EDITORIAL GRAPHIC

From columns establishing the principles of consent and cover stories describing the proper use of condoms and how to detect an STI, to opinion pieces on dildos, the Kaimin has no problem talking about sex.

This will be the second week in a row that the Montana Kaimin reports on students who turned to sex work. They all have their reasons, but a consistent factor in their decisions to enter the world’s oldest profession has been the need to make rent.

The digital age has broadened sex work to include amatuer modeling, stripping and broadcasting one’s body online. In a 2014 study, the Urban Institute estimated the underground sex economy in some of the United States’ largest cities to be valued at over $500 million. What started as a novelty in the $50 billion porn industry now has amateur models jumping into the gig economy of sex work through an ethernet connection.

Surrounding the money pouring out of the digital spout comes millions of reports of turning to sex work out of financial desperation. Sex itself is a kind of transaction, but one that should be made between consenting adults, and free of predation. The Kaimin reported on the sex industry’s appeal, and its dangers. What’s made the difference between empowerment and exploitation has been one factor offered by the power of technology: control.

The people who shared their stories with the Kaimin, both on and off campus, all utilized the internet to sell themselves, be it a picture, video or physical contact. Among them, some experienced online harassment, belittling and, in one instance, assault. The internet has created a sieve for sex workers to screen clients, adding a level of agency for sex workers to avoid the pimp and the porn producer. While the possibility of legalization could put the control of sex work under city and state, the workers themselves have already earned that control.

Although some of the models in this week’s feature story turned to sex work out of financial instablity, their decision to enter the industry on platforms like Patreon and OnlyFans afforded them something of a foundation to stand on. That is, being their own boss in control of their image, their clients and their content.