Louis Theroux is repeating himself. He’s done this before, tackling the sex industry, but now he’s looking the British model. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink, in a Carry On kinda way. Sex sells even if it’s documentary sex and Theroux has pretty much a free hand with the BBC who buy any old muck he wants to sell.
Selling sex is legal in Britain as long as it doesn’t involve coercion, exploitation or public nuisance.
Ethical or moral issues are more difficult to resolve. Let me put this quite simply, sticking PROSTITUTE on your CV isn’t going to open many doors, but it may lead to a few enquiries about how much you charge.
Theroux, of the raised eyebrow to indicate emotion, does a good job of sitting on the fence. Friendly and distant enough to be a good guide for us to look into and at this self-selecting cohort.
They must agree to be filmed. Many prostitutes wouldn’t want to be filmed on national telly. Maybe they wouldn’t want their mum or dad to know, or their neighbours or friends. What seems quaint or even funny, Theroux investigating legal brothels stateside, or the porn industry, generally, seems more like exploitation this side of the Atlantic. More of the Jeremy Kyle brand of establishing faux truths while making cash from selling sex with the trademark shout – go and get a job.
We frequently hear women talk about empowerment. Victoria is 25 and has four kids. She uses social media to contact clients and charges £250 an hour. Four clients a day and she’s home for the kids coming home from school. Good job. Wages of sin pay well.
Ashley’s 23 and she’d got Asperger’s and is a student. She sells her body to fund her studies. Her flatmate and friends are cool with that. She says she only picks guys she’d fuck anyway. One client, for example, is 25 and has hundreds of positive reviews, proclaiming what a big cock he’s got and how he knows how to use it. Louis follows her to the meeting with him. And she comes out happy with £300, saying she wouldn’t have minded him as a boyfriend. One of her pals has agreed to book Ashley for sex. Afterwards they’ll just go back to being friends. All her pals agree that’s what will happen.
To balance it out a bit Louis follows an older couple Graham and Caroline, probably late fifties. She works as an escort, not really for the money, but because it turns her on. She was frigid and now she’s free line. What turns Caroline on, turns Graham on. Most STD are in the over-fifty grouping so being hip and modern and flower power and yeh, yeh, yeh, personally, I don’t care. These are the least interesting of the group. Dressing up the issues.
Let’s talk about class and exploitation. I’m thrown back to another one of Theroux’s documentaries in which he asks a women that’s going to kill herself—she does—because her boyfriend is dead, she’s in a wheelchair and she’s going to lose her home, what would you do if you had enough money?
Commonalities. Victoria’s mum and dad were a mess and she was out of the house when she was 15, pounced upon because she was homeless and vulnerable by an older man in his twenties. He had a house, she didn’t, but she did have a body he could use.
Ashely was abused by a family friend between the ages of six and twelve. It left her feeling reckless and betrayed. Selling herself was her revenge.
Victoria has a daughter, Sapphire, who knows her mum’s a prostitute. The boys are too young to be told (emm they know and if they don’t there pals will soon tell them after seeing mum’s big tits on BBC 2). Theroux asked the question. ‘Would Victoria want Sapphire to be a prostitute?’
Victoria knows the answer to that one immediately. He didn’t point out that’s the age she started selling herself. Like mother, like daughter?
That’s all the answer I need. People want a better life for their kids. Traditionally, middle-class doctors and lawyers wanted their sons to be lawyers and doctors and carry on the family tradition, perhaps get a bit higher. They didn’t want their daughters to be prostitutes. That was a path marked out for the lower class. Here it is again, re-emerging in new clothes. We live in a fucked-up world when you need to sell your body to pay for education or to feed your kids and provide a roof over their head. Perhaps a bit more. That’s what I think. No sitting on the fence for me. We’re back to Victorian society. Them and Us. It’s all to do with class.
Social mobility is dead – long live the queen, social media and false gods of making yourself famous.
We’ve always had prostitutes argument (check your Bible) missed the point. We’ve always had people sleeping on the streets, but now it’s an epidemic and normalised. When the best society can offer our youngsters is to get their tits out for the boys surely that’s not empowerment?