Sex work is more dangerous than ever in the US

Sex work is more dangerous than ever in the US

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People are going to
die because of this legislation. Like, it’s not even a question. Maybe it’s the sex trade
that’s inherently dangerous. I really just wish people
would listen to sex workers. Instead of like going out there
and detaining us, why don’t you talk to us? I’m here in New York to find out what it’s like to be a sex worker
right now in America. In Australia
many of our states and territories have either legalised or
decriminalised sex work. But here in the US prostitution
is legal in just one of 50 states. Liara Roux has been a sex worker,
adult film star and advocate for 5 years. What’s a regular week or month
like for you and how much would you actually make? My best month
I made 80 thousand dollars I think. Procuring sex work online has given
her a pretty good lifestyle, but across the US many sex workers
don’t have the means that she does. Working on the streets in a profession
that’s highly criminalised. In smaller cities or towns
in the middle of the country where the police force
is more conservative it can be really dangerous and often the police are the ones who are perpetrators of violence
against sex workers or police may use threats
of being arrested to rape women. Liara says that in the US,
the criminalisation of sex work is propped up by powerful
conservative lobby groups and organisations. A lot of these organisations
believe that… sex work is inherently
dehumanising to women and they hate that some people
actually enjoy it. They want to say that we don’t exist,
but I love my work. For them it’s like a holy war if they can destroy the sex industry then they can destroy women
being sexual objects. My name is Maya
and I’m 24 years old. I am a sex worker and a dreamer. Maya comes from a conservative family
with high expectations. She did well academically, doing honours
and taking college-level classes while still in high school. The way I got into sex work
was very gradual. I had this Tumblr and I used to take
like pinup kind of selfies and then I started
taking all my clothes off and I still called it art, and then I slipped a finger inside and I just couldn’t call it art
any more – it was porn. I can make 3 to 5 grand a month. I was choosing to be my own boss
and making my own choices. For Maya
doing sex work wasn’t just a rebellion
against a conservative family it was also a rebellion
against a country that didn’t want to accept her. When she was 6 years old, Maya was smuggled into the US
from Honduras in Central America. My grandmother was murdered
in the farm that we were living in a bunch of people
broke into the house they had two bullets to her head
and one in her back. We don’t really trust police there so we ended up sleeping with her
right next to us and then when we woke up
we told the villagers that she had passed away
and we had a funeral. For most of her life
Maya has been living in the US as an undocumented immigrant meaning she had no legal
immigration status. In the US they call these kids
Dreamers. I always dreamed of being
a Culture Anthropologist. I watched all my friends going to
work at 14 and driving at 16, voting at 18,
it was really heartbreaking. In 2012, she was granted protection under Obama’s Deferred Action for
Childhood Arrivals legislation- or DACA. After all, most of these immigrants
have been here a long time. They work hard, often in tough,
low-paying jobs. That gave her a 2 year right to live,
work and study in the US with no guarantee of citizenship. The average undocumented immigrant,
it takes them like ten years in order to got to, get a Bachelors. I admire immigrants that have
that much hope and that much drive because for me it’s like this card only gives me the right to be here
for two years. Now in this administration that’s something they’re really
fighting to take away even, so… Build that wall, build that wall! The program known as DACA that was affectuated
under the Obama administration is being rescinded. In 2017, Trump announced
he was ending DACA, with Maya and 800,000 other dreamers
facing an uncertain future. That was challenged
in the federal court and today the future of DACA
remains unclear. Growing up I tried to be
as perfect as I could be because I had this idea that
if I was just good enough that people would give me
more opportunities but the opposite has happened. I tried to join the navy and the next
month that option was cut from me I tried to get good grades
and that wasn’t enough. I tried to be a good model citizen. All these policies make me feel
really devalued and they slowly crush my voice. Maya’s story is not uncommon. Many undocumented immigrants
end up in jobs that are unregulated, and hidden from the public view. This also makes them prime targets
for trafficking, with women and kids forced into
the trade against their will. Right now a new law is hoping to
stem the tide of sex trafficking, but may make consensual sex work
much more dangerous. In April 2018 a bill was passed
into law in the US known as FOSTA SESTA. The aim was to curb sex trafficking
on online personals sites like Backpage- a popular site for
posting ads, especially for sex work but also for sex trafficking. Legally, Backpage and other websites
could NOT be held responsible for sex trafficking content
posted by their users. Now- due to FOSTA SESTA -they can. It allows greater policing
of these sites and opens them up to lawsuits
from trafficking survivors. But the language of the law
is pretty vague penalising all websites that promote
or facilitate prostitution meaning a whole bunch of
sex-related content and websites are disappearing. And sex workers around the world
using US-based sites are being cut off. Sex work is an entirely different
issue than human trafficking. I’ve heard reports of people being
homeless. I’ve heard reports of people
going missing. For a lot of people who used to be able
to work online and were able to screen clients
that way, they’ve been pushed onto the streets so it means that it’s harder
for them to make sure that the client that
they’re seeing is legitimate, they have to totally
go off their gut. Which makes it really hard,
it’s really dangerous People are really scared.
A lot of people are going to die because of this legislation.
It’s not even a question. It’s clear this law is making sex work
a lot more dangerous. But are sex workers
just unintended casualties in a war against sex trafficking or were they always
in the firing line? FOSTA targets websites. It doesn’t target
adult services sections, it doesn’t target individuals and we don’t want individuals
who are consensually selling sex to be targeted. Romina Canessa runs the anti-sex
trafficking program at Equality NOW a women’s rights organisation that
helped draft and pass FOSTA SESTA. FOSTA/SESTA was needed because there was this
explosion of the online marketplace for commercial sex. And many of those affected
were children and trafficked women. I think throughout their lifetime Backpage made almost
500 million dollars and just making money off of selling
children for sex, for rape. So FOSTA SESTA is,
by a lot of anecdotal reports forcing people to conduct work
on the streets rather than online where they can’t vet their clients,
possibly putting them in danger. I mean I’d just first
like to make clear Equality Now doesn’t
want anyone to be in danger and there is also women being killed
on Backpage before. It just goes to show
that maybe it’s the sex trade that’s inherently dangerous. Romina says the law
is already working. The online marketplace
has been reduced already, 30 to 40% of what it was
before FOSTA, so that for us is a huge impact. I did feel safe in the industry because of the network
that I had for myself. We had support networks online. All our support networks are gone,
so… I can’t do it any more,
it’s just too unsafe. Maya has moved home to her parents. She doesn’t want to work
on the streets where she’s a target for
rogue police, pimps and johns. It just puts the power
in the wrong hands when you have a criminalised system. With the midterm elections
around the corner for Maya her only hope is that
the next few years will bring change both for immigrants and sex workers. And sometimes I get scared
because if like something happens people can’t really hear me
as brightly as somebody who has… just an open world
that listens to them. I hope that the people who can vote would open up that world for me because it hurts
to not be able to vote and it hurts to watch
other people… vote for your life. It sounds like
you have been let down. Yeah. Everyone promised me that
they were going to help me. And things turned out the way that my
cynical mind thought that they would and that’s really disappointing, that I’m used to being disappointed. I’m not a Dreamer any more… I’m just kinda dreaming
for another day.


  1. Ms. Canessa can you provide any evidence or facts to back your statements up? Or are you just making up lies to support your preconceived notions about sex workers?

  2. They really need to learn from us Australians if they wanna do it it's their choice… That being said think it's time for a visit 😉

  3. America is so dumb! In Australia in every state Brothels are legal! we have had zero issues with that so Dear America STOP ARRESTING CLIENTS AND SEX WORKERS! you only allow them to become worse.

  4. No matter how much they say its empowering or being their own person they need help and will never be happy. They obviously lack a fulfilment that they will never get by doin this. They need God to fill the void they have in there soul i feel bad for them. They look empty.

  5. How is the police telling a sex worker (prostitute) that she'll be arrested a threat? I mean, prostitution is a crime. I'm sorry (not really) but being told you'll be arrested if you break the law isn't a threat.

  6. Prostitution has been made legel here in New Zealand since 2003. It was due to the amount of violence that women that worked on the street saw. It enabled the industry to make safer choices. I sympathise for the women that have lost work due to sites being closed, however, they were closed to sex trafficking of women and children. Of any site that supported this sort of activity, I say close them all down.

  7. Eliminate the drugs, pimps, and STDs and it's the same as any gambling addiction. We need to focus on the bigger issues of why men go to them. It's not just men who have the problem, women need to understand they are a big part of this. If feminists, mras, happily married people, and successful people in a relationship all got together listening to each other on how we all can be heard while changing the laws everyone would be happy. But until then, we shall live where people are bought and sold. Its sad.

  8. In all the other nations the women are protected with the same human rights protection….but NOT in the United States. Furthermore, the American police force these women to do the policeman's dirty work by forcing these women to become informants for the American police. Many American sex workers disappear because the American police put these women in harms way. Only America does that to women. US Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg told her Facebook staff to damage George Soros's reputation on Facebook's propaganda feed. Sheryl Sandberg accused Soros of being "Antisemitic" because Soros donates billions of dollars to protect American women. She's a staunch Republican Conservative. Sandberg hates George Soro's also because Soro's said US Facebook is undermining world democracy. US Facebook helped the massacre of 200,000 innocent Burmese Muslim families which bothered the EU and Soros. That's why Sandberg hates Soros. Anyway, in all the other nations those governments take sex workers out of the hands of organized crime syndicates and they force the women to register and get frequent AIDA checkups etc which the women have to pay for-also the United States of America always abused women for hundreds of years. It's part of the American tradition of Puritanism—that's why you women should never allow your sons to join the American military

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