What’s up with FOSTA/SESTA?

In this week’s Accounting for it All-related post, let’s take a moment to explore something more immediately topical, that being the recently signed FOSTA/SESTA law, which, according to its authors, is meant to prevent sex trafficking.

For those who might want to explore the topic in depth, Laura LeMoon has a great op-ed with Broadly that dives into the details of the law and its intended versus actual effects. In it, she provides testimony from actual sex workers who are already experiencing the detrimental secondary consequences this law is having on their industry. Unfortunately, these consequences are only putting sex workers in greater danger, not less.

Where this blog is concerned, all one need know is that this is a shining example of a well-intended but poorly considered law that will have and is having ramifications well beyond its original scope.

Though FOSTA/SESTA became law well after the completion of the original manuscript for Accounting for it All, as the book’s author I’m now actively considering how it might affect my approach to editing the version that ultimately ends up in readers’ hands in November 2018.

How might the book be affected? Well, the novel’s protagonist, Robin, finds her way into the adult industry through a post on Craigslist. But with FOSTA/SESTA now law, the Craigslist personal ads page has withered away—and with it, the opportunity that a hub like this offered those with an interest in consensual sex work.

Where the final manuscript is concerned then, the question is this: should that bit be re-written so that it’s in line with the actual existence of the site today, or should the manuscript move forward as originally presented on the assumption that readers will understand the story is presented as a sort of retrospective?

Perhaps more importantly, there are character-development-oriented considerations that must be taken into account, too. In previous posts, I described how the adult industry helps some characters in the novel find themselves, become entrepreneurs, or otherwise find a network of like-minded individuals who support one another.

Without a venue like Craigslist’s personal ads available to Robin, who’s to say if she would have ever stumbled onto this particular path toward self-actualization? Might FOSTA/SESTA’s implementation deny others the same option? This is speculative, I know, but worth consideration.

None of this is means FOSTA/SESTA won’t have some marginal impact on reducing sex trafficking, which is, again, a worthy goal. The question becomes, however, whether that supposed reduction in trafficking will ultimately be worth the harm caused to consensual sex workers, some of whom share their experiences in LeMoon’s op-ed above.

Time will tell how the implementation of FOSTA/SESTA in Accounting for it All is ultimately addressed, but for sex workers whose lives and livelihoods are already being affected adversely by these changes, time is something they can ill afford.

For further reading on FOSTA/SESTA and what might be done about it, you can check out this post from New York congressional candidate Suraj Patel.

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