When Hookers go Hungry

When hookers go hungry it’s a symptom of  a dystopian society.

When hookers go hungry is when it’s time to re-examine our relationship with government and big tech. The world’s oldest profession is showing itself to be the proverbial canary in a coal mine when it comes to authoritarianism. The tools of oppression, developed by government and big tech, on the backs of prostitutes, will eventually be targeting the general public.

Prostitution has historically proven itself to extremely resilient against faltering economies and totalitarian regimes. Examples of its resilience are that during the recession of 1990 – 1991 many regions experienced an uptick in available sex workers. The same occurred in the 1970s and even the depression of the 1930s. Without a doubt, it was economic factors and lack of other opportunities which drove people to embrace of sex work. But each time when the economy returned to normal, over 2/3s of the now «ill-repute » remained prostitutes, at least as a part-time side hustle. When this societal fail-safe, is no longer a viable option, the dystopian future has arrived.

Prostitution has historically proven itself to extremely resilient against faltering economies and totalitarian regimes. Examples of its resilience are that during the recession of 1990 – 1991 many regions experienced an uptick in available sex workers. The same occurred in the 1970s and even the depression of the 1930s. Without a doubt, it was economic factors and lack of other opportunities which drove people to embrace of sex work. But each time when the economy returned to normal, over 2/3s of the now «ill-repute » remained prostitutes, at least as a part-time side hustle. When this societal fail-safe, is no longer a viable option, the dystopian future has arrived.

Politicians and big tech want us to believe that cam sites and fan platforms are a workable alternative to direct prostitution. The media hype during lock-downs made certain platforms a household name. But the big money promised by these platforms is an unattainable lie for more than 90 % cam models and content creators. Reality is there still isn’t enough money to cover the basic needs of shelter or utilities. Even after weeks or even months of long hours (mostly unpaid), hard work (it is not only physically demanding but requires psychological fortitude) and financial investment by the performer. IE : The take-home is far less than a street walker would make.

Mass propaganda in Western societies often perpetuates harmful stereotypes about prostitutes, further contributing to their social marginalization (Zhang & D’Costa, 2018). Negative portrayals of prostitutes in media and popular culture reinforce the notion that they are morally flawed or deserve their circumstances, hindering public support for policies that would improve their lives (Bates et al., 2017). This stigma discourages many from reporting abuses because “it’s better the devil you know.” Since the authority given to those who could help, does nothing to exclude personal prejudice or the fact that prostitution is kept illegal, and admitting to circumstance could be putting oneself in a worse situation.

Online content creator platforms such as OnlyFans have become popular among sex workers as a means of subtly advertising their availability (Rossman et al., 2022). In some ways this has replaced the traditional escort review forums which became a favored target of harassment by criminal investigators. The review boards not only protected the clients, but also gave service providers a community in which they could alert each other to both scammers and potential danger. No such community exists on Only Fans and the sex workers once again find themselves isolated, without a support group. Meanwhile, these platforms often operate under a “no questions asked” relationship with law enforcement, providing them with unfettered access to private data (U.S. Department of Justice, 2021). This situation raises concerns about privacy and the potential for further marginalization of prostitutes in the digital age.

In the United States, prostitution is illegal in all but a few Nevada counties, perpetuating a black market that leaves sex workers vulnerable to exploitation (Farley et al., 2003). Despite efforts to combat human trafficking, many prostitutes continue to face coercion, violence, and economic hardship (Lloyd, 2017). Prostitution serves a purpose in society, it provides companionship without complication as well as an income for people who might otherwise have difficulty seeking employment. In 2018, the United States passed the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) and the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA), which were intended to combat online sex trafficking (U.S. Congress, 2018). The results were almost immediate. US based sites that had been subject to investigation, closed and traffickers moved advertisements to similar sites beyond the US jurisdiction, complicating and even halting criminal investigations. The tech allows this criminality to continue, while simultaneously providing personal data and information of the sexual practices and tastes of American citizens.

Since these laws went into effect, the fan/cam sites began demanding uploads of ID for every thrill seeking participant in a content creator’s clips. (Before the custodian of records was able to protect the identity of participants, from both hacking and government spying). Only official complaints and a judge’s order gave access to consent forms and participants’ ID. Now law enforcement has backdoor access to this information and content creator’s can have their traffic driving social media accounts cancelled or shadow banned on anyone’s whim. The combined efforts of government, media and big tech are not only going after the marginalized prostitutes. Those are just the low hanging fruit, the small subsection of society that is most easily targeted. With so many regular people now open to the idea of self-sexual exploitation (through cam and content creation), the masses are already being targeted.

Prostitutes have always been the survivors, trading what they could to overcome poverty, prejudice and even war. However, these laws have made it more difficult for sex workers to advertise their services and communicate with clients safely online (Kaye et al., 2021). As a result, many prostitutes have been forced into more precarious situations, such as working on the streets or relying on exploitative third parties (Bowen et al., 2021). A discreet service provider working from her telephone, was safer and paid better per visit than a street walker. This allowed her to see fewer clients, offer customized service and keep everything clean and healthy. A street walker in contrast operates out in the open, exposed to the weather and public scrutiny, bringing down property values. They attract those who want sex, not for human intimacy, but for a cheap quick release, or to feel like they are getting away with something seedy or dirty. It’s the same mentality to sex that cam sites are popularizing. Like a bad supply and demand curve, the monetary value attached to any sexual service is continuing to decline while the number of desperate people offering services continues to grow.

The technologically backed tyranny and mass propaganda have greatly influenced society and our interpersonal interactions in recent years. Beyond social distancing, we have now have a population with sexual attitudes completely shifted from previous generations. The hyper-liberal sexualization of today could be the next ill fated group targeted by the moral code of authoritarianism. FOSTA and SESTA, meant to control human trafficking, have done little to stop the disappearance and exploitation of children, or the sexual exploitation of certain foreign-born minority groups living in precarity. But these laws make life more difficult and dangerous for sex workers. And the doors that the laws have opened to Big Brother have already exposed a large portion of the population to the same scrutiny for their own sexual proclivities and interactions online.

Orwell’s 1984 is now and it’s not just Big Brother that is threatening you. The government and big tech have already sown the seeds of a generation full of potential Jack-The-Ripper serial killers who will attack anyone misfortune to arouse their interests in public.

Hamilton Steele

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References:

Bowen, G., Buman, M., & Forney, M. (2021). “We’re all trying to survive”: Sex workers’ experiences of social and structural vulnerabilities during FOSTA/SESTA. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 36(17-18), 8223-8241. <https://doi.org/10.1177/0886260519832151>

Farley, M., Baral, I., Kiremire, M., & Sezgin, U. (2003). Prostitution in five countries: Violence and post-traumatic stress disorder. Feminism & Psychology, 13(4), 405-426. <https://doi.org/10.1177/0959353503013004002>

Ferguson, N. (2018). New technologies of sex work: Risks and opportunities. Reproductive Health Matters, 26(54), 156-164. <https://doi.org/10.1080/09688080.2018.1529622>

Kaye, D., Johnson, S., & Tibbitts, F. (2021). “The internet is our best tool”: Sex workers’ use of online platforms for safety, community, and advocacy. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 36(17-18), 8207-8222. <https://doi.org/10.1177/0886260519832150>

Lloyd, C. (2017). Conceptualising exploitation in prostitution: Unpacking gender, labour and migration in the sex industry. Gender, Place & Culture: A Journal of Feminist Geography, 24(10), 1397-1411. <https://doi.org/10.1080/0966369X.2017.1364295>

Rossman, J., Rhoades, H., & Cohen, P. (2022). “It’s not just about the money”: Sex workers’ perspectives on using OnlyFans during the COVID-19 pandemic. Journal of Sex Research, 59(2), 222-236. <https://doi.org/10.1080/00224499.2021.1989407>

U.S. Congress (2018). Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA), H.R. 1865, 115th Cong., 2d Sess.; Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA), S. 1693, 115th Cong., 2d Sess. <https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/1865>

U.S. Department of Justice (2021). Lawful access to encrypted data: Protecting privacy, public safety, and the rule of law. <https://www.justice.gov/archives/ag/page/file/1354861/download>

World Health Organization (2012). Ethical issues in public health surveillance: A systematic review. <https://www.who.int/bulletin/volumes/90/9/12-108120/en/>

Zhang, C., & D’Costa, N. (2018). Prostitution stigma as a social determinant of health among sex workers in Canada. American Journal of Public Health, 108(4), 516-522. <https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2017.304249>

 

 

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When Hookers go Hungry

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