Filthy PayPiggies – Look Here
For 12 hours only on Friday 21st August 2020, a sex-filled political ‘whore gallery’ was opened to the world. Designed and facilitated by Veil Machine, this angry-yet-celebratory gallery of wonders railed against the ever-increasing censorship of online spaces by playing by its own rules – an artistic utopia to fight dystopic oppression.
Visitors logged onto a Craigslist-style website with a constantly updated list of classified ads – inviting attendees to indulge their wildest desires. Click on a link, and it took you to somewhere new and unexpected. ‘Filthy Sexy XXX Smut’ redirected to a downloadable 300 page NetPorn Studies reader. ‘Sexy Hot Blonde Reveals All’ linked to Lorelei Lee’s essay ‘Cash/Consent: The War on Sex Work’. Other links redirected to performance artworks, artists’ Instagram pages, political erotica, audio art, manifestos. Visitors could buy souvenirs like genuine bath water from Empress Wu & Niko Flux, postcards from Rosie X, a ‘Gay Sluts Colouring Book’ from Squiggles and Sluts (many of the proceeds going to sex worker mutual aid funds).
The more you explored this cavern of eclectic delights, the more agonizing it became knowing that it was only temporary, knowing that a permanent online smut/art/activism-filled space is indeed a fantasy in our hyper-censored world. If you wanted to capture it, you had to buy art or services, or download treatises to further educate yourself later. As the performances started in the evening, that feeling only became more heart wrenching. Performers held rituals, collected sins, played with baking ingredients, and played with our fetishes. Thrilling, inspiring, reflecting in a digital space that felt truly free. As the world has shifted to online interactions, digital censorship has become even more problematic for performers and service providers. Why, oh why can’t we celebrate our sexuality now, in the time when we need it most?
Tumblr banned porn, Instagram banned nipples and peaches, OnlyFans is starting to ban terms like ‘pegging’ – with each suppression comes a renewed need for reinvention and resilience. It’s no accident that the bright dayglo website was designed to look basic – sex workers are always there at the genesis of a new technology, before they are booted off, having helped to make it viable in the first place.
Sex work is inherently political, and the community has, and can, withstand oppression. Sex workers may be hounded from all sides but resist through mutual support and innovation. For 12 magical hours, that creativity and resilience was proudly celebrated.