WEIGHT: 54 kg
Sex services: Toys, Massage classic, BDSM, Swinging, Bondage
In April this year, United States law enforcement moved to shut down Backpage, the marketplace website used for flatmates wanted, second-hand furniture—and by sex workers to advertise their services. But while the bill was touted as an anti-trafficking measure, advocates say it failed to differentiate between illegal trafficking and consensual adult sex work.
Last Friday, the Department of Justice seized Backpage, and it can no longer be used by criminals to promote and facilitate human trafficking. The site was shut down as President Donald Trump signed into law the SESTA, or Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act, which makes it easier for federal law enforcement to sue sites, including social media sites, for facilitating offences including sex trafficking. But 12, kilometres away, in New Zealand, local sex workers say the law-change is still affecting them, making their work less safe, less inclusive and more expensive.
While sex work has long been decriminalised in New Zealand, Backpage was still a key source of work and revenue for local sex workers. Local workers say getting work online meant a wider range of sex-workers—including trans, body-diverse or those with disabilities—could access a customer base.
Phoenix, a trans sex-worker based in Christchurch, says work has been getting harder to come by since the site closed down. Backpage was life. For Phoenix, that means the key place to source work is on the streets of Christchurch.
The work is really, really, really slow out there. Surveying almost local sex workers, they found 75 percent reported an immediate effect on their income following the closure, and 45 percent reported their income was reduced to a point where they were unable to support themselves within a week.