Sex Workers Rallied on International Whores’ Day to Protest Against FOSTA-SESTA Law

On Saturday, sex workers united together in recognition of International Whores’ Day to protest against the recent passage of the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act and Stop Enabling Sex Trafficking Act, or FOSTA-SESTA. Workers, activists, and allies gathered all over the country, in cities from Chicago to Las Vegas and New York, where attendees wore red and also called for the decriminalization of sex work.

The bill aims to fight websites that promote sex trafficking, Vox reports, but sex workers’ rights groups claim that the legislation puts the lives of sex workers in danger by hindering their ability to safely communicate with clients and each other online.

President Donald Trump signed the bill in April and it has led to the shutdown of several online platforms that sex workers formerly used to screen clients, safely advertise from their own homes, and communicate with each other. After the passage of the bill, many websites banned or censored their platforms.

Activists and opponents of the bill claim that while the bill does very little to actually target traffickers, it does encourage “violence against the most marginalized," adult performer Lorelei Lee said in a recent Instagram post. Lee claims that the bill conflates sex trafficking with any kind of sex work, including legal adult performers.

 

Yesterday was so incredible, I don't have words. Hundreds of sex workers and allies overflowed Christopher Park and marched to Washington Square. We stood out in the sun and screamed and screamed and screamed. We screamed our rage and our grief and our need to be heard. We screamed for friends locked up, for friends assaulted, for friends killed. We screamed for our own traumas and our own survival. We screamed to say: we are here, we are here, we are here. In America, we talk a lot about "visibility" and about "awareness," but for sex workers, visibility can be dangerous. Civilian awareness can be harmful. I have a lot of complicated feelings about my own level of visibility - and the number of times it has put me in threatening situations - but yesterday, it seemed as though we could be visible not as individuals, but as a coalition in which some of the danger of individual visibility might be mitigated. We could stand together and take up space together and scream together and physically show up for each other - as much as a protest is a way to communicate with civilians, it is a way for us to meet and communicate with each other. For me, that is strength. I met so many unbelievable workers and allies yesterday and I'm incredibly grateful for all of you. Thank you. You are all my whore heroes. #LetUsSurvive #internationalwhoresday #iwd2018 #sexworkersunite

A post shared by Lorelei Lee (@missloreleilee) on

In February, the Department of Justice stated that FOSTA-SESTA would make it more difficult to prosecute sex trafficking cases. In a letter to the Chairman of the House Committee on the Judiciary, as well as ranking members of the U.S. House of Representatives, Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd stated that while the bill was “well-intentioned”, there must be an established connection between “the criminal actions related to sex trafficking” and “the use of the internet to promote or facilitate prostitution” for a party to be found guilty under the assessment of the law. Boyd went on to claim that the law itself may be unconstitutional.