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The Sex Workers Alliance Ireland (SWAI) welcomes the news that OnlyFans will not proceed with new changes in OnlyFans announced last week which would ban sexually explicit contentThis reversal is due to the sex work community rallying and ensuring that the shock and fear our community felt was heard.

Aoife Bloom, board member of SWAI said “The global pandemic continues and while we are slowly reopening some sex workers are supplementing their income through online work. Throughout the pandemic the number of OnlyFans content creators increased dramatically which undoubtedly increased the profits for the shareholder immensely.” 

She continued “Sex workers are familiar with exclusion from financial platforms. PayPal, which have its European headquarters in Ireland, have closed the accounts of sex workers, refused to pay out the remaining balance which amounts to stealing money, even for those who do not use the platform to be paid for sex work. GoFundMe, a popular crowdfunding site that many trans people use to raise money to pay for the surgeries they do not have access to here in Ireland, does not allow sex workers to use their platform. Our COVID hardship fund in 2020 sought to get cash straight into the hands of sex workers who really needed it and we struggled with a reliable way to deliver it.  May we remind people that sex work in Ireland is not illegal, at least according to the proponents of the Nordic Model of client criminalisation in Ireland.” 

“These new regulations would have been a fallout from the FOSTA SESTA laws, introduced in the United States in 2018. These laws made advertising sex work illegal which meant workers could no longer use these sites to find clients and many were forced back to their exploitative managers (pimps) or working in the street. We have seen that these third parties have contacted OnlyFans workers in the wake of the proposed changes. Stigma and marginalisation make sex workers reliant on third parties which opens them up to exploitation.” 

“Reducing the income of sex workers is a core tenant of the End Demand model of client criminalisation. Many sex workers were not included in government supports which meant that over 50% of the sex workers we spoke to were unable to give up in-person work. As we have stated time and again reducing the income of sex workers does nothing to end exploitation and trafficking in the industry and in fact make sex workers less safe. Sex workers could have been forced to move away from OnlyFans into in-person work. This loss of income could have forced workers into taking risks such as not using condoms or taking on clients that they would normally turn down.” 

“Despite the claims of anti-sex work organisations in Ireland and elsewhere, there is no evidence that people have been coerced into creating content. The platform allows workers to set their own time, be their own boss and avoid exploitative pornography production companies. It is clear that anti-sex work ideology is more important than mitigating risk for people working in the industry. These financial institutes claim a moral authority but continue to work with companies that are responsible for climate change, or the opioid crisis.” 

“Sex workers are people, it seems we have to remind the world of this. Sex workers are excluded from financial institutions and social media platforms, even when the mantra for the past 18 months has been to stay indoors. The organisations calling for this exclusion have dark histories of religious oppression and anti-choice rhetoric, including in Ireland. Make no mistake, they will not stop at excluding sex workers, other marginalised people will be next. Where will this end?”

“Sex workers are the canaries in the coal mine for many regressive laws and regulations. Decriminalisation of sex work is the first step in ending the stigma of our work. We are entitled to work as safely as possible. Decriminalisation will not legalise exploitation or trafficking. Our current legal model is failing sex workers and has done nothing to keep us safe since its introduction.” 

woman looking at phone with creepy ghost behind herConsent is vital for any sexual relationship, whether online or in-person, whether transactional or not. The leaking and distribution of sexual images which have been reported recently breaches the consent and trust of those involved.  

Misogyny, rape culture and consent are at the heart of this, issues sex workers are all too familiar with. We have seen an effort by people who wish to eradicate sex work to separate those whose Only Fans images have been leaked and those who have had their private images released by former partners but we expect everyone to stand together to oppose slut shaming and hatred of women’s sexuality in all its forms. Sex workers are constantly excluded from the consent conversation in Ireland but we are in the middle of this scandal. We are not outside of this, anyone who sells sexual services including nudes is doing sex work.

Sex workers have learned not to turn to the laws and Gardai to keep us safe. The criminal justice system fails sex workers every day. The sex work laws which were brought in with great fanfare were supposed to keep us safe but have led to a 92% increase in violence against us. Sex workers are now less likely to report to Gardai when they are victims of a crime than they were 3 years ago.

Sex worker’s images and stories are regularly taken without consent by media outlets and organisations who fight to end our means of survival without providing alternatives. We understand all too well how stigma and fear of being outed as a sex worker can affect you, and we know that being outed is many people’s worst fear. We know people have had the knowledge of their sexual services used against them in custody battles, housing and employment.

People have reached out to our organisation because they want sex worker-friendly, peer-led support. Earlier this year we were refused funding from the Department of Justice. We can only afford to pay our outreach staff for 1 day per week, we cannot run a 24-hour hotline. Lack of support from the top down in Ireland means that we cannot provide the support we want to but we will do our best to see that those who contact us are supported.

Ireland needs decent, non-stigmatising sex education, consent education and an overhaul of how women are viewed in society. We cannot rely on the criminal justice system alone to do this. Sex worker’s trust in Gardaí in Ireland is at an all-time low. Dara Quigley’s images were leaked by a Garda, in case you needed reminding. Marginalised people such as the undocumented cannot and will not turn to the very Gardaí who deport them for help. We cannot leave them behind. 

To that end we are having an online support meeting for anyone who sells images for money that has been affected by this incident online on Tuesday 1st December. Contact us at [email protected] or contact Becky at 085 824 9305.