It’s Not Like ‘Pretty Woman’

It wasn’t long ago that I saw the film ‘Pretty Woman’ for the first time. I had just started working on the Escort Ireland forums as a moderator when one of my friends invited me to hers for a girlie night of drinks, movies, and rude sex talk.
Man and woman sharing romantic moment

We watched the film. When it ended some of my friends were all talking about how horrible it must be for the poor women being forced into this life, and that they never want to be in that situation. I was just sitting there looking at them, knowing that they hadn’t got a clue about the sex industry at all. They thought that the film ‘Pretty Woman’ was an exact representation of what it was like.

Obviously, given my job I knew that wasn’t the case. I ended up watching the film again last night and it only confirmed it for me – the sex world in ‘Pretty Woman’ is not the sex world we know. Here’s why.

Victims in need of rescue

This is one of the most frustrating things to hear. People without real knowledge on the sex industry have two main beliefs about the people working in it – they are victims in need of rescue, and that these people are incapable of doing it for themselves. Look at the main character in the film. She had to have a knight in a shiny car pick her up and sweep her off her feet.

Really, I should say they believe the women in sex work need rescuing, because the men always seem to be forgotten about. For whatever reason, women who work in the world of sex are seen as weak and incapable of making their own decisions.

They think “hey, this person is making a living from sex. That means they have no self-esteem and believe they aren’t worth anything. They have probably been forced into this horrid world or they have no other choice. We must do all we can to help them!”

Except their idea of ‘rescuing’ people in this world is to make their job more difficult. In Ireland, this is by making it illegal to purchase sex. If you remove the demand, you remove the supply, right? That is how it works. Look at the American Prohibition and all the laws stopping us from taking drugs.

Oh, wait, they haven’t stopped anything. That isn’t stopping them from trying though. They are ignoring the fact that making the purchase illegal will actually make it more dangerous for them to do their jobs, instead of making them all go “wow. I’m free! Time to go and do what society dictates I should be doing for work.”

Sex workers are the bottom of the heap

Ask someone on the street what a sex worker is and they will say a prostitute or someone who works on the streets. They haven’t the education to get a better job for themselves, and if you sat them down at dinner they wouldn’t be able to tell the salad fork from the dessert fork!

At least, that’s what the media would have us believe. Films like ‘Pretty Woman’ make us think that they don’t have nice things and that they are right at the bottom of the heap. Just look at the shopping scene – she is turned away from a store because of the way she looks and the fact that they know who she is.

In reality, sex workers aren’t anywhere near the bottom of the heap, and they certainly aren’t uneducated. Two years ago, a survey of Irish indoor sex workers was conducted and showed that, actually, a huge 74.9% of them had completed a third level education.

The survey also showed how important security was to them, and when you look at other sex work surveys conducted around the world it is a similar case. Not many would agree to get in a car and spend as long with a client they had never met before as the main character in ‘Pretty Woman’ did for their own safety.
Red umbrella

Fighting the stigma

Sex workers don’t need rescuing, and as we’ve seen from the survey many of them are smart, independent women who are in a job they have chosen. So what is the problem?

Many seem to feel that accepting sex work as real work would mean glamourizing it. They don’t want to make the job appealing to others, and they look down on those who do it or avail of the services on offer.

Yet criminalising it is going to do more harm than good. The best way to solve this? Fight the stigma surrounding sex work. We need more people to understand that the stories they read in the papers and they are shown on TV are a small portion of what is actually going on, and that the real sex industry is a lot different.

What do you think needs to be done to show that sex work isn’t like ‘Pretty Woman’? Let us know by posting in the comment box below, or head over to the Escort Ireland forum and share your thoughts there.

Lara Mills
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