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Times are Slow

A post-FOSTA and Backpage-free world

· Behind the Curtain

Sorry for the gap in blog posts - I have gotten complaints about it! Some of you might know that I've been working as part of the Crockor team, and that's been sucking up a lot of my free time. Onwards!

Yes, by now, unless you have been living under a rock, you will probably be aware that Backpage is gone - Cracker too, for my Australian readers. For my muggle and client readers, you're probably not entirely sure what this means, but I assure you, all of your sex worker acquaintances know. It's bad, bad news for the industry, especially for the workers in America, who now have virtually no online advertising platforms at all and must resort to dangerous street work or work with pimps (as a side note, if you know of anyone who is a sex worker in the USA and has gone missing since the closure of Backpage, please report it here, they are trying to keep a log of this sort of thing, to show how much harm the authorities have done to sex workers). I can only really speak to my experience here in Australia, and what I have heard from my peers here.

Yes, work has slowed down. It was slow before BP-gate (I am not even sorry for naming it that) - and a couple of peers had a couple of theories as to why:

1. There is a current economic downturn in Australia, and that is leading to people tightening their purse strings on luxury spending, and for some to turn to alternate methods of work; a side hustle, if you will - one of which is sex work. This is leading to a lot of new sex workers becoming available, and there being less work in general to be had.

2. There has been a spate of neutral to positive media about sex work - here's one story that came out late last year, purportedly from a call girl who makes $5000 an hour. Probably fake, to be honest (there are girls out there who make that much, but... well, read the story), but the positive media spin that tells young women, "you can make that much too if you're young and pretty!" means that again, advertising directories are being flooded with new workers - these particular ones are not necessarily really in need of an income stream, but they are young women who honestly think this is easy cash (it is really not - it involves a lot of work), just be young and pretty. They will quickly find out that it isn't all about that!

Obviously, with the seizure of Backpage, work has all but stopped for a lot of people. Many fetish workers in particular used Backpage exclusively, as unlike vanilla escorting, there are no good directories around that are formatted specifically for Dom/me, sub, and fetish work. Many workers also couldn't afford the cost of escort advertising websites, or those websites would not get them work for the niche they offered, so Backpage was the best place for them to advertise, being a catch all for sex work advertising. As you can imagine, for these people, income streams vanished overnight, and panic set in. Many of them had money in the form of Backpage credits that was lost along with the FBI seizure - several to the tune of $100 to $2000, just from personal stories I have heard. These workers turned to other directories to advertise, which showed as a steep increase in the number of workers available on each site, slowing down work for everyone as clients struggled to find the workers in the niches they desired on websites not optimised for other kinds of sex work. Brothels and agencies also relied on Backpage to bring in clients attracted to the workers they listed on the site.

What are the consequences for this, other than lost money in general? For many workers - in fact, I'd say the majority - sex work is their only income stream. Many are students, unable to hold a retail job or similar due to time constraints, but also unable to survive on the pittance the government offers to support them. Many are single parents, who need the flexibility sex work offers in terms of hours and the ability to dictate your own time off. Many have partners who don't or can't work, or other dependants in need. Many are chronically ill or disabled themselves, and nine to fives are not appropriate for them. Basically, when Backpage shut down, along with its free ads, workers were left high and dry because no one could find them. According to data compiled by the Centre for Social Impact, one in seven Australians have no cash reserves, and one in four have less than $1000. One in three have too much month at the end of their money. Have a look at your weekly expenses - how long can you survive with no cash reserves? How about on $1000? Not long. I have heard story after story of workers stressed out of their minds trying to find an alternative to sex work until they can advertise again, brothels being flooded by independent workers who can't be found by clients, and workers selling everything they own to stay afloat and under a roof. A large chunk of the population has just had their last check cashed and they can't survive without another one. Forget about "they should have", their issues are immediate and shaming them for not planning ahead - or being financially unable to - is not constructive at all.

For myself, I have not struggled too hard. With a guaranteed salary, I've been able to pay my rent and bills with no trouble, and only a small dip in savings. I am extremely fortunate that I'm in this situation where many others are facing homelessness. The biggest struggle for me has been balancing effectively three jobs (sex work, day job, and admin for a website) with my already sparse amount of free time, but the rewards for being able to work on the website I am affiliated with are well worth the time I have to put in. Don't take this as bragging - take this as an example of how BP-gate has affected someone who is financially secure: I still had to dip into savings, which many others simply don't have. So you can imagine the effects on those who don't share my good fortune.

The good news is, a few weeks on from the nasty surprise of Backpage closing, Australian workers are starting to find their feet again. Clients are turning to whatever alternatives they can find, and escort directories have probably never made this much money. The community has pulled together in a way I'm sure most of us have never seen before; more well off workers are offering to cover advertising or photography for those who have none, photographers are offering extremely discounted or free shoots for those who need advertising images, some directories are now offering discounted or free ads, many private forums are full of stories from people who have paid other people's rent, or given them a place to stay, or taken care of their kids when they needed to take a booking. Workers have stuck their neck out talking about how their muggle work and qualifications can help struggling sex workers, outreach and support organisations have really come into their own. The good in the sex work community has really shone, and it's been incredibly beautiful to watch.

The work the community has done to help those who are struggling, even as they themselves are feeling overwhelmed, is honestly breathtaking. I want to thank each and every one of you for stepping up to the plate when you could have just as easily quietly done nothing; whether I know about your generosity or not, because you don't have to broadcast it to make it real. I'd also like to thank those clients who have helped and offered help to sex workers - with no strings attached - in an environment where many lesser individuals are attempting to take advantage. To the workers who are still really struggling: this will get better, I promise. Hold on, and don't be afraid to ask for help, your local outreach organisation is a better resource than you know, and other local workers are empathetic to your situation. We will get through this. #LetUsSurvive

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