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Eden Alexander, Crowd funding, and Discrimination Against Sex Workers

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Eden Alexander is sick. The basic rundown is she had a nearly fatal reaction to a commonly prescribed prescription drug and, because she’s a sex worker, it was assumed to be related to drug use, meth, etc. Because she wasn’t treated she developed a staph infection. A fundraiser was started for her on GiveForward, a kickstarter like service the helps people seek funding for medical bills. GiveForward processes payments through WePay. Which is like Paypal. A webcache copy of the fundraising page is here.

I don’t know the exact details of how Eden got sick. Whether there was or wasn’t medical malpractice. I’m not weighing in on that. I don’t know her personally. But I did visit the page, before they took it down. She had raised over $1,000 to help with her medical bills (only $795 on the webcache page). It was very clearly a fundraiser for medical bills. Then she got a note from WePay saying her fundraiser had been cancelled because the service cannot be used in connection with pornographic items. At first they were refusing to release the money she had already raised, but I think they’ve gone back on that. Still, the fundraiser was halted because of its connection to porn.

 

The only connection the fundraiser had to porn is that Eden has been in porn. WePay took down the page that has the medical story so I can’t even link to that for you to reference (though thanks to webcache nothing is ever erased on the internet). But it’s a clear case of discrimination against sex workers.

Of course WePay is delighted to process payments for religious extremists trying to ban abortion. (ht @mollycrabapple).

Another interesting point made by Molly, “Society at once tells sex workers they must immediately find another line of work, and then bans them from all other means of making money.”

Basically in the minds of WePay if a sexworker gets sick and their loved ones try to raise money it’s better to just let them die. The whole saga is disappointing, though maybe not surprising. In a lot of ways my first movie was about this. The hardest part about being a sex worker is not the Johns or STDs or any of the dangers we’re warned about in conjunction with sex work. The hardest part about being a sex worker is the discrimination from people who don’t know anything about it.

Sex workers need special protections because there is so much discrimination against them. Discrimination by the police, the schools, and corporate America. I could go on endlessly on this topic but what’s happening to Eden Alexander is tragic.

Another note, the idea for WePay came when one of the founders was struggling to raise funds for his brother’s bachelor party. They don’t mention the strippers in the WePay founding story, but they needed $4,200, and there was “bottle service at a club”, and I think it’s safe to say there were strippers. Otherwise $4,200 is a lot of money to spend on Budweiser and clown suits.

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UPDATE 1: A new crowd funding page has been started for Eden Alexander at Crowdtilt.

UPDATE 2: WePay responds. We maintain that Eden Alexander’s fundraiser should not have been shut down. What WePay is claiming is that Eden retweeted someone’s offer of dirty pictures. She wasn’t even offering them herself, and they weren’t being sold on the fundraiser page. She wasn’t given an opportunity to respond to allegations and WePay’s response only came days later following all the negative publicity.

Update 3: ValleyWag on the WePay scandal.


Stephen Elliott is the author of seven books, including the memoir The Adderall Diaries and the novel Happy Baby. He is the founding editor of The Rumpus. His feature film debut, About Cherry, was distributed by IFC. His second movie, based on his novel Happy Baby, is forthcoming. More from this author →