Congressman Threatens OnlyFans With Segregation-Era 'White Slavery' Act

Congressman Threatens OnlyFans With Segregation-Era 'White Slavery' Act

PHOENIX — Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) sent a letter yesterday to the Department of Justice demanding that OnlyFans be investigated and prosecuted for “promoting prostitution” under a controversial Segregation-era law called the “White Slave Traffic Act.”

The White Slave Traffic Act, also known as the Mann Act after its sponsor Rep. James R. Mann (R-IL), was passed in 1910.

Gosar — a dentist elected into Arizona congress in 2010 whose webpage boasts of having “no prior political experience” — publicized his letter via his Twitter account, stating, “Today I’m writing the U.S. Attorney General requesting an investigation into OnlyFans for promoting, and profiting from, online prostitution. I encourage the Justice Department to vigorously protect vulnerable people from platforms that promote coercive immoral and sexual activity.”

A 1910 Law Created During the 'White Slavery' Moral Panic

The law, NPR’s “All Things Considered” reported, was the direct result of “a full-fledged moral panic” generated by politicians and the press.

“There were rumors, taken as truth, that women were being forced into prostitution and shuttled around the country by vast networks controlled by immigrants, who were arriving in the U.S. by the millions,” wrote Eric Weiner.

“The plague of ‘white slavery’ was on everyone's minds,” the report continued. “Muckraking journalists fueled the hysteria with sensationalized stories of innocent girls kidnapped off the streets by foreigners, drugged, smuggled across the country and forced to work in brothels.”

“It was into this charged environment that the Mann Act was born,” Weiner wrote. “Signed into law by President Taft in 1910, the Act made it a crime to transport women across state lines ‘for the purpose of prostitution or debauchery, or for any other immoral purpose.’ It was that last clause ‘for any other immoral purpose’ — that would prove the most problematic and give rise to concerns that the law enabled the government to legislate morality.”

Rep. Gosar: 'Dust Off This Old Law"

The White Slave Traffic Act has been controversial since its inception, with critics pointing out that its selective enforcement was a constant source of abuse of power, particularly against BIPOC defendants.

The law, according to the “All Things Considered” report, “has been applied broadly over the years and, critics say, used as a tool of political persecution and even blackmail.”

The first high-profile case prosecuted under the White Slave Traffic Act was that of Black boxer Jack Johnson, who was charged for “debauching” a white woman, who was actually his girlfriend.

Gosar’s letter begins with several lengthy paragraphs pointing out the history of abuses, many of them racially motivated, of the White Slave Traffic Act, before pivoting into calling it, nevertheless, “a vital federal law.”

“To the extent that the department is dusting off this old law,” Gosar wrote, the Attorney General should “consider opening an investigation into this troubling website.”

“The protection of vulnerable people from coercion of illegal and immoral sexual activity should be a priority of your department, and online platforms should not be immunized from accountability,” urged Gosar — who became notorious during the last election cycle when his own siblings put out an ad asking Arizona voters not to vote for him.

APAG's Reaction

“Platforms like OnlyFans changed our industry by giving our workers control of how they perform,” Alana Evans, president of adult performers union APAG, told XBIZ.

“For the first time in history, performers can be self-reliant without working under anyone else's direction," she said. "As a performer for 23 years, having the ability to control every aspect of the product I release is the ultimate goal in consensual content.”

Evans added that, during this pandemic, her union has seen a rise in adult workers across the country. “Women and men are crossing into consensual sex work from the privacy of their own homes, for many, saving their families from homelessness,” she explained.

“The adult industry takes claims of trafficking and abuse very seriously — however, a platform that offers the freedom of self-expression and financial support is hardly an employer or supporter of trafficking,” Evans said. “If a platform like OnlyFans is taken away from our workers, many would be forced into dangerous situations, financial ruin, and could likely lose their ability to control their content.“

APAG has been serving as a liaison to help performers with OnlyFans issues.

“We provide the 2257 documents that performers use for the platform to verify their age, and we work to help performers reclaim accounts if they were erroneously removed,” Evans explained.

“All too often, lawmakers make judgments or decisions about our industry without talking to the workers or the organizations that work daily to protect our community, including OnlyFans creators.”

Evans said APAG has “reached out to Congressman Gosar's office in the hope we are given the opportunity to share our experiences, our needs and our ideas.”

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