THE SHUTTING DOWN OF BACKPAGE.COM

If you haven’t heard what happened to sex workers on January 9, 2017, then let me fill you in. Backpage.com, the no. 1 outlet for advertising for people who work in the adult industry, decided to shut down their adult section. They have been facing threats for years, due to the fact that many sex-fearing and oppression-hungry government officials claim that backpage.com is a source for human trafficking. I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again…

“Blaming backpage.com for trafficking is like blaming liquor stores for drunk driving.”

Do traffickers use backpage to advertise? Yes. Is backpage a place where law enforcement officials can find trafficked people? Yes. Congratulations, you have just eliminated your only source of finding trafficked people. Do trafficked people come forward to law enforcement officials? No. Why not? Because they are usually charged with a crime for doing so. The system is fucked. The decriminalization of prostitution is the only answer.

Now, you and I are smart enough (or at least I hope you are) to know that this has NOTHING to do with trafficking and more to do with the money making industry that is the adult entertainment world. Since a lot of sex workers don’t pay taxes (not including myself – I always have if even begrudgingly so) then the government isn’t getting “their” cut $$$, and since they aren’t benefiting, they’ll be damned if anyone will get paid. It’s an “If I can’t have ‘you,’ no one can,” type of deal.

Not to mention that sex work and female body autonomy is a direct threat to patriarchy. 

So, what does the absence of backpage.com mean? For people like me – people who have websites that turn up on google searches, it may not mean much. However, I will say that one of the reasons that I decided to stay in Denver and not move out of state, was that I saw this coming. This has been in the making for years. For me, it may mean a decline in business and livelihood, but probably not as much as it will for other people. Or, it could mean an increase in business because the only options for BDSM services will be from people who have sites like mine. If providers can’t be found, they won’t work. Time will tell.

However, for sex workers who do not have sites, are trans, people of color, and are dependent upon an outlet in which they can advertise, it means a lot. A whole fucking lot. For those people – it may mean losing housing, food, childcare, and basic livelihood. If you are wondering why people are having trauma responses to this event, we can refer to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs:

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Thousands of people’s jobs have been eliminated overnight. Their physiological and safety needs are severely at risk. The internet provided a safe space for self-determined sex workers like myself to advertise. Now, they will be forced to rely on pimps, walking the streets, etc. If you can’t understand that, then you lack a vast amount of logic, compassion, and intelligence, and you’re basically a twat.

So, there are various “arguments” (if we can even call them that) going around on the internet in response to the pain that sex workers are experiencing right now. Some of those so-called “arguments” (and why they are bullshit) are:

  • Now sex workers will be forced to get a “real” job.
    • Sex work is work. Plain and simple. The reason people don’t view it as such is based in puritanical morals that are rooted in religious oppression. If you don’t think it’s work, try doing it for one day.
  • Well, you can always get a different job.
    • People have the misconception that transitioning from the adult industry to a  “straight” job – especially if you have been in the adult industry for multiple years –  is something that can be done with ease. However, what people are failing to think about are the psychological and sociocultural difficulties that often come along with the transition. The people who are most affected by the loss of this outlet will not have funds to support themselves, let alone funds to put toward psychotherapy to help them during that transition. And what to do with that resume gap?
  • Well, prostitution is illegal, so people shouldn’t be doing it anyway. 
    • I don’t agree with prostitution being illegal because I believe in body autonomy and the freedom of choice when it comes to what I do with my body. Pleasure for pay – or not – should not be illegal. Ever. Again, keep your laws off my body.
  • Well, you can just retire.
    • Again, try telling that to the people who have been in the industry for years, people who have dedicated their lives to being entrepreneurs, and pseudo-therapists in a niche market that have a magnitude of skills that are not EASY to obtain. Telling someone they can simply retire is insensitive and is a statement based in a lack of knowledge and supports the notion that the government should control our bodies. Not to mention that it  completely invalidates the hard work people like myself have put into building their craft. You wouldn’t say that to anyone else in any other industry, so don’t say it here.
  • Backpage.com is to blame for human trafficking
    • Backpage.com is not to blame for trafficking. Traffickers are to blame for trafficking. Again, eliminating backpage.com eliminates a resource for law enforcement officials to use to find victims of trafficking and people who traffic. This is an attack on the sex industry, plain and simple, and getting rid of backpage.com will NOT get rid of the demand OR the supply for sex work OR trafficking. It will simply push it underground and out of site. If you think that solves the problem, then you are HIGHLY misinformed. Please, keep your head in the sand… maybe it’ll keep your mind off of other ways to control the bodies and decisions of others.

Now, instead of ending with bullshit and superficial words of comfort like “it’ll work out,” or “we’ll all be ok,” I’m going to keep it real and say that it’s a real dark day for many people – people without exit plans, people without savings, people who were relying on backpage.com to help them pay rent this month, and ESPECIALLY for people who believe in body autonomy and the basic human right to make decisions for oneself.

Right now we have to think of the workers who do not have sites, the workers who engage in the sex industry more for survival and not as much by choice, and the impact that it will have on their emotional and physical well-being, their access to food, housing, etc.

Those are the people who are suffering most on this day, and you cannot support human rights and the shutting down of backpage.com at the same time. It doesn’t work that way.
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Spread the word. Be a fucking pioneer.