No customers, no money and no roof: prostitution also suffers from Covid-19

With their health at risk and the growing shortage of clients, sex workers are struggling to survive in the face of the threat posed by the Covid-19 pandemic. At the same time, pornography platforms register an increase in views by those who stay at home.

Pamela (not her real name), 46-year-old prostitute, lives in Toulouse, France. When she doesn’t work on the street, she has to travel to meet clients. She has not been working for more than two weeks, since the country closed its borders to prevent the spread of the virus. Only essential travel is allowed. “The requests have not completely disappeared,” she explained to the AFP agency. However, “comparing a fine of 135 euros to 50 euros for a client”, the professional prefers to ignore them, but if the scenario resists she believes that her savings will not be enough. “I’m going to have to take risks,” she says. “Even if I have two customers a week, I would at least pay for the food.” In the case of prostitutes who are already mothers, the situation worsens.

The French agency claims that the few sex workers registered as self-employed workers cannot claim the 1500 euros support promised by the government to self-employed workers to compensate for the fall in activity caused by the outbreak. In order to respond to their needs, some fundraising initiatives started to appear in the digital environment. From the page “tapotepute” (her friendly prostitute), around 10,000 euros were collected to help at least 30 sex workers. Those who continue to work have been advised by the STRASS (Sex Work Union) to “avoid contact with saliva” or “any face-to-face sexual position“.

As in France, the act of prostitution in Portugal is not considered illegal either. However, many sex workers, women and men, fight for total decriminalization, that is, for the profession to be seen as any other, with unions and all social benefits (such as Social Security, health insurance, work visas for workers migrants, safe, pimp-free workplaces managed by sex workers themselves).

The possibility of these professionals becoming homeless due to non-payment of rent or the closure of local housing also concerns some Portuguese collectives, including the Sex Workers Movement (MTS). “Those who contacted us asking for help are already in the dozens and are increasing every day” says Margarida Maria, who also helped organize a national fundraising campaign “to help those most affected by the pandemic, and who are it finds itself in the most precarious and marginalized situations” such as migrants, transgender people, mothers/fathers, with health problems and in a vulnerable housing state.

Last Wednesday, an open letter was sent to the Minister of Labour, Solidarity and Social Security, Ana Mendes Godinho, in which “extraordinary support measures” were requested, warning of the imminence of reaching a “critical point”. “There is attested severe difficulty in obtaining income or livelihoods, as well as in resorting to alternative work models” such as teleworking and “webcams”. The document was written with the participation of the Sexual Work Network (RTS), A Coletiva and Grupo de Partilha D’a Vida associations.

Increased consumption of pornography

After providing free access to its “premium” content in Italy, France and Spain to encourage people to stay at home as a way to avoid contagion with the new coronavirus, Pornhub has extended the offer worldwide until 23 April. The action is part of the “StayHomehub” campaign, with the aim of contributing to greater adherence to social distancing

According to the pornographic content platform, as more and more people are subjected to quarantine as well as telecommuting, there is a substantial increase in page activity. Approximately 120 million people consume the available content daily. In one day, there was an increase 5.7% greater than usual, with a preference for the morning.