Oaxa Koate

The Easy Way Out: Entertainment's Violent Gaze

Oaxa Koate’s Avatar Article by Oaxa Koate Blog Slixa Under Cover

The thoughtful advice and opinions of the author of this article are meant to be informative and entertaining and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Slixa.

Anyone see a trend here? I do.

41 million+ results for "murdered prostitute + entertainment" on google.

14 years of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit

23 million results for "violence against sex workers" on google.

8 years of Criminal Minds

27 million google results for "movies about murdered prostitutes"

13 years of CSI

“The biggest public mistake I ever made was that I chose to do Criminal Minds in the first place. I thought it was something very different. I never thought they were going to kill and rape all these women every night, every day, week after week, year after year. It was very destructive to my soul and my personality.” Patinkin also addressed the whole crime drama genre. “I’m not making a judgment on the taste [of people who watch crime procedurals],” he said. “But I’m concerned about the effect it has. Audiences all over the world use this programming as their bedtime story. This isn’t what you need to be dreaming about.” - Mandy Patinkin

In the interest of heading it off at the pass, I'm not picking on only the television shows listed above. Violence against women and sex workers is rampant on every procedural crime television show, procedural crime feature film, and horror film in the world. It's not just one or two television shows or movies. It's an epidemic.

It's no coincidence the newest documentaries coming about about the sex industry are also "exposing" the situations with the most potential for violence against sex workers, either. It's no coincidence the majority of mainstream media articles are about the saddest, most violent, most jarring stories from both veterans and newbies in the industry. The magnifying glass is always on the darkest part of our lives, we know this; But why? Why do so many journalists, activists, volunteers, religious leaders, consumers, entertainment creators, writers, producers, and millions of other people seem to always take the easy way out when it comes to the subject of the sex industry? Why are the only two tropes regarding us either heart of gold or disposable? There are a million ways to ask a million questions, but they all boil down to one: Why do so many different forms of entertainment seem to always take the easy way out by using violence against entertainers and sex workers?

Maybe one of the reasons is a little bug called plot, another called subplot (or plot device or motivator). Writing, beautiful writing, may seem like a string of words weaved, effortlessly, into a tapestry of edge-of-your-seat action, romantic interactions making your heart beat fast and your mind race, or even an incredibly sexy villain who you secretly cheer for while you're tearing through the chapters in your hands. But a good story is nothing without a plot and a plot, the journey between point A and point Z, is nothing without a plot motivator or sub-plots to keep you interested on the journey.

Yes, you're reading about John and how he saved the world, but during the times when John's story waxes and wanes, you need a little something to keep you plugged in, yes? So writers throw in action, intrigue, or drama to make sure you keep the book in your hands or the television channel locked on their station.

Love and sex are always good motivators, but it needs to be interesting love; Interesting sex. What kind of love could be more interesting than the hero falling in love with a prostitute or promiscuous girl? When they argue, will he call her names? Will he throw her vocation in her face with relish, abandon, or vitriol? Do his friends, the supporting characters, know? What will people say when they find out? How will they find out? Near the climax of the subplot, near the moment when things explode, ask yourself what's going to happen; What's more jaw dropping than when that lady of the evening dies?

What if it's not a subplot? What if it's the entire plot itself: "Dead Hooker Found In River." How many television shows and movies were made based on this as a plot alone? How many cop shows and true crime type television shows air episodes every week about murdered sex workers?

Except... that's not fiction. Sex workers are the victims of violence every day - especially sex workers who are transgender and sex workers of color. Doing your job shouldn't have to be life threatening, but for some of us, it is every single day. Every moment during our workdays, some of us are on guard and watching out for ourselves and others. So while that plot might seem interesting in the abstract, in the concrete it's a jarring reminder of the reality of "all in a day's work" for some of us.

So I wonder, entertainment industry, when will you stop taking the easy way out? I'm tired of screenwriters and authors painting the entire sex industry as a million disposable murder victims waiting to be found floating in lakes. Even some of my favorite shows have gotten axed from my Must Watch list because of this current trend of a shabby excuse for action, intrigue, and plot. The magnifying glass seems to be turning back onto the very industry putting out these television shows, books, and movies; yes, but not fast enough for my taste.


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