Men cruised the hallway of an upscale Bellevue apartment building, checking their cellphones and scanning the unit numbers before pausing at a door that swung open even before they knocked. A neighbor grew suspicious and alerted police, saying she believed the woman living down the hall was involved in sex work. The email set in motion an eight-month investigation that revealed South Korean prostitutes were working out of a dozen luxury Bellevue apartments. Many of their customers were members of a secretive network of men who not only paid for sex — in some cases scores of times — but would also write detailed online reviews of their encounters and encourage others to do the same. The website also accepted free advertisements from prostitutes. One customer, a software-development director for Amazon, even helped construct and maintain prostitution-related websites.
Review: Day in the life of a sex worker turns up unexpected gem in ‘Jezebel’
Backpage: Nothing online has replaced it, and sex workers feel less safe.
With the sex economy booming, Theroux sensitively shadowed three women at its coalface — from a hard-up student to a woman married for 44 years. S elling sex is legal in the UK, as long as it does not involve coercion or exploitation, or create a public nuisance. Combine this situation with the rise of technology that makes it very easy for people to set themselves up as sex workers and for potential clients to find them and you get exactly what we have seen — a rise in the numbers of both, among people who might not previously have considered such activities. Instead, Theroux introduces us to his three gatewomen to this new world. They are year-old Victoria, whose life moves in quartets — four years in the sex industry, four bookings per working day, four children for whom she is the sole provider; year-old Ashleigh, a student with Asperger syndrome who streamed live sex shows from her home for several years before selling sex to pay her way through art school; and sixtysomething former dental nurse Caroline, married for 44 years to her devoted husband, Graham — she turned to escort work after a friend who had done the same joked that she should try it. It is a relief, too, after his recent outing, which saw him investigate the phenomenon of profound postpartum depression in Mothers on the Edge. There, his usually impervious air of neutrality began to desert him, but here, thankfully, normal, nonjudgmental service has been resumed.
There Is No New Backpage
For more than a decade, the site commonly referred to as RedBook served as a vast catalog of carnal services, a mashup of Craigslist, Yelp, and Usenet where sex workers and hundreds of thousands of their customers could connect, converse, and make arrangements for commercial sex. RedBook tapped into the persistent, age-old, bottomless appetite for prostitution and made it safer and more civilized. The site was efficient, well stocked, and probably too successful for its own good. Omuro also added a key functionality—he made it possible for sex workers to advertise their services.
But a richer way to view this sincere, unexpected gem is as a portrait of blossoming agency at the intersection of race, sexuality, gender and poverty. The notorious Jezebel stereotype as applied to black females dates back to slavery. She makes good then better money from the unquenchable desires of white men with whom she thankfully never has to be in the same room, and discovering something about her sexual power, bargaining might and self-pride in the process. That Perrier has instead turned her memories of an uncertain time into something honest, funny, sexy and warm — and, sure, not unsuspenseful — is worth cherishing. Not rated Running time: 1 hour, 28 minutes Playing: Launches Jan.