Queerness in Sex work: Why are queer people excluded?

Faye Navesey explores queerness in sex work and the difficulties that come with marginalisation both in queer and sex worker spaces.

Faye Navesey
28th March 2021

Trigger warning: Sexual Harassment, Queerphobia

When we talk about sex work we often think of cishet women, they are the default image of a sex worker that we as a society have concocted. This is problematic for many reasons but one of them being that it completely disregards the experiences of queer people in the sex work industry. I spoke to Miniver (@labourtswift on twitter) who is lesbian sex worker about her experiences with Onlyfans and  working within a heavily cishet dominated industry.

Onlyfans has received a lot of criticism for not protecting sex workers on its site and making the space unsafe for sex work

Regarding being a queer women with an Onlyfans Miniver has found the majority of people are respectful of her sexuality and therefore men will usually exclude themselves from any fantasies they tell her. Whereas she described a ‘camaraderie’ between the women that subscribe to her content and they have a more playful and non judgemental relationship. However this isn't always the case she like many queer sex workers has received a lot of unsolicited comments detailing conversion fantasies which she describe as ‘nothing short of rape fantasies’. Onlyfans has received a lot of criticism for not protecting sex workers on its site and making the space unsafe for sex work. Last year there was a controversy surrounding Bella Thorne joining the site and misleading people by advertising naked pictures that were not actually naked. And the influx of people requesting a refund made Onlyfans take actions which made it more difficult for less privileged sex workers to get money.  Mini said that whilst Onlyfans does make it easy to block people the issue lies in the fact that they do not acknowledge that their site is used for sex work and therefore offers them no protection. This is a problem that many sex workers face, despite the fact they enjoy their job the lack of legal protection makes it an inherently risky one. Feminist discourse has often centred around whether or not sex workers are exploited, failing to acknowledge that much of the exploitation comes from lack of legal protection and is not just inherent in sex work.

A key difference that she experiences that her cishet counterparts don’t is the limited scope in marketing her content. Most men that subscribe to an Onlyfans “often like the idea that those women could be interested in them, as fantasy based as that might be, but they know they aren’t getting that on my page” therefore her audience is limited. However, despite the problems she faces Mini does conclude her experience in sex work has been empowering, she said that before she had low self-esteem but now “People pay for the privilege of seeing your body and in my view it’s like your body becomes art” and she says that she relishes the fact that her page in a comfortable space for other queer people too, they can enjoy her content without judgement. 

People pay for the privilege of seeing your body and in my view it’s like your body becomes art

With all the discussion of women's safety in public space at the minute sex workers are often ignored, despite being a group that are more at risk of harassment, particularly queer sex workers are regularly harassed therefore their exclusion from this debate is completely absurd and rooted in purity culture. A true empowerment movement must include sex positivity based on consent and must protect queer people that exist in the public sphere. Sex work can be empowering and should be celebrated rather than hidden, but this also comes with the responsibility that sex workers, particularly queer sex workers must be provided with legal protections just like any other job.

Feature image credit: Flickr, Juno Mac

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