Last month the US congress overwhelmingly passed two bills: the “Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act” (SESTA) and the “Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act” (FOSTA). Both bills make websites retroactively liable for user-generated content that “facilitates or promotes” sex work. While the bipartisan proponents of SESTA & FOSTA claim that these provisions protect victims of sex trafficking, the new laws represent a grave threat to the safety and autonomy of sex workers.
Recent evidence shows that online platforms reduce mortality & sexual assault among sex workers. In the wake of SESTA/FOSTA, websites have begun shutting down venues that sex workers use to screen clients and share resources, threatening their livelihoods and putting them at risk of violence and harm. Proponents of the legislation conflate trafficking with consensual sex work, using public concern about the former as justification for violent suppression of the latter. In contrast, anti-trafficking advocates have made clear that SESTA/FOSTA will make it more difficult to stop sex trafficking, not less.
As feminists, we reject the gendered hierarchy of labor that denigrates those who engage in sex work. Oppression of sex workers springs from the same misogynist and queer-phobic roots that justify violence against women and LGBTQ+ people everywhere. Likewise, we reject respectability politics that strips consensual sex workers of their agency and autonomy and posits them as victims in need of rescue.
As socialists, we affirm that sex work is work. Just as we support workers everywhere who fight for better working conditions, we support sex workers in their struggle for safety, dignity, and autonomy. Under capitalism, all of us in the working class are forced sell our labor in order to survive, and we must recognize attempts to divide sex work from other forms of wage labor for what they are: a weapon of the patriarchal, capitalist ruling class.
We urge our DSA comrades in chapters across the country to stand with sex workers and to lend their solidarity and material support to sex worker-led organizing against SESTA and FOSTA.
The Queer & Feminist Caucus of Seattle DSA
Endorsed by the Seattle DSA Local Council