Jump to. As the sex workers rights movement continues to intersect with 21st-century conversations about representation, a fluffy rescue rom-com in which a rich white guy seemingly saves a straight, white, conventionally attractive sex worker seems to grow more glaringly problematic by the day. Pretty Woman is a fantasy.
Weldon, whose current work traces the intersections of sex work, dress, and culture informed by her own experiences in the sex industry, is also relatively indifferent toward the film. She was a decade into her career in the sex industry when Pretty Woman premiered, but she still watched it like any other rom-com.
In fact, McNeill suggests the candy-coated treatment sex work got in Pretty Woman and other 20th-century films such as American Gigolo and Risky Business might actually have been preferable to the grittier, victimizing representations that took their place as anti—sex trafficking fearmongering took over prohibitionist rhetoric in the 21st century. To be a streetwalker, you have a lot of that.
It takes balls to walk the streets. Her attitude influences me even today. However, plus-size Latina sex worker Rose says she actually felt represented when she saw Roberts onscreen in When do we fall in love with the sex worker? When is the sex worker really a character that we think is a cutie, or how sweet she is being silly with the headphones on?
Those are not usually the common themes when a sex worker is part of the storyline. Tweet this. But broadening depictions to reflect the reality of who does sex work and depicting their work in a real way—lending it legitimacy—is crucial.
Like what you just read? today. Kayla Kibbe is a New York City-based writer covering sex, dating and culture.
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