opinion

Raising Awareness and Taking Action Against Financial Discrimination

Raising Awareness and Taking Action Against Financial Discrimination

While foes of the adult entertainment industry often focus on “moral” concerns and perpetuate social stigmas, another form of attack can be equally or even more damaging: financial discrimination.

Individuals and businesses working in adult entertainment frequently encounter financial hurdles and unfair treatment that affects their economic stability and opportunities. This is not new, but recently, both industry members and mainstream media have been getting louder and more organized about addressing financial discrimination.

I cannot tell you how many calls and emails I have received from adult entertainers whose accounts have been closed and funds placed on indefinite hold.

Organizations such as the Free Speech Coalition (FSC) and the Woodhull Freedom Foundation have been making tremendous efforts and progress getting organized and getting the industry’s voices heard. In fact, during a recent trip to Washington, FSC reps got some much-needed face time with lawmakers and their staff. Performers and platform operators have also done an amazing job using social media and recruiting their audiences to bring attention to this subject. This progress is evidenced by the fact that mainstream media outlets around the globe, such as The New York Times, The Guardian, VICE and Wired, are publishing articles bringing this issue to the broader public’s attention.

Banking Bias

One of the most glaring forms of financial discrimination is the banking sector’s treatment of those associated with adult entertainment. Performers, producers and businesses in this industry encounter obstacles when trying to open bank accounts or access financial services. Many banks enforce discriminatory policies, refusing accounts or even closing existing ones upon discovering ties to adult entertainment. This treatment leaves individuals and businesses grappling with limited banking options, which affects their ability to manage finances, receive payments or invest in their future.

The payment processing landscape in particular presents a minefield of challenges. Many payment processors refuse to work with adult entertainment businesses, citing moral reasons or concerns about regulatory compliance. This restricts the options available for transactions, hindering financial growth and stability.

Some discriminatory practices extend beyond banking and payment processing, to areas that impact financial stability indirectly. Adult entertainers often face difficulties in obtaining health or life insurance, encountering higher premiums or outright denials. Even securing housing can be problematic, with landlords or property owners denying leases or evicting tenants upon discovering their occupation.

The repercussions are profound. Beyond immediate financial strain, by inhibiting access to traditional financial tools such as loans and mortgages, this kind of exclusion exacerbates economic inequality, perpetuates a cycle of limited options and restricts individuals from securing their financial futures.

Tackling Financial Unfairness From Multiple Angles

Addressing financial discrimination in adult entertainment requires a multifaceted approach. It begins with advocating for fair and equitable treatment within the banking and financial sectors. Policies that prevent discrimination based on occupation need to be implemented and enforced to ensure people in the industry have access to banking services without prejudice.

Collaboration between the industry and financial institutions could also help bridge the gap. Establishing specialized financial services tailored to the needs of the industry could provide viable banking and payment processing solutions, fostering financial inclusion while ensuring compliance with regulations.

Legislation and advocacy efforts also play a crucial role. Campaigns advocating for equal treatment in housing, insurance and employment are essential to combating discrimination across various sectors.

Education and awareness are equally pivotal. Initiatives to challenge societal perceptions and stereotypes surrounding the adult entertainment industry can help break down barriers and foster a more inclusive financial environment.

Concerted Action Is Needed Now

Financial discrimination is a stark reality that demands attention and action. By addressing discriminatory practices in banking, payment processing, insurance, housing and beyond, the industry can strive toward a more equitable and inclusive financial landscape for all, so that everyone has the opportunity to thrive, regardless of their occupation.

Calling for those in power to uphold the principles of fairness and financial justice seems simple, but legislation related to stopping financial discrimination in the adult entertainment industry is not going to happen overnight, in weeks or even months. It will take years to accomplish, and of course the continuously changing political landscape will create massive headwinds. So, what are some things that individuals and businesses can do to help themselves right now?

Trends and Tools to Know About

First, be fully aware that banks and payment processors have the upper hand, by far. When you open a bank account or merchant account, you are required to agree to terms and conditions that pretty much allow the bank and processor to do anything they want with you. More specifically, they can terminate your account at any time and with little notice. They also have the contractual ability to hold the customer’s funds indefinitely, post termination, leaving the customer with little recourse.

Over the course of my career, I cannot tell you how many calls and emails I have received from adult entertainers whose accounts have been closed and funds placed on indefinite hold. This is why I always recommend that adult entertainers be very careful in managing and diversifying their balances — i.e., keep your money moving and in more than one place. Holding large balances in any single account can lead to disaster.

Second, there is a trove of tools available at your disposal for the free sharing of information. These tools include: community social networks like XBIZ.net, forums such as wecamgirls.com and mainstream platforms like Reddit. These sources can help you find out which financial institutions and payment processors are known to be unfriendly or discriminatory to the industry, so that you can stay away from them. The industry is filled with folks who share the common goal of fighting financial discrimination, so do not be afraid to reach out to the various trade associations or veterans who can guide you away from the known discriminators.

Third, redundancy is everything! If you are part of the adult entertainment industry, then you are surely relying on various forms of technology such as data storage, email, social media and web hosting. Backing up your data and having redundant systems is essential to protecting yourself from unexpected account loss. Banking is no different: You should have at least two fully set-up bank accounts. The expression “hope for the best and prepare for the worst” is something you should live by in the adult entertainment industry. Set up your business with the assumption that one or more of the banks that you utilize are going to terminate you with little to no notice. You need to be ready to flip the switch, so to speak.

Additionally, if or when you do lose an account, you should immediately start the process of preparing another backup. You can never have too many bank accounts in this industry.

This article does not constitute legal advice and is provided for your information only and should not be relied upon in lieu of consultation with legal advisors in your own jurisdiction. It may not be current as the laws change frequently. Transmission of the information contained in this article is not intended to create, and the receipt does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship between sender and receiver.

Corey D. Silverstein is the managing and founding member of Silverstein Legal. His practice focuses on representing all areas of the adult industry and his clientele includes hosting companies, affiliate programs, content producers, processors, designers, developers, operators and more. He is licensed in numerous jurisdictions including Michigan, Arizona, the District of Columbia, Georgia and New York. Contact him at MyAdultAttorney.com, corey@myadultattorney.com and (248) 290-0655.

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