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‘Sex Workers’ As Social Workers: A Hash Of Hollywood Idiocy

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Fading Gigolo,” a movie starring and directed by John Turturro, is apparently a sentimental look at the world of prostitution. NPR says the film keeps ” the mood light even as the filmmaker is gently tugging the plot in other directions, to look at loneliness and longing and heartbreak.” Turturro himself says that sex workers are rather like social workers (which should thrill  social workers):

I think there are positive things about what sex workers do. I know and consulted people who have been in that world, and it’s interesting on a human level that people sometimes go to these people for reasons beyond just sexual contact – maybe they’re looking for solace, or other things, and sometimes they are truly helped. I also think there’s a real exchange that goes on in these situations, whereas in so many other professions there isn’t.

He says a lot of other idiotic things that I won’t subject you to here; feel free to read the entire article if you must.

The movie stars Turturro as the “accidental” gigolo, Sofia Vergara and Sharon Stone as two of the gigolo’s “customers,” and Woody Allen as the would-be pimp. It’s all supposed to be very funny and sentimental and gooey and empowering.

Turturro does acknowledge that there are some “dark” things surrounding prostitution, but that’s not what he wanted to explore here. After all, who wants to spend $15 bucks on a movie ticket to see what really happens to men and women caught up in the world of prostitution? It’s so much more fun to make it light.

Here is what it’s really like to be a prostitute, in the words of someone who escaped that life:

As far back as I can remember my life was filled with fear, pain, and trauma. Later on, sexual exploitation joined my list of terror.

I was a terrified fifteen year old child standing on the corner of Logan and Division in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Pimped out and sold to the highest bidder. I was called a prostitute, a whore, and so many other hateful names that a child should never be called. No one seemed to see me as a fifteen year old. No one looked at me to see that I was being used, abused, sold. It was like the whole world just saw me as trash.

My pimp told me that if I ever left, I would be killed. That my family would be killed. Terrified, I did exactly as I was told. My mother never understanding why I was doing the things that I was doing. She didn’t know that my running away from home was my attempt at keeping them safe.

I was trafficked from city to city, state to state. If I did not bring in a certain amount of money, I was beaten. The brutality of the beatings included wire hangers, power cords, among other things.

After twenty years of this lifestyle, I became accustomed to living in fear and pain, darkness of the unknown. In order to stop feeling and thinking, I turned to drugs and alcohol.

What about a fun-filled film about child abuse? Maybe Turturro could tackle a comedy about child porn, or a light-hearted romp about spousal abuse, or a man who beats his elderly mother.

Prostitution and human trafficking aren’t funny. Prostitutes are not social workers. The sex trade is not about human connection. Objectifying and using human beings – created in God’s image and likeness – isn’t funny, or therapeutic, or “magical,” as Turturro says. It’s wrong. Just wrong. And trying to entertain people by saying otherwise is a betrayal to every person like the woman above who is brutalized, terrified and abused. John Turturro: be ashamed.

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Elise Hilton Communications Specialist at Acton Institute. M.A. in World Religions.

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