Miss Fleur’s credit card is declined. Photo by Bitter Red

Update 18/08/2015 – The information here is now mostly out of date. Any sex workers wanting information on how to advertise with BP can email me at hellomissfleur@gmail.com

#chargeisdeclined – Why the Credit Card BackPage Ban Matters

Overnight, major credit card companies initiated what looks to be a global ban on the purchase of advertising in the adult services section of BackPage.com.

Visa, MasterCard and American Express all decided that, after an eternity of facilitating increasingly bizarre  online porn purchases, discreet purchase of giant horse cock dildos and my personal favourite, any gun your heart desires (as long as your country laws sort of permit it), the true way to protect the innocent and righteous is to stop processing credit card payments for advertisements in the adult services section of one classified website – BackPage.com. It makes perfect sense*.

(*By which I mean: no sense at all).

Of course, the credit card companies, who it is estimated make buckets of cash (and buckets more than I do)  a year from BackPage alone, did not come to this decision out of the generosity of their spirits. Rather, a Lone Wolf, Sheriff of a County in the good ‘ol USofA alerted the companies to their heinous crimes in a politely worded letter. Yes, apparently asking nicely enough will grant your wishes. I bet our Lone Wolf also wishes he’d asked for a pony. Instead, he’ll have to settle for buying one online with his credit card and hoping the courier doesn’t notice the return address is ‘F*CKDOLL-HORSIES-R-US’.

Luckily for us tricksy sex workers however, it is still quite possible to use your Visa/MasterCard/American Express card to place a ‘sneaky’ ad on the adult services section of BackPage.com and its related sites. In Australia, the relevant related site is cracker.com.au “But how can that be?!” I hear you all gasp in amazement and rapture. There are two options.

  1. Use your credit card of choice to buy generic advertising credits which you can then use to place an ad to get gang-banged by uniform-clad unicorns and the like, for a small fee.
  2. Use the same ’buy credits’ function to pay for your ‘seeking sexy sneaky paid three-way f*ckfest’ tasteful advertisement using crypto-currency Bitcoin.

Sex workers wanting more info on Bitcoin for sex work advertising, see this handy guide.


Buy Credits from the bottom left of BackPage

So, now that that’s done with and we can all breathe easy knowing we can pay for our mediocre clichéd yet hyper-inflated expensive adult industry advertising in like, 9 clicks instead of 5, we have to stop and ask ‘Why did sex workers globally just waste a whole day and then some tweeting endlessly about some classified website I’m definitely certain I’ve never visited and have no idea how it ended up in my browser history?’ Why has #chargeisdeclined been trending on Twitter and perhaps more importantly, why is the hashtag so goddamn long?!

After all, sex work has thrived for millennia. It is, as we are reminded in every excellent top notch article/interview/podcast about the sex industry, the world’s oldest profession. Whether or not that’s actually true is debatable. But it’s the number one answer on Google, which is literally the same thing as being true. Come economic rain, hail or shine, sex workers are there, the one constant in an ever-changing universe, offering respite from the human condition – for a reasonable price of course.

So sex workers and our happy, delightful clients can rest easy knowing that the profession will continue to thrive, and we can still place an ad on BackPage if we want to. We just have to ‘buy credits’ and then use those magical credits to place a naughty, naughty ad, instead of placing the ad directly, like in the bygone era of the internet of yesterday.

But it’s not that simple.

BackPage.com, for all its flaws and faults and annoying high maintenance, is a relatively low-cost advertising option for many sex workers. As I type this, there are over 14,000 classified ads on the ‘adult’ section of the Australian BackPage. As this first-person account from SWOP-NYC details, BackPage is important to sex workers. It offers a relatively low-cost and instant way for sex workers to advertise. Ads can be edited and re-posted, offering a great alternative to a website for sex workers who wish to work independently, but don’t want the hassle of maintaining their own .com or social media presence. The BackPage advertising platform offers sex workers an extremely high level of control and autonomy over their advertising and self-representation, which most other adult industry specific directories do not.

The credit card ban on direct purchase of adult advertising on BackPage has come from the USA but has apparently been instituted at a global level. Although the USA seems to think of itself as the centre of the universe, it is not. Unfortunately, full service sex work is illegal in America. But not all forms of sex work are illegal there.

There are reports from sex workers in countries where sex work is a legal and legitimate occupation that their ads on BackPage are being declined. Here in Australia, where sex work is legal in every state and territory except South Australia, adult advertisements are being declined on BackPage by MasterCard, American Express and Visa. Anecdotal reports on Visa vary – some are being processed and some declined, but the message is clear. Credit card companies think their outdated moral stance is of more importance than Australian legislation.

Credit card company policies are not the law in Australia. The law is the law. And the law here protects sex workers. Sex work is a legal and legitimate occupation throughout Australia, and will no doubt include South Australia before long. In QLD, TAS and the ACT, sex workers are protected under anti-discrimination legislation. Sex workers have taken to Twitter, because they are not going to take this unfair and discriminatory ban lying down. Sex workers are speaking up against this misguided advertising ban, because they are sick of being scapegoats to the problems of the world.

Credit card companies are paying lip service for some pleasant media, some pats on the back and a gold star, but they have their slippery hands behind their backs taking money for the actual purchase of actual sexual services. It is an illogical hypocrisy. Why is it that I can use my credit card to buy a giant horse dildo or 20 hard core fucking machines or a gun or even a very memorable hour at my local brothel, but not a simple ad directly from a difficult to navigate classified website?

It is a curious world that allows a person to buy sexual services using a credit card, but not an advertisement for a sexual service using a credit card.

The solution is not chasing down every sex worker with a pitchfork and burning down every brothel door like the fervent among you might argue. Credit card companies already arbitrarily decide what explicit content we can consume when paying to stream porn. They have no right to dictate the minutia of our day to day lives and especially not our private lives. You worked hard all week sweating in your cubicle farm with your boss breathing down your neck while you prayed for Friday. You’ve earned this special private time and if you want to blow a month’s wages on the most unforgettable experience of your life with five bombshells all named Mercedes then that’s no-one’s business but your own. And the five Mercede’s’s’s’s’s.

As I type this at 4am while my cat stares at me from the end of my bed and I wonder why I don’t have minions to refill my cup of tea, sex workers and supporters are coming up with ways to fight against the credit card advertising ban. Not because we all love BackPage more than that video of that surprised kitten (although some sex workers surely do) but for the deeper consequences if we let credit card companies start dictating our laws – and lives – to us. The only thing sex workers want deeper in our lives are our happy customers – provided they have paid of course.

For more information about global impacts see twitter.com/#chargeisdeclined


Image from twitter.com/scarletalliance

And the issue is starting to get attention from Australian media outlets too

And blogs

And snippets from the USA

And a cute new development, BackPage.com are apparently sticking it to The Man with this code, which might work if you place a new ad. The code is FREESPEECH


Corrections/additions/omissions tweet me @Miss_Fleur

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