AirBnB Banned Me Because I’m a Sex Worker

A couple months ago, I signed up for AirBnB.

I was looking for a place to rent for one night for myself, a friend and my dog (Bub).

I provided all of the requested info to confirm my identity when setting up the account (photo ID, selfie, etc).

After browsing rentals, I found one that allowed pets and seemed perfect for our night at the coast.

Made the reservation and my card was charged.

The owner of the property messaged me via Airbnb to let me know the booking had come through and offering to accommodate any special requests I had.

I wrote them back thanking them and everything seemed to be set.

Until…

I went to login to my account to check on the address of the place I had booked, and couldn’t seem to find it where it should have been…there was also a weird notice at the top of screen when I logged in.

Something wasn’t right.

After some digging, I figured out what had happened.

AirBnB cancelled my reservation and terminated my account. They refused to explain why.

I got a standard email claiming I violated some bullshit rule, with a link to their terms of service.

After scanning it, I saw NOTHING applicable to me whatsoever.

But after some Googling, I discovered this story about another user having their account closed simply for being a sex worker.

Hmmm.

That could explain it now, couldn’t it?

Of course, you’d think that AirBnB would include this in their list of terms and conditions. But they don’t.

Just yet another case of corporations blatantly discriminating against sex workers and getting away with it.

They are certainly not alone…

LinkedIn doesn’t want sex workers to use their platform. Even if the type of sex work they engage in is legal.

They don’t care if you’re a prostitute who works legally in Nevada. You’re still not welcome there.

Paypal will ban your account for ANYTHING adult in nature, period. But to their credit, at least they specifically tell you that in their “Acceptable Use Policy.”

Long Island Serial Killer Case is an Absolute Disgrace

long island serial killer

The Suffolk County Police Department are among the most pathetic excuses for those sworn to serve and protect anyone.

They don’t give a single fuck about the murders of Maureen Brainard-Barnes, Melissa Barthelemy, Megan Waterman, Amber Lynn Costello, Jessica Taylor, or Shannan Maria Gilbert.

They were all attractive young women in their twenties who, like myself, used Craigslist to post ads for erotic services back when they still allowed them.

Shannan Gilbert - Long Island serial killerAlthough the Suffolk County Police would like us to believe that Shannan Gilbert’s death was unrelated to the others listed above, as well as up to 10 other unidentified sets of remains found nearby, I strongly believe she was another unfortunate victim of the same Long Island serial killer.

How many sex workers have to be murdered before apprehending the killer becomes an actual priority for law enforcement?

I’ve been following this case closely for years now and none of it makes any goddamn sense.

My personal belief is that the cops are lying about Gilbert only because her family has been the most active in terms of seeking legal recourse and demanding answers.

They want to convince them that Shannan’s death is unrelated to the others because then they won’t have to find the person who murdered her.

Without the Gilbert family breathing down their necks for answers and justice, they can keep the case low on their list of priorities, where they think it belongs.

I’m sorry, but it’s insulting to anyone’s intelligence to suggest that Shannan Gilbert was not a murder victim when the last thing she did while still alive is call 911 and tell the operator that someone was “trying to kill her.”

She did not end up drowning in the marsh near Gilgo beach following that phone call. She was murdered and dumped there with a list of other sex workers, all killed by the same sadistic fuck who is still out there somewhere.

He may even be preying on prostitutes to this day, for all anyone knows.

Despite the cavalier attitude of both law enforcement and society in general, the Long Island serial killer’s victims are NOT disposable.

Assuming all sets of remains found in the vicinity are victims of the same serial killer, then Jessica Taylor is the victim who dates back the furthest.

In 1996, Taylor’s legs were found in a plastic bag on Fire Island, west of Davis Park Beach.

In 2003, her torso was discovered in the Pine Barrens near the site where another torso had been found three years earlier.

In 2011, Taylor’s skull, forearm and hands are found along Ocean Parkway, only 3/4 of a mile away from where four of the other bodies were found.

Yes, Taylor and more than one of the unidentified Jane Doe victims whose remains were recovered did seem to be disposed of differently than the four women this case is centered around.

The four women pictured above were found relatively close together along the beach and each were wrapped in burlap sacks, their skeletons intact.

While this may suggest that the dismembered victims were not killed by the same person, I think it’s awfully strange that some other psychopath with an appetite for prostitutes just happened to also be using close-by parts of the same beach as their body dumpster.

I spent the better part of a day reading Robert Kolker’s book ‘Lost Girls: an Unsolved American Mystery.

I’ll admit that while I do a lot of reading, books are not really my format of choice. In fact, the last time I read a book cover to cover was over ten years ago.

So you can imagine my surprise when after I began to read the book yesterday afternoon, I wasn’t able to stop for long before diving back into it. I finished it earlier today, devouring all 384 pages in nearly one sitting .

I highly recommend checking it out if you are at all interested in this case, he does a remarkable job of collecting interviews from everyone involved (no small accomplishment given the number of victims) and has done plenty of research on the women’s personal lives in order to give a realistic glimpse into each.

They are all treated as unique in this novel, which I appreciated more than some others might be able to. It was refreshing to get what seemed to me like an accurate representation of these women as individuals, rather than the common stereotypes many use in order to dismiss all sex workers and deny any differences that exist.

“Lynn and Jeff tried to file a missing-persons report. But for three days, the police deflected them… She’s a hooker, they told him. They weren’t going to assign a detective to something like this.”

However frightening it may be to let the words above sink in, this is the predominant attitude that not only law enforcement have of prostitutes, but society as a whole.

“I can’t believe they’re doing all this for a whore,” said one member of a TV crew.

Except for the part about there being over a DOZEN victims, all murdered and dumped on the beach like trash.

Over a dozen human beings, whores or not.

And this could just as easily be said about anyone.

‘I can’t believe they’re doing all this for a faggot.’

I can’t believe they’re doing all this for a retard.’

‘I can’t believe they’re doing all this for a welfare recipient.’

Do you think that’s how the families of these women viewed their loved ones?

What a fucking dumb fuck thing to say, I would like to count how many people show up at that loser’s funeral.

John J. Potterat, one of the nation’s leading epidemiologists, noted in 2004 that the leading cause of death for prostitutes was homicide.

You don’t say?

What a shocker.

Dormer’s chief of detectives, Dominick Varrone, called it a “consolation” that the killer didn’t appear to be “selecting citizens at large—he’s selecting from a pool.”

Ha! A consolation to whom, I wonder?

To the types of families who live in places like Oak Beach, perhaps?

To the “normal” people watching it all on the news from the safety of their homes?

To the most incompetent officers and detectives in the free world, without a fucking clue what life is like outside of their own common circumstances?

Amid all the confusion and uncertainty surrounding these strange circumstances, one thing remains clear: there exist only two possible scenarios in which the Long Island serial killer will be caught.

The first such scenario is if he decides to murder his next victim in broad daylight on a busy sidewalk for everyone to see and then turns himself into the police afterwards.

Sadly, this is the more likely of scenarios than the alternative.

That would be for people to start fucking caring about solving the case.

Stop Feeling Ashamed and Let it Go

So, before we get started a word of advice to any poor souls that have somehow managed to avoid seeing Disney’s Frozen thus far: GO WATCH IT NOW!

And by advice, I mean it is a non-negotiable requirement that you go watch it immediately.

Stop reading this and go watch the fucking movie or I can’t be friends with you anymore, I’m sorry.

I like you. I want us to be friends.

So please go watch it and you can thank me later.

Okay, now that we got that out of the way…

Why Elsa is Awesome

let it go

Okay, so I get it that Anna is an important character in this story too and everything because she’s all supportive of her sister and willing to help or whatever.

Side note to anyone not familiar with the real world: this usually doesn’t happen.

Most of the time, you won’t have the support of family or friends when it comes to being the person you truly want to be. If you DO, consider yourself very lucky.

However, most of us will not have an Anna or her calm understanding and acceptance of whatever sets us apart from other people in general. So it’s best not to plan for it.

But in my opinion, Elsa is the interesting and significant one in this fairy tale.

Right from birth, she is not like other people because she has magical powers that she struggles to conceal and control until all hell freezes over.

😉

Concerned about the potential dangers associated with having said powers, her parents encourage her to hide the magic and try to help her get a handle on things so she doesn’t accidentally start the next ice age.

But what I love about Elsa is that she represents everyone who is somehow different than those around them.

The ice magic is just a symbolic place holder for any label describing a marginalized group of people.

Maybe it’s her sexuality. Or a drug addiction. Her chosen lifestyle.

Doesn’t matter. It is all of these things and more.

What matters here is that there is something about her that others fear, fail to understand and shun because it is unfamiliar.

No Victims Here

Also important to note is that Elsa is NOT a victim in this story.

She isn’t some perfect saint that is being persecuted for no good reason by a kingdom full of lunatics.

On the contrary, her powers prove greater than even she had ever realized and the consequences are drastic.

She doesn’t know how to fully control the magical powers that seem so strongly bound to her volatile emotions.

Sometimes she accomplishes what she wants with them, but at others she is at their mercy and along for the ride.

When Anna visits her in the ice castle and tries to reassure her that everything will be okay and offers her support, Elsa tells her to go away and stay away for her own safety.

More than once, she accidentally allows her emotions to overcome her and the resulting magic puts her sister in danger.

She’s not a saint, nor is she perfect.

She is more complicated than most fairy tale heroins and even most villains too.

Let it Go is Fucking Epic

 

And I do mean E.P.I.C.

If you thought Ariel made you want to be Part of That World, think again.

If Cinderella thought she had schooled you on how A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes, she’ll be beating herself like a red-headed stepsister here soon.

If you don’t believe me, you can even ask Pocahontas if all those Colors of the Wind are still looking as bright and bold?

 

This song is pure self-empowerment and requires a lung capacity I will never fucking have, sadly.

It’s about celebrating yourself and accepting who you are.

It’s also about saying “fuck off” to everyone who doesn’t “get you.”

It’s about coming to appreciate and enjoy your solitude.

It’s about reinventing yourself, starting over from scratch.

Just fucking listen to the damn song and for fuck’s sake, watch the fucking movie please before I have to break up with you forever.

 

3 Movies About Prostitution

I decided it would be a good idea to seek out some movies about prostitution, to see how far off the mainstream portrayal truly is.

I am not including Pretty Woman in this list because it is too well-known and honestly, it’s kind of just a big insult to legitimate sex workers because it’s not about them — it’s more accurately about some middle aged man who is suffering from a serious case of “White Knight Syndrome,” which is hardly very interesting.

Mighty Aphrodite

movies about prostitution

Back when I was a teen, my best friend was a huge fan of Woody Allen.

I remember having to sit through Annie Hall and it was a struggle not to fall asleep.

As you may have guessed, this one is directed by and stars Woody Allen. However, unlike the other films he has directed, I felt this one was at least tolerable.

One thing I’ve noticed about all the movies by him is that all the actors look like real, everyday people. Even though they are famous!

For example, Helena Bonham Carter plays Allen’s wife in this movie and yet she manages to look like an actual person. A real, live person who you could pass on the sidewalk.

Anyhow…while the move IS pretty funny, the whole “ditzy hooker” act became a little played out by the end.

While Mira Sorvino’s character is certainly outspoken and full of zest, she’s also kinda stupid. She plays a woman named Linda Ash, who works as both a prostitute and an actress in various pornographic films.

I was particularly fond of the scene where Woody Allen’s character meets her for the first time at her apartment. I like how when he starts to pry too much and get too personal for her liking, she quickly begins to steer the conversation in a sexual direction as a matter of getting shit done.

She is under the impression that he is there as a new client of hers, so this makes a lot of sense.

When he continues to badger her about her life choices and question the value of acting in porn films, she has had enough of his shit and she loudly and very firmly escorts him right the fuck out of her apartment after returning the couple hundred dollars he has paid for her time.

That’s exactly how I would respond to someone who came at me the way his character did in that scene, so that was pretty cool.

It was really disappointing to find out like over halfway into the film that Linda has a pimp who apparently has threatened, in rather vulgar terms, to hideously kill her and Allen’s character as well, for the influence he thinks he has over her.

She goes to Allen pleading for his help and asking him to please speak with this crazy whack job of a pimp loser because she is scared for her safety.

First of all, if some psychotic pimp is threatening to kill both of them…then my money is seriously on Sorvino as far as who would put up a better fight against the ass clown.

Why she turns to Woody fucking Allen for help and protection is beyond me, but whatever!

The Client List

movies about prostitution

I was actually pretty surprised when I found out this was a Lifetime movie, since those usually fucking suck!

That’s not to say, however, that this film was anything spectacular.

It’s my least favorite of these three movies, but I wouldn’t say it was terrible all around.

If I had to sum up the plot of this movie in a single sentence, it would go something like:

“Privileged white suburban mother turns massage parlor prostitute, making huge stacks of cash and saving her family’s home from foreclosure, only to become hooked on uppers and busted by the cops, subsequently ruining her entire fucking life.”

It managed to keep me interested enough to watch the whole thing, but it’s not one I’d revisit or anything.

The scene where she is driving home from her first day at work in the “massage parlor” and she has to pull the car over to vomit is really stupid, dramatic and flat out unrealistic.

I mean, c’mon…

Also, the ending is pretty shitty because she ends up giving up the names of like every single high profile client she has seen in order to reduce her own jail time…

And somehow this is seen as a happy ending where the silly ho learns her lesson and is punished by a husband who can’t look her in the face (probably because she has been the family breadwinner for months and not because he learns about the type of work she’s doing) and all of that good stuff.

I will say that the scene between her and her husband right after he sees her getting arrested on the news DID make me tear up considerably. The whole emotional story about putting his dog to sleep and how he couldn’t handle being in the room, so she did it for him…yeah, that got to me.

But that aside, mediocre film at best.

X: Night of Vengeance

movies about prostitution

While The Client List was kind of bleak and depressing in its own first world kind of way, this one makes it seem like a trip to Disney Land.

X: Night of Vengeance is an Australian film that follows two sex workers who have starkly different realities.

The film opens up with Holly, a higher end prostitute or “call girl” who has been in the business for something like fifteen years and has just bought herself a first class airline ticket to Paris, planning to retire from the sex trade.

After we follow her around for a bit, we switch over to Shay, a seventeen year old runaway who is instead walking the streets to find customers and doesn’t know anyone in the area at all.

While Holly is obviously very experienced and turns out to actually be pretty damn tough, it’s clear that Shay is super vulnerable and has no idea what she is really doing.

While there is a lot of violence in this film, I found it bothersome and somewhat remarkable (sense the sarcasm) that both of these women are able to take several punches right to the nose and face without any swelling afterwards…

Well that’s odd…

On the subject of violence, I have to admit I probably enjoyed some of it more than I should have.

Especially the scene where Holly (played by Viva Bianca) is attacked by some psycho and surprises the hell out of the him (and the audience) by fucking head butting the asshole, giving her the time and advantage she needs to grab a nearby suitcase and bash the shit out of his head with it repeatedly while he is momentarily disarmed by said head butt.

In fact, Holly is by far the most badass of all hookers I’ve seen portrayed in films thus far, which is pretty neat.

I mean, she could have been the chick underneath the pink Power Ranger costume or something.

Anyhow, I was really disappointed that Holly ended up dying and the movie was very depressing and awful on many levels.

However, it did a very effective job of portraying the sharp contrast between street walking prostitutes and “call girl” types.

I actually felt like I could relate to Holly’s character pretty closely in many ways. I don’t have as much experience dealing with the life that we see Shay living, even though fundamentally they are in the same business.

I’d say this was the best of these three films, in my opinion. All three are worth watching once, for sure.

As a side note, apparently it is impossible to direct a movie about hookers that runs longer than 90 minutes since all three of these were almost exactly that long (although X: Night of Vengeance felt much longer to me, because of the intensity).

An Argument for Decriminalizing Prostitution

Video 267-004

I’d like to think my home state of Oregon is forward-thinking enough to consider finally decriminalizing prostitution between two consenting adults who conduct their business in private.

Sex Work is NOT Human Trafficking

Guided under the assumption that child prostitution is not a normal or healthy behavior, the law should assume that any underage individuals engaging in sex work are at worst, a potential victim of trafficking or at best, in need of resources not currently available to them.

In these cases, no crime shall be committed on the part of the minor in question. Instead of creating a criminal record that could potentially limit their future opportunities as an adult, I propose that we offer them assistance in the form of counseling, housing, education and a safe, healthy environment if necessary until they reach adulthood.

I firmly support the current prohibition on activities such as pimping, pandering and trafficking of humans. I do not propose any changes to existing laws regarding these exploitative behaviors and believe they should generally be punished harshly.

Just as laws exist to protect underage individuals from abuse, the model I propose would focus on helping minors engaged in sex work and providing alternatives rather than treating them as criminals.

Every effort should be placed upon determining whether or not they are being abused, exploited or trafficked. The best way to keep children safe from those who exploit them is to incarcerate them and place their victims in safe environments.

Working Together to Help Victims

Speaking personally as someone who has been active in the sex trade for nearly a decade, I can say with the utmost certainty that if I were to encounter a victim of human trafficking in any situation whatsoever, I would not hesitate to report this suspicion to law enforcement.

This is how most responsible adults react when they see a child in need who is being neglected or abused and while I face the very real risk of facing legal actions against myself because of my occupation, this does not personally outweigh the potential harm of remaining silent in such a situation.

However, I know that I don’t speak for all sex workers when I say that. In fact, I cannot rightly blame them for fearing legal trouble themselves. How we can justify this predicament, I really fail to understand.

The changes I envision would allow legitimate adult sex workers to be allies in the fight against illegal human trafficking and would allow for full cooperation in any investigations of those suspected to engage in it.

Removing Shame and Stigma for Victims

I argue that this would also benefit those young victims by gradually shifting public perception of sex work and attempting to eventually remove any shame or negative feelings about sex itself without in any way disrespecting the crime that has been committed against them.

I think this is an important psychological benefit for all victims of trafficking. We should emphasize that the crime is their freedom being taken from them and NOT the actual sex or other acts which take place as a result of that.

This allows them to heal more meaningfully once they are removed from their dangerous situation because they do not have to wrestle with feelings of wrongdoing and I believe it’s of the utmost importance to actively put emphasis on this so that society begins to rethink the shaming and negativity directed towards those in the sex industry, both underage and adult.

Promoting a Huge Shift in Public Perception

A convincing and strong example of such a shift is the public opinion of and attitude towards cigarette smoking which has taken place in my own lifetime.

In the 27 years I’ve spent on this planet, I have seen the state of Oregon transform from a place where you could be seated in a smoking section in a family restaurant to one that prohibits smoking outdoors at public transit stations and legally requires you are at least ten feet from a building when smoking tobacco.

The effect is more pronounced when you take into consideration just a decade or two prior to my own birth, my grandparents remember smoking on airplanes and even my parents remember when their High School had a smoking lounge for Seniors.

Once a completely commonplace habit that was regarded as socially acceptable, cigarette smokers are now almost stigmatized and shamed for their habit.

Speaking as someone who smokes, I cannot say that I believe stigmatizing a group of people for having a defect is something I encourage as a general principle.

However, the fact remains that the harmful effects of cigarette smoking are hard to deny and the decline in smoking rates over the past decade or so cannot be viewed as negative in any sense.

If this is possible to do, I believe that the same can be done to de-stigmatize sex work while establishing clear boundaries between what is legitimate and what is exploitative.

Backpage Is NOT to Blame

I also see this as being a valuable opportunity to fundamentally change the way that law enforcement can work in cooperation with controversial sites which allow the advertising of escort services, such as Backpage.com

Rather than putting legal pressure on such businesses to cease allowing such ads, we can instead relieve them of the constant need to worry about protecting themselves and enter into more of a partnership in which everyone can focus their energies on concern for the actual victims and suspected victims posting ads through their service.

Already, Backpage.com charges a fee for posting escorting ads and they require a credit or debit card that is issued to an actual person (in other words, prepaid gift cards are not accepted) which means that in the case of any suspected illegal activity, there is a name attached to the transaction taking place to advertise said activity.

Update: In July of 2015, major credit card companies including VISA and Mastercard began blocking payments for ads posted to Backpage.com as a result of increasing pressure from sheriff Tom Dart out of Chicago. He happens to be the same anti-sex trafficking “activist” whose campaigns were responsible for Craigslist.com removing their Erotic Services section as well.

If Backpage and similar sites followed in the footsteps of Craigslist and did away with their adult services section, this information would be harder to obtain by other means and would leave us further in the dark should there arise any suspicion of trafficking or other illegal and exploitative activity within the sex industry.

I’m Only Asking for One Change

The changes I propose would also be strictly limited to sex work taking place in privately owned residences and street walking would continue to be prohibited. I think we can all agree that this type of work, legal or otherwise, should be conducted in private among consenting adults. I believe these elements of the law are sound and should remain in place.

I don’t want much to change at the end of the day from the way things are now and I don’t want to change any existing laws about human trafficking, pimping, outdoor soliciting and I certainly do NOT want to legalize brothels like some counties in Nevada allow either.

All that I want is for adults who make informed decisions to engage in sex work as a means to support themselves (and many already do, myself included) to be treated with basic human respect and accepted as allies in the fight against trafficking and other serious issues that we could all stand to gain so much from.