“Women who sell their bodies” used to be the go-to word combination that triggered my gag reflex right into action. But “hooker-rescuing cop-turned-pastor” was introduced to my life this week and has transformed my once-tranquil apartment into Lane Champagne’s Extreme Vomitorium. The man with this heinous career trajectory is Kevin Brown and he’s starring in a new reality show tentatively titled 8 Minutes after its premise: He has eight minutes to convince sex workers to leave behind their whoring ways. Those who leave sex work are given free training in the second career of their choice and those who decline are sent on their merry way with Brown’s best wishes for a good earning season. HAHA, just kidding, none of that last sentence is true because whorephobia is pernicious and Earth has actually been Hell along!
Of all the professions to produce potential sex work interventionists, law enforcement and clergy are at the very top of the Unsuitable list. Behind those two are literally every single other profession, because sex work interventions are vile exercises in the hatred and shaming of sex working individuals and shouldn’t exist. And it certainly shouldn’t exist as a spectacle on cable television. There is a Change.org petition to get A&E to shut that shit down, you should sign it. Let’s also take out a Backpage ad in every possible city warning local sex workers to be prepared for lurking reality show cameras.
Producer Tom Forman (the man behind the legally and ethically challenged Kid Nation) told Entertainment Weekly that the show was inspired by an LA Times article about Brown’s rescue missions. That story opens with another cop-turned-resucuer showing up to a woman’s outcall and doing this:
Reese reaches into the pocket of his tan cargo shorts and pulls out a latex condom. There’s a phone number scribbled on one side in black marker. He hands it to her.
He asks if she sees the phone number.
She examines the packet but ignores the question. She presses him for the money.
“I’m not really here for a date,” Reese says. “I’m here to offer you help.”
They rescue this one woman (on the night the reporter is along!), despite having been on 60 previous missions without anyone taking up their offer. She didn’t get career training; she got a one-way ticket home on a Greyhound. And lo, from this massive service to women a reality show was born, one with a 50/50 success rate according to Forman, who also told EW “Sometimes they turn and leave, but that’s the case when trying to save prostitutes.”
Leaving aside the fact that Brown is sentient diarrhea more than he’s an actual person, I’ve broken down the reasons the very concept of the show is a bad idea for two primary types of sex worker that Brown targets: people who don’t want to leave sex work and people who do.
Sex Workers Who Don’t Want to Quit
They’ve already been told to quit…many times. From misguided family members to condescending arresting officers to well-meaning but kind-of-a-dick regulars who fall in love with you and think it’s a compliment to say horrible shit like “You’re so much better than this,” sex workers almost all have people in their life who have implored them to quit their work. One of my best friends begged me to quit through tears when she learned about my work and it broke my heart to have to say, “No.” This cop-pastor better have some poignant-as-hell rhetorical strategies up his sleeve to pull this off.
They’ll oblige out of fear. You know what one of the earliest reality shows where cameras followed around cops was called? It was called FUCKING COPS, that’s what. Considering the increasingly vile ways in which law enforcement pursues prostitution arrests, chances are that the sex workers who Brown encounters will assume he is working with law enforcement and will play good hooker for the camera for fear of arrest. You know why they’ll assume that? Because Brown is working with law enforcement and has them on speed dial for “dangerous situations.” The dangerous situation, of course, is the one that Brown is creating by making a spectacle out of his moralistic rampage through these workers’ lives.
They’ll be fucked over by having encountered a team of vigilantes. If this show isn’t about shaming willing sex workers out of their jobs, it might inadvertently run them out of work. Clients who fear arrest or detection will flee on sight of a camera crew. So Brown will ruin their businesses if he can’t win over their hooker hearts. Brown’s church members on stakeout around these sex workers’ incalls also makes them detectable and compromises their business.
Sex Workers Who Want to Quit
If they’re ashamed of their work, the presence of cameras exacerbates that shame. It took me several years in and out of sex work to ever tell a soul what was going on because I felt such a tremendous amount of shame about it. And this was despite an upbringing that didn’t shame sex and questioned the economic inequalities that govern many employment choices in this country. The idea of shoving a camera into someone’s face who is ashamed of doing sex work only adds to the existing trauma of engaging in work they do not wish to be a part of.
They might need more than eight minutes of convincing. The premise of the show is that Brown is just so convincing as a hooker-converter that he can do it in eight minutes after posing as a client and making an appointment online. Brown also claims that eight minutes is about how long it will take for a pimp to become suspicious that something is awry with the client. But what happens if a sex worker that wants to leave needs an hour of convincing? Or like, eight minutes and seventeen seconds? According to the logic of the show, everyone should want to leave sex work, so shouldn’t this gentle and kindly Man of God do whatever it takes to get these women out of “the life?”
If coerced, they’ll become targets for violence by their abusers. If a coerced or trafficked person is under surveillance by their abuser, the abuser will get pissed the fuck off and take it out on their victims. Or maybe the interaction with the camera crew will throw off their night and they won’t earn what they’re supposed to and draw the ire of their abuser for that.
Leaving abusive situations is often more dangerous than staying in them. Women are 70 times more likely to be killed in the two weeks after leaving an abusive relationship than at any other time during the relationship. There is no evidence to suggest that Kevin Brown or the members of his church plan to offer 24/7 protection to these women in that impossibly dangerous time, so they are actually putting them at greater risk. Is that what Kevin Brown wants? To put already victimized people in further danger? Is that what Jesus would do, Kevin?
You know what Jesus did do? He said “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full,” to warn his followers against the excessive show of piety by many dickcheeses in ancient Palestine. If Kevin Brown and A&E had any real commitment to helping sex workers, they’d be giving them the microphones to tell the audience what would help them more than a camera and a preacher in their faces.