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Louis Theroux's New Documentary 'Selling Sex' Is Airing This Weekend

Louis Theroux's New Documentary 'Selling Sex' Is Airing This Weekend

Should sex ever be exchanged for money?

It's an age-old question - and one that BAFTA award-winning filmmaker Louis Theroux explores in his brand-new BBC Two documentary.

Titled Louis Theroux: Selling Sex, the programme takes a deep dive into the world of online transactional sex, and sees Louis speak to the people working within it.

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In Britain, trading sex is legal, on the basis that there is no exploitation, coercion or public nuisance involved.

At one time, the UK's sex trade revolved around street workers and brothels, but technology has changed that.

Today's webcams, apps and social media platforms enable sex workers to operate in a far broader variety of ways.

The documentary delves into the world of online transactional sex and sees Louis Theroux speak to those working within it. (Credit: BBC)
The documentary delves into the world of online transactional sex and sees Louis Theroux speak to those working within it. (Credit: BBC)
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For sellers of sex in 2019, the digital sphere is just as important as any physical act.

Whether it's sharing images and video content in an instant or vetting potential clients, tech has made it possible to engage in sex work from the home.

This level of accessibility has drawn in new-gen sex workers who might not have considered the profession otherwise, many of whom make hundreds of pounds an hour from the comfort of their own bedrooms.

This isn't the first time Louis has tackled the subject of sex work. In Dark States: Trafficking Sex, released in 2018, he met American women working in Houston's illegal sex industry, and in 2003, Louis and the Brothel showed Louis visiting the Wild Horse Adult Resort & Spa, a licensed brothel near Reno, Nevada.

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In 'Dark States: Trafficking Sex', released 2018, Louis met American women working in Houston's illegal sex industry (Credit: BBC)
In 'Dark States: Trafficking Sex', released 2018, Louis met American women working in Houston's illegal sex industry (Credit: BBC)

Selling Sex has already racked up some headlines, with the BBC defending itself from allegations that the production had manipulated its subjects.

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Sex workers Georgina Tyson and Ashleigh Williams are concerned the documentary will reinforce negative stereotypes of the sex industry, and believe they were misled over the programme's content and narrative.

Georgina wrote in an open letter: "They supposedly wanted to follow a newish sex worker to document that experience, it felt more like they were pushing the stereotype of sex workers being sex workers because something bad happened to them." She also claims she was not properly safeguarded.

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Back in 2003, 'Louis and the Brothel' showed Louis visiting a licensed brothel near Reno, Nevada (Credit: BBC)
Back in 2003, 'Louis and the Brothel' showed Louis visiting a licensed brothel near Reno, Nevada (Credit: BBC)
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The BBC said in a statement: "Georgina is not identified as being a sex worker in the film, nor is she a subject of the documentary. Our initial contact was with Ashleigh, and it was clear that she was the focus of the film, not Georgina. We have addressed their concerns in the final edit of the film, and have listened to their comments throughout the filming process."

Speaking about the documentary, Louis Theroux said: "I'm always drawn to stories that involve ethical wrinkles - issues that are deeply felt, but are also divisive, and in which good-hearted people can come to opposite conclusions. The debate around selling sex is exactly that kind of story.

"It is one of the most straightforward, yet complex interactions that can take place between two people. On the one hand, none of the activities taking place here are illegal; everything is above board and both parties have mutually agreed on the arrangement.

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"On the other, it's impossible to deny that for many - maybe most - people, there is something unsavoury in the idea of accepting money for an act that is so intimate. They have a problem with those who do it and see it as a symptom of a society that is controlled and dominated by men.

"For exactly this reason - because it is so controversial - I thought it would be revealing to speak to the women involved in the business of selling sex.

Once we started looking we discovered that the sexual economy seems to have been turbo-charged by the prevalence of new websites and social media that allow users to meet up more easily, to write reviews of each other, and swap information.

Technology has made it easier for sex workers to operate from the comfort of their own homes (Credit: BBC)
Technology has made it easier for sex workers to operate from the comfort of their own homes (Credit: BBC)

"What we ended up with was a very intimate look at three very individual women and the different paths that led them to this field of work.

I found it revealing and thought-provoking to make - I hope viewers have the same experience. Mainly, I'd like to thank the women who so openly and honestly let me in to their lives and helped broaden my understanding of their lives and experiences."

Louis Theroux: Selling Sex, will air on BBC Two at 9pm on Sunday, 12 January.

Featured Image Credit: BBC

Topics: TV and Film, TV News, TV Entertainment

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Mary-Jane Wiltsher

Mary-Jane Wiltsher is a freelance lifestyle and culture journalist. Elsewhere she writes for Stylist, Euronews, PHOENIX and What We Seee.