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Virtual sex worker denied entry to the US despite complete legal clarity over work

You know how rule 34 goes, if it exists or can be imagined, there’s definitely internet porn of it. Well, this concept also applies to the recent rising trend of Virtual YouTubers (known as VTubers), which refers to online entertainers who disguise their appearance using a customised digital avatar.

“These avatars are typically two-dimensional or three-dimensional creations that resemble anime characters with large eyes and boisterous personalities,” internet subculture expert Malavika Pradeep once wrote for SCREENSHOT.

That’s where virtual reality (VR) sex workers come in, an 18-rated approach to VTubing which, unlike other more ‘traditional’ sex work, comes with its own set of regulations. Because this specific branch of sex work doesn’t include the type of physical contact that leads to sexual intercourse, technically, it can’t be defined as what is generally known as ‘prostitution’ and isn’t illegal.

But, as with anything that society sees as taboo, this kind of work still comes with a lot of misconceptions and judgement. This in turn often results in officials blurring the lines between enforcing the law and discriminating against someone’s profession out of bias. That’s what VR sex worker Hex went through when she was denied entry to the US on the basis of “prostitution” despite doing promiscuous but legal work over the internet.

As an online sex worker, Hex hosts shows and posts photos and videos from social VR platform VRChat to her Fansly account, a subscription website for erotic content similar to OnlyFans. Just like VTubers, she streams from behind a virtual 3D avatar that tracks her movements, often wearing fuzzy animal ears and fantasy-inspired costumes.

Speaking to VICE about her experience with US immigration authorities, Hex explained that she wanted to travel from the UK to go and visit her friend in the US this year, which meant she had to apply for a visitor visa first.

In late January 2023 however, Hex received a letter stating that she had been denied entry into the country and would be permanently ineligible for admission. The reason given was the code for “prostitution.”

If you’ve never had to apply for a tourist visa, it should be noted that the US is infamous for how thorough—and sometimes unfair—its admission system can be. The country’s immigration authorities analyse both a traveller’s immigration history and criminal history, and look for any evidence to determine whether they could be denied admission.

Though there are countless good reasons why one might get denied entry into the country, other immigration violations are simply ridiculous. Polygamy and substance abuse aside, sex workers often face intense questioning by immigration authorities, even when they don’t have any recorded criminal convictions under laws that criminalise their profession.

To obtain her visitor visa, Hex had to attend an interview with a consular officer, where they would review her application. “When I was at the interview, I told [the officer] everything as my Fansly is virtual reality content from a game called VRChat, I do post IRL pictures of me via a paywall and I do not meet anyone IRL from that platform,” the creator told VICE.

“The woman gave me a very dirty look when I explained everything to her,” she continued. “I told her it was a virtual game and I use a VR headset, she didn’t understand anything I said, all she said to me is, ‘So do you meet these people on this website?’ I said ‘No, absolutely not.’” The officer nodded, Hex said, and told her that she was denied but that her application would be processed.

When Hex received the letter with the decision to deny her entry, she decided to take to Twitter and share her frustrations with the world. “My reaction to the notice was honestly ‘What the hell? How is this possible? What I’m doing is completely legal,’” she posted. “I was very upset and confused, it baffled me completely and it still does.”

The definitions US immigration laws use to define prostitution are obsolete and are clearly in need of an update, with the term currently being defined as “engaging in promiscuous sexual intercourse for hire.” In turn, it also makes it easier for the state department to deny sex workers a visa.

As for Hex, after stating that she wants to “clear my name and get this resolved as it’s unfair and not true,” she received an email on Tuesday 14 February from the London non-immigrant visa office, giving her hope that something might be done about the unfairness of this situation.

Virtual reality helps doctors separate three-year-old conjoined twins with fused brains

Conjoined twins from Brazil who were born with their brains fused together have been successfully separated, thanks to virtual reality (VR) and a team led by a Kashmiri-British neurosurgeon.

Bernardo and Arthur Lima underwent several operations in Rio de Janeiro under the direction of UK-based paediatric surgeon, Dr. Noor ul Owase Jeelani, from London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital. The three-year-old boys had a total of seven surgeries—including more than 33 hours of operating time in the final two alone—involving almost 100 medical staff.

According to Gemini Untwined, a charity founded by Dr. Jeelani dedicated to the research and treatment of craniopagus twins around the globe, the case was one of the most complex operations of its kind ever completed to date.

Led by Dr. Jeelani alongside Dr. Gabriel Mufarrej, head of paediatric surgery at Instituto Estadual do Cerebro Paulo Niemeyer, both experts spent months trialling techniques by using VR projections of the twins based on their CT and MRI scans. The surgeons wore VR headsets and operated in the same “virtual reality room” together—despite being almost 6,000 miles apart—allowing them to overcome any apprehension about the actual procedure.

“It’s just wonderful, it’s really great to see the anatomy and do the surgery before you actually put the children at any risk,” Dr. Jeelani told The Times. “You can imagine how reassuring that is for the surgeons. In some ways, these operations are considered the hardest of our time, and to do it in virtual reality was just really man-on-Mars stuff.”

The publication went on to note how Dr. Jeelani, who performs up to 300 neurosurgical and craniofacial procedures every year, said he was “absolutely shattered” after the final operation—during which he took only four 15-minute breaks for food and water. “The team’s work was complicated by the presence of scar tissue from previous unsuccessful attempts to separate the twins,” The Times reported.

Bernardo and Arthur were said to be recovering well after their blood pressure and heart rates went “through the roof” after the procedure. The expert also mentioned that the twins’ vital signs improved when they were reunited after four days and touched hands for the first time. “There were a lot of tears and hugs,” Dr. Jeelani said, adding how the family was “over the moon” with the outcome. “It was wonderful to be able to help them on this journey.”

According to Gemini Untwined, conjoined twins are quite rare, accounting for about one in 60,000 live births, with only 5 per cent of these joined at the head. The Times also reported how it’s estimated that 50 such sets of craniopagus twins are born around the world every year. Of them, it is thought that only 15 survive beyond 30 days.

“As a parent myself, it is always such a special privilege to be able to improve the outcome for these children and their family,” Dr. Jeelani admitted. “Not only have we provided a new future for the boys and their family, we have equipped the local team with the capabilities and confidence to undertake such complex work successfully again in the future.”