Last week on Twitter the mood was decidedly apocalyptic. New reports surfaced about the dire conditions the company’s workers have faced since Twitter was taken over by billionaire Elon Musk, a man who seems to genuinely relish terrorizing the people who work for him. While the likelihood of a total Twitter collapse seems extremely unlikely given the money at-risk, it has become apparent that significant change is imminent at the one mainstream social media platform that has historically been the friendliest to adult entertainment and sex workers.
The tone and culture at companies is always set by the people at the top. Within days of taking over Twitter, Musk eliminated the company’s previously existing “work from anywhere” policy, replacing it with demands that employees spend at least 40 hours in the office each week. As you might imagine, that wasn’t exactly feasible for many of the company’s workers who relied on being remote, or otherwise didn’t have proximity to the physical office – many of those workers are now gone.
According to Bloomberg, Musk also told staff that they were expected to work 80 hours a week (which for those keeping track would amount to 16 hour workdays for those who wanted to enjoy a standard 2-day weekend, although more realistically it would mean 11-12 hours per day, seven days per week). Staff was also ambushed with an email demand that they agree to a “hardcore” work environment within days, or else be fired.
How about that commitment to “free speech” that Musk has been bragging about to anyone who will listen?
Those of us who work in the adult entertainment business rely on the principles of free speech to protect us from government overreach. Without these principles, would-be censors and religious fanatics in government would have silenced our industry a long time ago. In theory, a new head of Twitter who voluntarily champions free speech principles on a private industry platform would be a great development…….
In practice though, when Musk talks about “free speech” it appears that he really means free speech for himself (and those like him).
The signs so far at Twitter have not been good. Reports have surfaced that Musk has kept himself busy stalking staff and firing engineers for speech that he himself doesn’t appreciate. More recently, he has bragged that the company will now shadowban “negative” tweets, although what that means is anyone’s guess.
The reality about that whole “free speech” thing is this: while the First Amendment protects those of us in the United States from government overreach, it absolutely doesn’t protect us in the workplace. Private companies can (and often do) fire employees over speech. How about consumers? The online businesses you frequent and the services you utilize also can restrict what you can say and share on their platforms. You have no protection from retaliation for your speech while working for a private company, or when using a private social media platform.
Also worth considering is this: due to a shortage of skilled technical labor in the United States, many of the talented people working as engineers at Twitter are in the US thanks to an H1B visa. Should they get fired or quit they’d get deported. This reality puts them at extreme risk of an exploitative boss, which perhaps explains the recent Musk photo-op where he practically held them hostage at 1am.
Watching these Twitter workers endure what appears from afar to be a complete nightmare, it reminds me of why I settled down in the adult entertainment business in the first place.
As a young man with a fresh college degree, my first job was working for a software company that built virtual reality systems for the military. It was a small start-up with a great little team, and the work environment while often dull was still pleasant. Eventually, a larger company targeted us for acquisition and my company’s owners just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to cash in, leaving the rest of us in the hands of all-new ownership and management. While I chose to get out immediately at that time, those who stayed behind didn’t last long.
My second run at mainstream work happened later on in my adult life when I was recruited and took a position working with an emerging cloud services provider. Again, the initial atmosphere was that of a small start-up and things were pleasant – but eventually new management took over, ill-advised changes were made, and the company was run into the ground. I exited just before the company was acquired and everything we built evaporated. None of the original team is left with new owners.
It’s not always easy for those who work in adult entertainment to find a successful path, but those who do typically enjoy a level of freedom and sometimes security that few mainstream corporate jobs provide.
For adult companies and businesses, the lack of direct competition from elite-financed mainstream corporate entities is a breath of fresh oxygen that no other industry enjoys. In most industries, one or two companies (think Amazon, Microsoft, Apple or Wal-Mart) monopolize the vast majority of economic opportunities, leaving scraps for everyone else trying to complete. In adult, it’s possible for a comparatively small entrepreneur to build a successful company and grow it organically.
For models and creators who work in adult, the opportunity to earn independent income through cam sites, clips stores, fan platforms and texting services provides a chance for living life on their own schedule. Some work exclusively in adult, others use the industry as supplemental income. According to a recent report from Sex Work CEO, more that 19% of online sex workers make at least $100k / year from the adult industry alone. None have a boss like Musk making unreasonable demands on their time.
That isn’t to say working in adult is without significant challenges. Social stigma, doxing, government overreach, mainstream corporate censorship, banking discrimination and constant changes to business models are just some of its significant challenges. Plus, even our industry’s biggest businesses rely on the mainstream world to some extent; we all saw the devastating impact on MindGeek when MasterCard and Visa decided to lower the boom, and more recently SextPanther lost its SMS features (at least temporarily) when the mainstream service provider it relied upon suddenly decided to cut them off without warning.
Looking at the recent experiences of Twitter’s staff though, mainstream corporate work doesn’t look appealing. Even the best work environments can get suddenly transformed when companies abruptly change ownership, or even just leadership. Poor financial periods can result in very sudden layoffs – often because of the bad choices of leadership, but it’s the staff down the ladder that always takes the hit. Mainstream corporate work just doesn’t provide much stability for modern workers, and the demands that come with that paycheck are often unreasonable.
For all the things I’ve discussed above, it’s imperative that our industry stays committed to our collective success. Although we compete with each other in many ways, we’ve always been stronger when we work together and invest in the health of our business.
How can you do that?
Second, participate in industry events, whether in-person or virtual. It’s through our business events that we come together as a community and shape our collective culture, and they’re also a great way to network and find new ways to collaborate with others in your industry. Take note of the sponsors who make your favorite events possible. Make sure to thank them and use their services when there’s a fit.
Third and possibly most important, use the platforms and services that are making a positive impact on our industry instead of the ones being run by exploitative, disrespectful, racist or misogynistic people at the top (and we all know there are a few of those). The companies that get collective support are the companies that will succeed, so who you choose to do business with can literally shape the quality of our industry not just for yourself, but for others as well. Don’t prop up the companies that hate you.
Meanwhile, let’s all hope that Twitter eventually emerges from its recent mess just fine, still welcoming of adult companies and sex workers alike. If you use the platform I invite you to follow me there, and hopefully we’ll have great dialogue for many years to come.
Plus, who knows, maybe some of those engineers and marketing professionals who have recently departed Twitter will give up on the mainstream corporate world entirely and instead turn their talents towards our industry. I’d love to see what new platforms they could create, and what financial opportunities they might generate for both themselves and also for the sex workers who call this industry home.