Sex and the Internet at SXSW: Is the next step decriminalize sex work?


This post is loaded with goodies. The lowdown on sex and the internet at SXSW 2019. An update on internet censorship. How decriminalizing sex work could save the net. And the launch of an organization whose mission is to decriminalize prostitution nationwide.

the SXSW experience

Last month, America’s sweetheart Dan Savage joined sex worker rights and free speech leaders to share ideas, deepen connections and educate SXSW attendees and the public about the damage done by SESTA/FOSTA, how it happened and our options for the future.

On Sunday evening, Decriminalize Sex Work and SWOP Behind Bars hosted a sex worker organizers and allies meet and greet to write letters to incarcerated sex workers and talk about decriminalization work throughout the country. We celebrated the launch of Decriminalize Sex Work, an organization determined to decriminalize prostitution nationwide. With guests in attendance from San Francisco to Seattle to New York to DC to Florida, it was exciting to feel the growing unity and confidence within this movement.

On Monday afternoon at the Hilton, the panel discussion unfolded. The video below is an unedited capture of this groundbreaking discussion.

SXSW panel: Dan Savage the popular sex advisor, Alex Andrews a founder of the modern sex worker rights movement, Lawrence Walters a lead attorney on the ongoing federal lawsuit against SESTA/FOSTA, moderated by River del Llano aka River Roaring.

The panel turned out to be one of the juiciest presentations at SXSW 2019. See coverage of the panel discussion by LGBTQ Nation.

And these historic events were possible because of the generous support of:

Dan Savage

Alex Andrews

Lawrence Walters

Alexis Adams

SXSW Staff

Hotel 11

Nexus ATX

Decriminalize Sex Work

SWOP Behind Bars

Doug Richards

Melissa Sontag Broudo

Blaire Hopkins

Kaytlin Bailey

Molly Fonseca

J. Leigh

Morgan Catalina

Daniel Villarreal


Cedric Muhammad

To each of you: Thank you.

internet censorship

Throughout the modern internet era, internet users have been responsible for the content they post. If the user posted illegal content, only the user could be punished.

The new federal law passed last year, SESTA/FOSTA, changed all that. SESTA/FOSTA threatens anyone responsible for internet posts that “make prostitution easier” with up to 10 years in federal prison among other punishment.

Some say the law was a test to see whether America would accept the sea change, and if so more censorship would be coming. That appears to be true as last week Nancy Pelosi floated the idea publicly of making everyone involved in the backend technology responsible for every user post no matter the subject (repealing Section 230).

At first it seemed that maybe only the top executives of an internet platform might be held responsible, such as Backpage. But now it’s clear that any technical workers on the backend might be held liable, after the software development company Salesforce was served with a massive lawsuit for building a site.

And because no-one knows exactly what “makes prostitution easier”, many internet sites are removing all adult content. Here are some of the big ones so far:

Adult Content Deleted Since FOSTA

  • Facebook - sexual content

  • Tumblr - adult content

  • Amazon - delisting erotica

  • Google Drive - explicit content

  • YouTube - sex education

  • Linkedin - banning accounts

  • Eventbrite - adult events

  • AirBnb - close accounts of suspected legal porn stars

  • Dating websites - banning accounts

  • Instagram - sexually suggestive images

  • and hundreds more sites have been shut down or significantly shifted adult content.

To stay up to date with these issues, sign up for updates from the Woodhull Foundation and the Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF).

how decriminalizing prostitution could free the internet

Ironically, the draconian SESTA/FOSTA may have had an unintended consequence: galvanizing the sex worker rights movement.

Not only are sex workers finding new ways to communicate out of necessity to share the latest developments but also - victory for the movement could stop this wave of internet censorship in it’s tracks.

There is a provision in SESTA/FOSTA that says it does not apply where prostitution is decriminalized. If prostitution were decriminalized state by state, SESTA/FOSTA would not apply in those states. If we decriminalize nationwide, SESTA/FOSTA is basically gutted.

So there has never been a better time, or this much motivation, to decriminalize sex work across the United States of America.

Decriminalize Sex Work

Stay up to date on the movement to decriminalize sex work.

Listen to the recent Savage Lovecast episode where he interviews Kaytlin Bailey of Decrimiinalize Sex Work. Their conversation is behind a paywall, and well worth the $5.

The Savage Lovecast, Love and sex advice from Dan Savage America’s sweetheart.

Stay updated by Decriminalize Sex Work. Join the campaign in your state.

Decriminalize Sex Work: End human trafficking. Promote health and safety.

Support incarcerated sex workers and their allies.

SWOP Behind Bars: Creating community for incarcerated sex workers.

Follow and join the oldest and largest sex worker rights organization in the US.

SWOP (Sex Worker Outreach Project} USA: Rights not rescue

Have a blast while you stay up to date and get educated at the same time. Learn about old pro’s as well as what’s going on right now. You are guaranteed to be entertained as Kaytlin Bailey covers it all in her award winning podcast The Oldest Profession.

The Oldest Profession podcast: An irreverent history of audacious whores.

You know, it may have seemed impossible just a few years ago. But so did a lot of things.

Now that Congress has accidentally ignited the movement, people are starting to speak out. Whether to Decriminalize Sex Work nationwide has become a presidential election issue.

Consider standing up and making your voice heard.

It’s time.

River Roaring