IIt seems that non-sex workers in Hollywood cannot leave the subject of sex work alone, even at the behest of people working in the sex industry.
Last week playwright, screenwriter and actress Sarah Jones announced her directorial debut Sell / Buy / Date, based on his 2016 solo show of the same name. The off-Broadway production has been described as “an exploration of commercial sex with a sci-fi twist”, with Jones playing several characters, including a “sex work studies” student and a former pimp. The upcoming documentary will explore whether sex work is ’empowering or exploitative’ with interviews with former and current sex workers, their male clients, celebrities and experts. It will also address themes such as “criminal justice inequality, race, sexism and poverty”. Additionally, the press release reported that Laverne Cox, Rashida Jones, and Meryl Streep were set to produce.
Only two days after the announcement, however, Cox canceled his role in the documentary after sex workers began to voice their concerns and frustrations with the film on social media.
Coxswain wrote in a statement she posted on Twitter: “When I agreed to become a producer for Sell / Buy / Date, I did it because I was deeply moved by Sarah Jones’ brilliant play and her incredible and undeniable talent as an artist, actor. I signed up to support his incredible talent. I have so much love for her as a human being. But I am not in the emotional place to face the indignation of some around my participation in the project. So I decided to retire. To be clear, I am no longer in any way Sell / Buy / Date. I have to take care of my mental, physical and emotional health. That’s all I have to say about it.
Since walking away, Cox has responded to criticism on Twitter with a short clip of herself speaking at an event where she denounces the hypocrisy between the consumption of pornography by society and the defamation of sex work. But the apprehension around Sell / Buy / Date is much more complex and layered than what Cox generically describes as “outrage,” or what she appears to think of to be accusations that she is anti-sex work.
In a 2016 interview with The GuardianSarah Jones said the seeds for her solo show were originally planted when she taught poetry to inmates on Rikers Island, some of whom were “trafficked” young girls. Jones’ source of inspiration goes hand in hand with a review of his stage production by writer Cate Young in a review for Ampersand titled “Sell / Buy / Date Sells sex workers on the river. Young wrote that Jones makes “the critical error of confusing sex work with sex trafficking and the sexual exploitation of minors” and suggests “that all sex work is oppression,” a common narrative pushed by politicians, religious pressure groups and feminist anti-sex work.
“There is nothing exploitative per se about sex work because it is, by definition, a consensual exchange between adults,” Adrie Rose, writer, photographer and former sex worker, told The Daily Beast. . “If someone wants to have a conversation about exploitation in trafficking, they have to be very clear and explicit in stating so.”
Maya Moreno, an undocumented sex worker who created a Twitter thread Citing “xenophobic” tropes of stage production, the notion that all sex workers are either trafficked or exploited is a weapon in anti-immigration policy.
“America views those they define as victims of trafficking or slaves as fundamentally ineligible to live in a free and democratic society,” she said. “The idea that migrants don’t have free will, that we don’t have power, or that we don’t make choices that anyone should respect, is being used to strip us of our rights.”
Like the stage production, Jones’ documentary wants to explore exploitation within the profession, according to its press release, reigniting a tired debate on the validity of sex work based on the amount of harm and danger. that may occur in the field. This particular issue has divided the feminist left since the sex wars of second wave feminism. Is sex work liberating or degrading? Progressive or regressive? For Rose, it is a defective frame.
“Anytime this dichotomy is applied to a conversation about sex work, it’s a moral whistle,” Rose said. “The problem isn’t that the sex trade or sexual fantasy is inherently exploitative, it’s that (generally) women have commodified something that a lot of people feel they have a right to for free.”
Another aspect of Sell / Buy / Date whom sex workers see as a threat to their community, it is the film’s producers, Rashida Jones and Meryl Streep, who share an experience of publicly using anti-sex work rhetoric, advocating for the criminalization of sex work. sex work and take advantage of sex workers.
In 2013, Jones was criticized for a Tweeter in which she told female celebrities to “#stopactinglikewhores”. Initially, she defended her tweet in a column for Charm but ultimately said the remark was “absolutely not appropriate” in a 2017 New York Times interview. Jones’ fascination with female sexuality and what she sees as’ stripper culture ‘led her to co-produce the 2015 Netflix documentary Hot girls wanted, about young women in amateur porn. While the film was nominated for an Emmy and received overwhelmingly favorable reviews, sex workers like Morticia Bottoms (as well as some of the film’s subjects) believed that it “focused entirely on the negative side of the business.” “.
“… They portray sex work as something young women are drawn to rather than a career choice like any other.“
“Focusing entirely on young girls who have just entered the industry by signing up with an exploiting talent agency rather than also including independent amateurs who run their own businesses, they describe sex work. as something that young women are drawn to rather than a career choice like any other, ”said Bottoms, an escort and performer.
But that was the alleged mismanagement of some participants and allegedly unconstrained sex workers in the 2017 documentary follow-up series. Hot Girls Wanted: Lit who cemented Jones as an official threat to the community, along with fellow showrunners Jill Bauer and Ronna Gradus.
After the show’s premiere, Gia Page alleged that the show included footage that she asked producers to cut out and showed a picture from her Facebook profile that included her real name, putting her at risk of harassment. Other performers, Autumn Kayy and Effy Elizabeth, claimed they were not notified when a Periscope clip of them was used on the show, exposing them to a much larger audience of people without their consent. . Bauer and Gradus responded that everyone on the show was “keenly aware” of their involvement and that the performers “exposed themselves” when they complained on Twitter.
“They all shit on us, saying we did this to each other and no one would ever recognize us,” Kayy wrote in an email to The Daily Beast. “To this day, almost four years later, people come to me asking if I know I’m on a Netflix show.”
Critics of Sell / Buy / Date also highlight Streep’s story in favor of anti-sex work laws, which includes signing an open letter to human rights group Amnesty International in 2015, with other Hollywood actresses, rejecting their proposal to decriminalize sex work despite studies showing that criminalization puts sex workers, especially marginalized groups of sex workers, at greater risk of police violence.
Hollywood has often found itself at odds with the sex industry, whether over negative and sensationalistic portrayals, a lack of input and decision-making from real sex workers, or more direct acts of harm. like exposing Kayy to a giant streaming audience without her full permission. . Even the directors of the 2019 film Hustlers, who was praised for its nuanced and humanizing portrayal of striptease, were called into question by dancers at New York’s Show Palace for leaving them without a week’s pay when the strip club closed for filming .
Sarah jones replied to the reaction on Sell / Buy / Date on Twitter, stating: “As a black feminist artist, I have always centered the stories of traditionally marginalized people, especially women and women who struggle for liberation and self-determination. My sisters in the sex industry are no exception. I am committed to listening in depth to people with lived experience, not only in my interviews, but also in those we hire behind the scenes.
While Jones claims to come from a place of brotherhood and empathy – like many strangers who have made a sex work movie – that may not be enough to quell his criticism. At a time when credit card companies are blocking payments to Pornhub, U.S. Senators are pushing a bipartisan bill that would drastically cut content on pornographic websites, and one of SESTA / FOSTA’s co-sponsors is gearing up to move to the White House, sex workers can’t afford to donate projects like Sell / Buy / Date The benefit of the doubt.
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