bad managers and a ridiculously low minimum wage

before y'all leap to some high horse conclusion about who sex workers are and how they operate, fix the society that has failed women like these in a million different ways. like jklaiho said, sex work when you have a choice is an ideal. but we don't live in that society where we can talk about sex positivity as a concern out weighing class, race, and gender constructs yet
posted by runt at 4:34 AM on October 31 [33 favorites]


The fact that those conditions exist pushing people into sex work makes it difficult to be sex positive, however - nobody should be forced into it, and at present, so many are.
posted by Dysk at 4:46 AM on October 31 [4 favorites]


The best way for sex workers to stay safe is for them to have as much control over clients, acts and money as possible - for instance, via the ability to crowd-fund cam sessions.

I am as likely to fund a cam session or an "erotic movie" as I am to sprout wings and fly off the top of the Foshay Tower, but at this point, I know four people (and those are just the ones who've talked about it) for whom sex work has been the only way they kept any money coming in for extended periods, because either class/lack of education and qualifications or disability kept them from doing anything else. And of course, we all know how great the US is about helping unemployed or disabled people*.

I personally am going to write to Patreon. A crack-down on something fundamentally safe and worker controlled like cam work or movies is just going to push people into less safe kinds of sex work, because banning sex work does not put food on anyone's table or rent in their bank accounts. People have to live, and when you withhold one means of living they find another.

*Every time anyone brings up, eg, the Swedish model or whatever, and goes all "criminalize johns, not sex workers", I always follow up with "and how are the sex workers going to get money to live, what is your plan for that" and they very seldom have one and did not appear to have one in so-famous Sweden, either.
posted by Frowner at 5:17 AM on October 31 [29 favorites]


Dysk: It is more important than ever to remain sex positive in the face of people who have been forced into sex work. Sex positivity isn't just "sex is good!" It's also "sex doesn't taint you, it doesn't poison you, being a sex worker doesn't make you less of a person, no matter whether you did it for fun or because it was either that or starve."

It's making space for people so they can get out of sex work and become, say, a teacher, without having to live in fear of it coming back to haunt them. Fuck, or any other job! I was only in the peripheral of the industry (I used to sell sex toys and porn) and I just couldn't get people to hire me I spent a lot of time trying to get a different job and no-one would touch me with a barge pole despite my job being basically retail and not really much by way of sex at all. I can only imagine how impossible it is to get past that stigma for people doing full contact work.

It's making sex work no different from any other labor, so your kids won't be stigmatized for the cam work you did when they were a baby, and so you can rent a decent house to keep them in without landlords blackballing you because you have an income that comes from the sex industry. It's being able to go to a doctor and get checked for disease without fear of being treated poorly, and getting the same medical care when you need it as anyone else.

Sex positivity is just as much about allowing people in the industry the capacity to leave as it is legitimizing the work itself.
posted by Jilder at 5:19 AM on October 31 [64 favorites]


"and how are the sex workers going to get money to live, what is your plan for that" and they very seldom have one and did not appear to have one in so-famous Sweden, either.

Sweden has a pretty comprehensive welfare state, so they have actually answered that one. Not that there aren't other problems with the Swedish model, but this particular criticism doesn't really hold.
posted by Dysk at 5:25 AM on October 31 [2 favorites]


Also, you know what? A worker is a worker. This is a platform problem. "Whoops, suddenly you can't make a living because the people who control the platform have decided that you are a Bad Person" is something that should concern all of us. People always pick off the "immoral" workers before coming for the rest of the working class, because no one cares. What happens when there's a real socialist movement in this country, for instance, and Patreon decides to ban socialist content? Or if the Patreon staff try to go union and the Patreon management starts picking off pro-union content providers? Platforms are like shopping malls in that they should be treated as public space because that's where public stuff happens now.

Also also, perhaps you have noticed a sharp turn to the right in this country? Platform providers turning rightward should give us all the fucking creeps.
posted by Frowner at 5:26 AM on October 31 [38 favorites]


Sweden has a pretty comprehensive welfare state, so they have actually answered that one. Not that there aren't other problems with the Swedish model, but this particular criticism doesn't really hold.

Then why didn't they track what happened to the women, many of whom seem to have been migrants in any case? (As far as I can tell from reading up on it, they didn't bother to find out where those women went - which is how you play it when you think nothing good will happen, just as with the end of welfare in the US, where they were supposed to follow up with what happened to people and willfully did not) And I've read several articles about anti-sex worker stigma and how easy it is to drift to the bottom of the economic ladder as an ex-sex-worker in the Scandinavian countries - you won't be homeless, yes, but that doesn't mean that being basically unemployable and marginalized is especially fun. You would think that it would be a big success story - "we stopped the selling of sex, and now all these women are programmers and teachers' aids and have gone back to school, we do the best things for women!!"
posted by Frowner at 5:30 AM on October 31 [11 favorites]


Every time anyone brings up, eg, the Swedish model or whatever, and goes all "criminalize johns, not sex workers", I always follow up with "and how are the sex workers going to get money to live, what is your plan for that" and they very seldom have one and did not appear to have one in so-famous Sweden, either.

Well I can't speak for the plans of the people you're speaking to, but exit services for prostituted women to help them build a new life outside prostitution is actually fundamental part of the Nordic model from so-famous Sweden, as advocated for by organisations like SPACE International made up of former 'sex workers' (which I put in inverted commas because they do not describe themselves as such, I'm aware others do).

I don't think having problems with prostitution is a fundamentally right-wing thing, although there are those on the right against it. [Insert jibe here about all too many politicians on the right being just peachy with it in their personal lives.] There are plenty of us on the left with feminist, anti-capitalist objections.
posted by Catseye at 5:31 AM on October 31 [7 favorites]


(A side note because I know this is a bit of a derail- in the US at least, appeals to the Swedish approach are pretty much the property of conservative feminists who quite literally refuse to listen to sex workers who were not trafficked and who feel that state crack-downs on prostitution are going to hurt them. (As in, quite literally refuse to listen to those specific people.) The only US feminists I've met who are pro-Swedish model (which is how they refer to it) have zero interest in what happens to the sex workers after there is no sex work, especially if you ask them what will happen to specific sex workers that, for instance, you actually know. They are only interested in how the sale of sex "degrades" all women, whether sellers or not. At best, they hand-wave a little about helping women "exit" but because there is no social safety net here, that means patched together hand-outs from non-profits, not rent and food. It has always seemed to me that in the US, the first step has nothing to do with actual sex work, the first step is worker rights and a safety net, because no one is going to leave a paying job to be homeless on the street if they can possibly stick it out. I admit that I have an irrational hostility to the Swedish model because I've heard it used as a stick to beat my friends so often.)
posted by Frowner at 5:44 AM on October 31 [26 favorites]


What happens when there's a real socialist movement in this country, for instance, and Patreon decides to ban socialist content? Or if the Patreon staff try to go union and the Patreon management starts picking off pro-union content providers? Platforms are like shopping malls in that they should be treated as public space because that's where public stuff happens now.

Since you went in a slippery slope-ish direction with this, have you really thought hard about the "public space" argument? I can see similar slippery slopes where obligating service providers to allow things on their platform that they otherwise wouldn't due to them being "public spaces" would increase the amount of hateful content on them, for example. The plausibility of this scenario depends on who's crafting the obligations, and in the current U.S. political climate allowing someone currently in power to do so doesn't seem like a good idea.

I don't claim to have any real answers here, FWIW. It's a complicated question.
posted by jklaiho at 5:45 AM on October 31 [1 favorite]


What happens when there's a real socialist movement in this country, for instance, and Patreon decides to ban socialist content? Or if the Patreon staff try to go union and the Patreon management starts picking off pro-union content providers? Platforms are like shopping malls in that they should be treated as public space because that's where public stuff happens now.

Firstly, shopping malls are not public spaces, they're almost always privately owned. Secondly, Patreon is not a public utility or a non-profit collective, it's a private business backed by over 100 million dollars in venture capital. They're allowed to decide what they want to sell and what services they want to provide.
posted by Fidel Cashflow at 5:56 AM on October 31 [5 favorites]


I personally know a bunch of burlesque performers (who also create sexy content for Patreon like videos and photo sets) who will be directly negatively affected by this. None have been forced into sex work, but it is definitely part of how they make their living. What they do harms absolutely no one, but they will almost certainly lose significant income from this. It really sucks, particularly because Patreon has happily taken their money up until now.
posted by merriment at 6:28 AM on October 31 [7 favorites]


My feeling about big platforms (and big shopping malls, like Mall of America) is that they reflect an increasing and harmful privatization of social life, and that this ought to be addressed legislatively. If you actually have, like, the agora or the plaza and everyone can go there and stand on a soapbox and act like a loon (or not act like a loon) you have a venue for public expression that means something. If the agora is just you and the ducks and everyone is at the mall, something important has happened.

Honestly, I'm not sure how to regulate big platforms like Facebook, Patreon, etc, but I feel that because such a massive chunk of popular expression happens on them, it's bad for society to let their standards be determined by a small group of unaccountable rich people.

And that's where I'd stand on the "but what about the fascists, shouldn't they get to be on Patreon" thing, too. I don't know exactly where it's healthy to draw the line about what can be expressed, but I am confident that it shouldn't be done arbitrarily by venture capitalists.

(Even with paper printing, most people with relative determination could print and distribute a zine or a pamphlet or a newsletter when print was how most people read. (I produced zines in the nineties - there are still zines, there are still small presses, but the kind of zine economy that existed in the 90s - where there was relatively regular publication by amateurs of relatively high-quality material in a relatively durable format that was distributed consistently over a large area and sold in stores so that it was accessible to a random audience - has mostly shifted to the web. Which is fine! Better in many ways! But also brings new challenges. )
posted by Frowner at 6:42 AM on October 31 [25 favorites]


Ive been kicked off gumroad, kicked off selz, had my social media profiles suppressed, and I’m not surprised to see it start happening on Patreon (though as a digital artist I’ve been spared, for now). It will probably happen to itch.io too, eventually.

Banks and paypal are allergic to products for adults—not just porn but it’s also a problem if you want to sell wine or cigarettes on the internet. Reason? You can’t reliably age-verify on the internet. There’s no way to prove a minor didn’t use their parent’s credit card or PayPal to buy your porn. That makes every transaction legally ambiguous.

Let it be known, if PayPal and banks were not scared of the legal ambiguity, or if there were a way to reliably and easily age-verify on the internet, a lot of porn creators would not need to use patreon/itch/etc because they could just set up their own little PayPal transaction button and be set. Here’s my thing, give me my money!

This is also why a lot of porn sites use weird and annoying alternatives like the porn being free but having tons of annoying ads and pop-ups. Or selling a membership and not the thing itself (though banks are starting to hate this too). Or using things like ccbill, which requires a hefty royalty as “risky business” insurance and instead of using credit cards, requires the consumer enter their bank acct/routing number.

So if you can think of a way of doing $$$ transactions on the internet that reliably and accurately age-verify, then feel free to reap the benefits of creating a permanent home for indie porn. It’s not like there’s no demand for non-sleazy, non-annoying ways of acquiring legal porn.
posted by alexlaw at 6:44 AM on October 31 [18 favorites]


What happens when there's a real socialist movement in this country, for instance, and Patreon decides to ban socialist content?

What happens when the Nazis and the MRAs decide to dominate Patreon the way they did Twitter and Facebook and Patreon decides to ban them?
posted by happyroach at 6:45 AM on October 31 [3 favorites]


In the early days of Patreon Jack Conte made a big deal about adult entertainment & sex work being okay (a friend was part of the push to make it so) and now they've gone against their word.

Anyone who’s ever dealt with payment processors and the credit card companies knows this was a promise they were never going to be able to keep. Which is shitty.

There are payment processors who will work with porn (obviously), but it might be that the rates and restrictions are such that Patreon thinks it would blow up the rest of their business. Of course they’re not transparent about any of it. Without any insider or further knowledge, my guess would be that they used sex workers and NSFW content to grow the platform (because that’s a market that needed a home) and then, when they didn’t need them anymore, started to worry about liability. And they knew that at some point their payment processor would drop the hammer.

Again, this sucks. And it will continue to suck as long as big companies are worried about liability surrounding sex work and money laundering. I don’t think there’s an easy fix here.

But Patreon’s bait and switch is particularly shitty.
posted by schadenfrau at 6:47 AM on October 31 [19 favorites]


but I am confident that it shouldn't be done arbitrarily by venture capitalists.

I don't think this is done arbitrarily by venture capitalists, it's probably done to have more reach into areas where this stuff is outlawed and have more banking and finance options as the business grows.

If you expect an amoral business in a capitalist system to be your champion for whatever cause you're concerned about these days, prepare to be disappointed.
posted by FakeFreyja at 6:49 AM on October 31 [2 favorites]


(Also, in re "what about the fascists": venture capital likes fascists. As we know from recent exposes, some venture capitalists have close personal ties to fascists. What I observe of big platforms is that they are friendly to the right and consistently hostile to/censoring of the left, feminists, socialists, etc. Censorship on big platforms hits the left much harder than the right, because the right is the natural ally of capital.)
posted by Frowner at 6:50 AM on October 31 [17 favorites]


What happens when the Nazis and the MRAs decide to dominate Patreon the way they did Twitter and Facebook and Patreon decides to ban them?

I don't know, is Carl Benjamin's patreon still up? Last I heard he was making $5,000 a month off of it for harassing women.
posted by dinty_moore at 6:54 AM on October 31 [4 favorites]


I have a friend who was impacted by this and it sucks.

Pushing sex workers further to the margins is reprehensible.
posted by Annika Cicada at 7:01 AM on October 31 [5 favorites]


I can see similar slippery slopes where obligating service providers to allow things on their platform that they otherwise wouldn't due to them being "public spaces" would increase the amount of hateful content on them, for example.

Twitter added code so that they could serve content to German IPs without blocking Nazi account. The argument from "what if Nazis show up" falls apart when the Nazis have already showed up and in fact by and large are quite popular. "Someone might want to ban Nazis and not be able to" is a concern entirely orthogonal to "hegemonic centralized platforms need to be accountable somehow or else we are ceding vast control of our lives to them."
posted by PMdixon at 7:03 AM on October 31 [8 favorites]


Firstly, shopping malls are not public spaces, they're almost always privately owned. Secondly, Patreon is not a public utility or a non-profit collective, it's a private business backed by over 100 million dollars in venture capital. They're allowed to decide what they want to sell and what services they want to provide.

You are right, they are allowed to be shitty humans. And I am allowed to criticize them.
posted by Annika Cicada at 7:06 AM on October 31 [17 favorites]


You are right, they are allowed to be shitty humans. And I am allowed to criticize them.

And more than that! You're allowed to discuss their shittiness with others. In fact, you're even allowed to organize with others to try and prevent this shittiness!

Spare me this "private property whatcha gonna do" BS.
posted by PMdixon at 7:10 AM on October 31 [13 favorites]


Spare me this "private property whatcha gonna do" BS.

In fairness it was a direct response to a comment characterising them as public spaces, not necessarily an endorsement of their actions.
posted by Dysk at 7:15 AM on October 31 [2 favorites]


it was a passive observation of a fact, yes.
posted by Annika Cicada at 7:18 AM on October 31 [3 favorites]


it's bad for society to let their standards be determined by a small group of unaccountable rich people.

What seems to have a significant effect on corporate behavior these days is outrage from the left; more of an effect than I would have thought possible just a few years ago. As amoral and profit-driven a corporation is by its very nature, enough bad PR is bad for business, and they're forced to respond somehow. If the response isn't good enough, there's more cricitism, until something substantive happens. If things don't really change underneath the surface, that comes out eventually, and the cycle starts again.

The cumulative effects of outrage got Kalanick fired from Uber, for example. Or Preston-Werner from GitHub. I believe all this criticism against Patreon, if it's sustained and widespread enough, can actually achieve something. The right has a hold on capital, but the power of the left's hold on outrage (and prominent media outlets amplifying this outrage) should not be underestimated. This seems particularly effective against Silicon Valley corporations, most of whom want to appear liberal-friendly (and maintaining this requires eventually acting on liberal criticism), irrespective of what sort of ideas the people in charge actually hold. Change may not be quick (new bosses may be much the same as the old bosses, up to a point), but it's happening.

It's similar to how much of an effect sexual harassment revelations are starting to have. Careers are legitimately being destroyed over this now, I couldn't be happier about that, and it looks like we're just beginning to see the effects of this.
posted by jklaiho at 7:20 AM on October 31 [5 favorites]


Banks and paypal are allergic to products for adults—not just porn but it’s also a problem if you want to sell wine or cigarettes on the internet. Reason? You can’t reliably age-verify on the internet. There’s no way to prove a minor didn’t use their parent’s credit card or PayPal to buy your porn. That makes every transaction legally ambiguous.

Huh, that's interesting. For some reason I had always assumed that pornography and gambling generated a much larger than average number of chargebacks so that's why the banks avoided it. I remember arguing for a few minutes with my bank about letting me send a few hundred to a poker site before realizing it was futile.
posted by ODiV at 7:21 AM on October 31 [3 favorites]


The right has a hold on capital, but the power of the left's hold on outrage (and prominent media outlets amplifying this outrage) should not be underestimated.

I appreciate 'the left' is a very broad umbrella, but I don't think "how dare this private company refuse to treat porn and prostitution as markets of purchasable commodities in which all can happily trade, as capitalism decrees it should!" is gonna be the most compelling rallying cry for many of us, to be honest.
posted by Catseye at 7:31 AM on October 31 [7 favorites]


I appreciate 'the left' is a very broad umbrella, but I don't think "how dare this private company refuse to treat porn and prostitution as markets of purchasable commodities in which all can happily trade, as capitalism decrees it should!" is gonna be the most compelling rallying cry for many of us, to be honest.

You may be right, but it's hard to say in advance which causes gather the critical mass required to shake things up and which ones don't. We'll see what happens. The comment was a subjective expression of my careful optimism about a larger phenomenon, but I don't mean to suggest that Liberals Writing Angry Medium Posts would be some sort of panacea against shitty corporations being shitty. But it's not nothing.
posted by jklaiho at 7:37 AM on October 31


"how dare this private company refuse to treat porn and prostitution as markets of purchasable commodities in which all can happily trade, as capitalism decrees it should!"

My perception is that there's a strain of feminism which centers sex work as uniquely bad for women, and bad for women not because of the conditions of labor but because sex work itself is degrading in a philosophical sense, such that not only can we not envision sex work which wouldn't degrade women but that it is much, much worse than other labor that degrades women. So it's much worse to be a cam girl making a good wage for less than full time work than to be a chicken processor working eighty hours a week for sub-minimum wage. In this view, as I understand it, the "choice" to be a chicken processor is more fully a choice and more legitimate than the choice to be a cam girl.

This does not at all match up with the conversations I've had with sex workers or even with people engaged in survival sex, which is why I absolutely reject the idea that a good starting point for anti-capitalism is putting all the sex workers out of a job. If anyone is to be allowed to sell anything at all, I absolutely reject the idea that cam girls, who control the conditions under which they work, should be bounced in the name of anti-capitalism.

Sex work is the one field in which non-credentialed women can sometimes actually make good money and control their working conditions, the one field with very low barriers to entry, but it gets singled out as the belly of the capitalist beast, not chicken processing or trafficked domestic workers or any of the other places where women are marginalized and degraded. I find this weird.
posted by Frowner at 7:58 AM on October 31 [40 favorites]


The argument from "what if Nazis show up" falls apart when the Nazis have already showed up and in fact by and large are quite popular. "Someone might want to ban Nazis and not be able to" is a concern entirely orthogonal to "hegemonic centralized platforms need to be accountable somehow or else we are ceding vast control of our lives to them."

I fully agree that some degree of accountability is necessary, but what shape does it take? Germany has robust anti-nazi laws and is a large enough market for Twitter to have to give a shit. That's hard accountability. Then there's soft accountability, which is largely driven by shaming and public criticism. Giving a shit is technically optional in that case (it becomes a PR problem rather than a legal one), and I assume it's not an effective enough kind of accountability for either of us.

My point was, I'm afraid of what hard accountability imposed platform-wide on a U.S.-based corporation would look like, when the current crop of U.S. legislators capable of actually imposing it may produce something that makes things worse than they are now. Currently, Patreon at least has the ability to curtail hateful elements, even if their will to do so is currently lacking (and I can only hope that harsh criticism guides their hand in the right direction here). Introduce something like free speech legislation on private companies due to them being the new public sphere, then yes, you'd protect adult content producers, but you'd be protecting hateful speech at the same time.

I do not trust U.S. legislators to be able or willing to produce the sort of hard accountability that would actually end up being a net positive for vulnerable people in need of protection on Patreon and elsewhere, not for a fucking second.
posted by jklaiho at 8:06 AM on October 31


As an aside, Graphtreon has statistics about Patreon campaigns.
posted by primal at 8:09 AM on October 31 [3 favorites]


You are right, they are allowed to be shitty humans. And I am allowed to criticize them.

And more than that! You're allowed to discuss their shittiness with others. In fact, you're even allowed to organize with others to try and prevent this shittiness!

Spare me this "private property whatcha gonna do" BS.


I didn't say anything about your right to think it's shitty or discuss it's shittiness with others. I encourage anyone who thinks this is shitty to take their business elsewhere and stop supporting Patreon. By all means, band together and start an adult content payment platform if you think that's the solution.

What I think borders on ridiculous is the idea that Pateron owes it to anyone to process credit card payments related to adult services or is forcing anyone in to homelessness like that absurd open letter seems to imply.
posted by Fidel Cashflow at 8:24 AM on October 31 [2 favorites]


What I think borders on ridiculous is the idea that Pateron owes it to anyone to process credit card payments related to adult services or is forcing anyone in to homelessness like that absurd open letter seems to imply.

Two things:

1. Patreon not owing anybody anything is correct, but that's not the point. To continue or not continue to allow adult content is a choice that they're free to make, but it's a choice that's completely open for critical discussion, which is what's happening here.
2. The words "bait and switch" have been mentioned a couple times now. They created a platform that (among others) adult content producers could use, many of whom are in precarious situations and have become reliant on that income over time. If they take it away now, it has real consequences, including the real possibility of homelessness for some of the creators with a hard reliance on Patreon for their income. Again, they have the right to do so, but if they do, people have every right to criticize them over it (and even just the possibility of it, since it's unclear now what will actually happen).
posted by jklaiho at 8:33 AM on October 31 [6 favorites]


I do not trust U.S. legislators to be able or willing to produce the sort of hard accountability that would actually end up being a net positive for vulnerable people in need of protection on Patreon and elsewhere, not for a fucking second

Legit. The problem tho is that 'soft' accountability in your terms can never prevent broadly popular actions that are bad for marginalized people, more or less by definition. And that seems to be the situation here. Other people's explications of what I would call virtue feminism do a good job drawing out why it's not as if there's a popular outcry to be had here.

I encourage anyone who thinks this is shitty to take their business elsewhere and stop supporting Patreon

I'd rather see the content producers have a right of action for breach of contract here, thanks. It turns out that unless you have a lot of them voting with your dollars doesn't work.
posted by PMdixon at 8:45 AM on October 31 [3 favorites]


My perception is that there's a strain of feminism which centers sex work as uniquely bad for women, and bad for women not because of the conditions of labor but because sex work itself is degrading in a philosophical sense, such that not only can we not envision sex work which wouldn't degrade women but that it is much, much worse than other labor that degrades women.

Kind of, although you seem to be positioning this as a strain of feminism that is separate from and knows little about the reality of 'sex workers' and their lives and the industry they exist in, rather than a form which not only engages with but is often driven by those very same women and their very personal experience of the conditions of labour under which they lived. What moved me, personally, from a very liberal "hey it's not for me, but who am I to say anything against other people's lives?" view on prostitution and related industries was not a detached philosophy on sex, but rather hearing more about abolitionist activism from women who had been in prostitution themselves, particularly organisations like SPACE International and authors like Rachel Moran.

So yeah I am not going to claim that all forms of 'sex work' are uniquely bad for all and every woman engaged in them (I think it's fairly reasonable to suggest that someone e.g. doing cam-work is in a very different position than someone working in a brothel anyway). But I have learned too much about what the industry is like for very many of the people in it to be the gung-ho liberal "well isn't this just like working in the shitty minimum-wage jobs I've done myself, if you think about it?" any more.

Also I'm a feminist and not a capitalist and so I am just never going to be truly on board with access to women's bodies being a commodity for men to purchase. Nor do I feel that any individual woman (or anybody!) feeling happy with her work means the industry surrounding her becomes benign, or requires me as a left-wing feminist type to fight for that industry's survival on moral grounds at the expense of all those who are suffering at its hands, either directly or in a more diffuse sense from growing up in a world where this is normalised. Nah.

(That said I don't think Patreon is coming at this particular issue from a pro-feminist or pro-anything-other-than-its-profits view. I just can't get behind opposing them on pro-feminist or leftist etc grounds either. It's a private company choosing to engage with or not engage with a particular form of trade, capitalists gonna capitalist.)
posted by Catseye at 8:52 AM on October 31 [13 favorites]


it's much worse to be a cam girl making a good wage for less than full time work than to be a chicken processor working eighty hours a week for sub-minimum wage.

I think, if all barriers to the field were lowered, feminists might be more worried about women ending up as commoditized as the chickens.
posted by amtho at 9:00 AM on October 31 [5 favorites]


I'd rather see the content producers have a right of action for breach of contract here, thanks.

What's the contract? They don't have any contract with Patreon, so they don't have any breach of contract. I'm no lawyer but even I know that contracts need consideration.

The words "bait and switch" have been mentioned a couple times now.

But it's not a 'bait and switch'. A 'bait and switch' is a sales tactic where you advertise one thing and sell another. It's not a business overtly communicating a decision about what content they chose to support. You may not like it, but it's definitely not a bait and switch.

If they take it away now, it has real consequences, including the real possibility of homelessness for some of the creators with a hard reliance on Patreon for their income

The idea that Patreon is the only way to sell adult services online should be laughed out of the room. There are many adult payment processors they're just not a convenient or popular as Patreon.
posted by Fidel Cashflow at 9:08 AM on October 31 [3 favorites]


Okay, let me wrap my head around this: the claim is that there are people who have no other way to support themselves other than sex work and folks are angry that Patreon doesn't want to support that economy themselves. Is Patreon also going to be expected to be able to distinguish between people who are supporting themselves vs. people who are being exploited by others? There's a lot of skeeviness out there, and there will be people who test those boundries, just because they can1.

Maintaining a service that is open to a wide audience is hard, and there are tons of ethical issues, both internal and external, to navigate. I can't blame Patreon for steering clear of this market. I think they in general do a lot of good, and they shouldn't be required to sacrifice themselves to help compensate for wider societal problems.

1anecdote: we had a "no weapons" policy2 at thingiverse pretty much from the beginning, but didn't really enforce it tightly until the Defense Distributed asshole popped up and started posting automatic rifle parts. when we took the parts down, we got a lot of the usual "authoritarian suppression of speech" bullshit that you usually get from boundry-testing trolls. anyway, going forward we had to be much more hardline about that stuff, because we can't have nice things. that fun fact: that person went on to found Hatreon, because awful people are awful!

2we also had a no dongs policy, which led to this
posted by phooky at 9:13 AM on October 31 [10 favorites]


Huh, that's interesting. For some reason I had always assumed that pornography and gambling generated a much larger than average number of chargebacks so that's why the banks avoided it.

I wouldn’t be surprised if that were also a factor, plus many other issues, including the morality/political issues being discussed in this thread. It’s just my experience as an artist who makes adult-themed things sometimes, when I was looking for vendors for my work, the main thing that would come up was that porn creators and indie wine/beer startups seemed to commiserate in the same woes—accounts being frozen by PayPal (and vendors that use PayPal/credit cards) upon discovering their business, vendors making sudden changes in their policy, and so on. Alcohol can kind of get by if they require age-verification upon delivery. But it’s one of the reasons there’s not as much barrier to selling/buying porn or alcohol with a credit card in a physical store, because you show your ID and your face to the cashier.

I’m not as familiar with laws regarding cam girls/models but they might be the most vulnerable in that there is just more legal red tape surrounding real people vs drawn images or text.
posted by alexlaw at 9:19 AM on October 31 [2 favorites]


I think, if all barriers to the field were lowered, feminists might be more worried about women ending up as commoditized as the chickens.

I don't understand this. In what way are chicken processors not commoditized? This line of reasoning only makes sense if you are either implying that far more women would choose to do sex work if only there were no barriers to entry and that this would be, like, totally stupid of them or that sex work is uniquely bad for women, and that sex workers occupy the same position as chickens, so that being a chicken processor represents relative freedom and choice, but being a cam girl is a huge mistake that involves becoming entirely helpless and fungible.

One reason I dislike a lot of the non-sex-worker conversation around sex work is that it always positions sex workers and sex workers alone as stupid and helpless victims, haplessly commoditized because they don't understand that sex work is Very Bad Indeed, despite receiving many messages to this effect from society. So secretaries and janitors and nursing home aides and in-home carers and check-out clerks and marijuana processors and every other feminized worker in an exploited and fungible position isn't commoditized, makes a rational and socially acceptable rather than coerced choice and should be taken at her word when she talks about her working conditions, but sex workers alone should be consistently doubted.
posted by Frowner at 9:20 AM on October 31 [16 favorites]


Unless you're saying that more sex workers would drop wages, which is probably true since it seems to have happened in the mainstream porn industry. But if anything that's an argument for an association of sex workers along the lines of Actors' Equity.
posted by Frowner at 9:28 AM on October 31 [4 favorites]


I encourage anyone who thinks this is shitty to take their business elsewhere and stop supporting Patreon

IANAL. TINLA. IHBT. IHL. HAND.

Google "implicit contract" and "promissory estoppel."
posted by PMdixon at 9:31 AM on October 31 [1 favorite]


But it's not a 'bait and switch'. A 'bait and switch' is a sales tactic where you advertise one thing and sell another. It's not a business overtly communicating a decision about what content they chose to support. You may not like it, but it's definitely not a bait and switch.

On Patreon.com one of their three arguments for using the service is "predictable income from your patrons means you can create on your terms. No strings attached."

It turns out there are indeed strings attached if you are an adult performer and you cannot create on your terms, but on their terms. Further, they just disrupted the predictable income of these performers after years of using them to generate that venture capital via growth. So...yeah, pretty bait-and-switchy to me.
posted by notorious medium at 9:36 AM on October 31 [8 favorites]


IANAL. TINLA. IHBT. IHL. HAND.

Google "implicit contract" and "promissory estoppel."


That's some fine Google-law there, but before you retain council I suggest you read Patreon's term of service, specifically the sections marked 'Indemnity' and 'Limit of Liability'.

On Patreon.com one of their three arguments for using the service is "predictable income from your patrons means you can create on your terms. No strings attached."

It turns out there are indeed strings attached if you are an adult performer and you cannot create on your terms, but on their terms


Are you really trying to argue that some advertising copy implies a promise that people can do whatever they want using Patreon? There is a term of service that your agree to. It's literally a big list of strings that are attached to your use of the site.
posted by Fidel Cashflow at 9:41 AM on October 31 [2 favorites]


Blame Visa (and MasterCard) as the culprits here, yet again. That was the reason for #Pornpocalypse for Fetlife, and nothing has changed since then.
Visa and Mastercard continue their self-appointed role as moral police of the Internet by blocking kink site Fetlife.
-EFF
posted by fragmede at 9:49 AM on October 31 [12 favorites]


Are you really trying to argue that some advertising copy implies a promise that people can do whatever they want using Patreon? There is a term of service that your agree to. It's literally a big list of strings that are attached to your use of the site.

The terms of use do not say that you cannot sell adult material - only that you must flag it as adult content. The restrictions are found in the sub-area Community Guidelines, recently revised.

That, and the terms and conditions are very clear in stating that "We only provide a platform for creators and patrons to interact. We do not screen or endorse any content on Patreon."

Which is to say, if one was to read the puffery, the Terms and Conditions of the site and look at who was using it until very recently, it would be reasonable for adult artists to conclude that Patreon is indeed a platform for creators to create content and find patrons. The bait.

Content, I might add, that since 2013 has been included in the growth numbers that Patreon used to secure financing and until recently was created by artist and purchased by patrons - aka, the switch.
posted by notorious medium at 10:17 AM on October 31 [6 favorites]


But it's not a 'bait and switch'. A 'bait and switch' is a sales tactic where you advertise one thing and sell another.

It is bait and switch; they have allowed this content for years, and now they are saying that their policies haven't changed: "A Patreon spokesperson has clarified that its stance hasn't changed, just the way it articulates the policy around pornography and other adult content." They're claiming this content was always not allowed, that those sites were always against the TOS and they're just now deciding to enforce it - as if sex work were a bare handful of Patreon accounts that just slipped under their attention for a while.

No, this is a very solid case of, "we want the porn while we're a startup, because wow is there money in porn, but now that we're financially stable, we want to throw out everything that makes the big banks unhappy."
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 10:27 AM on October 31 [13 favorites]


For some reason I had always assumed that pornography and gambling generated a much larger than average number of chargebacks so that's why the banks avoided it.

That's the common excuse. It's easy to understand; it's simple; it sounds nicely non-judgmental - we don't do that kind of business because it's not profitable enough. It's also bogus, especially these days, when chargebacks become a tax writeoff, and too many of them can get your card cancelled.

Age verification is a real concern, especially for physical sales. For much adult content, however, age verification is a weird thing: the laws about exactly what can be sold to minors are blurry. There are a few solid lines, but the difference between "art involving naked people" and "pornography" is very subjective. There is no legal definition of "pornography" in the US. (There is "obscene content," which has such a blurry definition that it's impossible to tell if something fits. And it's based on "community standards," not anything like a description of content.)

Age verification and legal content standards are both problems that could be addressed - maybe not easily, but effectively - by a combination of code, ID verification systems, and carefully-written, detailed content policies. But they don't want to fix these problems; they want erotica to be "that pervert stuff that decent people don't go near, and we know who the indecent people are by the fact that they're looking for it." Banks don't want porn money - or rather, they don't want it at the normal banking rates; if perverts are willing to pay twice as much as anyone else for their services, AND accept that they can be shut off at any time, then banks are willing to deal with them.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 10:42 AM on October 31 [3 favorites]


I think it's fairly reasonable to suggest that someone e.g. doing cam-work is in a very different position than someone working in a brothel anyway

I believe this is the topic at hand, correct? afaik, Patreon is not enabling prostitution and the gist of the argument about 'lefty feminism' is that the only reason they're shutting down cam-girling is due to sex-negative cultural values that, in this instance, also reinforce gender and class oppressions. I believe you were the first person to even mention the word 'prostitution' - and I would probably argue that being able to cam in your own home is a lot safer than being a bottle girl or dancer especially since that industry often intersects with human trafficking. taking Patreon away would remove the ability for a lot of the folks who are similarly engaged in this kind of labor to do it in the safety of their own home

It's a private company choosing to engage with or not engage with a particular form of trade, capitalists gonna capitalist.

is this that whole super idealistic 'there is no ethical consumption under capitalism' bull that young socialists and anarchists love spouting off? committed, sustained public pressure has changed corporate policies. not a whole lot and not in many instances but it works. folks like the Coalition of Immokalee Workers have demonstrated as much that liberation for them can be different for different folks. as the BLM organizers I know are fond of saying, we meet people where they are because liberation work is a long, long, long-term project and hearts and minds don't change from individual obstinacy. we should be so lucky as to have half the grace they do when they sit in on meetings the NAACP and all-white anti-racist groups
posted by runt at 11:14 AM on October 31 [3 favorites]


I'm astounded that Patreon allowed webcam sex performances at all. It opens you up to huge liabilities, both legal and moral. Legal, because it's very hard to verify age online and enabling child porn will get you into deep deep shit, and moral, because it's very hard to verify consent online. I don't think I'd be happy or satisfied saying '95 percent of our webcam Patreons were happy sex-positive workers! Only 5 percent were us enabling streamed rapes where they were in debt to Russian mobsters or because their boyfriends were going to beat the crap out of them otherwise.'

This is pretty much my issue with sex positivity in general. In theory I'm all in favor. If someone enjoys sex as a profession, it should be just the same as any job. The problem is that in real life, even in places where prostitution is legal and the society is all openminded and shit, like the Netherlands, it turns out you still get a lot of sex trafficking and abuse. To be blunt, I think the number of women (and men) who enjoy having sex with strangers and will actively choose it over equally remunerative non-sex jobs is a lot less than the volume of men (nearly always) who want to fuck them. Which means that it is going to be very hard to keep financial deprivation and criminal pressure out of the profession.
posted by tavella at 11:21 AM on October 31 [12 favorites]


Well, I guess I won't be pulling the trigger on my patreon for some of my stories, a variety of erotica which Jimmy Carr amusingly called "gentleman's literature for the discipline inclined". (Femdom, but a very Bettie Page meets Oxford vibe, rather than the femdom that focuses genital torture and extreme humiliation, a genre which makes me shudderingly uncomfortable.)

I realize that this ban is primarily focused on camgirls and videos, but it explicitly forbids using patreon money to fund websites where content they don't approve of appears, and that's the thing I find most problematic. What they are saying is that they want the ability to control what you do on your own website, if you take any patreon money. That is pure censorship, imho.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 11:30 AM on October 31 [4 favorites]


Not to abuse the edit window, let me clarify by saying: Patreon did not host any camgirls or video. Nothing, as far as I can tell, is actually hosted at Patreon. People link out to their content. Ergo, Patreon faces zero legal liability as they do not control the content.

Except now, they're claiming they have the right to control content on the website of their users.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 11:36 AM on October 31 [8 favorites]


I believe you were the first person to even mention the word 'prostitution'

Possibly, but in response to Frowner bringing up the Nordic model which is an abolitionist approach to prostitution, so. Anyway, broader point is that these are connected things despite not being the same thing. While I do think work in a brothel and work cam-girling are substantially different - and producing commercial porn with live actors would be another different thing - they are part of the same wider industry. While I wouldn't use 'sex work' to describe that industry any more (after hearing too many former prostitutes decry it as a sanitising term), it does serve a useful purpose in linking all forms of commercialised sex.

It's a private company choosing to engage with or not engage with a particular form of trade, capitalists gonna capitalist.

is this that whole super idealistic 'there is no ethical consumption under capitalism' bull that young socialists and anarchists love spouting off?


What? No, but thanks for engaging with me with such nuance and detail, I guess! Sheesh.

Look, I don't really care if you or anyone else considers your consumption of anything 'ethical' or not, do what you want. I'm just not seeing how campaigning to get a private company to change a payment structure to better enable the sale of sex in whatever form is some Great Left-wing Cause.
posted by Catseye at 11:37 AM on October 31 [1 favorite]


So, I think that this is a problem not of the morality or even legality of content, but of capitalism, regulation or the lack thereof, and an inability to collectively bargain with the platform providers. The concept of economic freedom as applied to content creation through the use of platforms created and maintained by others is an inappropriate application of the term as the situation currently stands.

The truth is that not a single one of these platform providers view the content creators as their customers or even their employees. Their customers are the people giving them money. In YT's case it's the ad buyers and in Patreon's case it's the patrons. Content creators are a commodity that can be easily replaced, from the platform provider's point of view. Why mess around with sticky edge cases, fights with payment processors, all that nonsense when you can make easier money with a viral cat video or a person who makes art doll tutorials for a living. If the benefits of hosting "edgy" content outweighed the perceived liabilities, these companies would monetize patron porn and naked anime Let's Plays all day long. Amazon is a perfect example of this. I can buy erotica from amazon that features everything from blood play to non-con, and they're fine with it so long as the covers aren't too freaky.

So, I believe that the only way (that doesn't involve creating your own platform) to change the way Google and Patreon and Twitch and all these other folks behave is if everyone, including the people who are not directly affected by these policies because they make cat videos and art doll tutorials, bands together to make demands for fair treatment for everyone. Not just from the platform providers themselves, but also through the pursuit of legislation and/or legal remedies to their problems that address the situation with payment processing. Because right now, these "independent" content creators are effectively at-will employees with zero benefits or much in the way of legal standing as workers. They've been sold a fiction, which is that they own the means of production, but it's clear to me at least that the "means" in this case is not the "factory" where the creative process happens or the software and supplies used to generate content but the platform itself.

Unfortunately, these platform providers aren't stupid, and they weaponize the competitive nature of these platforms in order to make such cooperation unlikely. Why is a guy with hundreds of thousands of views per video and 200 patrons for his "clean" and family-friendly channel gonna stick his neck out for a camgirl/boy? And why in hell would he join hands in solidarity with one of his competitors? He won't. Not unless he perceived that value could be gained for himself. And for some reason it's incredibly difficult to convince people that shared value is also individual value. You see this on Twitch all the time, where guys who stream DOTA2 for a living complain that their views are being "stolen" by young ladies playing Stardew Valley while wearing a low-cut tank top and eating a delicious popsicle very slowly.

It's a difficult problem, and I don't foresee content creators doing anything differently than they're doing now, which is to abandon the platform screwing them over for a platform that doesn't until it does. Rinse, repeat.
posted by xyzzy at 11:50 AM on October 31 [4 favorites]


SecretAgentSockpuppet: Patreon did not host any camgirls or video. Nothing, as far as I can tell, is actually hosted at Patreon. People link out to their content. Ergo, Patreon faces zero legal liability as they do not control the content.

IANAL, but given the state of law on child pornography, I am going to be very surprised if "we were paying people to produce child pornography but not *hosting* it" would absolve you of all legal liability, even if only civil. And I'm damn sure it would not save you from having to pay some very expensive lawyers either way.

And more importantly, imagining myself as the creator of a Patreon-clone, I would not consider it as freeing me from moral liability. How many rapes would I be okay with enabling? In my case, pretty much none. And there is no way under the Patreon model to realistically and reliably verify the age and consent of all sex performers, and monitor their output to confirm that only those verified performers are in the videos.
posted by tavella at 11:52 AM on October 31 [9 favorites]


I'm on Patreon as a creator in a category that's kinda similarly marginalized there, in that it's hidden away and not something they talk about. (In my case, free/open source software development.) So before I got on Patreon, I made sure to have an exit plan. Which is basically: Patreon provides me with email addresses of my patrons, so I could get most of them to move to another site. And, if I ever posted private content on Patreon, I'd keep my own copies of it.

I wonder how much longer Patreon will provide email addresses. They are already making other moves to lock creators in, like integrating with other software.

(Also, Patreon does host private content, including photos. Not videos I think.)
posted by joeyh at 12:25 PM on October 31 [4 favorites]


I wonder how much longer Patreon will provide email addresses.

Fiverr blocks email and URL exchange between creators and customers; the way most of them get around it is through doc exchanges - they allow attachments (kinda have to, since a lot of the services are "edit your document" or "make a presentation for you" - they need content to flow both directions), and people can easily add emails & URLs to that. They can't strip them out, because a lot of the docs need them - if someone's making an ad for you, they have to be able to put in your URL and the email of your sales guy, or whatever.

But the emails of customers aren't shared by default, and you have to actively break the TOS to get that info. Patreon could go that way, but I suspect that's too drastic a move, or too drastic to do all at once; they'd put in other filters first.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 12:51 PM on October 31


I'm just not seeing how campaigning to get a private company to change a payment structure to better enable the sale of sex in whatever form is some Great Left-wing Cause.

Protecting the vulnerable and exploited is a left wing cause. The people who have built some sense of financial security for themselves, who were courted by Patreon to expand the business, who were exploited by Patreon to build their brand and revenue, are very vulnerable to having the rug pulled out from under them. Patreon suddenly deciding it doesn't want real-life erotic content near their service isn't them stopping the exploitation of sex work, it is continuing to normalize it, by taking the money of those involved then unceremoniously dumping them when convenient.

Protecting the rights of sexual minorities is a left wing cause. Not only do these sorts of bans invariable target LGBTQ content as more "deviant" than the normalized male-gazey sexuality, LGBTQ performers are more likely to need the source of income due to lack of familial support, including things like paying for the schooling that would get them the "wholesome" and "respectable" jobs that everyone thinks they should have instead.

Protecting expression from censorship is a left wing cause. The issue is not just this one company. As the FetLife example illustrates, this is an issue of a small handful of companies having the ability to dictate what what material people see and consume. Now this is a bad situation of itself, and getting rid of that control needs to happen, but that's a monumental task, and until that time, we need to push back against that control, especially when it is exercised in a manner that harms the disadvantaged.

And remember, even if this isn't where you personally would draw the line, you need to start pushing back well before anyone gets to that line or you're going to find yourself fighting a losing battle every time.
posted by Zalzidrax at 2:51 PM on October 31 [13 favorites]


such that not only can we not envision sex work which wouldn't degrade women but that it is much, much worse than other labor that degrades women.

I think there is actually a valid feminist critique that having sex for money with the kind of men who choose to have sex with women for money is inherently degrading because of the current state of men (and inherently damaging because it reinforces the idea that sex is transactional) -, also the fact that it muddies consent rules. However, I strongly, strongly doubt that Patreon is engaging heavily with these feminist critiques, and more likely they are just caving to puritans.
posted by corb at 2:54 PM on October 31 [6 favorites]


And remember, even if this isn't where you personally would draw the line, you need to start pushing back well before anyone gets to that line or you're going to find yourself fighting a losing battle every time.

We are coming at this from fundamentally different points of view. You’re talking as if this, ie Patreon banning cam work, maybe isn’t where I’d draw the line but it’s on a continuum of potential places the line could be drawn, where, somewhere further down, I would draw that line. So therefore, I need to make a stand here otherwise the forces of darkness will creep further and hit something I care about sooner or later.

But this already is something I care about. Where I’m coming from is not apathy, but rather the belief that ‘sex work’ is a damaging industry, an interplay of patriarchy and capitalism that contributes towards the oppression of women as a class. This is still the case if any individual person chooses of their own free will to perform sex acts on camera and is happy with that choice. It does not become less the case if you’re saying that this person desperately needs the money and has few other routes to earn it - that makes it more exploitative, not less. I appreciate that Metafilter is not exactly filled with people calling for the abolition of this entire industry, but it is nevertheless what I believe, and believe as a political position as a feminist and a socialist.

So no, I’m not going to join forces to press Patreon to allow something they have always said they don’t allow, and have fairly decent lawsuit-avoiding reasons for not allowing anyway. If individual “content providers” get screwed over by Patreon changing terms and conditions then I would absolutely support legal redress, but pushing Patreon to allow cam work and porn as a left-wing cause, think on. The revolution will not be brought to us by more efficient payment methods for porn-on-demand.
posted by Catseye at 3:22 PM on October 31 [5 favorites]


It does not become less the case if you’re saying that this person desperately needs the money and has few other routes to earn it - that makes it more exploitative, not less

It comes down to Frowner's question from up-thread: what are you offering this person as an alternative? Because otherwise you're just pushing them to the next least bad option. Which by definition they consider worse than the status quo. No one commenting in this thread will ever live in a world not dominated by patriarchal capitalism. So it kinda doesn't matter to people doing survival sex work what happens in that world. They have to live in this one. Which is dominated by patriarchal capitalism. So how do you suggest they feed themselves in a way that doesn't upset your morals?
posted by PMdixon at 3:58 PM on October 31 [8 favorites]


So how do you suggest they feed themselves in a way that doesn't upset your morals?

Please don’t drop in comments like that about this upsetting my morals as though I’m coming at this from a shrieking prudish “oh my god a NIPPLE!” position, or imply that my problem is with those selling sex rather than buying it. As I’ve said already, I was previously very liberal, “who cares, it’s just work, it’s fine by me” in my approach to this; what changed my mind was learning more about abolitionist activism done by those who have worked in this industry, albeit not typically those in the relatively privileged position of doing cam work (who are typically not the people doing survival sex, although as I suspect Patreon have already pondered, how can you know who’s on the other end of that camera and what’s driving their choice?)

With that said: I’m unclear on whether you’re asking what I personally am doing/would do to create better options for people in the sex industry who literally need this to feed themselves, or what I feel that a wider society/government/movement should do? For me personally, I don’t talk about the job I am currently doing on here, so we’ll have to just leave that one a mystery. For wider society/legislation/broader activism, I think any efforts to criminalise the purchase of sex need to be combined with equal efforts to decriminalise selling it and to provide support, training, education, housing, childcare, healthcare and all else needed for those leaving the industry. (You may think this is impossibly idealistic and naive, but this is the “Nordic model” system, and it is currently in place in an increasing number of countries.) In short, if people are struggling to feed themselves, I think they need food, not a better-optimised payment pathway for men to buy sexual services from them.

If your response to this is to reiterate that capitalism is inevitable and we need to allow people to support themselves and their families because what can you do, I’d suggest that you read the Victorian arguments against outlawing child labour, which made the exact same points.

And this is getting far from Patreon and its terms of service, so I’m going to leave the conversation at this point before a mod tells me to.
posted by Catseye at 4:27 PM on October 31 [11 favorites]


This is Example #728 of "Why is there only ONE company/provider/web-entity doing this kind of thing?" Monopoly is not just an annoying game, it's how America and The Web does business.
posted by oneswellfoop at 4:34 PM on October 31 [1 favorite]


Just switch to playing games and become Partnered on Twitch easy as 1 2 3
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 7:34 PM on October 31 [2 favorites]


Any minute now, the cryptocurrency techbros of Reddit will show up with a Bitcoined solution to support these female and/or queer sex workers' rights, like true freeze peach enthusiasts. Aaaaaany minute now.
posted by nicebookrack at 8:55 PM on October 31 [3 favorites]


nicebookrack: Oh, they already try to pitch bitcoin to sex workers on Twitter all the time.
posted by divabat at 9:10 PM on October 31 [2 favorites]


For anyone who may not be old enough to remember, PayPal doing this severely derailed and broke the early indie porn industry.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:35 PM on November 1 [4 favorites]


Age verification and legal content standards are both problems that could be addressed - maybe not easily, but effectively - by a combination of code, ID verification systems, and carefully-written, detailed content policies.

"Not easily but effectively" is not something most companies ever want to address when the bulk of their business isn't involved *and* the legal repercussions for ineffective solutions are dire.
posted by steady-state strawberry at 6:39 PM on November 1 [2 favorites]


In many places the pure ability to have a credit card in one's name is proof of being at the age of majority.
posted by klangklangston at 7:56 PM on November 1


"Not easily but effectively" is not something most companies ever want to address when the bulk of their business isn't involved *and* the legal repercussions for ineffective solutions are dire.

Those companies are already using ineffective methods. Technically, every website with a login is using those ineffective age-verification methods; none of them require a notarized affidavit claiming that users are 13 and up, nor are they going to. Age verification on the internet has always been a handwavy thing, and while it's true that some sex-focused sites are at greater risk of liability if the methods they use are ineffective, challenging those methods would mean opening the can of tentacles about all age-restricted sites on the internet... which is any of them that have logins, and some that don't. Technically, you can't use Google's search engine without being able to sign a contract to agree to the TOS.

"Has credit card (not gift card)" is probably a fairly solid age-check; certainly it's a lot more accurate than the current "click here to indicate you're over 18" that a lot of adult-content sites use.

PayPal doing this severely derailed and broke the early indie porn industry.

And they kept porn off the internet with that move! No, wait. That's not what happened. Turns out, restricting access to effective payment for sex work doesn't end sex work nor bring safety for the women involved.

I do understand that many people believe the work itself is bad for women, bad for communities, etc., but the solution isn't "shove it into smaller and darker corners until someone comes up with a more wholesome direction for those drives." It may not be, "bring it into daylight and allow it to flourish openly," but a nice start would be, "don't squish it down every time it's managed to find a place to exist without direct oppression."
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 11:25 PM on November 1 [2 favorites]


Perhaps the difficulty in verifying ages has some bearing on this decision?
posted by Brocktoon at 12:10 AM on November 2


"Has credit card (not gift card)" is probably a fairly solid age-check; certainly it's a lot more accurate than the current "click here to indicate you're over 18" that a lot of adult-content sites use.

The alternative here is to not be an adult-content site ... which seems to be the path that many sites choose to adopt.

If potentially selling adult content to minors opens you to legal repercussions, then most companies aren't going to take that risk. If there's even a chance of selling 'adult' content of minors, I think even fewer companies are going to take that risk. (For all we know, Patreon got antsy about that happening and decided it wasn't worth trying to discriminate between different forms of adult content.)

Yes, it sucks for adult entertainers, but private companies aren't obligated to put themselves at legal risk for them.
posted by steady-state strawberry at 8:21 PM on November 2 [1 favorite]


Looks like Kickstarter has started (wait, acquired) a competing service, Drip. Invite only for now, not sure what their policies on adult content are, but probably similar to Kickstarter's, which prohibits "pornographic material". I guess we'll see what that's like in practice.
posted by ODiV at 9:51 AM on November 16


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