6 unsettling shows about the sex industry

2017-12-08 22:00

Cape Town - Whether it’s the literally cutthroat early days of the oldest profession in the world on British TV series Harlots, the dangerous glamour of the rise of the porn industry in New York in the 70s in HBO’s The Deuce, or the shocking reality for sex workers and porn stars in these documentaries, internet TV offers a bitter taste of what it takes to be a player in the sex industry.

(Note that these series and documentaries are for adults only.)

1. HBO’s The Deuce (Showmax)

New York City, Times Square, 1971: the heart of the flesh trade in the United States. At this pivotal point in time, legislation changed to allow the fledgling porn industry to flourish. And this is where Candy (Maggie Gyllenhaal), the prostitute without a pimp, and the Martino brothers (twins, both played by James Franco) come in, hustling to take porn to seedy, adventurous, dazzling new heights.  This stunning series was created by the brains behind HBO’s The Wire and directed by Michelle MacLaren (who had a hand in Game of Thrones, all seasons are on Showmax) and Franco, among other big Hollywood names. 

2. Harlots (Showmax)

In 18th-Century London, sex is everywhere - but brothel owner Margaret Wells (Samantha Morton) wants to rise above her sordid situation and transplant her house and “her girls” to Greek Street in Soho, where her longtime rival Lydia Quigley (Lesley Manville) runs a luxurious brothel, frequented by London’s most esteemed gentlemen. Quigley will do whatever it takes to keep Wells and her girls away. Meanwhile, Wells’s beautiful daughters, Charlotte (Jessica Brown Findlay, also in Downton Abbey, Seasons 1-6 are on Showmax) and Lucy, are destined to be signed over to become the property of wealthy lords. 

Expect lashings of sex, stunning set design and costumes, and the discomfiting sense of questioning your own morals as you root for a woman who sells the bodies of other women, including those of her own daughters. 

3. The Flesh Business (Showmax)

This eye-opening Kenyan documentary explores the lives and backgrounds of the sex workers in Mombasa. Filmmaker Denis Maina was led to investigate the circumstances of a typical teenage sex worker on the Kenyan coast when he himself was approached and offered sex on a beach two years ago. What he discovered was chilling, and that’s how this one-hour documentary, which tells these women’s stories from their own perspective, was born.  

4. Hot Girls Wanted (the movie) (Netflix)

From producer Rashida Jones comes this harrowing look at the world of amateur porn. As this documentary shows, there are plenty of young women who want to be famous, no matter what it takes. As soon as they’re of legal age (that’s 18 - in a country where it’s illegal to drink alcohol until you’re 21), they respond to Craigslist ads, get on planes and sign their lives and bodies over to an exploitative system that will chew them up and spit them out in a matter of months. And in case you were wondering - in the amateur porn industry, the sex is never faked, and condoms are never used. 

6. Louis Theroux: Dark States (DStv Now)

Episode 2 of Dark States, titled Sex Trafficking, is one in a trilogy of Louis Theroux documentaries that explores important issues in American cities today. Dark States: Sex Trafficking takes place in Houston and reveals the complex dynamic between prostitute and pimp in the city’s illegal sex industry. Theroux tries to understand the role of police officers and lawmakers in persuading women in the industry to speak out against their pimps, and joins undercover operations into this seedy underworld.

Read more on:    internet tv  |  series  |  tv  |  sex

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