The BBC is cool with pimps, thinks ‘sex work’ is a neutral term, and its report on OnlyFans sounds like a recruitment drive

In reply to my complaint about the BBC’s invitation to ‘pimp your video calls’, I was told this:

“However your complaint acknowledges one of the central points at issue, which is that the word is also widely understood as contemporary slang, which for many people has outgrown the associations of its origin.”

So that’s all ok then! It’s not like the British Broadcasting Corporation is seen as setting any standards for the nation or anything is it?

In reply to this complaint I was told that:

“As a point of style we do tend to use the more neutral term sex workers in our articles, rather than prostitutes. Our Editorial Style Guide states that to label someone as a prostitute tends to be derogatory and demeaning. So therefore we would not see anything wrong in using the term sex work instead of prostitution.”

Who decided this? Those lobbying for the complete decriminalisation of the sex industry (including the johns, pimps, and brothel keepers) of course!

I have replied again:

In response to your reply to my previous complaint, ‘sex work’ is not a neutral term, it is highly partisan. It is still open to debate whether commercial sex is ‘work like any other’ or sexual exploitation, and using the term ‘sex work’ is begging the question on the issue (‘is sex work work?’ ‘is this bad thing bad?’). Calling the term ‘sex work’ neutral does a disservice to all the women and children who have been subjected to commercial sexual exploitation, and is a boon to the pimps and traffickers who want to rebrand themselves as ‘business men’ and ‘entrepreneurs’. It is no small thing that I have seen the term ‘sex work’ used repeatedly in BBC articles about the commercial sexual exploitation of children, a raped child is never a ‘worker’. The BBC is helping to normalise the sex industry, and the use of the term ‘sex work’ reduces a sex abuse issue to a mere labour issue. How did the BBC decide that ‘sex work’ is a neutral term? Did you talk to any women who had exited the sex industry? Did you ask anyone who had escaped sex trafficking if they were happy with their abuse being called ‘sex work’? If just the word ‘prostitute’ is demeaning, isn’t the term ‘sex work’ just covering up something harmful with a cooler-sounding rebrand? Words matter, words have meanings, and the BBC is failing to be politically neutral on this issue.

And now the BBC is at it again, with a report (in the Business section!) about how great OnlyFans is for young people who have lost their jobs under the COVID-19 lock-down! Sure, there are a few caveats about how much hard work it is, but who’s going to worry about ‘emotional labour’ when they’re told they can make £1000 a month? Don’t worry about leaks, the BBC can reassure you that OnlyFans protects its users’ privacy, and anyway everyone is at it!

I have sent a complaint to the BBC, please feel free to copy and paste or adapt:

I am writing to complain about the article: OnlyFans: ‘I started selling sexy photos online after losing my job’, it reads like a regurgitated press-release from OnlyFans, or a recruitment drive. It is not the BBC’s role to promote the sex industry to teenagers and young people, and it is not the BBC’s role to help normalise and mainstream the sex industry.

One response

  1. […] blogged in July last year about a BBC article that sounded like a recruitment drive for the sex industry. That article was in the business section of the BBC’s website, but recently the BBC has been […]

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