I must admit that when I sat down to watch channel 4’s recent, two-part documentary, Love for Sale, I didn’t have great hopes. I was expecting the usual judgemental and condescending b******s that is the mainstay of such programmes. This is usually preached by women who, though they have no experience of professional eroticism, feel qualified to state that any women operating in this field must all be exploited victims, whose activities are fuelled by drug addiction and serious emotional issues.
I sincerely hope that any of you who have met me have not felt that I was anyway exploited of under the sway of some malevolent male influence. You on the other hand may have felt utterly used and abused by a cruel woman with Siren like charms, but that is as it should be.
I am dangerously close to ranting, but my point is that rarely is their a place in these “exposes” for intelligent, even degree educated women, with open enquiring minds, who see “sex work”* as a vocation. I absolutely recognise that the rather incongruous legislation surrounding the “oldest profession” in England, and much of the rest of the world, provides a criminal fraternity ample opportunity to exploit some extremely vulnerable women in a way that is cruel and particularly destructive to physical and emotional health.
However, there is a high end and a low end in most professions, people who are happily successful and others who are oppressed. However, nobody says that the house keeper at an upmarket London hotel is exploited because around the world many people are in domestic servitude and slavery. Yet both could be said to work in the domestic realm. I think I may have just given in to the ranting urge, so return to the matter in hand, Love for Sale…
Well within minutes of watching this documentary had shown itself to be a very welcome breath of fresh air. Love for Sale is wonderfully and refreshingly open minded and non-judgemental, full of Mr Everett’s erudite remarks and finely tuned observations, it moves from moments of bemused amusement to the discussion of serious issues with an effortless grace. It did not shy away from the very dark side of the sex industry. Rupert Everett speaks candidly of a friend of his who was murdered in the Bois de Boulogne, an infamous pick up spot for transsexuals and other prostitutes on the outskirts of Paris. But even when he went to visit the ladies still working there the picture was a complex one. Yes there a certain sad resignation at the nightly risks they were running, but equally a great sense of camaraderie and a vicarious joy in life.
However, he also talks to an Exeter based escort, who has won an Erotic Award (the distinctive winged penis) for her contribution to her profession. For her sex work is every bit a conscious choice. She sees herself in a very caring and nurturing role and finds her work hugely emotionally rewarding, not to mention sexually satisfying!
And Mr Everett’s words after a visit to a Northern based dominatrix really quite touched and moved me. He did not stray at all into the predictable, well trodden and tawdry territories of sensationalism. Instead he spoke from the heart of the Goddess and the understandable and natural desire to worship Her.
The fact that this documentary does not indulge itself in some sanctimonious sermonising about the sex worker as fallen women or victim, that it does not aim to incite in the viewer the usual smug combination or moral superiority and secret titillation is down to Mr Everett himself. He refuses to give into the usual clichés and the allure of scandal. Rather he has the courage to provide a glimpse of the complex reality of the vast global sex industry, the innumerable happy encounters, the inexcusable exploitation and the infinite shades of gray in between.
All in all a big Hurrah for Mr Everett is the order of the day!
Love for Sale can be viewed at 4OD here