Ray Dalton is fearless and fighting back
I rang Ray Dalton while he was driving down to Key West.
It’s difficult not to be intimidated by Ray Dalton – he’s a porn performer I’ve admired for a long time. He speaks with passion and authority. I wasn’t sure if I should be disturbing him while driving, but he seemed keen to talk.
I’d been introduced to Ray by Jack Mackenroth. People who work in sex-positive professions are increasingly finding themselves silenced as social media platforms deactivate their accounts. It’s an issue that Mackenroth is working hard to bring attention to, and he’d suggested that Ray Dalton would be good to talk to about the subject.
“The powers that be are against adult content – porn or sex work…” says Ray. “They’ve been a force to be reckoned with since the beginning of porn.”
“I remember that one of the concessions that was made in the 80s…” continues Ray. “Porn studios had to make it clear that was being presented was purely fantasy – don’t do this at home. It’s not a new thing, but the social media era has changed the game and now we’ve got FOSTA-SESTA to deal with.”
What is FOSTA-SESTA?
FOSTA-SESTA is a package of US legislation that was passed into law in April 2018.
FOSTA stands for Fight Online Trafficking Act, and SESTA stands for Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act.
One of the objectives of FOSTA-SESTA was to expand the liability for sex trafficking to online platforms found to be “knowingly assisting, supporting, or facilitating a violation” of the sex trafficking laws.
How does FOSTA-SESTA negatively impact sex-workers?
While on the face of it, an intention to tackle sex trafficking is a positive move, it seems that rather than protecting sex-workers, FOSTA-SESTA is making life more difficult.
One of the immediate consequences of the introduction of FOSTA-SESTA was that Craigslist shut down its Personals section. Explaining their decision, Craigslist said that they didn’t have the resources to monitor all listings to ensure that none of its users were breaching the provisions of FOSTA-SESTA. Other similar sites have also followed suit.
Another direct consequence of the introduction of FOSTA-SESTA was that Tumblr changed its content policies to remove any sexual content being posted to the platform.
Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are also believed to have tightened their terms and conditions in relation to what content is acceptable, in order to ensure compliance with FOSTA-SESTA.
All of these moves are making it harder for people working in sex-positive professions to promote their content, to build their brand, and connect with clients.
Is FOSTA-SESTA the only censorship issue facing sex-workers?
“There’s four main reasons behind the rise in censorship…” explains Dominic Ford, founder of JustFor.Fans. “FOSTA-SESTA, Advertisers who don’t want any association with explicit content, Apple’s restrictions in the App Store, and restrictions from payment providers.”
Platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter rely on advertising revenue in order to generate the profits required by their shareholders. Advertisers are becoming increasingly cautious about having their ads appearing alongside content that could be viewed as sexual. This requirement from advertisers puts pressure on social media platforms to remove sex-positive content.
App Store restrictions
Apple began its purge against ‘adult’ content in its App Store back in 2010. It’s a move that has been subsequently followed by Google’s Play Store. Apps that provide users access to nudity or sexually explicit content are likely to be blocked from the app stores. It’s for this reason that a number of gay dating apps have been forced to implement tighter restrictions on the profile photos that users can upload.
A less obvious form of censorship comes from payment providers. The big players are Visa, Mastercard, and PayPal, but policing of content seems to be a common concern for the entire industry. Payment providers can unilaterally withhold processing from platforms who are hosting content deemed obscene by the payment provider. Payment providers can object to content that they deem to breach an internal obscenity barrier that they have set themselves – even if the content is not illegal in any way.
“I’ve been banned by MailChimp…” confirms Ray Dalton, illustrating how payment providers can shape the content and the users that they’re willing to support on their platforms.
How can sex-workers navigate an increasingly negative social media landscape?
“We’ve got to fight back…” insists Ray Dalton. “When something like this happens, it puts clients off. The men who hire – especially the ones that have more to lose – they’re now less likely to hire.”
“I’m supporting efforts to overturn FOSTA-SESTA…” confirms Ray. “Every Fornication Party that we run raises money to help overturn the law.”
Entrepreneurial responses to a changing world
“I feel that I’m being censored…” says Ray. “Social media companies say that there’s no such thing as being shadow-blocked, but that’s what it feels like. I’m investing in social media, and my brand is really out there – but my audience isn’t growing.”
“I’m regularly hearing about friends of mine getting their accounts suspended…” says Ray. “It takes its toll on you – you begin to think that you’re going to be next.”
“Once FOSTA-SESTA became law, I hired a social media expert…” continues Ray. “We went through and cleaned out all of my posts that might not comply with their regulations. I have to play their game. I have to avoid the appearance of evil and play by their rules until we can overturn these laws. If your social media accounts are gone, you don’t have a voice and can’t fight.”
Ray describes Fornication Party as a private drug-free, shame-free event for uninhibited men that prefer bareback. He regularly hosts events across the US. In October, the party was in New York City. Future parties are planned for Chicago, Palm Springs, and Los Angeles.
“My passion in life is to create community and raise awareness…” says Ray, as our conversation comes to an end. If Ray Dalton is in charge, then that’s definitely a community that I want to be part of.