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Whorephobic tech, slut-shaming and the stress of being deplatformed

Whorephobic tech, slut-shaming and the stress of being deplatformed

. 5 min read

I love taking nude pictures of myself and viewing my body as a work of art. I took that to the next level in 2018 when I decided to make a profit off my nudes by creating and distributing home made porn. It was a fun experience that would soon result in me being deplatformed for speaking up about sex worker rights.

I live in Aotearo where sex work has been decriminalised for citizens since the 2003 Prostitutes Reform Act (it is still criminalised for migrant sex workers). As a citizen of Aoearoa, I can legally profit off all forms of sex work: from escorting, to stripping, to home made porn. But despite this, when it comes to the internet I have to abide by its rules and regulations. And that’s where censorship comes in and messes with my ability to sell and promote my services online.

I entered the sex work industry during my final year of university. Despite having a part time job on top of receiving a student allowance, I was barely scraping by. As my mental health started to decline, I got to work creating a means of income from the comfort of my own home. I posted to my Instagram story announcing to my followers that for $50 a month, they would be added to my exclusive R18 “pay to access” Snapchat. A few months later, I had created a steady enough income that for the first time in my life I was no longer stressing over money. That was until FOSTA was implemented, and suddenly harmless fun between consenting adults was now considered “sex trafficking”.

The Fight Sex Trafficking Act is a bill implemented in 2018 which alleges to protect victims of sex trafficking by banning the exchange of sexual services on the internet. This sounds great in theory, but in reality it has caused more harm than good. Even when the sexual service is a mutual exchange between consenting adults, in the eyes of many Republicans it is considered sex trafficking. And in an attempt to avoid accusations of being involved in sex trafficking, social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook brought in strict restrictions on the type of content allowed to be distributed by its users. To put it bluntly, if your body is anything but that of a cis-white-heterosexual-abled-body man: your body is considered “offensive content” and “adult solicitation”.

Here in Aotearoa, I can walk into a brothel and offer sexual services in exchange for cash. But the second I make a post trying to promote my ethically made porn, it is instantly removed for “adult solicitation” or sometimes even “hate speech”. This has resulted in a decrease in my earring abilities. Due to discovering that I am on the neurodiverse spectrum, I now rely on sex work as my main form of income. I also have an autoimmune disease with symptoms that impact my working abilities. As a result, I have struggled throughout my life to maintain “normal” jobs. But when it comes to sex work, I am able to choose my own hours, go at my own pace, and earn what I would make working a full time job in a matter of hours. This has been extremely beneficial to my mental health, and just my overall outlook on life.

Censorship doesn’t just impact my job as a sex worker, it also effects my writing. In 2019, I launched a blog called Vixen Temple Bog. I wrote about my experiences working within the sex work industry, offered advice for other sex workers, and even helped to educate civilians (folks who don’t engage in sex work) on how to be good allies. Due to the negative stigma attached to our industry, many sex workers live double lives. I hoped through my instagram community that I could destigmatise the industry, as well as offer a safe space for sex workers from all walks of life. My blogs were connecting to people from all over the globe. And over time, my instagram @vixentempleblog reached 15k followers. But this was a short lived passion project.

On April 15th 2021, I opened my Instagram app to a login error. I was then informed that my account had been disabled for 3 days for violating Instagram guidelines. Instagram informed me I had been disabled for promoting “violence and hate speech”. The specific post that caused the suspension was an image stating “Sex Work Is Not Consent”. The caption of said post talked about my experience being sexually assaulted while collecting tips. I opened up about how his lawyer tried to defend his actions due to my job, and how the judge took a percentage off the final sentencing because “the male brain has not yet fully developed” at the perpetrators age of 22. I tried to fight the claim that this was promoting hate speech, and this resulted in my entire page being removed. One week later, I lost my second Instagram where I promoted my porn, as well as my job as an Adult Toy Mega Story affiliate. Within the space of a week, I lost two instagram pages due to censorship.

I have since created a new Instagram where I am careful to abide to the strict guidelines. But because I'm a woman, any time I show a bit of skin on Instagram or Facebook I risk being flagged and removed for promoting sexual services. This feeds into my sexual trauma that tells me my body is filthy and something to be ashamed of. I receive death and rape threats in my messages, but I am too afraid to report them in case my page gets shut down instead.

These rules and restrictions do nothing to help victims of sex trafficking and sexual abuse. Instead, it further alienates an already heavily stigmatised industry. We are a massive group of people who are being silenced for going against the acceptable way of making money. I tried to speak up about my sexual assault and I was silenced. How is censorship helping me? All it’s done is benefited my abusers due to my voice being deplatformed.

Sex work has saved me from ruin. But due to censorship, I feel limited in my earning potentials. As a result, I have turned to sugar babying and full service sex work in order to make up for the loss in income. I fear for sex workers in countries where they don’t have the same right as I do. I fear for migrant sex workers here in Aotearoa. When you remove an entire revenue of income (especially during a global pandemic which has forced many of us to work online), it forces us into potentially dangerous situations we once had the ability to be able to turn down. In many ways, online censorship is the modern witch-hunt. And it is targeting women, LGBTQ+, gender non conforming, POC and indigenous folk. Sex workers and sex educators proving any narrative outside of heteronormative monogamous ideologies are being silenced.

Taking away our rights and earning abilities doesn’t save us, it puts us at a higher risk of danger. The very danger that these laws claim to want to prevent.