Sex Workers Vs The Internet
June 19, 2018 9:39 AM   Subscribe

Since the dawn of the internet, online platforms have allowed clients to take advantage of sex workers. Now, they’re fighting back. The ratings systems of several large sites has taken power away from sex workers and acted as a tool to pressure them into lower prices and acts they don't wish to perform. A long read on some nuanced history of the internet and sex work, with some notes about how sex workers are changing the system in their favor.
posted by stoneweaver (11 comments total) 40 users marked this as a favorite
Please note that this is not an article about FOSTA/SESTA and hot takes about the law will reveal you didn't read the article linked.
posted by stoneweaver at 9:39 AM on June 19, 2018 [18 favorites]

I am so over this aspect of US culture in which the powerful are given tools to review those with less power. These tools inevitably become just another means of coercion at work, another thing for the worker to worry about, all to feed into this absurd idea that people with money should have the power to review and control people just the same as they would some hand towels on Amazon.

Mad props to these women and more power to them.
posted by nicodine at 10:04 AM on June 19, 2018 [26 favorites]

Amen! I am so heartened by the discussion in the article about what it looks like to have a site that empowers women with the safety they want without all the gross ratings and salacious details that feel invasive. Instead of just laying out what the problem is, it goes into depth about what it looks like to have a more equitable system.
posted by stoneweaver at 10:11 AM on June 19, 2018 [6 favorites]

This was a really good read, thanks for posting.

From the article:

“My dream is for TER to disappear and not have them control the careers of young
women who are vulnerable,” says St. Clair.

Um, YES! A thousand times yes!

This doesn't really fall under the purview of the article, but I feel there's also something to be said about the way in which online sex workers are totally and utterly alienated from their labor. There really needs to be websites run by and for sex workers, or else that isn't going to change. Take Chaturbate, for example: they take 50% of all the money clients give you. Or another platform - Niteflirt: they take 30%. Same goes for porn production and distribution companies, obviously. And I would bet hard, hard cash that platforms like these are run by men. Because that's who has access to the capital necessary to get something off the ground, in terms of the software work, advertising, etc.
posted by lilies.lilies at 10:12 AM on June 19, 2018 [19 favorites]

But after the change, workers could only earn up to a 7 out of 10, unless they were “willing to perform one or some of the following during a session.”

I'm not even going to quote the rest of this, but holy shit this is fucked.
posted by selfnoise at 10:14 AM on June 19, 2018 [30 favorites]

lilies.lilies, good idea. Perhaps a booking site run by the workers to vet clients. Bad interaction, client goes on the "do not book" list. Keep workers safer, give them the power.
posted by caution live frogs at 11:47 AM on June 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

Perhaps a booking site run by the workers to vet clients.

I know a Niteflirt PSO, and she says that, on the private boards, the 'Flirts' can be horrible to each other. It's pretty much assumed that if your profile gets "flagged" or taken down for a policy violation it's because you pissed off another PSO. I'm not entirely sure there's really the sisterhood camaraderie of "we're all working together" among sexworkers as people might hope, because everyone else is the competition. This sort of thing is just as likely.
posted by AzraelBrown at 1:26 PM on June 19, 2018 [6 favorites]

A large part of the problem is that online ratings have been made into a literal lawless land. The rating websites have no accountability or liability, which in turn means they have no reason to deal with the problem of bad actors. Which, in turn, once again empowers the powerful over the dispossessed.
posted by NoxAeternum at 1:49 PM on June 19, 2018 [6 favorites]

I'm not able to see AzraelBrown's link due to my ad blocker/NoScript but this bit from the OP article might be the same thing:
For a fee, workers can purchase 10/10 ratings for themselves, or more insidiously, pay to take down their competitors. “You can go to a review-writing service and say, ‘I want to buy three negative reviews for so-and-so,’” says Mariposa. “You think they’re going to turn down your $175? What do they care?”
Really great article; thanks for posting it stoneweaver.
posted by XMLicious at 3:47 PM on June 19, 2018 [4 favorites]

I hate TER so much I made a whole new account to talk about it. I was a sex worker to pay my way through school, and overall I honestly liked it. I like fucking, I like setting my own hours, and I sure as hell liked making rent and still having time to sleep, unlike a lot of the other students in my program. The one part of the gig I truly, truly hated (aside from one bad client) was checking TER the day after a client and seeing what they said. Your entire ability to get new clients and dictate rates is based on those reviews. You get critiqued on every aspect of your body, the way you fuck, the clothes you were wearing, the things you said, and you have to read every single one of them, because a bad one means the job is done. I once made the mistake of commenting on the Dave Eggers novel on a guy's nightstand after fucking him (because obviously whores can't read, or are only supposed to read Cosmo), and the bad review was up just a few hours later. I was stuck up and not attractive after reading a book, apparently. In a different world I would have texted my sex worker friends, we would have rolled our eyes, and I would have moved on. In this world, it meant I didn't get appointments anymore. I was lucky enough to have a handful of regulars by that point, but I didn't get calls for weeks. I might have gotten one or two new clients afterwards. And this was years ago, before TER basically made anal and BBJs mandatory. Fucking gross.

The internet has been a great force in some ways for sex workers: twice I turned down clients because they were on bad date lists I had access to through the internet, clients that had raped or beaten other workers. I didn't know any other sex workers in real life, and sex worker twitter was absolutely vital to keeping me safe and teaching me to charge what I was worth. And in theory sites where hobbyists talk amongst themselves could be a good thing too: a client contacts you and thanks to his reviews, you know exactly who to ask for references. But the site was always run to give men the advantage over sex workers, to keep us whores in our place.

What a good article, and what a good post. Thanks, stoneweaver!
posted by sexworksockpuppet at 3:59 PM on June 19, 2018 [43 favorites]

Reading the article, but in terms of caution live frog's suggestion FOSTA/SESTA are relevant inasmuch the law forbids an openly run sex-work-from-sex-workers marketplace where it applies. Or a closed vetting system. It would 'facilitate' the trade.

And relevant to TER in that TER has elected to geo-ban American IPs.
posted by snuffleupagus at 1:06 AM on June 20, 2018 [2 favorites]

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