Sex Work vs. Sex Trafficking: A Panel at Hacienda Villa
“This is just a stupid, sloppily written bill,” declares New York congressional candidate Suraj Patel in reference to FOSTA/SESTA, or the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act/Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act — named after actions they do not fulfill. On Monday, June 11th, advocates and allies alike traveled to Hacienda Villa, a sex-positive intentional community, to attend a panel called Sex Work vs. Sex Trafficking: Myths, Realities, and Political Solutions, moderated by sex researcher Dr. Zhana and featuring lawyer and professor Suraj Patel; activist, author, and performer Ceyenne Doroshow; attorney and activist Melissa Sontag Broudo; and pornographer and writer Stoya.
Toward the beginning of the night, Stoya brought up the fact that “few can take the risk of showing their faces” in situations like these, so it is important for those who are visible in the community and have greater privilege to advocate for and organize in support of sex workers.
Patel continually emphasized his goal of “harm reduction” in regards to the marginalization and surveillance of sex workers, trans women, and incarcerated people, explaining that “sex is always targeted.” The panel discussed how the recent passing of FOSTA/SESTA has negatively impacted consensual sex work, with more pimps reaching out and the shutting down of multiple websites that made this kind of work safer, all while not actually doing anything to fight sex trafficking. In fact, the consequences of these acts have moved past targeting just sex workers and are affecting all women regardless of their field, as demonstrated by Instagram banning #women, after a series of other banned hashtags including #stripper and #femalestripper — but not #malestripper. Additionally, Ceyenne Doroshow spoke out about how these policy changes specifically harm trans women, whether or not they are sex workers, noting: “The T [in LGBT] has always been last.”
Patel, who is running in the Democratic primaries for New York’s 12th congressional district on June 26th, said of himself and all other U.S. politicians: “Moralizing about sex is way, way above our pay grade.” The simultaneously entertaining and informational evening ended with a plug for another upcoming event organized in part by Patel’s campaign: the first ever town hall for sex workers, Rights Not Rescue: Empowering Community Against Discrimination, Policing, and Trafficking, which is taking place this Saturday, June 16th in New York City — RSVP here. The Sex Work vs. Sex Trafficking panel was an educational event that highlighted just how negative the outcomes of FOSTA/SESTA have already been and the extent of the harm.
Article and photos by Ginger Hollander