Sex Work After SESTA/FOSTA: A Discussion With Maggie Mayhem at DEFCON

Las Vegas, NV – According to sex workers’ rights activist Maggie Mayhem, the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA), and FOSTA, have created a more dangerous environment for sex workers in the United States, driving them back onto the street.

A November 2017 research paper found that the female homicide rate dropped 17% after Craigslist became a platform for erotic services over a decade ago. Recently, in spring of 2018, Craigslist abruptly shut down its Personals sections, fearing backlash from the government after Congress passed the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA).

Since the passing of SESTA/FOSTA, many online services have shut down voluntarily out of fear of being charged under the new human trafficking laws. Remaining online services used by sex workers face being shutdown by federal agents at any moment.

During our interview with Maggie Mayhem, she discussed the differences between the criminalization, legalization, and decriminalization of sex work. According to her research, sex workers often face non-consensual medical screenings, targeted harassment of black transgender women, as well as stings that focus on disrupting immigration and migrant workers.

Mayhem also talked about enforcement of SESTA/FOSTA is often left to Homeland Security and ICE, which are more interested in punishing, jailing, and deporting victims caught in human trafficking than actually supporting them. Enforcement of this legislation, Mayhem told us, will create greater economic disparity between sex workers, and will ultimately empower pimps and agencies over independent providers.

She also discussed the growing dangers faced by sex workers and their supporters under SESTA/FOSTA and creative ways for people to move forward resisting these new laws.

Enforcement of this nature is facilitated by profiling, institutional bias, and broad overreaching policies that fundamentally violate individual human rights.”

“Maggie Mayhem is a sex worker, birth worker, and death worker from San Francisco, CA. She has served on the Board of Directors for the Sex Worker Outreach Project-USA and founded the health, hygiene, and harm reduction project HarmReduxSF. She has been involved in public health since 2003 and is an international advocate for sex worker rights and reproductive justice. Her independent adult website MeetTheMayhems was the recipient of a feminist porn award.” – DEFCON

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Written by Andrew Neef & Rachel Weiland