Sex Worker Income Hit Hard By Coronavirus, Nevada Brothels Closed

The coronavirus pandemic, which has so far killed nearly 150 people in the United States and almost 9,000 around the world, has been rapidly shutting down the United States economy, creating a sudden surge in unemployment insurance applications and business closures ordered by state and local governments across the country. Even the New York Stock Exchange announced Wednesday that it would close its trading floor for the rest of the week.

But the sector that may be hardest hit in the U.S. economy may also be the least-discussed: sex workers.

In Nevada, which reported its first confirmed death from coronavirus infection on Monday, the country’s only legal brothels have been ordered to close, along with strip clubs, casinos, restaurants, gyms and other public gathering places. 

In addition, sex workers who take private clients have reported widespread cancellations, according to a report by McClatchy News. In Washington D.C.,  support group No Justice No Pride, which provides housing for struggling sex workers, reports that it may not be able to provide accommodations for the number of sex workers who need help in the crisis.

"We were at capacity before this virus hit and we are now getting a lot more requests," Director Emmelia Talarico told Reuters

As has reported, the industry trade group Free Speech Coalition has called for a two-week shutdown of porn production due to the coronavirus pandemic, which will also deprive performers who rely on income from shooting new scenes for the major studios.

Tallarico told Reuters that she fears sex workers and other marginalized groups will face the most severe effects of the coronavirus-caused economic slowdown. 

"The people who typically fall through the cracks are the ones who are also being left behind here," she told the news agency. "When doctors are choosing who lives and who dies, a 50-year old trans woman with HIV is not going to be the first person they prioritize." 

But the crisis has not been confined to sex workers in the U.S.. According to an Associated Press report, “the world's supposedly oldest profession is suffering a sudden slump.”

“Over the past week, business has gone down by 50 percent,” Berlin brothel operator Johannes Marx told the AP. 

Sex work has been legalized in Germany for two decades, but the country’s sex worker force, estimated between 100,000 and 200,000 is largely “withdrawing from the business entirely at the moment for safety reasons,” according to Susanne Bleier Wilp, a former sex worker who is now spokesperson for Germany’s Association of Erotic and Sexual Services Providers.

Another Berlin sex worker told the AP that, “90 percent of all dates are being canceled anyway. As always, we're left to fend for ourselves.”

Sex workers in Australia report a similar economic crisis due to the pandemic, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

"There's no stimulus package available. We don't have sick pay, we don't have annual leave,” one sex worker identified only as Anya told the network. “We can't get income protection insurance. Like many individual business owners, there's no stimulus for us."

According to Kat Morrison, general manager of Australia’s Sex Industry Network, many sex workers have already backed away from seeing clients, instead selling videos and photos online, or if they do see clients, offering only non-sexual massage. But many simply cannot afford to make that choice, despite the coronavirus threat.

"Sex workers are mothers, sisters, brothers, daughters, uncles. We are members of the community just like anybody else,” Morrison said. "We have bills, we have rent to pay, we need to make an income."

Photo By FloNight / Wikimedia Commons