by Shwetha Sundarrajan
The new #Thotaudit Twitter campaign is targetting female sex workers and reporting them to the IRS with the hopes of having unreported profits made from sending explicit videos audited.
The campaign has started a fiery debate on social media over women making a living through online sex work. The grassroots campaign, started by Facebook user David Wu and was furthered on Twitter by notorious misogynist Daryush “Roosh” Valizadeh over Thanksgiving weekend targeted several sex workers, banning them from various online payment services such as Venmo, Cash App, and Circle Pay.
On Valizadeh’s podcast regarding #thotaudit, he said, “A lot of these frustrated young men who are tired of hos coming on their platforms and ruining it” had been excited by the idea of reporting women to the IRS and sought to punish women for “invading a male space to show your boobs and your butt.”
If you report a thot to the IRS and they collect taxes from her, you can receive up to 30% of that amount. There is actually a financial incentive to defeating thottery. pic.twitter.com/3BxAldTpFC
— Roosh (@rooshv) November 24, 2018
Not surprisingly, this isn’t the first time sex workers have been attacked online for their profession. Three years before the GamerGate social media campaign, there was a harassment campaign against adult film stars.
In 2011, an online database called Adult Production Health & Safety Services, which lists pornography performers who are sexually-transmitted disease-free and available for work, was hacked, leaking performers’ private medical information, including legal names and home addresses. This exposed numerous adult film stars to online harassment, similar to what’s happening with #thotaudit. But it’s clear that the aim of men’s activists isn’t to simply report sex workers to the IRS. It was more about harassing women who make their living being sexual online.
Rachel Smith, a professor in the Women and Gender Studies department at Ball State University points out, “When men behave sexually, especially in the 21st century, it’s labeled as ‘boys will be boys,’ but women have to deal with either being labeled as a virgin or a whore,” Smith said. “There’s no in-between. As far as sex work is concerned, there’s primarily judgment placed on women.”
In the #thotaudit campaign, female sex workers have been targeted at a higher rate than male sex workers. In an article by the Daily Beast, Julie Roin, a professor at the University of Chicago Law School said that “the whole issue is that they are specifically targeting us because we’re women, because we’re using our sexuality to profit, and because we’re not giving it to them for free,” Roin said.
Smith agrees with that as well. Seeing it as more than just an issue with sex workers, Smith says that it’s about a lack of conversation surrounding sex.
“Oftentimes, if you look at interviews or talk to people involved [in sex work], it’s not even about the actual sex itself, but it’s just about companionship and about being around someone else and talking to someone else,” she said. “But people don’t look at it that way. They look at it as ‘Oh, it’s sex. And because it’s about sex, we can’t have an open, honest relationship and conversation with anybody about it.’ And that’s a problem. That’s a problem in our society and culture, it’s a problem across the globe.”
So, will the stigma against sex work ever go away, even amidst numerous harassment campaigns? “That’s hard to tell,” Smith says. “In the 21st century, some things have changed, but there’s still a stigma around sex work. There’s a stigma against those who work in prostitution, in strip clubs, or people who work in the porn industry.”
In an article by The Verge, Nick Farr, staff accountant with Kroon & Mitchell CPAs in Grand Rapids, MI. says that “The IRS is not going to act unless you’ve given them enough information for them to know that you know that someone is evading their income tax responsibilities,” Farr said. And the reporting of a person’s name and what payment service they use is not sufficient grounds for an audit.
Just like #Gamergate, the purpose of #thotaudit was to intimidate, not make any immediate, lasting action.