I just finished Whores' Glory (2011), wow. The documentary is filmically beautiful, and I appreciated its fly-on-the-wall approach to such personal, emotional, and controversial topics of gender, sexuality, economy, and globalization. The expose lets the material and women speak for themselves, with absolutely no commentary or voice from the filmmakers. It follows the story of prostitues in Thailand, Bangladesh, and Mexico - highlighting the tricky business of professionalism involved in sex work as well as the spirituality, religion, and personal preferences of the women. There are women who express enjoying what they do, women who are angry but feel as though they cannot leave due to economic ties, women who have experienced abuse, women addicted to crack, and women who run brothels and find prostitutes outside of the cities.
While sex-positive feminims in western culture celebrate womens' choices to do what they please with their bodies, there is a more nuanced understanding of sex work abroad (and in general) that needs to be discussed. The "choices" that women make in these environments that may appear to be sexually liberating are often influenced by economic, political, and social constraints - systems of power that keep them tethered to these brothels and communities. That being said, it is too simple to condemn prostitution altogether; many of the women expressed that this industry is one of the only ways they can support themselves, either independent of their families or in order to provide for them. Basically, it is very complicated. We also have to question the role of the artist/filmmaker, and the power he holds to again exploit these women and transactions - at risk of glamorizing or judging sex work. I am left feeling the weight of tragedy and quiet desperation (despite fleeting moments of joy) that these women experience in their day to day, which I know I cannot fully embrace, untangle, or understand (especially as a privileged, white, western woman who does not have to consider sex work as an option).
Here are some interesting reviews: