I’m Liara Roux, an escort, indie porn maker, and also a political organizer! I’m here with over 60 sex workers, advocates, educators, policy makers, and trafficking survivors - ask us anything about sex work, decriminalization, trafficking, migran...
Hi Reddit! Welcome to our #SexWorkAMA!
I’m Liara Roux. You may know me - my selfies have ended up on the front page a few times over the years! And you may be familiar with the discussion in the comments under them - many people have been surprised to find out I’m a sex worker and curious about what that means.
Fans on here have asked for an AMA about my work - and seems now’s the time! I didn’t want to just talk about my personal experiences though. Our community has been devastated in the wake of a string of terrible government policies and laws. We already were banned from a lot of internet platforms and it’s been getting worse - we’ve tracked over 150 sites and services that don’t allow sex workers, from PayPal to Skype or even AirBnB, in a massive 90 page report. We’re worried another upcoming “trafficking” bill will result in many sex workers losing their bank accounts - and that’s not a fantastical worry; many people including myself have lost bank accounts in the past for being sex workers, regardless of the legality of their specific work.
Since stigma about our work and state violence against sex workers keeps many in the closet, it’s easy for prohibitionist organizations, law enforcement, and politicians to make up stories about our lives. Many cite all advertisements for sex work online as “instances of trafficking” or “sexual exploitation.” But our real lives are complicated and varied.
Some of us do work that’s criminalized, some don’t. Some work in person, others make content for stores or work online or on a phone. Some of us work for day to day survival, or have worked under coercion or force, many of us work happily and safely for ourselves. People may be both a victim of prior abuse and now a consensual sex worker. Some of us are lucky to support ourselves, others work hard to support their families. We’re homeless and own homes. We’re working class and famous libertines - or sometimes one branded as the other to the public. What you see of us in public is never the whole story.
We’re coming together as a broader community to push for respect as workers and human beings, and fight for better working conditions and access to the same basic tools and government resources as everyone else. Not everyone loves sex work, but you don’t need to think something is “empowering” to want it to be safer. You don’t even need to respect their work to believe they deserve human rights.
There are many ways to be a sex worker, and there are also important topics to discuss with regards to safety and abuse in the industry. There are valuable lessons to learn from other countries - many people work in places where full service, in person sex work is legal or decriminalized. There are a lot of people in this fight - and it’s global. Today I’ve brought with me some other experts - and put out the invite on social media for more sex workers to join in!
This event had an open call. We’re not handpicking or gatekeeping, just checking to make sure people are who they say they are. Everyone’s experiences and words are their own. I’m not sure an AMA has been done with so many participants before, so we’ll see what happens!
Here’s who we are:
Sex Worker Peer Organizers and Advocates
/u/TS_Jane - TS Jane - Trans Sex Worker, Nurse, Vice President of the Board at Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP-USA), Contributing Member of the Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines (STRAP)
/u/Quinn_Curie - Quinn Curie - Prior Outdoor, Current Indoor Sex Worker, Founding Member and Strategy Coordinator at SWOP-Boston and Founding Member at MassSWAN, Survivor of Non-Empirical “Anti-Trafficking” Activists
Trafficking Survivors and Advocates
/u/thejessicaraven - Jessica Raven - Former Youth Survival Sex Worker, Executive Director of Collective Action for Safe Spaces (CASS), author “Bills cracking down on sex work won’t help trafficking victims, but more housing will”
/u/LauraLoo32 - Laura LeMoon - Trafficking Survivor, Writer. SESTA Won't Stop Sex Trafficking, But It Will Kill Sex Workers
/u/KristenDiAngelo - Kristen DiAngelo - Sex Worker Activist, Trafficking Survivor Advocate, Educator, Executive Director of Sex Workers Outreach Project Sacramento, featured in the documentary American Courtesans
/u/BobbyGerasimov - Borislav Gerasimov - Communications and Advocacy Officer at Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women, an Alliance of more than 80 non-governmental organizations from Africa, Asia, Europe, LAC, and North America. See the summary of their February 2018 Report at OpenDemocracy.
Researchers, Educators, and Legal Experts
/u/alexflevy - Professor Alex Frell Levy - Attorney, Adjunct Professor Notra Dame Law, coverage of her research: “How Backpage and Similar Sites Are Crucial in Fight Against Sex Trafficking”
/u/LauraAgustin - Dr. Laura María Agustín - Researcher, Analyst and Author, “Sex at the Margins: Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry”, has conducted 25 years of research on undocumented migration, informal labor markets, commercial sex, and the Rescue Industry. She blogs as the Naked Anthropologist.
/u/DrJHeineman - Dr. Jenny Heineman - Instructor at the University of Nebraska, Researcher who has done extensive on-the-ground studies into trafficking and sex work. Author, The Sex Trafficking Panic Is Based On Myths
/u/AlisonBass - Alison Bass - Journalist, Associate Professor of Journalism at West Virginia University, Author of Getting Screwed, Sex Workers and the Law and Side Effects: A Prosecutor, a Whistleblower and a Bestselling Antidepressant on Trial
/u/ScottWStern - Scott Stern - Yale Law Student, Author of “The Trials of Nina McCall: Sex, Surveillance, and the Decades-Long Government Plan to Imprison "Promiscuous" Women”, Reviewed at New Republic: “The Forgotten War on Women”
Policy Makers and Politicians
/u/ShannonKowalski - Shannon Kowalski - Sexual & Reproductive Rights Activist, Director of Advocacy and Policy for the International Women's Health Coalition, Oversees IWHC's International and US Foreign Policy Advocacy
/u/SurajForNY - Suraj Patel - Lawyer, Activist, Congressional Candidate in NY-12, wrote position statement: “We Must Repeal SESTA, a Deadly Law That Does Nothing to Help Trafficking Victims”
Even More Sex Workers!
/u/Amber_Ashton - Amber Ashton - European Sex Worker, Member of SWARM (Sex Worker Advocacy and Resistance Movement), Interview: “What Happens When Sex Workers Put Women of Colour First”
/u/iliveforcheatday - Yevgeniya Ivanyutenko - Dominatrix, Escort, Fully out under her legal name as a sex worker to her friends, family, and world. Profiled: “Meet the Woman Teaching 'Financial Domination' to the Masses”
/u/MelodyKush - Melody Kush - Online Sex Worker, Erotic Model, Self-Produced Clip Artist, Activist. Interviewed: “Sex Workers Say They’re Being Pushed Off Social Media Platforms”
Plus more in this thread - this is just who signed up to get flaired ahead of time!
Why We’re Here
We’re here today to go beyond the ad campaigns and celebrity PSAs to get into the real detail of the sex industry. For example, you’ve heard a lot about sex trafficking, something we all work hard to combat - we know how hard the job can be and no one should be forced into it! But a lot of myths and misconceptions about our industry end up hurting us and trafficking victims - we all know people who have been hurt or are no longer with us. It’s also possible for someone to be a survivor of abuse and a current sex worker - maybe one who loves their job, maybe one who hates it! But many of the loudest voices in the fight against trafficking are actually faith based organizations who believe the only way to help improve working conditions is to “rescue” sex workers through arrest.
Recently Congress passed a law titled (in the House and Senate) the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act and Stop Enabling Sex Trafficking Act. It sounds great on the surface - no one wants to stop sex trafficking more than sex workers - but the laws don’t actually do anything for trafficking victims at all! There’s no additional funding, no direct aid, no new studies, no task forces, not even more money for law enforcement - the only thing the law does is create additional crimes to do with websites “facilitating prostitution.” The actual text of § 2421A mentions “prostitution” 5 times and coercion or force (until now needed to define something as trafficking) zero times. Since the law hit, we’ve lost valuable safety resources and sexual expression has suffered - Craigslist even took down their personal ads!
Here on reddit we lost forums about sex work as well. While this may seem like a victory to some, the truth is - supported by empirical studies - taking down these sites doesn’t help people in the sex trade - voluntarily or victims. The internet has made the sex trade safer.
Amnesty International, the UN’s World Health Organization, ACLU, and Freedom Network USA (the largest network of anti-trafficking experts in America) all believe decriminalizing consensual sex work is key to combating trafficking - it means we can come to police when we know someone is being abused without worrying about being abused at the hands of police ourselves. We need to separate sex work from trafficking so funding goes to the right places and we can work together to save lives, because badly thought out laws actually increase abuse and sex trafficking.
Feel free to talk about this on twitter with the tag #SexWorkAMA. We’ll try to bring in questions from there onto reddit!
Participants: You can ask questions of each other too! And if you have any issues that need resolving or questions that come up about how to use Reddit, please feel free to DM me (Ashley) on Twitter) and I’ll do my best to help!
Fans, new fans, and curious readers: Please be kind - remember many of our participants are risking a lot just by being here to talk to you. With that in mind, let’s talk openly about sex work! From the personal to the political, we’re here to answer your questions!