Blog Post Written By: GoAskAlex
On March 10th 2021, a group of unionised garment workers in Thailand showed up for their shift to find that they were permanently locked out of their workplace. The factory in question, Brilliant Alliance, gave no notice to the 1300 employees who lost their jobs overnight despite their actions breaking Thai labour laws.
Using the COVID-19 virus as pretext, the company announced a four day ‘vacation’ on March 6th 2021. Just four days later, the gates were locked with a note saying that they would remain permanently closed. This sudden closure came after the company’s management announced on March 3rd that due to a ‘decline in orders’, employees would be required to accept a four month long furlough at just 50% of their original wages. Keep in mind that the minimum wage in Thailand is already just 331 Baht ($10 USD) per day.
To date, the employees of Brilliant Alliance have not yet received severance, unpaid bonuses, or even their owed wages.
The Hong Kong owned corporation produced garments for none other than Victoria’s Secret - the popular lingerie brand known for throwing out an entire store’s worth of merchandise rather than donating it locally. I like to refer to myself as a “farm to table porn creator”. In short, that means that I direct, star, and produce my own content; my “homegrown porn”. I use the terms “farm to table” and “homegrown” to emphasise that my content is independently made, and that my small business retains the majority of the profit from my work.
Though not all corporations are the same, many industry giants are known for coercion and exploitation, specifically of young women entering the industry with limited experience; they are often seen as easy to manipulate.
It is rare for an adult performer to receive royalties once a production hits the market. In contrast, since I am my own director, producer, and film star, I retain the passive income from all of my video sales. Because of this, the consumer can enjoy my videos with the knowledge that they are produced ethically and enthusiastically. I am an advocate for emphatic consent in the adult industry; minimising exploitation is a priority of mine. From my conversations with fellow sex workers, I’ve come to the conclusion that sexual exploitation is something we all want to prevent - so why not labour exploitation? The unfortunate truth is that the products we use in content creation and performing are often obtained at the expense of those producing them. In that way, we are indirectly profiting off of the backs of marginalised people around the world, most of which are women and children. In 2013 in Bangladesh, an eight story commercial building (Rana Plaza) collapsed, devastating the local city of Dhaka. The disaster killed 1380 people and injured an additional 2500 who were trapped beneath the rubble. Workers reportedly evacuated the building the day before the collapse when large cracks appeared in the walls and ceilings, but the factory owner assured workers that the building was structurally sound. Many terrified workers told their employer that they didn’t want to return to work; they feared for their lives. Their cries for safe working conditions fell on deaf ears, as management ordered them back to their posts. The majority of garment factory workers are women, and support their families on an average monthly salary of $50 USD. Without this income, they would have no way to survive, and management knew that. As a result, even as rubble and concrete fell onto their laps and into their sewing machines, they were instructed to continue working.
At the time of the collapse, many popular fashion brands used Rana Plaza to produce their products - H&M, Primark, and Walmart to name a few. While these big name brands continue to flourish around the world, the minimum wage in Bangladesh has not changed since 2013. Similarly, the Chinese fashion giant SHEIN reportedly puts enormous pressure on their staff to hit deadlines, with workers recording 75+ hour work weeks, sometimes only taking one day off per month. Something I have noticed in the sex work industry is a pattern of exhaustive consumption. In the case of independent content creators, this is especially true of props and garments. I have seen this develop as a response to the pressure to constantly create new content. The culture of overworking ourselves creates a mounting pressure to churn out original media round-the-clock. This sense of urgency creates a constant demand for new gadgets and costumes, which could be justifiable if each article of clothing, accessory, and prop was used indefinitely… but this doesn’t seem to be the case. As a general rule, most of the excess items purchased for content remain unused - and as a result many of our closets are full of more costumes and lingerie than we have function for. Overnight, we become hoarders of these materials. An ironic fact is that many of our fans and clients couldn’t care less what we wear, and are often just as enticed by witnessing our authenticity and comfort.
Unfortunately, the waste doesn’t end in stockpiles of costumes. Due to the use of Amazon Wishlists among performers, it has become increasingly easy for fans to send swathes of gifts to their favourite stars. The idea of a wishlist is fabulous, but Amazon brand tripods and flimsy underwear are doomed to be replaced every month after they inevitably fall apart. Much of the plastic packaging on these single-use items is not recyclable, and ends up in our oceans. Consequently, we become unknowingly responsible for polluting our natural resources.
As a performer, I often find myself frustrated by the choices of the ‘powers that be’ in our industry. While they live a lavish lifestyle, our working conditions are not always a priority. Being in control of our own content, and the passive income generated by royalties, has brought many adult entertainers the opportunity for independent success. With this change, the consumer is becoming aware of the ethical alternative; “farm to table” porn. The ethical consumption of porn is a hot topic right now, and I see sex work as a whole gradually being rebranded as a more widely accepted career option. Social media has played a critical role in the amplification of our collective voice, as individuals speak up about the benefits and realities of sex work. Something I’ve encountered a lot lately is the ‘pay for your porn’ movement. By paying a performer directly, the customer empowers the working person and lessens the possibility of workplace exploitation. Additionally, more and more consumers are realising that they can have a far more rewarding and intimate experience when purchasing directly from a sex worker.
The push to empower “homegrown porn production” is overdue, and I delight in seeing these much needed changes to our industry, however; it’s important to remember that our progress does not necessitate the exploitation of sweatshop workers. I implore my fellow sex workers to vote with their dollar by purchasing ethically and sustainably made products. In doing so, we can reduce the amount of exploitation in the production line, and we can be truly proud of our ethical work.
Victoria’s Secret in Thailand: https://www.industriall-union.org/workers-locked-out-of-thai-lingerie-factory Victoria’s Secret dumps bras: https://www.businessinsider.com/victorias-secret-dumps-bras-in-trash-fashions-dirty-secret-2020-2 Rana Plaza: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/24/style/survivors-of-rana-plaza-disaster.html
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the blog post above are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SexWorkCEO or MelRose Michaels. Any content provided by our bloggers or authors are of their opinion and are not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, individual or anyone or anything.