40% Of Sex-Related Industry Workers Experienced Bank Account Closures 

40% Of Sex-Related Industry Workers Experienced Bank Account Closures 

Advocates call the decriminalization of sex work a racial justice issue, requiring efforts to address the root causes of vulnerability.

Banking access has been an issue for the entire sex work community since at least the 1960s. However, BIPOC sex-related industry workers remain with fewer, and often less attractive, options for financial stability.

According to The New York Times, an increasing number of customer bank accounts are shutting down without due process, but those who work in sex-related industries say they have “long-lived under that threat of eviction.”

The criminalization of consensual sex work has often triggered vulnerabilities in financial censorship and a lack of accountability by tech platforms, which disproportionately harm Black and Brown communities.

For instance, PayPal and Venmo have a history of closing random accounts of sex workers and small businesses in the adult industry without explanation. According to a May report by the Free Speech Coalition, a nonprofit trade group for the adult entertainment industry, nearly two-thirds of respondents working in the adult industry have lost access to a bank account or financial service. What’s more, 40 percent of those respondents experienced account closures in the past year.

“If giving you a bank account is likely to make them lose money or expose them to undue risk that is not proportionate to the reward, they are not going to give you a bank account,” Bianca Beebe, a sex work policy researcher and former co-chair of the Oregon Sex Workers’ Committee, told the Times.

In 2021, MasterCard asked for adult content to be reviewed by hosting sites before publishing,  enforcing that sellers present “documented age and identity verification for all people depicted and those uploading the content.”

In the same year, OnlyFans announced that it would ban sexual content because banking entities were opposed to processing payments related to adult content. A few days later, the platform reversed its decision following backlash from content creators who charge subscribers fees for watching their sexual content. But some of its creators are still struggling to get paid.

“Companies like Mastercard have been unduly influenced by anti-porn and anti-sex work groups such as the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (formally Morality in Media) and anti-prostitution activists,” said Angela Jones, a sex work scholar from New York, Mashable reported.

“It is important to realize that these activists are not actually targeting trafficking; instead, they use anti-trafficking discourse as a way of targeting all forms of commercial sex. The goal of the anti-porn movement is to deplatform all sex workers.”

Advocates call the decriminalization of sex work a racial justice issue, requiring efforts to address the root causes of vulnerability. Black women sex workers navigate in a space where racism and sexism intersect, and BIPOC sex workers as a whole remain exploited while financial discrimination limits their access to other rights, like a credit score, buying property, or insurance.

As a result, sex workers strive to support themselves through proactively saving money and finding alternative ways for compensation. Some workers switch creator platforms, use crypto to facilitate payments, or build websites for direct payment.

In Sex Workers, Psychics, and Numbers Runners, author Lashawn Harris argued that the “underground economy” helped Black women rise to the top during the 20th century. In other words, sex work was among other unreported work that catalyzed working-class Black women’s creation of financial stability and a sense of labor autonomy and mobility.

“Many working-poor women viewed unreported labor as possible avenues toward affording high city costs and confronting labor discrimination and the 1930s economic downturn. Others reasoned that informal labor offered opportunities to construct new labor identities, escape unskilled labor and family dysfunction, and secure wealth, sexual pleasures, and employment mobility.”

At the same time, Black women were more likely to experience the “conspicuous and hidden dangers associated” with such volatile labor opportunities.