Not Waving, But Drowning: How WePay Failed Eden Alexander

UPDATE: We do have a new campaign set up here! We've heard from people at this fundraising site AND their payment processor and gotten their blessing, so it obviously CAN be done.

"Cofounder and CEO of Crowdtilt here. Happy to help and pitch in. Jamesb @Crowdtilt.com is my email in case anything comes up. Cannot imagine the amt of stress and uncertainty you guys are going through, glad we can help remove one concern (credit card processing and fundraising)." 

We love you CrowdTilt! Send them love on Twitter and on Facebook!

WePay has responded
 (summary: two porn studios offered perks on their own, and she was removed for that) and now wants to help restart her campaign! They've reached out to her to discuss it. How kind of them. Too bad she couldn't respond because she was in the ER.

I wrote earlier about Eden Alexander's fundraiser, in which she was trying to raise funds to get the medical care she desperately needs while also paying rent. After having a reaction to a prescription drug, and misdiagnosed care, by the time she created a fundraiser she was in pretty dire need and asked a few friends for help creating and orchestrating the campaign, including me.

She used GiveForward, a service that friend Eric Cash recommended as it had been instrumental in raising funds for his wife, Hollie Stephens, an adult performer who died of breast cancer at 30 in 2012. They also helped performer Cameron Bay raise funds for HIV treatment without any issues, as well they should. Cause that's what we do when shit hits the fan - we fundraise to help, especially since adult performers are often shunned by charities.

And hell, while it's disgusting, payment processor WePay initially funded a revenge porn site, leaving it up until publicly shamed for it, so surely they weren't going to take some sort of moral high ground? Right?

Here's the text of the fundraising page, taken from Google Cache:

 As you can see, it doesn't mention anything about Eden's work. There were no perks offered, no dirty pictures. Just a woman in trouble, unable to work due to sudden, undiagnosed and dehabilitating illness and a sudden change of circumstances at home.

Let's take a look at WePay's Terms of Service, shall we? I've written about it (and Paypal) before.  Here's the bit they decided Eden was on the wrong side of:

According to the message WePay sent to Eden, this is the area she violated. Not by raising money FOR porn, but by being a cam girl at all.

What WePay (and therefore GiveForward) is effectively saying is that because Eden is a cam girl by profession, raising money for medical funds is suspicious and banned. Because we all know sex workers can't be trusted, and we'll probably blow our money on porn rather than self care, and we all have robot bodies that never get ill, right?

However, and here's where I'm really, really fucking angry, here's some other areas they ban.

Oh yeah, WePay? Like "revealing the evils of the homosexual agenda"? How about going to other countries to spread imperialist Christianity among communities of colour? AWESOME SO GLAD YOU FUND THAT

Yeah cool so you're totally not helping fund "love donations" for psychic readings. Cause science has totally explained that.

But you'll totally help people go to fat camp, or get post-weight loss surgeries. Even if it's someone raising money for their partner because he's decided she's too fat.

If they seriously ban everyone who has ever worked retail from using WePay, I'll eat my hat. Not for selling the products through WePay, but ever selling licensed products ever.

That's the problem, see. I get that they're trying to cover their asses, but it's not consistent, and it's not logical. So if covering their asses is the goal, they're doing a terrible job. Instead, it comes off as moralistic judgment calls that make sure sex workers are trapped, unable to get help for their rent, medical care, or other needs outside of the adult industry they work in. Basically, WePay was an idea spawned to fund a bachelor party... but if a hired stripper needs to raise money for medical care, she's shit out of luck.

And the fact is? There's not another option for us to go to. We're wanting to raise money for Eden so that she doesn't have to cam while horribly sick. We can't use PayPal or WePay, and most alternate payment processors have vague terms of what constitutes "adult services" or "pornographic". Because Eden is a cam girl, I guess she doesn't deserve fundraising. And thus we see where the anti-porn arguments ultimately fuck us over - because society makes damn sure that once a sex worker, always a sex worker.

Eden was hospitalized this morning and is now being cared for, but she is still in crisis, chronic pain, and struggling. And it's notable to me that other sex workers were the core of her support network. The fact is, being a sex worker often means more resources are cut off for you. Services meant to help you instead turn out to be frauds. You can lose your job, your home, your children, your privacy, because you were a sex worker. I am hard pressed to think of a sex worker who isn't dealing with a sense of instability and anxiety about being found out and losing everything. Even the most privileged among us are still at great risk. We're all drowning, and yet we're often the only ones willing to take care of each other... a floatation raft of exhausted people, paddling as best they can, knowing the ocean is vast and getting colder every minute, but there's no rescue boat coming. And knowing all the while that our profession demands that we smile and pretend everything is great, because otherwise the sharks (the media, anti-porn feminists, religious nutcases) will devour us all.

I also feel the need to say that we need to make sure to take care of each other when we *aren't* in crisis. Isolation makes minor setbacks into severe desperation. Too often I've found myself overwhelmed when struggling with suicidal feelings, but radio silence when I start to get a handle on it. I know that I, too, focus more on people when they're in their lowest points, and forget to follow up when they've got their head above water. Creating systems of sustainable care are vital for our community to survive. We don't have to live our lives paddling water.

In this particular case, there was no pornographic content, no perks, no lingering on the adult industry, yet it was shut down anyway. Other people have had their payments pulled out from under them for being in the legal adult industry, including me with PayPal. It shouldn't matter, though, whether you mention being a porn performer or not, whether you're a legal sex worker or not. You should be able to ask for help if you need it, rather than needing to take on more dangerous sex work or endanger yourself to survive because you can't raise money any other way. That is some fucked up bullshit and we need to speak out against it, to really fight this. It's discrimination against marginalized people and we need to do something about it.

There's a massive flurry of activity on Twitter about this right now. I recommend sending tweets to @WePay and @billclerico, the cofounder and CEO of the company. Molly Crabapple, Patton Oswalt, Neil Gaiman, and Wil Wheaton have tweeted about this among others. Twitter not your thing? You can email them at legal@wepay.com, call them at 1-855-GO-WEPAY (their offices are closed this weekend, so start Monday) or write to them/protest in person:

WePay, Inc.
380 Portage Ave
Palo Alto, CA, 94306

There's a lot of eyes on this situation, and it's not going to be great PR for the payment processor. It'll also be excellent PR for the company who steps up and offers to process the donations that people are eager to offer.

This is a good time to step forward and be that payment processor, by the way.

Other coverage:

Stand Up for Sex Workers: Eden Alexander, WePay, and Whorephobia by Laurie Penny / @PennyRed

Porn Star (Re)tweets About Porn, Gets Her Medical Fundraiser Suspended by Fruzsina Eördögh for VICE

The Scarlet RT: How WePay Denies Service to Sex Workers and Surveils Everyone by Melissa Gira Grant

Eden Alexander, Crowd Funding, and Discrimination Against Sex Workers by Stephen Elliot at the Rumpus

WePay Withholds Funds from Ailing Sex Worker by E.J. Dickenson for Daily Dot

Crowdfunding Campaign Ends in Disaster for Porn Star by Tucker Bankshot for Fleshbot 

WePay Blames "The Rules" For Withholding Medical Funds from Sex Worker by Nitasha Tiku for ValleyWag 

Crowdfunding Site Cancels Fundraiser For Ailing Sex Worker by Andrew Dalton for SFist

Who Makes Your Money: WePay and Eden Alexander by Bubbles for Tits and Sass

WePay’s Disastrous Decision: Seeing Sex Workers as Risks, Not Human Beings by PJ Rey for The Society Pages 

Porn actress battles crowdfunding processor over fundraiser for her medical bills by TBogg at The Raw Story

WePay Withholds Funds From Sick Woman Due To Offer Of Porn For Donations by Josh Constine for Techcrunch

WePay Cancels Crowdfunding for Adult Performer’s Medical Treatment by Isha Aran for Jezebel


Categories: activism, best of, capitalism, causes, politics, porn, sex work is work

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