Sex workers like me fear what will happen if Nick Kristof becomes governor of Oregon
Nicholas Kristof is posing as the next governor of Oregon. Known primarily for his opinion column in New York Times, which lasted 20 years, Kristof is somewhat of a newbie in politics. In most cases, I think it’s a good thing that people who don’t come from a traditionally political background get involved at the local and state level – but in Kristof’s case, not so much.
For anyone who has followed Kristof’s career, apprehension of his foray into politics is natural. This is the man who specializes in “human rights, women’s rights, health and world affairs” and then writes in defense of sweatshops, not once, but several times. “When I defend sweatshops, people always ask me: but would you like to work in a sweatshop? No of course not. But I would even less like to pull a rickshaw. In the hierarchy of jobs in poor countries, choking in front of a sewing machine is not the bottom, ”Kristof wrote in a 2009 column that raised many eyebrows.
However, my main concern with Kristof is not his sweatshop defense, which many writers have struggled with before me. Instead, it’s his crusade against porn, and if you’re consuming adult media, that should be yours, too.
In December 2020, Kristof wrote an article titled “The Kids of PornHub” which brought mass attention to the adult industry. This article demonized the consensual porn industry, focusing on the low percentage of illegal content hosted on tube sites like PornHub and XVideos, sensationalizing it to the point of scandal. He wrote: “[PornHub] monetizes child rape, vengeful pornography, spy videos of women in the shower, racist and misogynistic content and images of suffocating women in plastic bags. As someone who creates adult content myself, I wondered while reading why Kristof focused on PornHub and not also tackled Facebook, which is the source of 90 percent of child pornography complaints each year? Indeed, in 2017, the BBC reported to Facebook dozens of disturbing images depicting the sexualization of children, and said 80 percent of these had not been deleted.
Yes, some videos depicting illegal and immoral actions have passed the selection process for PornHub. To say otherwise would be dishonest. But it’s also true that the site monetizes consensual voyeurism play, race play, BDSM content, and breathing play: issues that can be morally discussed forever, but which are explored in the majority of content in a legal manner between consenting adults. it being understood that consumers are also adults.
The impact of Kristof’s article on the adult industry has not been small. Some consequences have been positive, such as intensified verification systems on sites like IWantClips and Clips4Sale, which ensure that all videos with more than two artists have identity records on the site, as opposed to creators who deal with record keeping. But even such changes are complicated: where do they leave survival sex workers and immigrant porn artists who cannot afford to access U.S. IDs or those that will be accepted by the system?
Other developments after Kristof’s article, like the potential Onlyfans porn ban and Visa and Mastercard’s choice to no longer work with PornHub, have actively put women who depend on sex work for a living. in uncomfortable financial situations at best, and in active danger at worst. Sex workers no longer have safe spaces like Backpage for in-person work, so when we are kicked out of online spaces where we can safely make money, the impact is real. Do we go back to newspaper and street corner ads because porn makes you uncomfortable?
Sex workers have been kicked out of online spaces for years, since FOSTA-SESTA took effect. Social media platforms are pitching us and censoring us at exorbitant rates, so we have relied on these online content hosting platforms for advertising and revenue. Losing this would essentially make safe sex work almost impossible in the internet age. This may be what some people want, but it is objectively bad for the safety of a lot of women.
Kristof celebrated when his work cut an entire income channel for creators on Modelhub. But do we really want a man in power who demonizes the one industry where women can reclaim and profit from their societal sexualization?
Perhaps Kristof’s campaign for governor will be funded by groups like Cry of Exodus, whose whole mission is to wipe out the porn industry as a whole. But if he wins, what can we expect for Oregon sex workers? Will it be another Texas, which prohibits adults between the ages of 18 and 20 from working in “sexually oriented” businesses such as strip clubs, even though they are considered old enough to fight and die for their country?
Pornstars and adult workers in the industry are people who deserve the right to work and earn an income, put food on their tables, pay their bills without worrying that their source of income will suddenly be closed because of the actions of a few individuals. The consensual sex work industry and sexual exploitation are not one and the same and should not be treated as such. In fact, buying your porn direct from the content creators is a great way to ensure that you consume it ethically.