Boston DSA condemns the passage and signing into law of FOSTA (formerly FOSTA/SESTA) and the seizure of Backpage.com by the FBI. We equally condemn actions by companies like Craigslist, Microsoft, and Google to shutter online spaces used by sex workers, delete sex workers’ content from services like Google Drive, and seize sex workers’ accounts. FOSTA alters Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which shields online platforms from lawsuits against user published content. The text of the bill can be read here. As socialists, we fight for the liberation of all workers. Thus, we fight for the liberation of sex workers without exception.
In addition to the damage FOSTA causes to sex workers and their communities, we acknowledge that it does nothing to stop sex trafficking. In fact, it does the the opposite by pushing sex trafficking further underground and failing to address the material conditions of people who are trafficked. In the wake of FOSTA’s passage, the bill’s supporters have offered solutions grounded in free market ideologies and savior mentalities, rather than incorporating evidence-based policy supported by the affected communities. For independent sex workers, the bill’s open-ended liability has effectively shuttered the platforms and mechanisms that allowed them to safely work by verifying and screening clients. FOSTA’s provisions targeting the “facilitation of prostitution” threaten to criminalize organizations who advocate for sex workers through harm reduction work, distributing information and testing for STIs and the creation of client blacklists, to felony prosecution. Such provisions inhibit sex worker communities and their allies from organizing together around violence prevention and harm-reduction, thus, leaving them open to increased violence from both individuals and the incarceral state. We stand with organizations like the Sex Worker Organizing Project, The Massachusetts Sex Worker Ally Network, Support Ho(s)e, and Survivors Against SESTA in decrying the bill and its signing into law.
We condemn the votes of every single “progressive” Massachusetts Representative and Senator in Congress who supported this barbaric legislation. We believe that any “progressive” response to sex work that further invokes the carceral state under the guise of “protecting” sex workers is a farce, and we understand that there is nothing liberatory to be gained from concessions that require vulnerable people to come face to face with the police state that seeks to profit off of their incarceration. We condemn anyone who cloaks this paternalistic legislation in concern for sex workers. In addition, we condemn Senator Elizabeth Warren for introducing S. 2080/S. 952 “End Banking for Human Traffickers Act of 2017” and we also condemn its companion legislation in the House, which passed 408-2.
We also recognize that this has been a blind spot for many in DSA and on the left, more generally. We cannot call ourselves socialists and fight for the liberation of all if that does not include sex workers. Sex work is work and we must strive for the liberation of sex workers and the full decriminalization of sex work. Boston DSA calls on our legislators to fully decriminalize sex work. Furthermore, our solidarity with sex workers must acknowledge the ways in which sex workers face violence and oppression in their attempts to organize. We cannot call for the liberation of sex workers while upholding the patriarchal violence that many sex workers experience from people who are ostensibly ‘on the left’; from the silence around sex workers’ rights while other forms of labor organizing are uplifted and celebrated, to the harassment that sex workers disproportionately still face in organizing spaces whether because of the stigma surrounding their work, the color of their skin, or their gender identity.
We condemn all types of violence against sex workers including violence perpetrated by the state and by people masking as allies, who often fail at adhering to the principles of allyship. We must commit to calling out the violence and oppression sex workers face in our own spaces as well if we are ever going to be a truly liberatory movement. As we implore members of Boston DSA to support full decriminalization and serve as allies to sex workers, we also call upon them to infuse a socialist feminist praxis into their support. Such praxis excludes any practices of discrimination, harassment, intimidation, or violence, especially as tied to the the ever-present patriarchal, sexist values on the left. We ask that comrades engage in respectful rather than performative behavior in their support for sex workers.
We call on our members to participate in actions on International Whores’ Day, June 2nd. For more resources, please visit https://survivorsagainstsesta.org/, http://www.new.swopusa.org/, or https://www.massachusettsswan.org/.
Be it resolved:
- Boston DSA opposes FOSTA.
- Boston DSA opposes H.R. 2219/S. 2080/S. 952 “End Banking for Human Traffickers Act of 2017” in its current form.
- Boston DSA opposes Massachusetts bill H 3499 “An Act Decriminalizing Prostitution” in its current form.
- Boston DSA opposes the Nordic Model of sex work ‘legalization,’ also known as demand-side criminalization.
- Boston DSA calls for full decriminalization of sex work.
- The following working groups will devote time to a discussion on how sex work advocacy can fit into their current work at a working group meeting: Ecosocialism, Electoral, Healthcare, Housing, Immigration, Internationalism, Labor, Mental Health, Political Education, Prison Abolition, Socialist Feminism, and Tech.