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Sex workers selling nudes to combat Australia’s wildfires
Via Twitter @itsemmycorinne, @lilearthangelk, @l0serlexxx

The sex workers selling nudes to combat Australia’s wildfires

As blazes continue to destroy parts of the country and decimate wildlife, adult performers are both mobilising and rejecting archaic censorship

Australia is on fire. Ravaged by the worst bushfires seen in decades, huge areas of the country have been destroyed, at least 25 people have lost their lives, and up to one billion animals have been killed.

As president Scott Morrison enjoyed a holiday in Hawaii while the blazes raged on – and who continues to defend his government’s poor stance on the climate emergency – sex workers across the world have been stepping up, selling nudes to raise money for those affected by the fires.

It all started on January 4 when model Kaylen Ward – who calls herself ‘the naked philanthropist’ – tweeted: “I’m sending nudes to every person who donates at least $10 to any one of these fundraisers for the wildfires in Australia”. At the time of writing, she has raised over $1 million (£767k) – and that’s not it. Seeing the viral success of Ward’s campaign, a number of sex workers offered their own nudes in exchange for charity donations, with the six performers I spoke to adding at least  $740,000 (£567.5k) alone.

“I saw the images of the catastrophe,” Rocco Steele – one of the few men joining the cause – tells Dazed, “and was literally in tears yesterday when I heard about the koala bears crying for help. I felt helpless and wanted to do something, so when a friend sent me Kayla Ward’s tweet about how she raised like $1 million by sending nudes, I was immediately inspired.” Since posting his tweet three hours ago, Steele has raised over $1,000 (£767). 

Joining Ward the same day she tweeted, US-based Jenna Lee  – who’s raised over $45,000 (£34.5k) – says she was compelled to help after observing the lack of American media coverage about the fires. “Crises happen all the time,” she explains, “but what really struck me was it didn’t really hit the news here until recently, despite (the fires burning) since September!”

Each sex worker asked their followers to donate money to a suggested charity, then send a screenshot of their donation as evidence in order to receive their nude. Despite requiring just a $10 donation, many scammers attempted to use fake screenshots in exchange for photos, as called out by Ward herself.

“At first it was really hard,” Lee explains of trying to catch scammers, “but once you see the same screenshot roll in thousands of times you can start to see discrepancies, because essentially they should all look the same (with different details).” Although some people are too horny for their own good, most are genuine. “I’d say that 97 out of every 100 messages I get are authentic,” Lee reveals, explaining that “five out 100 people” don’t even ask for a nude. “(They say), ‘don’t bother sending nudes, I just wanted to show you that you prompted me to donate’, so that’s been really nice too.”

“People underestimate the power of this industry. Mainstream likes to dismiss us because making us legitimate makes people uncomfortable” – Rocco Steele

For other punters, helping out a good cause is a nice add-on to the everyday nude – “A lot of the guys who’ve messaged me are saying it’s a ‘great perk’ to giving to charity,” says UK-based adult performer Barbie Roxxx – but Lee asserts its appeal also lies in its innovation. “It was a novel idea,” she explains, “and now that people have seen it done, I can guarantee that the same thing will happen during the next crisis – Kaylen deserves a Nobel Peace Prize!” 

As well as raising money for charity, the sex workers hope to remove some of the stigma surrounding adult performers. “People don’t think of sex workers as environmentalists,” Lexi Azzola – who’s raised $25,000 (£19.1k) – says, “they don’t think of them as having other interests. So I thought it would be a really good movement to help give a better face to sex workers.”

Steele agrees: “People underestimate the power of this industry. Mainstream likes to dismiss us because making us legitimate makes people uncomfortable. The truth is: everybody watches porn and erotica, and many of us have more followers than a lot of mainstream influencers and celebrities. People love when we post about sexy stuff, but I think people really love when we post about things that show we are humans.”

With social media censorship of sex workers as strict and archaic as ever, the performers hope this charity campaign will encourage companies to rethink their policies. “FacebookTwitter, and Instagram are reducing (sex workers) to their genitals,” Aphrodite Aeria declares. “We are so much more than that. That may be how we make or supplement our incomes, but that doesn’t make us bad people.” Aeria, who raised over $7,200 (£5,500), says adult performers are “harassed, ridiculed, and threatened” online for “choosing to flaunt and monetise” their sexuality. She adds: “PayPal is notorious for closing accounts even hinted at belonging to sex workers. I had a friend lose hundreds of dollars when an asshole sent her a $1 payment with ‘for my prostitute’ written in the note.”

After her post offering nudes went viral, Ward had her 60k-strong Instagram account – a significant source of revenue for her – deleted, with no explanation from the platform. The model then created two other accounts, which were also quickly disabled. “Instagram has been banning people for even mentioning the exchange of nudes for donation,” model and actress Emmy Elliott tells Dazed. “If they age restricted posts instead of completely banning people’s accounts, we would be able to raise so much more money.” At the time of writing, Elliott has raised an estimated $20,000 (£15,300).

“It’s an interesting dynamic because most people think lowly of sex workers but highly of charity, so you mix the two and people are confused” – Lexi Azzola

Social media sites and other crowdfunding platforms have long been hostile to adult performers and models. In 2015, GoFundMe cancelled a sex worker advocacy group’s legal fundraiser, while breast cancer charity, Susan G. Komen Foundation for the Cure refused a donation from Pornhub back in 2012. When it comes to social media, Instagram is especially notorious for its strict censorship policies – which make it impossible to express sexuality on the platform – while Tumblr famously isolated its audience after launching its ‘safe mode’ update. Online payment platforms have also made it much harder to work – PayPal recently announced that it will no longer be supporting certain types of payments from Pornhub – a decision affecting the livelihoods of thousands of performers.

“It’s very unfortunate that social media makes it so hard on sex workers,” says Azzola, “especially when we’re trying to do good things. Most sex workers taken down by Instagram haven’t even broken any rules.”

She adds: “There’s definitely been philanthropy of sex workers before, but a lot of people don’t know that there are people out here selling nudes for good causes. It’s an interesting dynamic because most people think lowly of sex workers but highly of charity, so you mix the two and people are confused.”

With the mammoth possibilities of selling nudes for charity after raising over £500,000 herself, Roxxx is now turning to another cause close to her heart. “I’ll be raising money for Cancer Research in a week once I’ve done this,” she tells Dazed, “due to myself being diagnosed in 2014 with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and receiving chemo, and having seen the amazing work they do.”

She concludes: “I hope this important campaign shows that people in the adult industry can raise a lot of money (for charity) in an unconventional way. We all need support at some point in our lives – whoever we are or whatever our jobs are, we’re still human.”

Here’s a breakdown of what you else can do to help as Australia’s bushfires continue.