Friday, June 24, 2011

Asking For It

Eva Rivera is a proud lesbian Chicana, daughter, sister and sex worker who can walk in 6 inch heels and twirl naked on a pole in front of total strangers but is still viciously afraid of moths. She hails from Fresno, CA and is a poet and aspiring film maker. You can find her more personal writing on her blog.  
Every now and then I am reminded that the nature of my profession is so feared and hated by society that someone can actually aim to destroy my livelihood, incite violence against me, or simply try to scare me. They remind me that despite my effort to maintain my privacy, through vigilance, using my fake name and information, I'm never really safe. Violence against sex workers is nothing new, although we rarely hear about it. Whether you are a dancer, actor, web cam model or escort, there are significant amounts of people who think you shouldn't exist, and can do real harm to you and your family. Most in this business consider this risk. That's why we take precautions such as using fake names and never giving out real information to customers, and even other sex workers. Of course, no matter what precautions anyone takes, in the sex industry or not, it's not always enough. Anyone can be a victim of rape, stalking, etc., but sex workers are especially vulnerable, because our clients can and do become obsessed with our personas. Reports of stalking (sometimes reported, sometimes word-of-mouth) are extremely common among sex workers. Sex workers are also vulnerable because we are less likely to report crimes such as stalking and rape, due to fear of not being believed, being accused of prostitution and risking jail time, deportation and outing.

Recently, a site well-known to those in the porn industry, leaked the personal information of over 15,000 porn actors.( I won't link or name the site for obvious reasons of not wanting to encourage more traffic and at the request of many of the actors whose information appears on the site). This site gives viewers actors stage names next to their real names, addresses, google maps of their homes, and sometimes pictures, names, addresses and telephone numbers of their family members as well. The site claims to be releasing more information soon, such as actors social security numbers, photos of their id's and birth certificates. Apparently, the site obtained this information through a security breach at a popular health clinic where porn actors go for STD testing. According to forums in a popular sex worker support site, some porn actors have had their STD status made public as well.

This is harrowing news for sex workers. Many whose names and information have been posted, have started to take legal action, but the damage has already been done. Already, there are reports of sex workers being stalked and harassed, soon after this information leaked.  Instead of sex workers receiving support, protection, and empathy, our slut-shaming, victim-blaming society has simply told us that we've asked for it, that we should've been prepared for this, and we can blame no one but ourselves.  Many don't consider that it's not the fear of being judged by society that pisses us off about this leak, but that it directly puts our lives on the line.

What gives anyone the right to decide who deserves privacy and dignity?  The person responsible for this site claims he is working in the best interest of the sex industry, by "warning" sex workers who not to perform with. He repeatedly calls female actors whores, and male actors in gay porn "fags who are ruining the adult industry by spreading HIV." The man clearly has no idea what he's talking about, but his ignorance has basically put a price on actors' heads.

Everything we see in the media tells us that victims play a part in their own victimhood, and sex workers are the ultimate targets for this. When a rape or murder is reported, there is a small sigh of relief she was doing something that led to this end, it couldn't have been me. But if we don't have enough empathy, resources and integrity to fight for a social environment that protects and supports the most vulnerable, what do we have?

I predict that this leak and others to follow will have huge negative impacts on those involved -- hopefully none resulting in violence. It will likely force some sex workers to leave the industry, or to live in fear. No one is really taking this issue too seriously, so sex workers will have very few avenues to address the situation, heal from it, and have a sense of security that social services and resources are in place, and that people in general have our backs.  It's possible that you have friends, family or acquaintances, who are sex workers, or have performed sex work. It is even more likely, that they wouldn't disclose this information. Make sure they know that you have their backs. I tell my sister everything and it gives me peace of mind to know that she is one more person who knows what I do, who I interact with, and one more person who I can turn to if I'm ever in trouble.