Sex Work: Is Cyberbullying The Lesser of Two Evils?

For sex workers, the reality of stranger danger is all too present, and yet the online world is far from a place of refuge. Should sex workers have to deal with cyberbullying as a lesser of two evils?

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If you are an active web user, you will know that 'trolling' and cyberbullying has been a problem for some time now. It affects every level of the cyber world: businesses, employees, entrepreneurs, celebrities, teens... pretty much every demographic.

So it's of no surprise that it has been a major problem for those operating within the sex industry. Sex workers have been victimised on countless occasions in real life and online. Many are opting for internet based services or accept bookings online to minimise the risk of physical harm. 

With sites offering reviews, private messaging and community based forums, it provides sex workers with the opportunity to discuss any emerging issues, safety concerns, changes in policy and raise the alarm in the instance of dangerous individuals or trolls posing as clients. Usually such platforms have moderators in order to manage the user base and ban those who pose a threat to sex workers. 

Unfortunately, this is not the case for social media. The fact is, many sex workers rely on their huge social followings for publicity and bookings, seeing as it is illegal to advertise such services in media outlets. 

Over the past year alone, I have witnessed shocking examples of online harassment and cyberbullying. I was appalled by the fact that a person would even think to send anyone such vile messages of ridicule, body shaming, slut shaming and threats of violence.

Sadly, sex workers are some of the most targeted users for such abuse online. The very nature of their work makes them a target of predators and trolls lacking in any sense of morality. Those who I have spoken to confidentially have told me that they feel like they are seen and treated as second rate citizens both on and offline, purely because of the nature of their work... as if common decency doesn't apply to them.

Even worse is that the police show very little to no initiative in providing support, due to what they consider to be illegal activity and types of work that isn't subject to the same protective laws as others. It is not an overestimation to say that the majority of the polices forces operating in the UK are far more likely to convict sex workers operating on the streets than they are the thugs who have assaulted sex workers.

With very little in the way of legal protection offline, it's natural for many to rely on online platforms and social media as means of obtaining work. However, that does not mean that being subjected to hate speech and misogynistic, threats of violence should be the norm. 

In the worst case scenarios, cyberbullying has lead to the suicides of some popular adult film performers. The triggers often cannot be foreseen but the tragedies themselves potentially could have been prevented, should the support network and adequate guidance be available. 

While some intiatives are being taken by the industry itself to try and provide support, it's somewhat disparate and doesn't adequately bridge the different occuptions, as reported in our end the whorearchy piece. 

Also it's essential that social platforms and law enforcement cease their ostracisation of sex workers in order to adequately provide follow ups and take legal action against those who cyber-stalk and continue to harass sex workers. 

The last thing the industry needs, is the number of cyberbullying-related suicides to become a household statistic.

 

Written by Brenda Adiyiah for Burn the Night

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