Sex Work Advertising

Please note this website provides general information only and is not legal advice. This information only applies in the state of Victoria. This information only relates to people over the age of 18 years.

St Kilda Legal Service thanks both Victorian sex workers and the Vixen Collective for their contribution to the clarification of the Sex Work Regulations 2016 – Reg 11 Advertising Controls.

The Sex Work Regulations 2016 came into force on the 1st of June 2016. These Regulations included changes to online advertisements for sex workers. The relevant part of the Regulations are:

SEX WORK REGULATIONS 2016 – REG 11

Advertising controls

(5)     An advertisement for a business carried on by a sex work service provider that is published on the Internet may contain a photographic or other pictorial representation of a person which is not restricted to the head and shoulders, provided that the advertisement does not contain a photographic or other pictorial representation of—

(a)     the bare sexual organs, buttocks or anus of a person, or frontal nudity of the genital region; or

(b)     bare breasts; or

(c)     a sexual act or simulated sexual act; or

(d)     a person under the age of 18 years.

(6)     An advertisement for a business carried on by a sex work service provider may—

(a)     contain references to the sexual orientation, race, colour or ethnic origin of the person offering sexual services; and

(b)     state that safer sexual practices are engaged in and that condoms are always used.

The internet advertising regulations were confusing and vague and we were receiving feedback both from sex workers and community workers that they didn’t understand the terms.

We wrote submissions to the Minister for Consumer Affairs, Gaming and Liquor Regulation, Ms Marlene Kairouz in November 2016 which included the Vixen Collective’s Snap Consultation and Submissions. Vixen Collective also read over our Submissions and provided feedback. Our submissions made the following recommendation:

CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS

St Kilda Legal Service submits that regulation 11(5) of the Regulations should be interpreted as follows:

  • a) Any and all coverings (including pubic hair on a mons veneris) for genitalia is appropriate.
  • b) Sheer underwear may be worn but it cannot be completely transparent.
  • c) Very short shorts, hot pants, thong and G-string underwear can be worn but it must cover the genitalia and anus of a person.
  • d) The nipple/areola of a female’s breasts must be covered in all advertisements. Otherwise exposure of the rest of the breasts is appropriate.

In mid-December 2016 we received a response from Mr Simon Cohen, the Deputy Secretary, Regulation & Director of Consumer Affairs Victoria. It stated:

“I have read the conclusions made in your letter regarding St Kilda Legal Service’s proposed interpretation of the advertising controls under regulation 11(5) of the Regulations. While Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV) cannot support the interpretation of paragraph (a) in the Conclusions and Recommendations section of your letter on the basis that pubic hair does not constitute an adequate covering, the other recommendations are reasonable and support the overall objectives of the advertising controls.

I note however that CAV’s responsibility does not extend to providing legal advice, and comments in this letter should not be treated as such.

CAV reiterates that it takes a considered and proportionate approach to instances of non-compliance with the Regulations. Sex work service providers are provided with an opportunity in the early enforcement process to rectify breaches of the advertising controls.”

The penalty for each breach of these regulations is up to 40 penalty units.

Also under the Sex Work Act 1994, advertisements must not:

  • a) describe the services offered;
  • b) use the word “massage”, “masseur”, “remedial” or any other words that state or imply that the business provides massage services;
  • c) publish a statement that is likely to induce a person to seek employment as a sex worker independently or in a brothel or escort agency.

The penalty for each of these offences is up to 40 penalty units.

For the financial year (1 July 2016 to 30 June 2017) the value of one penalty unit is $155.46. For more information click here. The rate for penalty units is changed (usually increased) each financial year on 1 July. Therefore, if you receive a fine it could be a maximum of $6,218.40 = (40 x $155.46) for a breach of each sub-section of the act/regulations.

What should my internet sex work advertisement include/not include?

We recommend that your internet advertisement:

  • a) is not a sex worker employment advertisement in anyway;
  • b) is not published through radio, television, film or video recording;
  • c) it should contains the letters “SWA” followed by the number (either the small owner/operator (exempt sex work service provider) number or licence number) allocated to you by the Business Licencing Authority. The number cannot be false, or one that you are no longer entitled to use;
  • d) the letters SWA and the number cannot be smaller than the smallest font on the advertisement or 7 point (whichever is larger);
  • e) does not describe the sexual services offered;
  • f) does not refer to the health of, or any diagnostic procedures or medical testing undertaken by, the person offering sexual services;
  • g) does not use the word “massage”, “masseur”, “remedial” or any other words that state or imply that the business provides massage services;
  • h) can refer to the sexual orientation, race, colour or ethnic origin of the person offering sexual services;
  • i) can state that safer sexual practices are engaged in and that condoms are always used;
  • j) should only contain pictures of one person who has given written consent for that advertisement and a copy of the signed consent has been given to person/business responsible for the advertisement;
  • k) if the person in the photograph is wearing sheer underwear it should not be completely transparent;
  • l) if the person in the photograph is wearing short shorts, hot pants, thong and G-string underwear it must cover their genitalia and anus;
  • m) the person in the photograph’s genitalia can be covered by something other than pubic hair (for example hands, censorship bars, material); and
  • n) if the person in the photograph is identifying as female their nipple/areolas should be covered

What should my print publication sex work advertisement include/not include?

St Kilda Legal Service created a basic guide for Victorian sex work print advertisements. Click here for more information.

What should you do if you receive a fine for advertising breaches?

St Kilda Legal Service recommends that you seek legal advice. Click here for our service’s contact information.