Financial Exclusion

Background

For decades sex workers have been denied access to basic business financial tools based on anti sex work ideology describing sex workers as all victims of crime with control over our own finances. This ideology also promotes our exclusion from use of traditional financial tools in efforts to combat sex trafficking – human trafficking of persons into the sex industry.

Legislation at the federal level, FINTRAC, International laws like FOSTA/ SESTA, public policies of banks and credit unions, lack of understanding about the truth of sex workers lives and attacks on the places we use for work have all combined to create an extremely biased and hostile environment for sex workers trying to conduct business.

Sex workers are forced to use “work around” techniques to collect their pay via third or fourth parties in order to receive payment for their work.

These methods allow sex workers to work and be paid but are unreliable, unsafe, unstable and in some cases a complete scam.

COVID-19

During the initial lock downs due to COVID 19, “in person” sex industry businesses were shut down. Exotic show lounges, massage parlors and the majority of independent operators were closed for months.

Exotic dancers bore the brunt of the impacts of these closures as the clubs were not only subject to sex industry “opening guidelines” but also were under the umbrella of food and drink establishment regulations.

This meant that while massage parlors were allowed to re-open during phase 2 alongside hair salons and spas, exotic show lounges were forced to remain closed until phase 3 and in some places phase 4 before re-opening.

Many sex workers from across our industry migrated into on-line sex work using platforms like Pornhub and Onlyfans to try to earn enough to feed and house their families.

These platforms allow sex workers to sell adult content behind a “paywall”. Clients will pay a monthly subscription to view the content. A sex worker can build up a clientele which will help to cover cost of living via these monthly subscription fees which are collected from the client by the platform and then paid to the sex workers when they “cash out”. Some workers will collect their pay everyday, some will collect monthly and some will save up their earnings inside the platform as if the platform is a savings account in a bank and only cash out when they reach their goals.

Of course these platforms charge a fee for these transactions and act as a third and sometimes a forth party between sex workers and receiving payment form the clients. Many platforms will use an outside payment processor to conduct the transactions as a 4th party and as such the fees continue to get higher and higher. Not just one party between sex workers and pay, but two parties each profiting from every single transaction.

In an almost cruel twist, anti sex work groups decided now was the time to attack these platforms and means of income. Federal legislation, Provincial legislation and public communications campaigns fueled an undermining of the safety of these opportunities for sex workers to continue to work even in a “no contact” sex work environment.

The most well known of this targeting is against Pornhub, a Canadian company who when under scrutiny suddenly and without warning removed 3 million independently made film clips from their site. This displaced thousands of sex workers who suddenly lost their income and were forced to find other ways to make ends meet including engaging in full contact sex work.

Public opinion and understanding of these issues continues to be skewed and biased by the ongoing attacks on our livelihoods. Even now, new legislation is under way which will further target and undermine sex worker safety and ability to be paid for their work.

Sex work is decriminalized in Canada…at least that’s what sex workers have been told.

We have been told that under the Nordic Model of criminalization we are legally allowed to work as sex workers. Adult film and exotic dancing have never been criminalized in Canada but these legal forms of sex work are also being targeted for removal from the internet and financial exclusion.

Sex workers from all areas of the industry are reporting increasing issues with on-line sex work including;

  • Platforms seizing sex workers earnings and refusing to pay out wages for work already completed
  • Banks seizing sex workers earnings or freezing accounts due too suspicions of trafficking
  • Sex buyers canceling payments.
  • “Shadow banning” – where sex workers accounts are still active but no one can see them
  • Stalking and Harassment
  • Non consensual image sharing
  • Threats of “outing”/ “outing” to co-workers in non sex work jobs, family and friends
  • Extortionate costs for advertising
  • Increased visibility for targeted robbery
  • Increased privacy violations when posting content – more and more personal information required

As complaints and concerns began to mount, BCCEC Members decided to try work to raise awareness about the criminal acts and violence sex workers were experiencing in on-line sex work.

Federal Government actions initiated by anti sex work lobbyists are underway to limit sex workers access to working on-line and to eliminate what are arguably some of the safest jobs there are in sex work.

The BCCEC made submissions to the committees studying the legislation in both Parliament and the Senate and testified in Senate Committee in opposition to anti adult content hearings.

We also worked to counter misinformation being promoted in the hearings as fact challenging the law makers to examine and scrutinize every piece of information they were considering for adherence to the standards of researcher involving human beings which are expected in this country.

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