Few are neutral when talking about sex work. Tony winner Sarah Jones partnered up with executive producers Rashida Jones, Meryl Streep, and Laverne Cox to take a deep dive, interviewing women from diverse backgrounds who had something to say about the subject.
Screening at the San Francisco International Film Festival, SELL/BUY/DATE addresses the treatment of sex workers by the criminal justice system, and the effects of racism, sexism, and poverty, which create a desperate situation for women with no other means of support.
Sarah Jones incorporates her unique stage personas into the documentary, including Lorraine, an 85 year old Jewish Bubbe, Bella, not ashamed of her white privilege, Nereida, a Latina girls/ and women’s rights advocate, and a savvy taxi driver. Jones attends the Sex Industrial Revolution Conference in Las Vegas, visits the Chicken Ranch brothel, interviews a legal sex worker worth over one million dollars, as well as a doctor, therapist, and a diverse assortment of sex workers.
Audiences loved Jone’s popular show, where multiple opinions on the sex industry are represented. Sadly, when the show became movie, she’s getting trashed. People who don’t know her are loudly protesting. Says her friend,” the internet is a toilet, full of trolls”.
We hear that what’s needed in society is an understanding of the complex nature of sex work. Some women in the trade make “exchanges” to eat and pay bills. Some women choose, some don’t. As a sex worker, you learn to compartmentalize. It’s a transaction, you’re someone’s toy. We are reminded that sex work is dangerous, decriminalization does not stop the violence, and sex tourism is good for the economy. In fact, the theory that the solution is to decriminalize prosecution is debunked. This would actually help pimps. When their prostitute goes to jail, they get to stay out of jail and get the equivalent of traffic school, and a slap on the wrist. Being interviewed by Jones gives these women a chance to explain to outsiders their story.
Jones even gets the male perspective while interviewing actor Bryan Cranston who, at 16, had his first sex with a legal prostitute.
At the end of SELL/BUY/DATE Sarah Jones reveals why she is compelled to address the sex worker industry. Sex work is a serious topic, and Jones includes multiple perspectives, while managing to keep the film highly entertaining.
See this doc and keep an open mind.