- The federal government is accepting applications under its Small Business Administration’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program, but the application’s strict guidelines bar sex workers.
- Some sex workers have spoken against the guidelines, and say they are putting people who rely on in-person contact for income at great health and financial risk during the coronavirus pandemic.
- Community-based donation efforts are raising money for sex workers, but the funds still aren’t enough to support those out of work.
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Businesses across the country are dealing with financial hardship due to coronavirus-related closures, so the US government is accepting applications under its Small Business Administration’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program.
In order to apply for aid, applicants must be able to check off a box in the application confirming they don’t put on “live performances of a prurient sexual nature” or sell products or services of “prurient sexual nature.”
Sex workers have spoken out in response to these guidelines.
“In a global pandemic, policy makers are actively making the world a worse place for sex workers and their families,” Jacq the Stripper, a New York City-based performer, wrote on Twitter.
Others have said that their businesses, which often operate through in-person contact at strip clubs, parties, and other locations, have been hit hard financially.
Lady A, a New York City-based dominatrix, told Buzzfeed News she’s losing $US500 every week because of the coronavirus.
“We would usually do, say, three clients per day in that space,” Lady A said. “This last weekend we would usually have been booked, but it was open. So that’s pretty bad.”
Economic policies have long stigmatised sex work
Policies that bar sex workers them from receiving financial aid are nothing new, according to Kate D’Adamo, a sex worker rights advocate and partner at Reframe Health and Justice consulting.
“This is part of a very long legacy of excluding and exceptionalizing the sex trade, denying full participation of folks who are engaged in the sex trade within traditional services and traditional employment,” D’Adamo told Insider, adding that the Small Business Association guidelines “just kind of feel like an extension of that pattern.”
Although D’Adamo hasn’t seen this exemption in previous Small Business Association applications, she said other state and federal policies have been written to financially burden sex workers. Iin Atlanta, Georgia, strippers have to renew yearly licenses to work in strip clubs because they’re considered contractors. But their licensing renewal fees cost more than for employees in other industries, D’Adamo said.
The strict guidelines discriminate sex workers and could make the industry more dangerous.
Without financial stability, sex workers are more likely to experience exploitation, domestic violence, suicidal ideation, substance abuse, and lack of access to mental health resources, she said.
“All of those [factors] definitely have a component of ‘Are you able to access your resources?’ Are you now existing in incredible poverty? I think that it’s really important that we recognise this moment and the way that sex workers are being excluded are absolutely creating the conditions of trafficking, exploitation, and violence,” D’Adamo said.
Community relief funds are being used to help sex workers when the government won’t
Since sex workers can’t obtain government financial support like other small businesses, communities have set up various sex-worker relief funds.
Still, these funds aren’t enough to support all sex workers who are currently out of work.
D’Adamo said the way the guidelines are written, they could affect any sex industry workers, including strippers, street sex workers, webcam performers, and in some cases even sex educators, if the government deems their work of “prurient sexual nature.”
Those who don’t have access to technology to take their work online could be disproportionately affected though.
“People who are doing street-based sex work may not be able to stop doing sex work to survive,” Chuck Cloniger, the clinical director at the St. James Infirmary, which provides clinical and social services to sex workers in San Francisco, told Buzzfeed News.
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