A&E's '8 Minutes' Is Why Reality TV Shouldn't Masquerade As Social Services
Sex work is a really complicated issue. Whether you view it as a viable career field in desperate need of reform and regulation, an example of the underlying sexual exploitation of women in a male dominated society, or some shitty combination of the two, the reasons that women opt to become sex workers are almost never simple. And sex work has the added benefit of being deeply entangled in larger, mostly unsolvable problems: poverty, addiction, mental health issues, lack of societal resources, etc, etc, etc. So what’s the best way to tackle a problem that is simultaneously that large while still shrouded in shame and secrecy? Probably to make a reality show about it.
A&E’s 8 Minutes purports to rescue women from prostitution, and basically everything about it is terrible. According to the opening credits:
“Every year thousands of women are lured or forced into the illegal sex trade.”
OK, one sentence in and there are already lots of problems. Can you cite the source for that “thousands of women” statistic? And do you have a clear distinction between women who are trafficked, which is such a horrifically heinous crime I’m willing to suspend my opposition to the death penalty for its perpetrators, and women who opt to enter sex work? I understand that sex work might not seem like a great option for most people, but are we really going to pretend that any woman who does engage in sex work was tricked into it? Like some sort of super stoned Ross Geller? Ugh. Fine.
“A veteran police officer [turned pastor Kevin Brown] and his team have a mission: seek out women in danger, pose as clients, and offer them a way out.”
So that’s a pretty firm “no” on the distinction, huh?
“But with pimps lurking, they’ve only got 8 Minutes.”
I get it. I do. This is a TV show. TV shows need good guys and bad guys. And this show at least doesn’t want to portray sex workers as bad guys (no, they’re portrayed almost exclusively as “victims.”) But if anyone at A&E had bothered to do any small portion of research, they might have discovered that very few sex workers have “pimps.”
That of course doesn’t fit with the narrative of the show though so it’s completely disregarded. As is the actual thoughts and feelings of some of the “victims” that this show has “rescued.”
But Kamylla and other sex workers say there are no dangerous pimps in their lives. They’re just women trying to make enough money to support themselves and their families in a broken economy.
“These girls, they don’t need counseling. They need a job, a home, job training. They need to get settled. And no one helps them,” Kamylla (a pseudonym) told the Daily Dot in an exclusive first interview. “My motivation is to stop this crazy show, to make it not on anymore.”
But why would someone saved by this show want to stop it? Shouldn’t this former victim be thrilled to have been given the help she received? Maybe if she’d received any actual help.
But Kamylla said she desperately did want help and wanted out of the sex trade. She said the 8 Minutes team told her there would be money, jobs, and even medical and dental insurance for her and her kids. But as soon as the scene was shot, she claimed she was dropped off on the street. Later, she was given some phone numbers for local churches and nonprofits.
So this show claims that all sex workers are victims of violent pimps, offers to help the sex workers, provides no actual help, but uses their filmed interactions with the sex workers to produce a TV show for which the veteran cop and his team are presumably paid?
Maybe I was wrong. That sure sounds like someone was victimizing these sex workers.
Source: Daily Dot