Read the full article by Diana Hubbell at Vice.com
When perfectly legal businesses are blocked from actually making money by banks and services like PayPal, our cultural acceptance of sex is pushed further into the fringes.
On May 24, Genevieve LeJeune attempted to withdraw money from her HSBC business account. Her card was rejected. She immediately logged into her account online to figure out what was going on and was greeted with a message letting her know the account had been closed. “I had over £20,000 that I couldn’t access and no information about how I was going to get it back. As a small business, that’s crushing,” LeJeune said.
It was the second time in 2019 that the bank had frozen LeJeune’s business account without warning. After she had called to complain in January, HSBC reinstated the account, but this time, there was no way around the situation. On June 3, after filing three complaints, LeJeune received a check for the full balance, along with a notice stating that the termination of her account was final. Although the HSBC’s explanations were vague, they referenced what had appeared to be a routine inquiry into the nature of LeJeune’s business the previous September. (When reached for a response, an HSBC representative said, “Any decisions to close an account are taken on a case by case basis.”)
The nature of Skirt Club has put LeJeune at odds with financial institutions ever since she founded the members-only social club for queerbisexual women in 2014. Skirt Club’s primary draw is its signature parties, in which participants gather in a secret location to watch burlesque, listen to presentations on topics such as Japanese rope bondage, and, if they so choose, have sex with one another. It currently has 12,000 members worldwide in cities including Los Angeles, New York, Berlin, and Sydney. Members often use the network to meet up outside of Skirt Club events, which also include more casual mixers and weekend getaways to Ibiza and Miami.
While sex-related businesses like Skirt Club have long faced draconian restrictions from banks, we’re living in a time when their position is more precarious than ever. The long-term implications of this cut to the heart of our culture’s perpetually fluctuating relationship with sex and sexuality. If this continues, it will disproportionately impact small sex-focused businesses, which lack the cashflow to withstand such financial setbacks, further marginalize sex workers, and decrease access to positive information about sexual health.“It used to be isolated incidents focused more on the porn industry and sex workers. To see [deplatforming] spreading to educators and activists is alarming,” said Lorrae Jo Bradbury, founder of Slutty Girl Problems, a sex-positive blog and educational resource for women.