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The Entire Sex Work Industry Is Barred From Applying For COVID-19 Relief

by Bethany Allard

The coronavirus has left no industry untouched. In just four weeks, at least 20 million Americans have lost their jobs. Among those that have lost their jobs are sex workers — strippers, dominatrixes, and those in the porn industry. For these jobs that require a lot of physical contact, there’s not really a work from home option. Although some performers have turned to webcam sites to earn extra income, it doesn’t drive the revenue that their in-person work did, reports The Daily Beast. In short, these workers, like many others, are hurting. Unlike many others, they were not allowed to even apply for the Small Business Administration’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program, otherwise known as the $1,200 stimulus check. 

First things first, let’s get something straight: it is legal in America to strip and to act in porn films. There is no law that says a person cannot engage in these jobs. So when the government bars a whole group of people from even applying for aid, that points to one root cause: stigmatization. On the loan application, there’s a box for people to check off to confirm they don’t put on live performances or sell products or services of a “prurient sexual nature,” according to Insider. Checking this box in no way indicates engaging in illegal activity, or being a person who doesn’t need the help. 

So then the question is, why is it fine to treat sex workers as less deserving of help due to the nature of their very legal jobs? Clearly, we are capable of overcoming stigmas: celebrities like Lady Gaga, Channing Tatum, Amber Rose, and Cardi B have all talked openly about their past as strippers, and they still have fans. Movies like Magic Mike and Hustlers are popular. People—get this—watch porn. And there are 4,000 strip clubs in America that were estimated to have driven seven billion dollars of revenue in 2018. So, in other words, sex and sex work are a completely established part of the American culture and economy. 

“The venues where I work aren’t able to get anything,” Portland burlesque dance Abigail Rhys told the local news station KGW. “I really don’t think that it’s fair that people who are doing things that are completely legal and pay their taxes aren’t able to get any help. I don’t think it’s fair at all.”

According to the International Business Times, so far three lawsuits have been filed by strip clubs against the loan regulation. The suits argue that by discriminating against small sex work businesses, the government is infringing upon their free speech and constitutional rights. 

In such dangerous and unprecedented times, sex workers deserve to be treated equally by the government that’s supposed to protect us all. Sex workers are tax-paying citizens like anyone else. Why do they have to be excluded from benefits they’re entitled to? Perhaps Jacq the Stripper said it best. 

“Whorephobia is literally written into this covid19 relief,” she tweeted. “In a global pandemic, policy makers are actively making the world a worse place for sex workers and their families.” 

Header Photo: Unsplash / rexcuando

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Founded in 1993, BUST is the inclusive feminist lifestyle trailblazer offering a unique mix of humor, female-focused entertainment, uncensored personal stories, and candid reporting that tells the truth about women’s lives.

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