The puritanical religion of Americanism has once more reared its draconian head and in its usual predatory fashion, has decided to come after those who are the least protected. Since February, the House and Senate have voted into legislation a law titled “Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act” (FOSTA). Now dear reader, before you begin screeching and foaming at the mouth, “Toles, Toles how can you be opposed to fighting sex trafficking, how can you allow the children and ethnics and queers to be trafficked through the internet? Why would you want such a thing to be????”, please take a moment and fucking chill. We must be civil in these uncivilized times. Of course I’d like to see a stop to sex trafficking. But this new law is devious in its application. Sex workers are hurting due this legislation but it also has dire ramifications for the state of the internet and perhaps for the very soul of America.

One of the glaring issues with FOSTA is its manipulation language. Language in itself is a political tool. You can use it to obscure or call attention to any number of ideologies and force a point with a carefully selected word or lack thereof. Case and point, the language of this bill. FOSTA conflates the terms “sex workers” and “sex traffickers”. There are vast differences between the two. A sex worker is a consenting individual who is engaged in the sex industry. The uninformed puritan would assume that means prostitution. But hold on, stud, you’d be surprised. The sex industry covers a myriad of different work ranging from actors, phone sex operators, sexual surrogates, and in same cases, sex educators. Do not mistake the distinction that I’m making as one of moral hierarchy. That’s not the point of the distinction. The point of the distinction is to show how many forms of work are considered sex work.

The Department of Homeland Security defines human sex-trafficking as “modern-day slavery and involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act.” The key distinction between sex-trafficking and sex-work revolves around the level of consent involved. Any form of force or coercion nullifies consent and results in a form of trafficking. Obviously immoral and terrible. And also very different from sex work. Now these distinctions are fundamental when looking at how FOSTA actually works. The nitty gritty of FOSTA is that it repeals a former internet censorship law that kept websites from being held accountable for content that was posted through their site. Example being Craigslist. Through that law, Craigslist was not responsible for how consenting adults were using the Personals section. But take a gander at Craigslist today and you’ll find that the entire personal’s section has been completely nixed. And that is because through FOSTA, Craigslist can now be sued or charged in regards to content that is posted through their site.

I’m gonna throw my cards on the table. I am pro sex-work and believe sex-workers should be advocated for, protected, and decriminalized. Every form of sex-work. I believe that sex work is valid work. Rather than go on the 2018-woke-male-feminist (women should be empowered but I only talk about it through the context of sexuality (specifically and only cis-women’s) because I still only acknowledge feminist issues through a thinly veiled reduction of women to their sexuality) rant I’m going to explain it through good ol’ American Capitalism. Our bodies are our capital. You have a right to your capital and a right to invest it in whichever means of production is most lucrative to you. The government has no right to decide how your capital should be used. Tax you maybe but that’s about all I can abide. If I need to make a little extra money to pay my bills and choose to do so by riding a dragon dildo on a cam-site, it should be my fucking right to do so.

So what’s the big fucking deal with Craigslist personals getting the ax? The same issue that permeates through nearly every online platform getting cold feet concerning this legislation. The internet is a god damn resource and guess whose been using that resource to protect themselves? Sex workers. The internet can be a form of advertising or a way to screen potential clients. Sex workers have come up with a myriad of interesting ways to use the internet to improve their hustle. Sex workers have taken to Instagram to promote new wave pornography that gets them out of a system that favors companies over performers. One of my favorite shibari instructors regularly outs abusive photographers who take advantage of models. A high profile dancer has been crowd-sourcing dancer’s across the US to make an app that helps dancers find the best tipping clubs and keeps tabs on the general clientele. All of this is being done with the intent of making a safe place for these workers ’cause, let’s be honest, their job can be really fucking dangerous. We live in a country where a person convicted of prostitution can serve nearly as much time in jail as the senator who paid for their services spends in office. Not to mention men have this nasty habit of physically assaulting sex workers. And, in general, women. And trans-folk. Anyways…apps like Instagram and Twitter started banning profiles that did not adhere to their communities moralized censorship rules (no tits, clits, dicks, or labia lips) awhile back. So Sex Workers started censoring their posts. Now social media apps are just outright banning profiles that they suspect belong to sex-workers, despite the owners of these profiles obeying the apps censorship rules out of fear that they might be prosecuted for sex trafficking. We’re watching the slow erosion of a safety net for sex workers.

There has been no conclusive data that harassing sex workers in any way contributes to the cause of ending sex trafficking. Many organizations which seek to help sex workers have also said that the climate that we’ve created for sex workers (constant harassment from police, strict prison sentences and fines, and general toxic shaming) contributes more harm than good for those who are trafficked. How do you go to the cops for help if you’re afraid of the cops imprisoning you? Pushing sex work underground will likely create an environment where sex trafficking flourishes because the safety nets that sex workers have been using have been destroyed, allowing an impunity free zone for traffickers to take advantage of. The question begs to answered, what is the real purpose of this law? There is nothing in FOSTA which would explicitly help sex trafficking victims. The bill is such a load of ambiguous horse shit that the Department of Justice’s office said in a letter that “the department notes that Section 2421-A as originally drafted is broader than necessary” and that the department is “also mindful that this language could have unintended consequences.” The bill is flawed. It’s also being used like a weapon to attack sex workers and contribute to a totalitarian culling of the internet. My take on this whole situation is that FOSTA is simply another attempt to control and censor the internet and naturally, it starts with the one thing that conservatives seem to despise: sexuality outside the constraints of white, christian heteronormativity (I hope that sounds PAINFULLY CONDESCENDING).

FOSTA comes on the wings of the Net Neutrality shit storm. The internet used to be freedom. A free exchange of ideas, information, porn, and general shittiness. The good came with the bad but it was malleable and could be formed for your needs. But FOSTA is just another nail in a proverbial coffin of my beloved. This attack on sex worker’s usage of the internet, a place where you can organize white nationalist rallies without drawing the slightest ire from our Federal Government, is one step closer to a likely stream of censorship. This will be the grand, moral cleansing of the internet. Legislated morality. A good chunk of sex work is already criminalized or penalized across most of this country based off of the opinion of some that the work is morally reprehensible. The same form of logic is being skull-fucked into the internet, one of our last frail examples of free speech. And all of this is happening behind our backs. Drape the flag over whatever actions our crusty political representatives deem obscene for the common populace. And just let those who are disenfranchised suffer under the boot of the state. When the dust settles, it will be sex-working women, POC, and trans-folk harmed by these laws, their livelihood and safety stripped away under the guise of protecting those who truly need to be protected, all for the sake of moralizing censorship. But, hey, In God We Trust, right? Not the guy who hung out with sex-workers. The other guy who was a fucking ass-hat.