Sex Worker, Banned From LinkedIn, Cries Discrimination

Sex worker Madison GrahamUsed by 93 percent of companies to recruit, LinkedIn is the most popular professional network in the world. But one profession is categorically excluded from it: sex workers. In its updated user agreement, LinkedIn explicitly bars all sex workers, even legal ones, from its site. One prostitute in Nevada calls the new policy "discrimination."

"I pay taxes on my money," says Madison Graham, 41, who's been working legally for Dennis Hof's Love Ranch North in Carson City for about 18 months. She resents being lumped together with criminals. "I'm an LLC. I have a business account at Wells Fargo. I can get a mortgage."

She adds, "Whether you morally approve of it or not, I'm a small business. I'm a small business owner. As long as I'm not being lewd or inappropriate [on the site], I should be afforded the same respect as other small businesses."

LinkedIn's new user agreement, rolled out last week, explicitly prohibits sex workers, even those working legally in Nevada, such as the prostitutes at Dennis Hof's Love Ranch North.

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Graham joined LinkedIn three years ago when a client of hers sent her an invitation. Graham's profile is discreet. She's listed as an "entertainer," with interests including yoga, horseback riding and Egyptology, and just 11 connections. She says that she never solicits, and feels like the owners of LinkedIn are making a moral judgment on her job.

"It's the principle. I feel discriminated against," she said. "You think I'm a dirty whore? What if they don't like black people? It's a civil rights issue to me."

LinkedIn has shrugged off such complaints. "There really is not story here," spokesman Doug Madey told The Daily Dot, a news site about the Internet. "Here's the reality -- we have always prohibited these kinds of profiles. The recent change in our UA just makes it more explicitly prohibited."

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But it's only been since the new policy that Graham's boss, Dennis Hof, who owns the brothel in Carson City, has had his profile blocked. With all the regulations and work involved in being a legal prostitute in Nevada, Graham, who is also a college-educated registered nurse, says it's unfair that she's being treated like a criminal. She had to be fingerprinted and undergo a thorough federal background check and an STD screening. As an independent contractor at a brothel, Graham must use a condom for oral and penetrative sex, receive a clean bill of health each week, and submit 50 percent of her fees to the brothel owners.

"Take down the illegal gamblers, the prostitution rings, the drug dealers," she says. "But don't put me as a legal person in the same category. I'm not a criminal. They're punishing me when I'm not doing anything illegal."

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The space for Graham online is getting smaller. Already she says that her posts are sometimes berated or deleted on sites like The Erotic Review and My Red Book, escort review sites dominated by illegal sex workers. That she can understand, she says. But a mainstream website barring legal professions strikes her as fundamentally dangerous.

"If I own LinkedIn, and I like CNN, I'm going to let their reporters have profiles," she says as an analogy. "But I won't let Fox News have profiles because I hate them."

"They want to be some moral arbiter," she adds. "But this country is about freedom." On the bright side, since the news broke, Graham has seen a dramatic uptick in visitors to her LinkedIn profile.

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