The oppression of BIPOC and queer intercourse staff on TikTok | Information
An Iowa state graduate student gave a presentation on how BIPOC and queer creators involved in sex work are suppressed on TikTok.
The sex work on TikTok was discussed on Friday at the 21st annual Iowa State Conference on Race and Ethnicity (ISCORE).
Chelsea Davis, PhD student in journalism and mass communication, presented her research on how sex workers use the TikTok social media platform.
Her virtual presentation entitled “Sex Workers on TikTok: Transparency, Normalization and Algorithmic Marginalization” focused on the text analysis of TikTok posts about sex work as well as interviews with sex workers who use the platform. Davis shared a number of comments on TikTok videos about sex workers, as well as quotes from interviews with sex workers.
TikTok is an abbreviated form of mobile video on social media platform that is most popular with Generation Z users, who are currently anyone between the ages of 16 and 24.
“It is also [a platform] This is where users can find communities based on their own identities and experiences, ”said Davis.
Davis said the term “sex work” was coined by activist Carol Leigh as an objection to the term “sex use industry”. Leigh chose the term “sex work” to shift sex workers’ view of objects from objects to people with “sexual and physical autonomy,” Davis said.
Davis’ research aimed to investigate how sex workers use and experience TikTok, as well as how people with color and queer sex workers experience TikTok.
Davis identified four ways sex workers use TikTok: activism, education, anti-harassment, and humor about sex work.
Activism content on TikTok often promoted sexual positivity, but also addressed some of the issues sex workers typically face. The educational content on sex work ranged from the income of sex workers to suggestions for entering the industry.
“Sex workers wanted to explain what they were doing and give viewers a behind-the-scenes insight into everyday situations they faced,” said Davis.
Anti-harassment content was used to deconstruct misunderstandings about sex work and to talk about the harassment they experienced.
Sex workers on TikTok often combined humor with other topics to draw the audience’s attention to important issues.
According to Davis, TikTok “provided unprecedented insights into this industry straight from the sex workers themselves.”
However, this increased visibility has not spread to all sex workers on the platform equally.
“Some users have accused TikTok of the shadow ban, which is essentially the platform that suppresses their content and limits their visibility,” said Davis.
TikTok is an algorithmic platform, which means that the platform recommends content to users via a ranking system. Davis explained that black, indigenous and colored people (BIPOC) are often excluded from this algorithm, so their content doesn’t reach as many people.
“Where are the BIPOC sex workers? Where are the queer sex workers? Why don’t we hear from them? “Asked Davis.
Davis used an intersectional approach in her research to validate many different identities of sex workers on TikTok. She defined intersectionality as “the various interdependent ways in which a person’s identity affects their place in the world”.
Davis said she felt TikTok was an opportunity for people to see sex workers as people rather than objects. She said the platform also enables sex workers to have honest discussions about the risks and opportunities of sex work.
“By being open about their work, sex workers can reclaim and strengthen themselves and their bodies,” said Davis.