Unfiltered: ‘Society treats sex workers as second-class citizens’

As a prominent face in the world of adult entertainment, sex worker Ginger Banks has endured her share of insults and discrimination: “When I read comments on articles about sexual assault happening to sex workers, it breaks my heart. Because a lot of the people say, ‘Well, she’s a sex worker. She gets f***ed for money. Why can’t I grab her right now?’”

“Which makes no sense. If you are going to run into a UFC fighter on the street, you’re not going to punch him in the face and say, ‘That’s your job,’ right?”

Following a recent string of deaths by suicide and drug overdose among female adult-film actresses, including the popular performer August Ames, Banks has spoken out about the damaging and discriminatory treatment sex workers in the industry regularly face. The issue, Banks believes, stems from the stigma society places on sex work and the porn industry.

“There are people who probably respect drug dealers, that shoot and kill people, more than they do sex workers,” she says, “because sex is so negatively viewed still by such a large percentage of the country. … There are mothers who have had their children taken away from them because they are sex workers, there are banks and other institutions that have shut down sex workers’ accounts.”

“We’re all just people who want to provide for themselves and for their families.”

In this latest episode of “Unfiltered,” adult-film actress Ginger Banks explains why porn stars need more support for the kind of work they do — both within the industry and in society at large.

The 27-year-old has worked in the sex industry for eight years, first finding success as a webcam model and most recently having filmed a big-budget XXX feature. She was a chemical engineering student when she made the decision to pursue webcamming full-time, a choice that shocked her father. “When my dad found out, he immediately said, ‘Is someone forcing you to do this?’” she recalls, “Because it’s easier to think of that and accept that, than it is to realize that your independent, intelligent daughter decided to go into the sex work industry.”

Ginger Banks (Photo courtesy of Ginger Banks)
Ginger Banks (Photo courtesy of Ginger Banks)

It took time for Banks to get past her shame: “When I was lying about my job as a sex worker, that’s when I was the most depressed. Because deep down I knew there was nothing wrong with being a sex worker, but I had to hide it and I had to lie to people about my job. And that made me feel terrible.”

Now, with the new Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act and the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act, known as the FOSTA-SESTA bill, signed by President Trump on April 11, 2018, Banks believes the struggles many sex workers face will not only increase, it will also “cause [them] to die.” “Full-service sex workers are already at a higher risk of being murdered due to their job,” explains Banks. “And taking away their resources to screen through violent clients is just going to make that worse.”

Online platforms, like classified advertising website Backpage.com, are being held responsible by the new law for any sex related content. (Image: Backpage)
Online platforms, like classified advertising website Backpage.com, are being held responsible by the new law for any sex related content. (Image: Backpage)

Banks also feels that the new law will hurt those who are involuntarily trafficked into the industry. “If we make it safe for people to do sex work,” she asserts, “We are going to be making it safer for these people to come forward who are being forced into this industry.”

Ultimately, Banks wants sex workers to be treated fairly and with respect, “My goal in life is to help change the stigma surrounding sex workers. … We are just like any other part of society,” she says. “It is important to see us as people, because that’s what we are.”