Cyberpunk 2077, A Game I Don’t Trust, Has Thoughts on Protecting Sex Workers

Can CD Projekt RED do right by this particular issue? I'm not so sure.

Cyberpunk 2077 is still a long ways out, as the game was delayed into September, and given the state of game releases right now it could very well see another delay in the coming months. But given what I’ve seen of the game and its handling of various subject matter, whether that be suicide, portraying Latino stereotypes, or the now-infamous ad portraying what appears to be a feminine-presenting character with an erection, it’s not a game I have any faith in to do right by pretty much any issue it decides to depict in its world.

But today, developer CD Projekt RED posted a tweet on the game’s official Twitter account teasing a new faction in the game’s universe. This group is called The Mox, and their mission statement is to “protect working girls and guys” from abuse at the hands of their clients, or maybe even their employers. This is all done in tribute to a character named Elizabeth Borden, who owned a strip club and did sex work in life.

(Editor’s Note: This piece was briefly replaced with an unfinished version, but has since been restored. This is the correct draft.)

In theory, that sounds like a pretty interesting concept. If Cyberpunk 2077 wants to explore the dangers of sex work and create an entire faction around protecting people who are just trying to make that particular living, that seems like a really interesting way to bring light to an issue within the confines of its universe.

But has Cyberpunk 2077 done anything to make us believe it will handle it with any level of care?

“I utterly don’t think CDPR could ever handle this well, period. I just have zero faith in them,” said Ana Valens, an NSFW reporter at Daily Dot who also does online sex work. (Disclosure: Valens has previously written for Fanbyte.)

Valens said that, upon seeing the tweet, she immediately had questions about just what dangers sex workers would be facing in Cyberpunk 2077, and were sex workers consulted to really round out that particular issue.

“First off, “did they consult any sex workers to begin with?” Because using this as a premise to talk about sex work is incredibly sensationalist,” Valens said. “Second, that it’s filled with inaccuracies and stereotypes. As Melissa Mira Grant, Juno Mac, Molly Smith, and so many other writers have long brought up, the biggest threat to sex workers isn’t violent clients: it’s the police. […] Abusive, predatory clients certainly are a huge problem. It’s just policing, which holds up criminalization by enforcing it, creates the environment that makes predation easier because there are few consequences for the predator.”

In other news:

This isn’t to say there’s no chance Cyberpunk 2077 is capable of saying something meaningful about the lives of sex workers and how criminalization might result in a faction like The Mox attempting to solve a problem the law won’t, but given that CD Projekt RED has shown it cares about issues most when it can sensationalize them and throw them up on a wall as set dressing, I’m hesitant to give them that benefit of the doubt.

When I asked Valens what she thinks is the best case scenario here, she says she hopes that if people ask enough questions, CD Projekt RED will consult sex workers on the true dangers of the job. Or, if nothing else, we might get to see abusers get beat up.

“Best case scenario is that it’s heavy-handed and cringey but there’s still some redeeming qualities in being able to help sex workers beat up abusive people, whether they’re security officers or bad clients,” Valens said. “Alternatively, by complaining about this, CDPR might just end up listening to sex workers and changing their approach to this issue. I’m not hopeful, but it could happen.”

I guess we’ll have to wait and see when Cyberpunk 2077 launches on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One on Sept. 17.