Buying Sex – creative licence and a Canadian doco


This blog post may not be of interest to many readers because it is about a film that not many will get to see and it is not really a film that’s even worth seeking out.  But it’s about buying sex, which involves clients of sex workers so I thought I would give my take on it.  You’ll see from the few hand-picked quotes below, that there are some quite wacky and non-acheivable ideas about men buying sex out there.

In my other, non-sex work life, I have had a long interest in films and film making, which includes being a humble regular movie-goer, (I usually visit the cinema at least once a week, if not more often than that) as well as having had minor involvements on both amateur and television productions, both in front of the camera and behind the scenes in a few roles including within the editing suite.  My interest also stretches to the academic: having passed a university paper on a certain aspect of film making as part of one of my qualifications.  As well as that, I have friends and family members who have carried out a variety of work in the film industry, some who started as runners on local productions and worked their way in and others who are well-paid creatives who have made many trips to Hollywood while working on award-winning films.   I have even held aloft someone else’s genuine Oscar statuette!

I guess I sound like I think I’m a know-it-all or a film industry insider, I most definitely am not, but I do know a teensy bit about films.  I know about the hard work behind the glamour, the excruciatingly boring repetitiveness of many parts of the process as well as excitement: being a part of someone’s much-loved creative project.  There are long hours of work to make the most of the equipment which is extremely expensive to hire, and there is still much work left to do after the filming, including editing the many hours of film.

I also know about the magic of film – how you can take some footage with a message, freely and maybe innocently given, and cut it and twist it to suit your intention and give a completely different meaning to the original message as that had been intended to be conveyed.  For example, I once worked on a film where one scene was repeated several times, quite obviously, which gave the impression that the talent was much more inebriated than they actually were.

I am a #sexworker, so it makes sense that I have a keen interest in #sexwork in film and how sex workers are portrayed, among other issues.

In another aspect of my life, I am a sex worker, so it makes sense that I have a keen interest in sex work in film and how sex workers are portrayed, among other issues.

Recently, a copy of Buying Sex, came into my possession, given to me by one of the participants in the documentary, who happens to be a favourite client of mine, (as well as someone I’d consider a friend).

Basically, it’s a film made by some Canadians which looks at, funnily enough, buying sex and the first part of the reform of laws around prostitution in Canada.  The film-makers looked at and explained the Swedish model (where men get prosecuted for buying sex) and the New Zealand model (where consenting adults can buy and sell safe sex).  Key participants in the documentary were the sex workers who wanted the law passed and their lawyer who was championing the cause, and the anti-sex work campaigners, who wanted to stop the demand for sex by making it a criminal offense to buy sex, yes that’s right, the clients of sex workers would get prosecuted.  Spliced in between all that are interviews with the clients of sex workers themselves, (the film was called Buying Sex, after all), as well as some actual sex workers in Canada, Sweden and New Zealand, plus a few other people qualified to have opinions on the success or not of the New Zealand model versus the Swedish model.

Naturally I was curious about my client’s participation in the film, which resulted in such a small snippet of distorted voice and disguised face.  What was left on the cutting room floor and why?  What did his small snippet say about him as a client and clients as a whole?  How did it add to what the overall message of the film was?  Was the film, about clients in the sex industry, for or against sex workers and their clients?  Hard to say, but from what I can gather a lot of information about the positive side of New Zealand’s sex industry was cut out.

I have watched the film about three or four times.  Sometimes I do this because I like to look at how the film was made, what was put where, who got the last word (because anyone who has done high school debating knows that the person who gets the last word has a certain strength) and I also like to think about what might have been left out – obviously I can only speculate unless I have been involved with the film myself, which in this case, I was not.  As well as that, as I mentioned, I like watching films for films’ sakes.

So in the spirit of creative freedom, I have decided to take some quotes from the film Buying Sex and effectively do some DIY editing and rework the message that was provided by the film, putting the ridiculous and the logical in their rightful places.

Arguments for Criminalising Men Who Buy Sex (the Swedish model) – which I disagree with:

“Sex industry = paid rape” – a sign at an anti-sex work protest.

“We have to interfere with the unchecked male demand for paid sex.” Trisha Baptie.

“Men fantasise about having sex with prostitutes and they sometimes say ‘I don’t get any sex at home’.  Particularly ‘I don’t get the sex that I would like to have.  All these other guys get that kind of sex and I seem to be the only one that doesn’t get it.’  And of course here you also have a connection with pornography and prostitution because the fantasies around the kind of sex that other guys have are the images that are portrayed with pornography.” – Sven-Axel Manson, who went on to say that prostitution is not the answer.

Sweden’s Possible Next Step:

“The only way you’re going to change it is to castrate them at birth.  That might change it.  Other than that, you don’t have much of a chance.” – Client.

Arguments for Decriminalising the Sale of Sex (the New Zealand model) – which I mostly agree with:

We can't rewrite human nature. People have an instinctive drive to sex. If you don't have a safe, healthy outlet within your interpersonal relationship, many people are going to seek it on a…

“You’re going to reduce demand? This is an instinctive drive.  I’m sorry, you can’t do that.  We can’t rewrite human nature.  People have an instinctive drive to sex.  If you don’t have a safe, healthy outlet within your interpersonal relationship, many people are going to seek it on a commercial market.” – Alan Young.

“They should be really, really, really thanking these girls that are out there making a living doing this, for keeping their husbands from leaving home and destroying the family and not supporting the kids and all this other stuff.  It’s worth a couple of hundred dollars every couple of week for him to go and get his jollies somewhere else, especially if she doesn’t want to sleep with him anymore”.  – Client.

“No government, no religion, no army in history has ever been able to stop sex workers, for two simple reasons: sex and money.  If you want to stop sex workers, you have to stop sex and you have to stop money.” – Valerie Scott.

“These are hugely economic debates, both at micro and macro level … from the moment student loans were introduced, women students have determined that one of the fastest ways to pay off their loans is as a sex worker and they’re quite right.” – Marilyn Waring.

“I supported the rights of street workers to do what they are doing if they so choose, because they’ve got no other way of surviving adequately.” – Diane Black.

“You can’t have prostitutes if you haven’t got clients, that’s the reality, so maybe they need to look at that, but if that’s the case, where are these girls going to get money to survive?” – Diane Black.

'If they could give us an opportunity to speak our minds … we have to say to them … they should not be taking our customers from us.' – Swedish sex worker.

“If they could give us an opportunity to speak our minds … we have to say to them … they should not be taking our customers from us.” – Swedish sex worker.

“Out here, I’m in control.” – Street-based sex worker in New Zealand.

After a snippet about a well-known Canadian serial killer of sex workers. “It’s the man who yields the knife, but the question in the case is, ‘is the law complicit with this?’  The law is complicit in this because it takes away strategies that women can use to protect themselves.” – Alan Young

By the way, the Canadian sex workers had a successful legal result and hopefully they are on their way to fully adopting the New Zealand model.  I thank my lucky stars every day that I live in New Zealand where the law now protects sex workers, and allows us to protect ourselves.

As for the film, Buying Sex, pffft, it could have been better.

One Response to Buying Sex – creative licence and a Canadian doco

  1. […] my soap box out, does the media ever put the whole story across fairly? What about journalists, film-makers etc all but sucking up to the talent to get a story, then gleefully juxtaposing things to suit […]

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