Note To Bernie: Sex Workers Are Part Of The Working Class Too


For many years, my Friday night routine has included smoking weed and watching Real Time with Bill Maher. I’m a creature of habit and this is one I truly enjoy.

Last Friday, I thought I was in for a special treat because Senator Bernie Sanders was the first guest. I didn’t vote in the 2016 presidential election, but I would have voted for Bernie if he had been the Democratic nominee.

I viewed him as a special, magical unicorn, far more reasonable than most other politicians. You’d think I would’ve learned my lesson about putting politicians on a pedestal, but I hadn’t. No, this one WAS special and different, I just knew it! Flash forward a couple of years and I realize I’d been naive again.

Part of what sold me on Bernie from the beginning was that he seemed to really care about the working class. When I was growing up my dad worked in a factory and he made sure I knew the only reason they were paying him a livable wage was because he was a union member. Bernie seemed like the kind of guy that actually cared about people like my family. That mattered to me. That meant something to me. I fell for his talking points.

On Friday, he told Maher:

In 2016 it’s not that Trump won, it’s that Democrats lost. For too long the Democratic party has been dominated by wealthy campaign contributors. They gotta open the door to people who work with their hands, people who take showers at the end of the day, not at the beginning of the day. Open the door to young people. We have a generation out there of some of the brightest, most decent young people in the history of this country.

That sounds good, but it’s slightly infuriating to me to hear Bernie try to paint himself as the patron saint of the working class after he voted for the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) and the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA),¬†which President Trump signed in April.

So Bernie supports workers’ rights as long as the workers aren’t sex workers? I thought he was supposed to be a progressive?

You can’t talk about the Democratic Party being out of touch when you’re just as out of touch as they are. Bernie, you are no better than they are. Sex workers are…workers. We have families. Why should we be treated any differently than any of the other workers you claim to support?

Why is Bernie not smart enough to know the difference between consensual sex work and trafficking? How does he not see through the bullshit, the faux moral panic regarding sex trafficking that helps conflate consensual sex work with abuse?

It infuriates me to hear Sanders discuss the need for criminal justice reform after his vote for FOSTA/SESTA. Senator, you just voted for a major crackdown on sex work, one that also impacts legal sex workers. With this vote, you put many people in an already marginalized community at risk of being jailed.

So please don’t act like you’re a champion of the people. It’s great that you’re going to Disney to stand with the workers on strike. But what about the sex workers marching around the country? We’re not merely marching against low wages. We’re marching for our lives, literally. We’re one of the most mistreated and abused groups of people in the country. Where are you when it comes to supporting us? Where are you priorities at, truly?

Did you ever notice that when it comes to the moral panic about sex work, progressives are indistinguishable from conservatives? Remember, there were only two senators smart enough to vote against FOSTA/SESTA, Ron Wyden, the Oregon Democrat, and Rand Paul, the Kentucky Republican. The sole existing area of political bipartisanship in the country is apparently dedicated to misunderstanding and actively harming one of the most marginalized groups out there.

We’re losing the culture war because both sides are growing increasingly puritanical about sex work. If I’m ever going to vote for a Democrat again, I need to see a clear distinction on this issue. This is literally a life or death issue for my community. I expect better from someone like Senator Sanders, and I’m going to keep calling him out at every turn.

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Ken Silverstein is the CEO, editor-in-chief, lead writer and primary sleaze purveyor for Washington Babylon. He's written for dozens of publications, from VICE to Wallpaper*. He's also a big fan of Sydney Leathers, a political scandal expert, porn performer, cat-mom of two from the Midwest and Washington Babylon's Senior Contributing Writer.