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Satisfaction (2007-2010)

Image via SocialistJazz
Image via SocialistJazz

When I heard about the Showtime Australia drama Satisfaction, set in a swanky Melbourne brothel, I think I elbowed an old lady out of the way to check it out of the library. Yep, library: they take sex work much less negatively in Australia than they do in the United States. It’s legal, although to varying degrees of decriminalization, normalization, and support depending on what state you’re in. West Australia, where I worked, had a variety of irritating laws designed to prevent women from working outside of brothels: they weren’t allowed to hire support staff, like drivers or security, and often had to file taxes in a totally ridiculous way. In Melbourne, across the country in Victoria, sex work is legally licensed and regulated by the state: workers have licenses, regular mandated medical check-ups, and can work independently or through brothels.

Satisfaction is a super swanky TV show about a super swanky brothel, and I absolutely loved it. I’ve never been to a Melbourne brothel, but I have to assume that the glittery hanging curtains, ornate gilt decor, and licensed bar of 232, the Satisfaction home base, are probably not par for the course. They smell more of “movie set designed to make you impressed” rather than “actual working brothel.” The script, though…the script treats sex workers as real human beings, with dignity and respect, facing a variety of issues unrelated to their jobs. Sometimes they hang out together after work; sometimes they have problems unique to sex work; but for large chunks of every episode, the show discusses human dynamics among a group of women who are working for themselves and doing it by choice. There is no coercion here, and the all-too-frequent stereotype we see on US TV (“Debbie couldn’t pay her rent, and now she’s giving blow jobs for crack in some dude’s Pinto!”) is notably, refreshingly absent.

Hot Girls Wanted: Turned On—The Production

The creators of Hot Girls Wanted and Hot Girls Wanted: Turned On— Jill Bauer, Rashida Jones, and Ronna Gradus. (Still from Youtube)

I first heard that a sequel to Hot Girls Wanted was being made about three months ago. A performer I followed posted about being approached for filming. He rejected the offer immediately. I shared his discomfort.

The first Hot Girls Wanted was a documentary film carefully designed to manipulate the viewer into feeling disgust towards the porn industry. It followed a household of porn models, predominantly new to the industry, for several months as they journeyed into what Hot Girls Wanted creator Rashida Jones referred to as “pro-amateur porn.” While the filmmakers claimed a totally unbiased approach, I watched the documentary taking note of each carefully placed, mid-sentence cut designed to de-contextualize industry critiques; each depressing tone played at low volumes creating emotionally charged responses to a comment; each unsourced statistic and each citation from disreputable websites.

Porn performers responded harshly yet appropriately to the documentary. They aimed their critiques primarily at the film’s producer, actress Rashida Jones. With the announcement of a sequel came promises of an improved, non-stigmatizing, and nuanced discussion of the porn industry.

It was not delivered.

Men Love It When You Really Glob It On: Sex Work via Futurama

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Futurama: definite contender for “greatest show of all time.” You already know it’s hilarious, but do you also know that it’s actually about sex work? Allow me to demonstrate with a series of GIFs, clips and humorous macros that I am convinced we can all relate to.
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 Few television characters embody the Douche Client more perfectly than Zapp Brannigan. You know the type: massive yet fragile ego that requires constant stroking, weird obsession with own perceived attractiveness, and a stable of skin-crawlingly irritating “seduction” techniques.

Altered Carbon (2018)

Content warning: this review contains graphic discussion of the rape, torture, assault, and murder of sex workers; as well as spoilers after the jump.

For the uninitiated, Altered Carbon is the story of Takeshi Kovacs (Joel Kinnaman), a biracial man “resleeved” into the body of a beautiful, dirty blonde-haired, and incredibly hard-bodied white man in order to solve the murder of an immortal—called Methuselahs/Meths in this dystopian future—named Laurens Bancroft (James Purefoy). In this world, bodies are called sleeves and are changed like socks. The rich are, well, really rich and they are really powerful as well. In the future of Altered Carbon, hundreds and hundreds of years (or thousands, who knows? Because in both the book and the Netflix series, the year is not specified) from now, humans can now—for the right price—live forever in a variety of sleeves, clones, and synthetic sleeves. Living like gods, believing their own press, and flaunting laws and rules openly, the Meths are, to quote this show’s Magical Negro, Quellcrist Falconer (though Renée Elise Goldsberry steals every scene she’s in), “the darker angels of our nature.”

Altered Carbon is not the most interesting show on Netflix. At the beginning it tries to pace itself but, even with the outstanding special effects and stunt work, it drags. But it is full of nudity (James Purefoy hangs dong once, nearly every female cast member shows her breasts, butt, and even some full frontal nudity, and Joel Kinnaman is perpetually half-clothed, so be ready for it) and awkward, drawn-out sex scenes which are fairly useless to the plot, so there’s that. Full of graphic glimpses of myriad sexual positions, drugs, and profanity-laden rock and roll, the show does seem like it’s going to be an over-the-top, wild ride—and it is. It really, really is. It’s shiny and full of energy and, from the first violent, intimate, mind-bending episode, it tries its hardest to hook viewers with claws that refuse to let go. Altered Carbon is a sight to see and a world to behold, sure. But is it a world you want to spend 10 hours in? Because just a few episodes in, a repetitive theme makes suspension of disbelief impossible for viewers in the know. It’s something we discuss all the time here at Tits and Sass: stigma.

You’re Not Funny: SNL Can’t Parody Porn Stars

swarovski.jpgI spent the better part of last June gluing rhinestones to this one wall in my apartment. At some point during the second week I started wearing a toolbelt full of E6000 glue, wadded up paper towels, sparkly bits and the syringes I use to control where the glue goes. I should mention that the toolbelt was being worn instead of pants as opposed to on top of pants. I should also mention that my apartment has horrible ventilation and I was probably kind of high on glue fumes. The glue fumes may have contributed to my decision to climb the radiator instead of using a ladder.

On the night of the 14th there was a knock on my door. The only person who knocks on the inside door is my superintendent. His name is Jorge. I yelled “Come in” and then realized that he might be upset about the fact that I was sticking things to the wall with heavy-duty glue. Fortunately, Jorge is a very special creature. He took in the whole spectacle, exclaimed “Oh my god!” and proceeded to gush in his Puerto Rican-Brooklynite accent about how much he loved where I was going with the concept. Then he ran upstairs and came back with a giant box of “Sarchovskys? Warsovskys? Whatevah. I thought you might be able to use them for your project.” See, at some point in the past decade someone had left a giant box of Swarovski crystals at his apartment. Happy Birthday to me. No, seriously. The next day was my birthday.