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Let’s be adult

Photo by Stefan Ammerlaan

When banks and big tech companies put paralysing restrictions onto queer sex businesses in a moralistic attempt to ‘protect the children’, more than livelihoods are at stake, writes Jennifer Hopelezz.

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Sometimes you’d think the world was made exclusively by and for children. Well, at least that’s what people against the queer community want us to believe. A lot of our rights are being stripped away in the name of protecting children.

Don’t get me wrong; I adore kids and have a close bond with many of the little critters. However, using children as a reason to curtail adults’ artistic and sexual freedoms doesn’t sit well with me.

It’s not the kids’ fault; it’s the world that’s incredibly hypocritical about sexual rights. We (nearly) all have sex, and without it, none of us would be here. Yet, somehow, sex is perpetually linked to criminality, immorality, and sordid behavior. What is it in human nature that equates sex with crime?

In the liberal city of Amsterdam, where I own two sex-on-premise venues, despite the city’s pro-LGBTQ+ stance, we encounter restrictive anti-sex rules. Recently, it was big news in Holland that banks are finally allowing sex workers to open bank accounts — mind you, sex work has been legalized since the early 2000s. It’s absurd that many sex workers have had to operate without a bank account, a challenge I’m sure is mirrored in most of the world.

It’s not just banks; insurance companies, credit card companies, Apple Store and governments throw all kinds of obstacles at sex-related businesses, mine included. And we continually encounter challenges with Facebook and Instagram, where our posts are frequently blocked, profiles are deactivated, and our hard-earned followers are unceremoniously eliminated. 

Two years ago, Google abruptly eliminated our gay sauna’s account in Amsterdam. Running a business without a Google account is like driving a car without wheels – completely impossible. After weeks of distress, desperation and complaints, we did recover our account but the ordeal made us extremely cautious. Similar experiences are reported by other gay saunas in Europe and America.

So, we find ourselves self-censoring, saying ‘sexy’ instead of ‘sex’, tiptoeing around the rules with winks and asterisks. Even using the words ‘gay sauna’ puts us at risk.

Ironically, Google Australia is a supporting partner of this year’s Mardi Gras. 

Their blurb on the Mardi Gras site about ‘diversity of perspectives, ideas and cultures’ comes across as mere ‘blah blah blah’ to me, seemingly oblivious to their own practice of censoring queer-related sex businesses. Their hypocrisy is not just blatant; it’s downright childish.