Brett Rossi Talks Bias Against Sex Workers

Brett Rossi Talks Bias Against Sex Workers

LOS ANGELES — Adult performer and stand-up comedian Brett Rossi has written a new piece for Vice's Broadly imprint, “When Will Sex Workers Get Our #MeToo Moment?”

“I came forward with abuse allegations against Charlie Sheen in 2015 but was dismissed as a gold-digging porn star," Rossi wrote.

She lamented that there is a schism between the concern for A-list stars and the lack of attention paid to adult performers coming out to join the #MeToo movement. Sex workers are being silenced and shadow banned by services like Twitter, which limits their participation in the discussion even further.

And legislation like FOSTA, she said, "is violence against women on the job in its most extreme form. And yet, there is no public outcry on the level of when Aziz Ansari allegedly attempted to coerce a date into sex, Louis CK allegedly masturbated in front of women without their consent. … Why do they get tied to #MeToo while harassment towards and violence against sex workers are largely left out?”

Rossi urged change, a fundamental shift towards “caring more about all the people who don’t walk the red carpet.” She cited statistics from the Sex Workers Outreach Project that say sex workers are “400 percent more likely to be murdered than the average woman."

Rightfully, these circumstances make Rossi “specifically concerned about the actresses who work in the porn industry, the escorts, the sex workers and all the women in the sex industry — who are at high risk but rarely get taken seriously and are almost never offered a seat at the table.

“In part beause of the lack of respect we receive, women who work in the sex industry face incredibly high rates of violence on the job — particularly women of color, trans women and women living in low-income areas. Right now, we should be focusing on the most [marginalized] and disenfranchised survivors.

“Sex workers are workers,” explained Rossi. But “cultural misconceptions and intentional ignorance about sex work do a fantastic job of implying that women who work in the sex industry simply cannot be assaulted. If we get hurt or raped or killed, the assumption goes, it’s our fault, we’re doing it to ourselves. Because if a woman takes off her clothes for a living, she must have no moral compass, her character must be flawed, she must be from a broken home, she must be mentally unstable."

Rossi explained that the issue is bipartisan and widespread. “Even most who claim to be progressive accept the enduring logic: Any woman who disrupts the cultural myth of American purity should be quarantined to a life of shame. … The reality of working in the sex industry is constantly being shamed and vigorously gaslit by authorities, judges, legal counsel and pretty much everyone else — even when you are telling the truth. Women in the sex industry are always assumed to be guilty.”

Rossi detailed her 2015 allegations of assault and battery, emotional distress, false imprisonment and negligence against ex-fiance Charlie Sheen. “The backlash against me was atrocious,” she said. “It seemed like no one cared that I was telling them I had been both sexually and physically assaulted by a powerful man. I was just a porn star.”

The judge rejected Rossi’s request for a permanent restraining order against Sheen. To her, “it’s clear it was because of the ways my career was used against me.

“Let me remind you,” she explained, “Consent can be withheld by anyone at any time, no matter what [people] do for a living. … Violence against women working in the sex industry continues to occur mostly unchecked, [leaving] me highly skeptical of the #MeToo movement in its entirety.

"If this movement is going to be truly effective, it must be truly inclusive. … We deserve to stand up and scream “#MeToo” and be fully supported by not only the law, but [also] movements that are supposed to be for all survivors."