There is No “Safe Space” for Sex Positive Businesses on the Web

Some examples of my "offensive" art work.

Some examples of my “offensive” art work.

I am a love warrior. Every day I fight to do the things that I love, and have meaning for me. My heart is in creative work, communications and sex education. I am lucky enough to make my living this way. But it’s also an incredibly difficult and painful life I have chosen for myself in some ways (even if I would not have it any other way).

I am a writer, sex educator, and artist who makes sex-positive artwork. I have a lot of people tell me how important the work I do is for promoting a healthy sex positive society. I am not afraid to put myself in the public eye as an advocate for healthy sexuality. However, I do get a lot of messages as a businessperson that my work is not okay, challenges that sometimes threaten my livelihood. Here’s a few examples of some of the challenges I’ve struggled with in recent times:

Etsy informed me that my products (this sacred amulet imported from a Buddhist temple in Japan, specifically) needed to be obscured and tagged due to their mature content. I’m fine with tagging my items, but was frustrated that I couldn’t actually SHOW what I was selling in the thumbnail. I’ve found some acceptable hacks: blurring out nipples on my pin-up altars, artful cropping of vulva pendants. (AASECT blogged about my struggles with Etsy here). I am in the process of creating my own retail site where I don’t have to censor my work in addition to my Etsy shop, but it frustrates me that I am subjected to censorship (which negatively impacts sales), and I am pretty certain that my art will never show up on their front page, and I will never be a featured seller. But hey, at least they allow me to sell “mature” art instead of banning me entirely?

On a similar note, several of the more mainstream websites I write for will not feature my articles about sex-related topics on their front pages, or even promote the pieces through their official social media channels, which means it’s pretty much my sole responsibility to make sure people can find the writing at all.

The thing that finally pushed me to write this blog post is that Paypal decided to close down both my business and personal accounts without any warning or way to appeal. Fortunately I have a habit of withdrawing my funds promptly when I receive them and did not lose any money when this happened, but it felt like a slap on the face. They would not give me a specific reason as to why my accounts were terminated, and informed me that I have no avenue to appeal the closures. Apparently Paypal has a rather arbitrary vendetta against people whose businesses even tangentially involve sex-related content, even when it is completely legal. This didn’t just affect my business- I can’t even receive payments completely unrelated to my business anymore. This blog post is geared to more traditional sex workers but it really highlights how virtually every online payment option discriminates against people who do work related to sex.

The free market isn’t free when the morality police make it virtually impossible for people to engage even in COMPLETELY LEGAL COMMERCE. I’m selling artwork for chrissakes, though artists, like those who do work related to sex, are also a stigmatized class that have been historically targeted for harassment and censorship.

I don’t have much more to say about this other than I will continue to do my best to do creative work I feel is necessary and important against these odds. As they say, “Well behaved women (or genderqueers in my case) seldom make history,” and I’m fresh out of fucks to give.

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