Seductive woman working on as webcam model. Virtual sex.

In a world where so much content and art is consumed for free, the crowfunding site Patreon has become an excellent way for creative people and artists to make money for their work. From comic book artists to muralists to writers to web cam performers, the site has boosted the incomes of independent creatives across the board. Unfortunately, however, it looks like one group is getting the boot.

I’ll give you one guess about who it is.

If you guessed sex workers, you win! But they lose, because Engadget reports that Patreon is cracking down on users who offer “pornographic material” as a reward. Here’s what they’re saying:

“[Y]ou cannot sell pornographic material or arrange sexual service(s) as a reward for your patrons. We define pornographic material as real people engaging in sexual acts such as masturbation or sexual intercourse on camera. You can’t use Patreon to raise funds in order to produce pornographic material such as maintaining a website, funding the production of movies, or providing a private webcam session.”

The site still allows for art that contains nudity and profiles that have adult content — as long as it’s for “patron-only” eyes. Which does beg the question of where, exactly, the line of acceptable and unacceptable for Patreon lies. Is it, as I have so often (facetiously) quoted in these cases, an “I know it when I see it” situation? How are we still having this conversation?

To make it just a little more confusing, the policy change affecting legal web cam performers and other sex workers is wrapped up in statements about Patreon coming down harder on “fringe Adult Content,” like fictional work that include bestiality, incest, sexual depiction of minors, and suggestive sexual violence. (Also not illegal, by the way, even if it does make some people uncomfortable.) While both are sexual in nature, conflating the two muddies the issue in a way that suggests Patreon is more interested in coming down on sexual content in general than in having a understanding of sex work and sex writing.

Colin Sullivan, the head of legal at Patreon, said in a blog post that Patreon will be helping flagged creators bring their pages “back within the Community Guidelines.” They’re offering one-on-one support for that process and will only suspend pages, not delete them, as creators make those changes. He says their goal is to always “put creators first” and with that in mind, they’re committed to working with creators to get their profiles reinstated if they’ve been flagged. It’s a nice gesture, but somehow I doubt it’s going to be enough for people who are trying to make a living.

This isn’t the first company to give legal sex workers a boot from their platform — and it won’t be the last. But it’s still a bummer to add one more formerly sex positive company to the long, long list of sex negative ones. Remember, folks: Sex work is work and sex workers deserve to be compensated for their labor.

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