Thoughts on censorship and decency

So, a thing happened and I am using my blog to put my thoughts down. Because it’s interesting and complex and jumbled and maybe this will give it some structure. But anyone who has tried to have a conversation with me will know of my rambling thought processes 🙂

The thing is OpenBazaar. It’s a concept I will admit to not having delved into the intricacies of, it’s in development and there is only so many hours in my day, but it excited me and I was keen for it to come to fruition (so I could use it!). Broadly it is an unrestricted marketplace. Specifically it is a peer to peer network. There is no website to buy things from and therefore no one runs it, regulates it or is profiting from it. A decentralised marketplace. I’ll touch on why, as a sex worker, I think this is a really interesting concept later.

Actually the thing that happened was BazaarBay. As I said OpenBazaar isn’t a website, it’s not like eBay, backpage or Gumtree where you can go and look at a site of things for sale, you need to be on the network to do that. However BazaarBay is a separate site that pulls listings to a website.

The thing happened on twitter, Place of Brief Miscommunications. A retweet landed in my feed, expressing displeasure at OB so I took a glance. OB had retweeted about BB being populated with content from OB. Problem was, on the front of this page for all the world to see, was a Woman For Sale, and for a little more you could buy a Woman On A Horse. I was offended that this was promoted and also a source of pride for both. I believe I used the term fuckwits. Abuse came back. I tried to explain I was offended by something that was in public space. I was told there was no control over this and I shouldn’t get upset with OB. And then I get blocked by them so there goes me advertising on there, or recommending it, when it is running in a finished sense.

I have issues and conflicts. Issues are that as a sex worker it is commonly assumed that I am commodified. ‘Prostituted woman’, ‘selling her body’ are routinely used in media and society and are so far from the truth I can’t even. These phrases imply that I am not considered a person by someone who is selling or controlling me, or by someone buying me. Nobody can buy ‘me’, they buy my time and expertise and this is EXACTLY the same situation when I work as a consultant. And people may market me, advertise me, promote me but they do not own or control me. I have free will. I routinely say no. I routinely say that is not acceptable. It is not a frivolity, these concepts are the very ones that are used to drive some incredibly dangerous legislative settings that are announced as being designed to save me but at their core, and based on the assumption that no one would ever in their right mind chose this career, they are aiming to jail, send us to reeducation camps (I shit you not), take children away, remove access to accommodation etc etc until the ‘choice’ is made to get a proper job like sewing (again I shit you not). So to have a Woman For Sale is not funny, or lighthearted. That an individual though it was acceptable says a lot about their attitudes. That an organisation didn’t even notice it in publicity is deplorable.

Another issue I have is censorship. This is the aspect I love about OB. Everywhere I go as a sex worker, in the real and virtual worlds, I have to self censor or am blocked from entering just on the basis of my work. I’ve written before about banking/financial institutions that refuse me, website and platform hosts and regulators delete me, late night radio shows run content warnings that go for longer than my non-explicit interviews, insurance companies require intimate and extensive details if they will cover me at all (and if you are thinking that sounds fair, it’s a disease risk no it’s bloody not, I have mentioned before that sex workers have the same, if not lower, rates of STI’s than the general population). People are offended by my existence. I have a fake name and lie to my friends and family to protect them from the religious and feminist attacks. So the idea of another space where I can advertise and sell products is great. It’s not just convenient, it’s a feeling that there is a part of the world that doesn’t assume I am a disease ridden vector and a cause for the downfall of decent society and says yep you can be here just like anyone else. That’s how an uncensored space impacts me at a personal level. But, and here is the but, we do not exist in a bubble. I feel it’s important to be aware and respectful of the people who are in the space with me. I recognise that I offend people just by being, my twitter profile is restricted access even though I rarely post anything more explicit than nipples because this is the world I exist in and offending people inadvertently is not nice. Putting a Woman For Sale into a public space, and it not even registering with anyone at any level that this will upset people is not OK. I actually think it’s the blase attitude that was the most offensive thing. The standard that you walk past is the standard you accept.

Another issue is that, and yes I reacted rudely, a platform that is a free for all will have inappropriate, offensive and illegal things listed. People will get upset. You can throw your hands in the air and say but it’s not me, I have no control over it, all you like but it is something you are going to have to deal with. What happens when people start posting snuff films or child pornography? The backlash will get loud.

And another issue (told you I had a few) is if it is decided that some things aren’t appropriate or OK and some things are where is that line? Back to my life and the selling of women. I think human trafficking is a great example. Horrible, awful, deplorable. definitely not OK, right? Yes, agreed. But did you know I fall within some definitions and markers for being a sex trafficked person? True, but I’m not. I’ve checked. There’s no pimps here (and the pimps thing is another language problem. Sure abusive controlling people exist and so do peoples landlords, children and partners who may be described as pimps in some settings). In some locations I would be arrested under trafficking laws. So clearly this line dividing right and wrong is squiggly, or opaque, or so broad as to be problematic. What’s right to me could be wrong to you and used by a third party to mislead a fourth. There’s no way of saying these things are OK 100% and these things are not. You can’t tick a yes/no box on most of this stuff.

BB is a good thing (and technologically a marvel) and when the human elements are at least talked it will be a great thing. And I feel like human elements never get talked about much in many spheres like media, politics, industry etc. It’d be awesome if on top of a being a technology, liberation leader individual limits could be respected as well.