December 15, 2022
Playwright, actor, poet, and filmmaker Sarah Jones joins Jameela this week to discuss her new film Sell/Buy/Date, which explores the many complicated layers within the sex industry. They discuss how the sex industry manifests the racism and inequalities of culture at large, the difference between legalization and decriminalization, who truly benefits within it, the ways the industry can be either empowering or dehumanizing, and more.
Sell/Buy/Date is streaming now!
Follow Sarah on Instagram and Twitter @yesimsarahjones
You can find transcripts for this episode on the Earwolf website.
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Jameela is on Instagram and Twitter @JameelaJamil
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141 — The Sex Industry with Sarah Jones
Jameela [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to another episode of I Weigh with Jameela Jamil, a podcast against shame. I hope you’re well and I hope you’re ready for this slightly inflammatory topic that we’re going to discuss on this podcast today. We are talking about the sex industry. And my guest is Sarah Jones, who is a fabulous actress and writer and director and documentary maker. Just a fucking phenomenal talent. And and also someone who’s got the biggest heart and the best intentions, maybe in the whole of Hollywood. I really love her, and I’m really glad she was able to come to me today to talk about her new documentary, Sell Buy Date. And that’s b u y. Now there are many reasons why this documentary that she’s made has come up as incredibly controversial. First and foremost, maybe, is the fact that she is not a member of the sex industry as in not someone who does sex work and therefore isn’t her place to make a documentary and star in a documentary about that subject. And second of all, this subject seems to be one of the most divisive ones in the whole of feminism, not just social justice, but feminism and people land on very extreme sides of this conversation, to the point where sometimes our emotions and protectiveness and defensiveness stop us from actually getting to the nuance of what should be an incredibly nuanced conversation, which is that the sex industry is comprised of people who volunteer and choose to be in it and people who don’t. And we have to create space to let both people have their say and have their rights and their dignity intact. The other reason this subject is so controversial is because a lot of people don’t even want to talk about the sex industry. It’s so weird. And Sarah really goes into how the sex industry kind of bleeds into every single, almost part of our culture music videos, entertainment, really almost any kind of mediary facet of our existence. And yet when it comes to the actual sex industry itself, the concentrated sex industry, we shun the conversation, we look away, we dehumanize the people who participate in it or even the people who consume it. And it’s treated with this sort of like shame and shadow treatment that is really fucking dangerous. It’s not only dehumanizing and cruel, it’s dangerous because if we do not open the conversation up and if we are not incredibly diligent in making sure that the sex industry is regulated and the people have human rights within it, if we aren’t paying attention, then as with most industries, even clothing factories or iPhone factories, exploitation can happen. And it’s especially dangerous when it is sexual exploitation that can also involve minors. So it is important that we destigmatize this conversation. And I think this documentary is a really great part of trying to destigmatize the conversation among people who are not involved in the sex industry and who don’t know a lot about the sex industry. I also want to be clear that when this documentary was announced, it there was a huge backlash, especially from people within the sex industry. And I think but also actually on both sides, it managed to piss literally everyone off before it had even been made, before it even come out, because a lot of people didn’t know exactly what the subject matter was going to, how it was going to be handled. And they didn’t know who was going to be involved, and they didn’t know if actual sex workers or people who work within the sex industry would be involved. They are. I can tell you that. And the whole documentary is very much so led by experts within the industry. And Sarah is more of a kind of conduit to learn about it publicly in front of us and to advocate for all sides, but not really sides. She’s just advocating for how much information can we have to make sure that everyone has choice, has agency, has dignity, respect and all of their rights and freedoms, which sadly is rarely the case in any industry, least of all this one. And so I really appreciate that in this chat and in her work, she is just trying to make sure that all sides get heard and she doesn’t come down on any side of this argument. I sure as fucking shit don’t. But we just make sure the conversation is had so that everyone gets to do whatever they want from a place of choice and that they get paid properly and that they get to live a long, happy life doing what they choose to do. I also want to stress that this is not the first time I’ve had a conversation about the sex industry. I’ve had this conversation with actual sex workers, specifically black trans sex workers in New York. And so I’m not this is not my first time coming to the subject with a non-sex worker. I just want to be clear about that in case that worries anyone. You can find these conversations on my YouTube, etc. and on my Instagram, but this is hopefully just the beginning of more and more nuanced con- I’ve also said before about this I think Gloria Steinem two years ago on this very podcast. But. This will be an ongoing conversation that I try to bring into this podcast because I realize that I am not doing enough as an outsider and as someone to stand in solidarity with people who work in the sex industry. I’m not doing enough to make sure that we raise and destigmatize this conversation. But just so you know, in this, we talk about the terminology sex industry and why some people don’t like the term sex work. We talk about how the sex industry manifests, the misogyny and racism in society as a whole. We talk about the important distinction between legalization and decriminalization. Something that I didn’t understand until like five or six years ago. And what a difference those terms make for the industry. Really important, the legalization versus decriminalization subject. And who wants what. We discuss how the sex industry can be empowering and how it can also be dehumanizing, and we talk about how important discussing the sex industry is, even if it’s uncomfortable or intimidating. No subject should be so inflammatory that people can’t just ask each other valid questions about it. And something we talk about in this episode that I really love is that people who had been fighting about these subjects for years online, who were on very opposing sides of this discussion, came to the premier of this film and ended up understanding each other’s point of view and making friends and having drinks with each other and having fun and chatting and coming together. And we need more work like this in the world. Work that isn’t afraid of not being binary on every single fucking issue. You can’t do that when human beings are involved because we are complicated and it is a case by case basis that is massively as with everything dictated by wealth, by privilege, by hierarchy and our fucked society, and most of all motherfucking capitalism. So this is a big word salad. Sorry, but it’s it’s so important to try to have this conversation as carefully and sensitively as possible. And if I failed, then let me know in my DMs. But I have done my current best and I’m always looking to learn more and and send me the names of people that you like in this conversation who you’ve learned from, preferably people from within the sex industry itself, sending you loads of love. Really grateful to Sarah Jones for this conversation. Please enjoy this. What I think is a fabulous chat. Sarah motherfucking Jones. Welcome to I Weigh. How are you?
Sarah [00:07:53] Hi you know, I was just saying, I’m so alive. That’s my blanket adjective. Because whether I feel like shit or you know, fantastic, or some combination of both, which is typical. I’m alive. I feel so alive. So I’ll take it.
Jameela [00:08:10] As that adrenaline because you’re in promo mode.
Sarah [00:08:13] It is. It’s adrenaline, but it’s also like I finally have found the part of me who regulates. You know what I mean? It used to just be like a sort of existential bungee jump, you know, kind of mode all the time in promo. And now it’s like there’s someone going high. And it’s not just your wonderful podcast producer. And there’s someone going hi, we’re actually human. This there are no stakes here. This is not make or break. You’re not walking a tightrope. You are not your worth and value are not hanging in the balance here. So let’s see if we can’t actually come back into our body and breathe. So that’s helps. It helps me. And I just want to say all my British isms are coming out with you and one of my characters who was what I did, there was a play called Sell Buy Date that the film the film is inspired by a play. In that play I portray this, this is my character. She’s literally sort of a detached I don’t know what I would call it. She’s a professor right. In the in the piece. And it sort of allowed me to not have to be there at all. I’m talking during rehearsal or whatever it was, and whilst I was on stage, I was there. It’s not you. But she’s a detached you know, sort of Oh no, don’t mind me. Sort of concave chest. You know, that very low. Oh, sorry, sorry.
Jameela [00:09:35] She sounds a bit like me, to be honest. No.
Sarah [00:09:38] I think. Well, the good news is, I didn’t know you existed when she came to existence. However, you sound British, so.
Jameela [00:09:46] Yeah. And the way you seamlessly go in and out of all your characters, which we’ll get into in a minute, is fucking flawless. And I had never seen your live Broadway show in which you play all these different characters, which you have a license to play, like all these different background characters because you have such an ethnic diversity in your blood, like truly just the most complex and beautiful DNA possible. Can you tell me exactly all the places that you’re from, which is why you’re able to play this many characters from this many different denominations and backgrounds?
Sarah [00:10:20] So I was going to say I earned it through suffering and I don’t wish it on anyone else. Right. Like I was not tortured as a child. It was, you know, on my mom’s side. So my mom first of all, if people when people see the film, I don’t want to give things away. But anybody if you want to, you know a bit of a clue. She is so white that, you know, when I was walking around with her, people would be like, ma’am, why is that black street urchin clinging to you? You know.
Jameela [00:10:46] Oh my god.
Sarah [00:10:48] I mean, America is so horrific. I’m not saying that, you know, Britain or anywhere in the UK or Europe or anywhere has solved the race problem. But we in America do it so very very deeply.
Jameela [00:10:59] It’s bery on the nose.
Sarah [00:11:00] Quite on the nose. And so the, you know, my mother having white skin privilege from the time I was little, I didn’t know that she was anything else. I just thought I had this white mom. She’s actually a mix of Irish-American, German-American. We have both Christians and Jews on that side. My my fun joke, is that it’s a long story filled with intrigue and interfaith guilt because everybody gets to enjoy that. But my dad, you know, I have Caribbean relatives, so truly at Thanksgiving, it would be like somebody would bring gefilte fish and then a cousin would say, what is this? This is a nightmare I am having. This is a crime against food. It has no flavor. It has not put a spice on it. Please make it spagh. Pick up pepper. Anybody, please help me. So there would be like all these accents round the table arguing, you know, like a race riot, but with gravy. And so I was indoctrinated early into Something’s wrong with us, but we’re also sort of, you know, like we’re different. We don’t look like anybody on television. Our accents are wrong. Our class backgrounds are wrong we’re immigrants or we are, you know, the wrong religion. I certainly I had the wrong hair. I, I could it be president, Jameela, and if you wanted to join, we could be co-presidents. If I could get back all the time I’ve spent straightening this hair, I could be not that I’d want to be president, but I’m just saying. You know, rocket science, many, many careers lost to the dear God, please don’t anyone know I’m African. And the internalized anti-blackness that I experienced from the time I was so little on my father’s side, my family’s African-American from the South in the United States. He grew up with like the hoses and dogs and all the attacks on, you know, literally signs above the department store that said no Negroes or whatever. And so there’s a I’m carrying a lot. And, you know, I’ve heard you share about this. There’s so many opportunities now to talk about trauma and epigenetic heredity. I, I come by all this shit very honestly. And so, yeah, if anyone tries to come for me. I’m sort of like. Hi, I speak your language already or have grown up around it. I know your religion or I’m you know, I married into it, I. I believe that intention is everything when it comes to who I portray and why. My goal is always a lens of rejecting white supremacist, capitalist, cis, hetero patriarchy, able ism. You know, keep going as long as you need to.
Jameela [00:13:30] But you’re being able to be from so many different places all at once and just being all just one human being. And all these people are different and the same and equal and everything. You kind of you are the walking contradiction that I think people are so afraid of when it comes to people mixing and interracial, I mean, they just had to codify interracial marriage in the United States in 2022 because that was on the that was on the chopping block. Like, it’s fucking bonkers. And it’s because people like you who are from this huge multitude of different places, are proof that all of these politics don’t make any fucking sense. All of this hierarchy like it just is. It all gets washed away in someone like yourself. What I love about the way that you’ve chosen to perform is to bring all these different sides of your family and therefore all these different sides of yourself, all together in one. And you’ve put them on stage and you seamlessly move between like young Gen Z, blond, I think white girl potentially, and like an old Jewish grandmother who I think is my favorite character. Who I think is a lot of people’s favorite characters and an incredible left like your your Latina side comes out and this incredible I think she’s a lawyer.
Sarah [00:14:48] She’s actually I’m sorry. I just it’s so hard to like, you know. So, first of all, I’m a fan. I don’t know what you do, like eat extra eggs. I just. I’m always interested in how people get that gloss on their hair. It might be, you know, for me, whatever. We can talk about that. I’m not trying to reduce you to glossy hair, but I’m a human rights advocate. And I mean, how could I not be? Because I’m half Dominican and half Puerto Rican. All proud, as they say. But, you know, you some of us are born into our roles. I think that you are. I think that Sara Jones is very much so. Like, it’s sort of like we don’t have the luxury to be something else. Like if your life is being threatened, then you kind of have to become whatever is the professional equivalent of saving your own fucking life and the lives of the people around you that are, you know, in danger. So I’m not taking any credit, but I do work hard.
Jameela [00:15:34] Yeah. Something I have to say about the documentaries I’d never seen the Broadway show. I’d never seen you bring these characters fully to life. I’ve seen you do them over like my dinner table. And also thought they were amazing, but I didn’t realize, like I because I hadn’t been able to witness it. When I watched your documentary, which is the most unusual documentary I’ve ever seen, and that you use so much kind of like orchestrated comedic kind of skits between your different characters to be able to get across these incredible, tricky, incredibly tricky and like, tense subjects. Your performance is fucking extraordinary. You’re a fucking ridiculous actor. And you directed that which is batshit because you have five different versions of yourself on the script, like the level of precision technically that you have to have, as well as the how natural it seemed, how naturally all these different characters all played by you, interact. You’re like a fucking supernova of talent. I was on. It was. I was blown away. Like, it took me a minute to get into it. Like at first because I was like, what is what is happening?
Sarah [00:16:37] Happening.
Jameela [00:16:38] And then within about 6 minutes, like, I’d forgotten it was you. And then I got lost in it, and I was honestly, like, just taken away by the skill set that you have of not just like how funny you are, how accurate the mannerisms the characters are, but like the emotional depth of each one lives so like deeply in you. And it was a very helpful tool, a really fucking unusual tool, but a really helpful tool to get across that huge subject that I’ve asked you here today to talk about with me, because I thought I knew where I stood on the subject of the sex industry. And also, I want to get into why it’s better to refer to it as the sex industry than necessarily referring to the people within it as sex workers or that that’s also someone’s choice and that’s how they wish to be, if that’s how they wish to be referred to, that is on them and never correct them. But you in this documentary explore whether the sex industry is empowering or exploitative. And you come at this from all of the different possible directions of this argument, which is something that we feel like we’re not really allowed to do anymore. And I understand that, especially as outsiders of the sex industry, we have little to no right to comment. I do think that we are becoming worryingly binary on literally every subject within kind of liberal humanitarian equality. And this is just another example of how like it’s one where you are either on our side and you stick with the rhetoric or you are completely against us. And I think what you’re trying to do in this documentary is find the middle ground. Find the grey area in which you say. I’m not against anyone. I’m just on the side of the truth and the nuance. And so I didn’t get the sense from this that you necessarily fall on any particular side. What you’ve done here is create all of the arguments from the perspective often of all these different characters of yours, as well as actual people from within the sex industry. And you have allowed for us to explore our own opinion. And it’s a fucking clusterfuck for me in my head because I left it just been like, Oh my God, I don’t know. But that in and of itself is so liberating because it meant that I’ve had to consider all of the colors of this rainbow. So thank you for making this documentary, and I would love to get into why did you make this documentary?
Sarah [00:19:01] Well, first of all, why didn’t I just write down every word you said so that I can pipe it directly into my impact deck as we go around telling people why I made this movie? That was it. Everything you just said, and I call it an unorthodoc because it’s a documentary, but it is an extremely unorthodox approach. I know. And you mentioned, you know, like, hi there, my name is Lorraine Levine I out there in I Weigh wind. Jameela Jamil hi sweetheart and you know I am in the movie and we wanted to talk about all the different sides about the women and and Sarah taught me that, oh, my God, I’m having [inaudible] now thinking about it. Binary, not binary. Gender expansion. That’s what I’m supposed to say. Gender expansive people. Anyway, poor Lorraine that took her days to learn gender expansive people, youth. But the idea is that I wanted anyone, if it’s, you know, the holidays and you’re sat around your living room with five generations of people. I think that it is. Hi. Hi. My name’s Bella. Hi Jameela, I’m super stoked that you saw the movie. I’m a star of it, obvi, but, like, not in like, yeah, not in, like, a hierarchical way. I just feel that, like, as a we’re all stars. Okay, let me stop her before she. So the point is that I wanted to hear from a zoomer. I wanted to hear from people who are like sex work. What’s that? You can’t you can’t say that. And there are many different reasons for the things people believe about women, sex and power, especially through the prism, not prison, the prism of, you know, the this industry that many people say it’s the oldest profession. My experience is it’s the oldest conversation we’re not having in an honest present way that could actually be of service to the maximum number of women and femmes and, you know, folks across the gender continuum who are in it for whatever reasons they’re in it. I don’t want people I don’t I this is not a prescription for what everyone is supposed to think at the end of the film. I want people to be surprised and entertained and learn things like The Barbie Doll is based on a German prostitute around World War Two. Like people who are like this industry. This topic has nothing to do with me. Of course it does. You know, your daughter might be on Onlyfans right now. Just kind of like for shits and giggles and you don’t even know it or, you know, you don’t think that porn is relevant to your life, but you have you have to clear your browsing history before your IT person comes in. Because like everyone else, I don’t know anyone who hasn’t watched foreign or considered it or whatever. And so de-stigmatizing all of us, not just people who are in the industry, but looking at the reality of slut shaming and how, you know, for years white men have told all the stories, Pretty Woman, that did not come out of the mind of an actual, you know, woman who has a story about Richard Gere. I’m so sorry. That’s not the typical reality for, you know, people who are actually who have lived experience. So my job was ask the questions, learn something. I had already done a ton of research and I still came out at the end kind of like, okay. I just want everyone to be able to think about this for themselves, but to stop pretending that it’s not relevant. And I mean, if we’re honest men, you know, hetero men now, the rates of anxiety and depression in connection with overuse of porn like this is relevant to all of us women being criminalized and locked up, while the men who are their clients just like walk away and go get a sandwich. Like that is mind boggling to me. And it goes back to what we were talking about. This is Victorian, you know, again, like misogynist women aren’t allowed to be sexual self-determining beings, all of that plus capitalism. You know multiplied by a pandemic. And people need to pay their bills and, you know, shouldn’t be criminalized for whatever choices they’re making.
Jameela [00:23:05] And there’s a hierarchy of privilege that then also massively contributes to your experience within the sex industry.
Sarah [00:23:11] Exactly. And nobody wants to talk about. It’s like we can all admit, right? Two and a half years ago. God, I can’t even do math now. But like George Floyd, we all understood. Oh, some lives are literally not worth anything right in comparison to other lives, and we have to acknowledge that. And yet somehow when it comes to the sex industry, we suddenly all. You know, get all cloudy and fuzzy and don’t understand that the most marginalized people who get into the industry without wanting to be there, we have to talk about that. Any time that we’re going to, you know, and and it is disappointing that feminists who agree on everything else, right. Abortion and and, you know, our need for paid leave and child care, we understand this. And yet, when it comes to this one other issue, I hate to say this, but my experience is, as usual, if we let sorry cis straight white men with money but you do seem to be the root of many evils. Um that’s who’s made who owns Onlyfans. It’s not you, it’s not me. It’s not a brown woman. So I want to see a world in which we’re honest about who’s keeping the money. Why are women being criminalized, who is at risk if they don’t want to be in this industry and then end up, you know, ending up there actually contributes to, you know, a marginalized existence. Trans women, for God’s sake, there’s so much transphobia that you find yourself in a situation where you need to earn and you also don’t feel like you have the self-determination you need in a lot of cases. So I just really wanted to apply the same social justice issues that we all claim to care about to this topic that’s a lot closer. I mean.This is my other favorite example is wholesome families, you know, taking their kids to Hooters after a football game. I want to be like, yes, you’re having buffalo wings, but you’re also having a side of sex industry with those wings. You know, people don’t make the connection, but it’s a continuum of sex and commerce. And if we don’t talk about it honestly, everybody’s disempowered more so than they should be, especially the most vulnerable and marginalized people in our society more broadly.
Jameela [00:25:18] 100%. And and it was and I just also want to say that, like, this is not my first time talking about the sex industry. I have done multiple interviews and they’re also on YouTube and I will do more, but with black trans workers in the sex industry. And so this is not something that I’m only coming to an outsider of the sex industry for. It’s just purely because you have this documentary called Sell Buy Date. It such a great name, by the way.
Sarah [00:25:42] Thank you.
Jameela [00:25:44] That we are discussing this. And there are a plethora of really excellent advocates within the sex industry space in your documentary. But I just want to be clear so that no one thinks that it’s just like two fucking outsiders, just like giving that like $0.02 about something that has not direct, like something that has not been part of our own path. But
Sarah [00:26:06] A lot of it is adjacent, right. It’s adjacent to all of us.
Jameela [00:26:08] 100%, like even in the way that we get objectified, or we get sexualized or we get marketed in this industry or the jobs that we don’t get because we don’t wish to fulfill. I mean, the I have had to turn down like most jobs that have come my way in the last three years because all of them, almost all of them require nudity. An amazing job I just had to turn down. It was like six months in an amazing country with incredible an incredible script and all these different things because constant nudity was required of me. So I couldn’t.
Sarah [00:26:40] Wow.
Jameela [00:26:41] I didn’t want to do it. And not because I’m a prude or because I’m too good. It’s just not my personal journey with my body. Anyway, I just wanted to get that out there so that people know that we’re coming at this from a place of information and and just to have the discussion and there will be more discussions with people within the industry.
Sarah [00:26:58] Yes. Information and if anything, like trying to pass the mic, right. Like I was in a situation where it was like, okay, if Meryl Streep produces my documentary, there are people who are going to watch it just on the strength of that. And then if, you know, there are cameos in there with, you know, Bryan Cranston and Rosario Dawson and, you know, Ilana Glazer, these people who people recognize their names enough that they’ll sit down and watch something that they wouldn’t otherwise. And then they get to meet people like Esperanza Fonseca and Lois Lane and, you know, go watch the movie. I’m not going to give it away. But I will say I wanted to have a conversation. I just wanted we’re smart. We everyone here listening is capable of receiving information and making more informed inquiries into our own. I mean, I forgot that I had, like, wanted to strip in college to, you know, pay some bills. And I had thought like, well, if I just do it this way, you know, I went to a feminist women’s college and I had a certain level of privilege. But I know I know about friends of mine who, you know, made certain decisions and choices at that time, not realizing that it was that they were going to be criminalized and it was going to affect their future employability. Now, my perspective is I want to eventually work on legislation, if I can, with people who already know what they’re doing in that space to make sure that no matter where people fall on this issue, women are not fucking put into jails, prisons. Otherwise having their records permanently affected by what again never affects the vast majority of men in a way that harms them or their lives.
Jameela [00:28:39] Yeah it’s the seller, it’s not the consumer, and it’s it’s rarely even they rarely even find or catch the the pimps or the people who are soliciting. You know.
Sarah [00:28:49] Yeah. And again, but sort of like it’s sort of the rest of what we’re talking about, right? Like, I want to see a world in which you are the director and writing the roles and deciding how much nudity you want or don’t want. And it’s not because, as you said, we’re prudes. I want to live in a world where if I want to get my tits out, I mean, even that language, it’s like. I want new language for it. And then if I want to be able to enjoy my own breasts on camera. You know, I want that world. But we are not there at this moment. For me, it’s more like, let’s explore who has the power, you know, and to make these decisions that influence the topics in the movie.
Jameela [00:29:32] I think more people than not’s hair sort of like stand on end as soon as we start talking about the sex industry. And I think people have, uh, a lot of fear and lost shame around the sex industry. I would like to first delve into the empowering side of the sex industry and talk about the many people in your documentary who’d had like a positive experience. And there was even a woman who owns a brothel in Nevada, in Vegas, where prostitution is legal. And it was like it was incredible. It looked like a kind of like haven for.
Sarah [00:30:04] I hate to interrupt you and say that she doesn’t own it.
Jameela [00:30:07] That’s the only flaw that right righ right
Sarah [00:30:10] She doesn’t, and she was saying that there’s only been one woman in the history.
Jameela [00:30:14] Oh and she’s not one of those women.
Sarah [00:30:15] And she’s not her. A man still owns that brothel.
Jameela [00:30:17] So it’s a man who owns it, oh right, but she runs it. Right, right, right, right, right. So she makes the majority of the right. So he makes the majority still of the earnings rather than the actual women doing the work with the that with many businesses.
Sarah [00:30:29] But she did make a million she she is highly she’s super smart really cares about the union side like yeah so I’ll stop interrupting you.
Jameela [00:30:39] Totally and she has no, no, no that was great. And and she, you know, she’s even got like a sort of gynecology office within the actual brothel to be able to look after the sexual health of the women who were working there. I mean, it was a I’ve never seen anything like that. And so that was illuminating. And and so can you talk to me more about the positive and empowering side of the sex industry?
Sarah [00:31:02] Well, here’s what I want to say. Women are always behind the choices that are better for our health, better for our finances. Right. Like what as I talked to women, it was like we’re trying to make sure that we have, you know, some kind of union or we’re trying to make sure that we prioritize our health. And, you know, just like with any other job issues that people go through, you have to deal with bosses and you’re trying to fight for your best rights. And I love getting to hear from people who are advocates, who are, you know, highly I mean, these women, they’re almost like politicians. I’m like, you’re brilliant. And, you know, I want to make sure that people get to hear all the different ways that if you’re in this industry, you are advocating for yourself. One of the first women I meet is an advocate, and it was freeing for me to be reminded like, Yeah. I want to live in a world where women who are in this industry are controlling their own narratives. Are, you know, she’s a public speaker as well as the work that she does. And I was really inspired and I’m still friends with, you know, everybody I met who shared their experiences with me. And those women also said, you know, we want to make sure we’re earning the maximum. People sometimes think that we’re huge stars if we’re in this porn or that porn. But somebody else actually is making all that money as a producer. And we’re not or, you know, we’d love to be able to take more time off. This is a hard job, so it was great to kind of hear that in some ways their concerns are very similar to anyone in it. Right. Like and I think even either SAG or one of the unions, you know, in entertainment, I believe we voted to either include, you know, folks who work in the sex industry under and it might have been limited to sort of like, you know, folks working in strip clubs or something like that. But I was like, yes, this is a start to like saying if you are in this industry, you deserve, you know, probably more than the rights and.
Jameela [00:33:01] Well, you’re an entertainer. Yeah you need the rights and the help, yeah.
Sarah [00:33:03] You’re an entertainer. You need the protection.
Sarah [00:33:06] You need right. OSHA, we need all of that for those who are in the industry. So that was huge for me, was kind of getting into that, that conversation with people who live it and understand it.
Jameela [00:33:17] And, you know, we saw like we know we had a lot stories of people making astonishing amounts of money on onlyfans the beginning of the pandemic, where they’d gone from having to work in strip clubs, where they felt like their safety was undermined. They had to spend more hours away from their kids and they were working for way less money and having to hand it over to the people who owned the strip clubs. Suddenly being able to take their clothes off on Onlyfans and making like so I mean some people this is obviously not the case for everyone and it got less and less depending on how marginalized you are. But a lot of people cis, you know, slim cis young women were making like 17 grand in a week on Onlyfans and, you know, until celebrities got involved and fucked the whole thing up like it was profitable and gave people like a lot of kind of empowerment in that. It’s like, right, well, I call the shots and this money goes straight into my bank account and I choose when.
Sarah [00:34:09] Yeah, I don’t have to necessarily leave my house.
Jameela [00:34:11] So that to me I thought was like an important narrative in the sex industry of like, oh, this is how it could be when everyone is given agency and safety and autonomy, which not everyone has.
Sarah [00:34:23] And I think that entrepreneurial piece that you’re talking about, I mean, he’s a man, so that was tricky. But I end up talking to a man who, you know, that sort of points to all of this. And talks about the difference between I mean, because let’s be real, right? Women need access to all kinds of services that you usually can’t get if you’re working at Wal-Mart or wherever. And if you can get that working through Onlyfans or again, I know women who do Seeking Arrangements to pay their, you know, technology, there’s so many things that have any.
Jameela [00:34:54] Can you breakdown for anyone who doesn’t know what Seeking Arrangements means.
Sarah [00:34:56] Sorry, Seeking Arrangements is a sort of it’s a platform that allows women and femmes and, you know, gender expansive folks to offer the services that a buyer wants that minimal. My understanding is, for the most part, you can somebody can say, I just want a photo of your feet and you send them this photo of your feet. It allows you to make money, you know, with minimally invasive involvement in your life by some stranger or a person you don’t know. It’s sort of a pairing matching, you know, system service that lets people who want to make money this way make that money without, you know, again, endangering themselves, hopefully. Here’s the tricky part Jameela, and I’m still learning myself. So I didn’t know the numbers on only fans got as challenged as they did. Right. As you said, celebrities, if you’re Black China. Right. If you’re.
Jameela [00:35:58] [Inaudible] Yeah.
Sarah [00:35:58] Right. If you’re adjacent to fame and all of that, it’s a very different story than if, like I than some of the numbers I heard about monthly earnings for your average person because as you said, it flattened out. The celebrity piece came in. And the truth is that while they made billions, I believe during the pandemic itself, the company, the actual breakdown and proportion of what the average person was making, as you said, unfortunately, if you are of a different race or ethnicity, if you are not what the buyer is buying, all of a sudden your wages don’t look at all like the slim white or light skinned or whatever that, you know, younger, that preference thing. So as we’re talking about this, it’s so key to say the same kind of racism and body shaming and, you know, kind of limit, like the sort of marginalization that we know happens across the spectrum of the rest of society happens in this world as well, and impacts how much money people can earn. And that’s real too.
Jameela [00:37:02] Right.
Sarah [00:37:02] So I think the hard part for me was learning that there are all of these possibilities, just like in our larger society, like we want we don’t want to be MeToo’d, right? Like and I mean, the adjacency like Harvey Weinstein was buying the sex buyer in terms of.
Jameela [00:37:17] Yeah.
Sarah [00:37:18] Right. So we’re clear about that.
Jameela [00:37:19] And it’s an exchange. It’s a solicitation. It’s an exchange.
Sarah [00:37:23] It’s a transaction.
Jameela [00:37:24] I will get you this role. I will get you this awards if you do as I say. Right.
Sarah [00:37:28] Yeah. And hi. There’s a casting couch, right? Like we all know this term, this is not new. This is not a few bad apples. This is a whole orchard that we’ve all been living with forever and ever. And, you know, it can look like marriage. I mean, I talked to a couple of women in the industry who were like, when you get a diamond ring, you’re just getting a lump payment. Don’t you look at me and slut shame me because I don’t have to clean his dirty knickers. So I really learned a lot about how much, you know, those of us who we do it in this society all the time, we shame footballer’s wives or whatever it is. It’s all on a continuum of women have this amount of worth and value. Men who obviously make more money have been the ones down through history who can afford to be the kind of demand for the supply. And so how can we have a more progressive, feminist, new ways of doing it, whether it’s, you know, feminist porn or whether it’s, you know, women being in control in owning their own collectives or brothels or all of that. That’s what I’m interested in. And here’s the hard part, Jameela. I didn’t know how to unpack my own trauma to even like the the statistics around this. Right. The average the age average age of an at risk girl. So let’s say you don’t have the support that you need at home or you’re living in poverty or you’re living without, you know, a kind of access to decent housing, education, jobs, that kind of thing that makes you at risk, right? You’re more likely to be trolled or policed or, you know, end up in the criminal justice system, all of that. The average age of being exposed to the sex industry for the first time is 12 or 13. Now, when I remember, I grew up in New York walking down the street tall like you and, you know, people, men were cat calling me from the time I was 12 or 13. It was just a part of society. So for us to pretend that there’s something shocking about, you know, young girls being exposed to this, we’re just turning a blind eye. And then once they turn 18, we’re like, oh, well, you know, you made that choice. And it’s like, well, yes, you did. And also, let’s unpack that a little bit. You know, did you not make the choice the night of your 18th birthday, like 24 hours earlier, you weren’t capable of making choices. But once you go to bed and wake up suddenly you’re a full. You know what I mean? When the human brain doesn’t fully develop until we’re 28. So I’m interested in what does choice look like? What does freedom and power and accessibility look like in a world where no workers, if you work for Amazon, good luck not having to pee in a bottle.
Jameela [00:40:05] Or an iPhone factory in China.
Sarah [00:40:06] Or an IPhone factory in China, or you know what I mean? So I think for me, it’s sort of like acknowledging that the people who want to attack people in the sex industry and say, oh, you’re you know, you’re just acting out of your trauma or blah, blah, blah. I’m sorry, everyone. The day you came out of your mother’s womb or, you know, whatever, a C-section was a traumatic day. Everyone goes through trauma and micro trauma that none of us are processing in this society from the time we’re tiny. And so to pretend that there’s something especially, you know, I guess what I’m trying to say is I learned that if you want to understand better what’s going on in the sex industry, you take the macro, the kind of 30,000 foot drone view of capitalism, of racism, of sexism, transphobia, homophobia, ableism, and then you’ll understand what is our work that’s cut out for us as both allies and people who have lived experience themselves. That’s what I hope people come away with. Also. It’s a fun watch. That’s what Busy Philipps said. I like that. That was her quote. I was like, I’ll take it, it’s a fun watch.
Jameela [00:41:21] There’s a moment where you and it’s a really moving and it was the sort of the most staggering and one of the most staggering moments in the documentary for me, where you talk to some indigenous people in the United States who break down for you how many of them get trafficked, kidnaped, harmed, murdered, go missing. All inextricably linked to the sex industry. Right. So whether they even want to consent to it or not. And I think trafficking is a hugely important subject. And it’s important not to muddle the two too much, because I think people who advocate for the sex industry very much so, are obviously clearly against trafficking, but they say in this that they don’t think that the goal for them is to obliterate the sex industry altogether. Now, when I heard that, I totally saw where they were coming from again, not my fucking place, but I don’t think the sex industry is ever going to go away. I don’t think there’s anything that can ever make that go away. And it’s not just women who work within the sex industry. It’s people who are non-binary, plenty of men as well. And I think that there is a way for this to be a service like I know escorts who do have who do enjoy their work and do feel like they are fulfilling a need and creating a service and making people happy and and and filling a void in someone’s life. I know there are people who are sex workers who work with people with disabilities who cannot access sex otherwise
Sarah [00:42:50] Any other way.
Jameela [00:42:50] Who consider their work to be like incredibly intimate, incredibly important and life saving, a life changing. And so I don’t see the sex industry at large going away, but I think where this I think the more realistic side of this, this whole argument is the and I think this is where a lot of people get very confused and I think is where a lot of us make mistakes. I’ve definitely made that mistake in the past is discerning between decriminalizing and legalizing. And I feel like that to me is one of the bigger subjects that can create that at least the start of the gateway to especially women’s liberation within the sex industry, so that if we choose to to exist within if we can, at least as you said earlier in this chat, not be fucking the only ones penalized and criminalized for it, where then it’s harder to adopt if we want to. It’s harder to get work. You can’t vote, like all of your rights. You can’t get an apartment.
Sarah [00:43:45] Apartment, you can’t get a lease. Right.
Jameela [00:43:46] I have friends who are trans and black and living in New York who, if they are a sex worker, no one can if they work in the sex industry, rather that no one can allow them to live with them. So they can’t sign on someone’s lease because technically that person who’s allowing them to live with them can be prosecuted for being a pimp because they have someone within the sex industry living with them who’s technically soliciting, maybe like on their phone from the premises. And so people are too afraid to allow someone from the sex industry to live with them, like is fucking fucked.
Sarah [00:44:23] It’s it’s Draconian.
Jameela [00:44:23] So break down the difference between decriminalizing and legalizing.
Sarah [00:44:27] So here’s the thing. There are there are stages of decriminalization. That’s also this could not be more complicated and fraught. And I want to say, like, part of what I’m doing now is going around with the film and speaking, you know, people are invited to participate so that we can have more of an unpacking because I don’t claim to have the if you’re watching film, you’ll know, I say, you know, listen for the expert voices of which I am not claiming to be one.
Jameela [00:44:56] No, no, no. I’m not asking from your perspective. I’m asking what you learned through the documentaries.
Sarah [00:45:00] Yeah, absolutely. So here’s the tricky part. If women my my standpoint, like my personal belief system is that wherever women are being penalized for this or criminalized for this, it is a sign of misogyny. It is a sign of, you know, the usual everything we’re seeing with you know, Dobbs and Roe v Wade, it’s the same men using their laws and their power to penalize women for everything, you know,
Jameela [00:45:28] Everything.
Sarah [00:45:28] Everything. I mean, for breathing. For existing. And so I’m very clear about that. Then where so basically the idea is that no woman should ever be criminalized in any way for, you know, selling sex for, you know, whether she calls it survival sex or she’s sex worker, self proclaimed or sort of self-identified, I should say, or whether she’s an escort or whatever the name is and the title, no one should ever be criminalized for that. That is my belief, especially women and femmes. And the disproportionate number of people who do this work are women and femmes. Yes, there are men. It’s just the proportion is so much smaller. I literally don’t go into it in the doc. So all of this to say, then there’s the kind of legalization that would allow pimps who aren’t who are keeping all the money and not, you know, sort of advocating for women and. Women’s empowerment in this way to keep the money, have more power. They’re the bosses. Right. So I like to frame this in terms of labor. I just want to see the workers themselves, the people who are in this world in the most possible control and getting to make self-determining choices as an industry about what they’re keeping and what’s going to, you know, affect them in their work. If a pimp or a brothel owner, it’s men. I know, I keep saying this, but if you when you for the most part are in this industry, you’re either being controlled by the men in the criminal justice system. And when I say the men, I mean at the top. I’m not talking about, you know. It’s television is so confusing. It makes you think that suddenly everyone’s black and brown in, you know, like criminal justice and like, every judge is like a nice brown woman. That’s not what’s actually going on here. You mostly have cis straight white men continuing to control the lives, the bodies and these economies through either their ownership or their ability to make laws that don’t reflect what people actually want and need. So that is my concern is that if you have full legalization.
Jameela [00:47:34] Decriminalization yeah. That’s what I was going to say. That’s what I was going to say is like legalizing it then allows for the sex traffickers and for the pimps and for all of these different people to then be able to carry on at will and then face no investigation, no unionization, and no prosecution. If they are abusing the human rights and kidnaping girls off the street like we are the highest numbers of, I think, sex trafficking this year that we’ve ever had. Like the numbers are on the on the rise every single year. And we are at like a kind of breaking point of girls going missing. I’ve had multiple friends almost kidnaped on holidays to like big cities like Atlanta and Vegas. Like I get terrified when my friends are like out drinking in one of these kind of hotspot cities where there’s a big section of traffic. And the reason that these places are is a) because they have the most tourists, there’s the most people to be able to snatch. But also because you’re less likely in the hustle and bustle of an airport to notice
Sarah [00:48:31] To get lost.
Jameela [00:48:32] everyone, yeah, you’re you’re more likely to get lost and less likely to be noticed that you might be a young woman in trouble or drugged or unable to leave the person who has fucking kidnaped you.
Sarah [00:48:42] Can I just add as well, like we just came off, you know, the World Cup is such a great way to look at this from a global perspective. We I want to get honest about how much the misogyny, the, you know, kind of culture of male violence against women and other genders is at the core of this. It doesn’t mean that everyone who watches porn or buys sex is violent. It means that we have to acknowledge that the the core of the way things work now, while women are not empowered to, you know, kind of run things themselves, is steeped in the same violence that we see, you know, at the Super Bowl in America or the World Cup.
Jameela [00:49:24] But also, speaking of the World Cup. Sorry to cut you off, but. So the World Cup, U.N. week and the Olympics are three of the biggest events of human sex trafficking of mostly women, not only women, but mostly the vast, vast majority, like 90% or something. They are the three biggest sex trafficking events because it is the most concentration of men. In your documentary, you explore the fact that even when a pipeline is being created because all of the workers the construction and laborers, are men almost entirely there’s a height, there’s a heightening of sex trafficking and kidnaping, and women go missing and violence against women and men’s violence against women in those areas to fulfill the needs of these man camps, as called so the World Cup, when I can’t now literally can’t watch the World Cup now. And I find it very hard to participate in UN week and I can’t deal with the Olympics because now all I can think about is like, Oh my God, how many girls are trapped in hotel rooms? Like in the hotel I’m staying in during U.N. week, like, how many girls are in these rooms against their will or being underpaid or like or exploited? And that part of it fucks me up. And so we have to be very careful that we talk about decriminalizing those who are in the sex industry, whether it is, you know, against their will or, you know, at their will. But we cannot decriminalize it for anyone else. In my opinion.
Sarah [00:50:52] Here’s what I would. Yes, here’s what I would say. We and just like with everything else, follow the money. Follow the power, follow the people who get to make the laws, and you will understand all the other violence. And so that’s why to me, making Sell Buy Date was about a larger sort of intersectional conversation about social justice full stop. I’m talking about what’s happening in Iran right now. I’m talking about, you know, what’s happening with women not having the right to choose in the U.S.. All of these ways in which we are stripped of our right to our own bodies, to our own labor, to an economy where we have any kind of control and power. They’re connected up. And, you know, as you said, places where men are gathering. We’re not teaching generations of men and boys to respect women. We’re teaching them that buying women is sometimes their only option. And I don’t want a world in which the only way men think or hetero men think they can, you know, sort of be deserving of connection or have connection is by being in situations where in many cases not all, but in many cases they’re dominating the most vulnerable people in their society. Because I mean, and I’m sorry to say, I walked down a beach in Dominican Republic, you know, doing research for this project and was solicited by a million white guys for not quite a million, but white guys from Canada, from Germany, from Norway. And this is, you know sex work.
Jameela [00:52:20] And just to say it’s legalized in Dominican Republic.
Sarah [00:52:21] It’s legal in Dominican Republic. So these men, they come there because they know that their wife at home, you know, these are so-called respectable white men. And it really breaks down the idea of like and I well, I remember being in Calcutta. In Calcutta in the most. It’s the largest open air brothel in the world. Oh, my God. I’m blanking on it now. There’s there’s an entire cast and there’s a group of girls and women who are just born into this. Sonagachi. And the idea is that this is a big marketplace where you’re just available, whether you chose it or not. So I’m trying to look at our globe. I mean, in the film, we stay within the United States, but I’m working on an anthology series, you know, like a and how do we talk about this in a way that centers the women themselves while acknowledging that we live in a giant cauldron of inequality? And so as long as that cauldron of inequality is still bubbling at every level, we need to be more honest about how the sex industry impacts. You know, as you said, some men as well. And again, I think here’s here’s the thing that’s so fascinating to me. Love and connection. I’m not trying to get all woo woo. You mentioned about, you know, sort of the right to sex, right and the right to like if people have are a part of the disability community. I want to make sure that it’s not always men who always have the need and, you know, have the means to procure the kind of services that they need and never women. Whenever I looked at this stuff, whenever I looked across the board, it was like men’s needs. And I’m not saying that it’s wrong to have needs. We all have them. But I wanted to look at how the supply and demand piece functions so that it’s not always the same power dynamic in play. And that was I was like, Oh shit.
Jameela [00:54:16] Yeah, there’s more of a stigma and shame around women feeling like they can solicit, not they can solicit, they can have an escort or they can have someone.
Sarah [00:54:24] There’s so much there and.
Jameela [00:54:26] And can pay someone for sex, yeah.
Sarah [00:54:26] Right. And there’s women are far more likely to have earned so much less that it’s not even a question for us. Right. So I want us to look at a world in which we claim we want equality, we want equity, we want, you know, kind of access for everyone
Jameela [00:54:42] Agency yeah.
Sarah [00:54:43] Agency, choice making that’s coming from a place of I have all the options in the world and this is what I choose. And in a place like America where we have, you know, I mean, people don’t I think my health care is going to run out in like 5 minutes, like, you know, and I have relative privilege. But I know as a black woman, I stood in a red light district window in Amsterdam, and I looked just like the other Surinamese immigrant women who are fetch a lower price. Like, I got to watch it in real time. I got to watch what the ways we devalue certain people and bodies on this planet. How does that impact this topic and how do we make sure that without shaming, blaming or harming anyone, we have a more honest conversation about it that also reminds us of these women’s humanity. Like I had to keep telling people, they’re like, Oh sounds, so. And I’m like, this is not an episode of SVU where there’s like a bunch of faceless women in the back of a van who, you know, are from some vague, unnamed Asian country. These are people. And so I’m I also needed to remind myself, hopefully by doing this film snd directing it and making my life quite unmanageable. For that time, the whole point was to make sure that at the end of the film, people feel like they met some friends. Not oh a dirty who-. You can’t believe the lang- Like the stuff that people say. Maureen, the character in the film, she was like, ladies of the evening, you know, you could see her face kind of the shame and the ways that we stigmatize women and our sexuality is at the core of this as well. And so is, I think, men believing that they either should be able to buy or have to buy. I mean, I think of Trump and Stormy Daniels, you know, somebody who I would love to see, a world in which healthy people get to have exchanges, want to exchange sex, where they want to be from a healthy place.
Jameela [00:56:37] And from a healthy place in which they are also safe because that unbelievable amount of like attacks and murders can happen within the sex industry if you are going someone department of they are coming to yours like women especially are killed in hotel rooms. We also see this, you know, among cis gay men. You know, we hear of these horror stories. But yeah, and I know that like a lot of the black trans workers in the sex industry have told me that, you know, like they have experienced extreme violence. And we have a you know, let’s zoom out again and talk about the criminal justice system at large as to the fact that when you say that you have been assaulted, if you’re lucky enough to survive, the percentage of convictions are so low because they throw the book at you, they throw your you’ve had more than like two partners. If you have done if you have worn revealing clothes, then these things can lessen the chance of you getting justice right. And so imagine what it’s like if you are someone who works within the sex industry, imagine the chances of you A) not being given justice because of the profession you work in. As if it’s as ridiculous as saying that marital rape can’t exist. It’s fucking bonkers that just because you.
Sarah [00:57:51] Which until 5 minutes ago in this country. Exactly. We’re like, Oh, it’s a domestic issue. We won’t get involved.
Jameela [00:57:56] Exactly. But also you run the risk of then if you go to someone and say, I was attacked and this is the scenario which I was attacked, you get put in jail because you were doing something that is still criminalized across the vast majority of the United States as a fucking like we have to find a way to make it safer for those who choose who choose being the operative word to participate within this industry. And I think that’s where you and I both come down on this. I mean, I’ve had I’ve had an argument on this podcast with Gloria Steinem about this issue.
Sarah [00:58:29] I saw you at Gloria thing.
Jameela [00:58:30] I love her so much. I love her so much. But, you know, we came down on different sides of this and we’re talking about the criminalizing issue and arguing about the criminalizing issue. And I’d recently spent a lot of time with black trans sex workers who were telling me that they didn’t want to get into the sex industry, but they had to because they
Sarah [00:58:47] Right they had no choice.
Jameela [00:58:47] They couldn’t get a choice because they their Social Security name had a different. It was their dead name
Sarah [00:58:54] Their dead name.
Jameela [00:58:54] And so so then they had to expose the fact that they were trans. That made it much harder for them to be employed and to be paid as a therefore this was the only way they could survive.
Sarah [00:59:03] And then they’re criminalized. And let’s just can I add police are doing some of the most abusing when if you if you call the police, if you’re trying to protect yourself, they they know how disempowered you are in this scenario and they’ll ask you for a blowjob were there I mean so I don’t mean to overst-. I don’t want to make this too
Jameela [00:59:25] Negative.
Sarah [00:59:25] Right. What I’m trying to say is, just like with everything else in our society, we need an overhaul, we need a full overhaul. And I’m here for it. As an ally, I don’t have lived experience in the sex industry myself, although I’m damn close. And I believe that anyone who’s feminist could watch this film as at least a jumping off point. Most people don’t talk about it at all, or as you said, with, you know, even those of us you are very diligent and very well-educated about all the things. And I think this is one area where many of us as feminists and as activists across the gender spectrum who care, we don’t talk about it. We don’t have, you know, kind of a way to talk about it without attacking each other, unfortunately, a lot of the time. So hopefully the film lets people open up a dialogue. It might not be, you know, I’m a little if Sarah hadn’t put me in the movie, I’m not going to lie to you. I might not be the first one to sign up for, you know, a little after dinner sex industry movie. But you younger people, I know that you’re ready for it and we hope that you’ll watch it because it can open up a dialogue. I did want to say this one thing, which is, you know, I didn’t know Billie Holiday did did survival sex or really the proper term for it is she was a trafficked child because she was 15. But, you know, this this treasure of culture globally was in was involved in this you know, you could say involuntarily. I mean, I would say as a child, you’re not capable of consenting and. So even the term that some people use child prostitution or whatever, it’s actually. We need to get clearer, right, and get honest about our values that if we understand what this all is, it will help us stop putting it into silos and instead see it as a continuum. Woody Allen half his films are about, you know, some relationship with some old white man, either controlling or, you know, sort of transacting with some very young girl. I think we need to talk about how much this is more mainstream than any of us realize. It is not every.
Jameela [01:01:31] It’s permeated every part of our culture.
Sarah [01:01:34] Everything. It’s your Barbie doll. And so once you know that, don’t look away. Have a conversation with your kid, because I promise you, they are they’re they’re watching porn at ten and 11, whether you think they are or not. And so, again, it’s not to shame them. It’s to invite a conversation about healthy sexuality connection.
Jameela [01:01:52] Yeah. As long as this industry exists in the shadows. And I think that’s where we both stand on this. Right? We’re just like everyone needs more information. Everyone needs more rights.
Sarah [01:02:01] Let’s talk about it.
Jameela [01:02:01] The people who don’t need more rights the ones who are exploiting certain people within this industry, even the most empowered, and like financially, which is a tiny, tiny minority, but really the most like financially stable or like affluent people who work within the sex industry. There’s almost always a man is making ten times more.
Sarah [01:02:24] Pretty much he’s off to Switzerland.
Jameela [01:02:25] Off of her back. Right. There’s off of her back so. So it’s just very rare for there to be any kind of like stability and equality. And I think all you and I want is for people to not turn away, because as long as this continues to exist within the shadows, whether it’s consensual or non-consensual, rights are able to be abused. And we can talk about factory workers, but we somehow cannot seem to have this conversation sanely and calmly. And hopefully you and I have done a good enough job at just making sure that we we stick to the facts, we stick to the statistics, we stick to the information. And we are on the side of any woman who participates within of any person. But right now, we’re focusing on the most exploited group, which is women, specifically women of color, specifically trans women of color within this industry. But we want everyone to have the same yeah, we want everyone to have the same rights. We want everyone to have safety. And we want everyone to not feel shame about whatever it is that they do to survive.
Sarah [01:03:22] Yes. And I just want to add quickly, this is also about all of us, the slut shaming piece I have had internalized slut shaming in my life without even realizing it in every language. Puta, you know, putain en france or whatever. It’s the worst curse word is to call a woman a whore or to say whore. Right. So how can we understand that this is all connected, even our own self liberation. We’re only as free as the freest woman. So I hopefully I see this as an opportunity to also, you know, heal ourselves of whatever kind of, you know misogynist, self shaming. You hear women call each other hos and what, you know. Not from not from a place of love. So I think that the whole the larger conversation is about can we start from a place of love, compassion, honesty, you know, digging into this from a place of the same feminism that. It’s I Weigh it’s the same principles behind why you did this, getting us out of shadows and talking about who we really are from a place of, you know, like valuing ourselves, all of us. Valuing all of us.
Jameela [01:04:28] So let’s say someone’s listened to this and come at this from different angles. Maybe they’re considering the sex industry more empowering than they had before they listen to it. Maybe they’re considering it more disempowering and more dangerous. How does how what do we do next if we, as those in solidarity, would like to be helpful? What are some steps you think that we could take in order to be as supportive as possible to this fight for equality?
Sarah [01:04:56] Yes. So since as we’re talking about this. Right, we know that there are white women in my film who are. Who are talking about it from their perspective. There are trans women of color who are talking about it from their perspective. My usual approach is to follow the most marginalized group. That’s who, right, if you start with the folks who are most kind of vulnerable to the worst abuses and look at their scholarship, listen to their voices. You know, I love organizations like grant makers for Girls of Color. They know to like send. Right? They’re not saying only if you believe this about the, you know, sex industry or only if you believe that they’re saying blanket, we are kind of the canary in the coal mine. So I try to listen to the people who are being led by, you know, folks with lived experience on multiple sides, but who all understand we need funding, we need legal, you know, kind of overhaul. We need to make sure that we are talking about actual factsm right, statistics, right? Because otherwise, like you said, I was like, Onlyfans is amazing, I’m going to go on onlyfans. And then I found the stats of like Ooh, $40 a month. If you unless you’re famous. That sounds terrible. So working from a fact based approach for me, looking at where are we supporting toxic masculinity and not realizing it in as much as it impacts this industry? So a group like a call to men, I find them very strong. They are a they’re cis, straight black men who are talking about black trans women and, you know, kind of how to make sure that we center black trans women in any other narratives around all of this and who’s empowered. So I go to them. I go to, as I said, Grant Makers for Girls of Color. It’s interesting to me because they understand the economic piece so deeply. There’s girls for gender, girls for gender equity, understands the kind of across the gender spectrum. Right. It’s not this non-binary conversation. So any place that people are talking about empowerment for gender expansive girls, gender expansive people of color. I start there and look at what are they asking for? A lot of times they’re saying stop criminalizing and stop arresting, you know, black trans women, etc.. So they’re on board with that. That’s a clue for me that as soon as I see the absence of shaming and polarizing, that’s where I go. I go in the direction of people who are trying to sort of, you know, be the the tide that lifts the boats of everybody, regardless of what side they’re on. As soon as I see people pitting, you know, arguments against each other and your you know, my enemy, blah, blah, blah, then I’m like, that’s just not feminist. I’m sorry. If you’re not here for the majority of women who are the most vulnerable, then I’m not going to follow that path. So those are a few organizations that have been really helpful to me.
Jameela [01:07:52] And I would also like, you know, I would love to be a part of ending the black market. That is my ultimate thing when it comes to drugs. And you know why
Sarah [01:08:01] All of it.
Jameela [01:08:02] I would like so many things. We would like to, you know, decriminalize certain aspects of each of these industries as that black market is what leads to human trafficking, whether it’s for labor or sex. Right. And so my biggest hope, like the people that I’m not concerned with, are the ones who are making 17 grand on Onlyfans. I’m thinking about the people who are being trafficked into this. The reason that traffickers are partially able to get away with it is because they know that these girls and little boys have nowhere to go because technically what they are engaging with is illegal.
Sarah [01:08:33] It’s under the radar it doesn’t exist it’s .
Jameela [01:08:35] Yes. It’s always under the radar, like, we have to find a way to like break the black market so that it is only by choice that you enter an industry. Any industry.
Sarah [01:08:46] Totally. And here’s what I would say to that. Just like more broadly, right? We want rights for nurses. We want rights for, you know, actors, directors. We want to make sure that people are not having to do survival jobs for survival. But, you know, so as long as we understand that this has to be folded into any conversation about labor, I would love to see more of our politicians. Everybody who watches the film says, Oh, I get it now. But if they’re afraid to talk sex industry because there is so much stigma. So I’m asking people to follow along. Tell your people, normalize this conversation.
Jameela [01:09:21] And watch the doc, and watch the doc. Because it was really unique in how much you don’t fall on any of the sides of the conversation. You are on the side of human beings.
Sarah [01:09:32] That’s my goal. I like the humans. I’m sure I’m trying to be here for the humans. And lastly, I will say this. I forgot to tell you this, Jameela. Because my name is Sarah Jones. I think the only other name more common is Mohammed on Earth. It’s very hard for people to find me. So if they’re looking to engage in this conversation and find the film, it’s Yes I’m Sarah Jones. I just wanted to say that before I forgot.
Jameela [01:09:56] No, I’m glad. I’m glad that you did. And follow Sarah, because she’s hilarious and she’s putting meaningful work out to the world. And you are such a decorated performer and creator, and I’m so happy to see all the work that you’re doing and to see the success you’re having. And may, may we just get more and more of you because you are really, really, really, really special. And thank you for coming here to talk to me today. Would you mind, please, telling me before you go? Sarah Jones, what do you weigh.
Sarah [01:10:27] I Weigh my emotional health. I weigh my sense of humor about how emotionally unhealthy I sometimes am. I weigh my community. Who teaches me how much I don’t know. I Weigh my funny tall brown friends. With whom I identify and who help me continue to show up on this path. And I weigh my faith that even if an industry isn’t ready to talk about this and I have to make the film independently without, you know, certain companies behind me that the audience is ready for this kind of conversation. And I’m I’m here for it. I’m going to keep doing it. I don’t only have to do what my agent tells me.
Jameela [01:11:15] 100%. And and thank you for putting this out there. I know that when the film even got announced that you were going to make it, there was a tremendous like a pretty astonishing amount of backlash given that people a were fine with it when it was on Broadway and it did unbelievably well, which is how I even got proposed to be turned into something on the television. But also B, people didn’t know what it was going to be about or whose side, or that you would include almost mostly I would say most it’s either you or actual people who work within the industry. And that is very evocative of a problem that we keep seeing again and again and again where the conversation gets stifled before it’s even had. And and you almost weren’t able to make this this film because people had so many assumptions and because that we’re also trigger happy with cancelation and were also protective and defensive, understandably, because especially people who work in the sex industry have been under so much attack from all sides and from all genders.
Sarah [01:12:21] For so long, for so long.
Jameela [01:12:21] For the time immemorial. But like, but it’s important that we are a little bit slower, I think, to to criticize until we’ve actually seen the work. I understand everybody is kind of red alert, but it would have been shit for a lot of people had a project like this so many other projects similar had not been made because we wouldn’t have been able to have the conversation because it’s only with information that we can actually see these things clearly. And it doesn’t have to be a war and it doesn’t have to be polarizing. This can always just be a conversation as long as the person who’s at the heart of it is coming from a place of love and a knowledge of their own ignorance and a willingness and an openness and a curiosity to learn. So thank you for being that vessel for the rest of us. Thank you for introducing me to so many extraordinary advocates within the sex industry space via this film, and thank you for making it in spite of a huge backlash.
Sarah [01:13:18] Thank you.
Jameela [01:13:19] I know that was stressful and scary. I remember. I remember at the time.
Sarah [01:13:24] Yeah, it was. It was. Let’s just say I’m glad to be here now. I’m glad to be here with you. I’m glad I Weigh exits.
Jameela [01:13:30] Have you found that people have said, oh, this is very different to what I thought it was going to be. Have you seen like a big relieved
Sarah [01:13:37] Yes. Everyone everyone. The sigh of relief. It’s like it just blows through my hair. I just feel like I’m always, you know, getting somebody saying, Oh, phew. And I want to say but I told you.
Jameela [01:13:46] I also I also just wanted to ask you before before you go, that you have people from very different sides of this argument in your film. What have they said about the film, having seen another point of view, exhibited very clearly, like on both sides, like has there been like pushback from them or have they been like, oh, I hadn’t thought about that or I’m glad both sides are being represented.
Sarah [01:14:07] So one of the wildest things I experienced was when we had our premiere at South By people in the film all came together, many of whom are diametrically opposed on this issue and feel like, you know, the other side is in their way or is attacking them. And I got to watch some of these women who like hate each other on Twitter like get together, have drinks, exchanged phone numbers. I cried. I couldn’t. I was like, oh, it was like my the Thanksgiving table that we started out talking about here, it was like, oh, you know, like it’s okay for the Dominican, you know, people to have they’re like, you know, it’s okay if we have [inaudible] over here and they can have their gefilte fish over there and we can actually all, you know, like get together and and not have to we can come from the place of our commonality. And I know that sounds so corny. But yeah, I’ll get her out of here and just say that. I really do feel like everybody’s got the same goal. Everybody is just saying, Hey, please don’t shit on me. That’s basically the goal. There’s a terrible joke that I’m not going to reach for right now. Because.
Jameela [01:15:15] Okay well.
Sarah [01:15:15] Most people are saying dont shit on me.
Jameela [01:15:17] It makes me really happy to hear that people got together and actually were able to hash out in a human way. I think that’s the Internet is a beautiful and brilliant communicative thing, but it also can create a huge breakdown in comms. And we just need to fucking have the conversations with each other face to face, wherever we can. And now that things are opening up in the world better, we need to join in more of these spaces. And you have inspired me to get further into this in my own attempt in solidarity. So thank you for keeping me in- there’s so many fights happening in the world right now and this is one of the most important ones. And
Sarah [01:15:51] It really is.
Jameela [01:15:52] Because the conversation never gets had, it’s easy to forget about this conversation because we have shunned everyone into the shadows and you’ve put it right back where it’s supposed to be, which is at the forefront of a lot of our minds, because you’re right, it is integrated in every part of our society. So thank you, Sarah.
Sarah [01:16:07] Thank you for using your platform because if you don’t do this, as I said, it’s independent. It’s out there on Amazon and Apple, but it’s not being pumped into everyone’s faces like an Avengers film. So this is the sex industry Avengers. And it’s it’s a different flavor but it’s hopefully something people will watch and you’re making that happen. And I really appreciate it.
Jameela [01:16:32] Well, please come back any time. There are a million other subjects that we should discuss, but thank you for being here today.
Sarah [01:16:36] I’m hear we can discuss JetBlue, Socks and Spindrift and many other things we have in common.
Jameela [01:16:42] Lots of love.
Sarah [01:16:45] Lots of love, too, mwah.
Jameela [01:16:49] Thank you so much for listening to this week’s episode. I Weigh with Jameela Jamil is produced and researched by myself, Jameela Jamil, Erin Finnegan and Kimmie Gregory. It is edited by Andrew Carson. And the beautiful music you’re hearing now is made by my boyfriend James Blake. If you haven’t already, please rate review and subscribe to the show. It’s a great way to show your support. We also have a bonus series exclusively on Stitcher Premium called Ask Jameela Anything. Check it out. You can get a free month the Stitcher Premium by going to Stitcher.com/premium and using the promo code I Weigh. Lastly over at I Weigh, we would love to hear from you and share what you weigh at the end of this podcast. You can leave us a voicemail at 18186605543 or email us what you weigh. Iweighpodcast@gmail.com and now we would love to pass the mic to one of our fabulous listeners.
Listener [01:17:41] My name is Rosella and I weigh the amount of love and care I have for the people around me. I weigh my passion for wanting to help people with their mental health and their body image. Thanks so much love you guys, bye.
November 27, 2023
This week, Jameela is joined by writer, broadcaster and feminist organizer Clementine Ford to discuss the historical roots of marriage as a tool of patriarchal control, the illusions surrounding modern matrimony and the modern marketing machinery that sustains its myth.
November 20, 2023
Jameela is joined by beauty culture critic Jessica DeFino in a candid conversation about where her current research and journalism is taking her, after years of covering a multi-billion dollar beauty industry for major women’s magazines & beauty apps in the US.