From the indecent proposal fielded by Joan Holloway on Mad Men to Channing Tatum’s semi-biographical role in Magic Mike, commercialized sex has been especially prominent in America’s cultural products over the last year. These portrayals filter into public consciousness and drive conversation, either giving people tools to talk about a sensational issue intelligently or teaching them that no intelligent discussion is needed. More than most populations, sex workers are subject to language and imagery that reduces them to punchlines and stereotypes. There aren’t jokes about dead waitresses in car trunks and no one suggested that Craig James killed five maids while at SMU, but the murder of prostitutes and strippers makes for frequest punchlines in Family Guy and 30 Rock. Lazy writing like this sustains the harmful, stigmatized environment sex workers navigate every day of their real lives. Let’s reject the standard tropes and establish better ways to talk about and depict sex work.
1. Is there room in America for a conversation about sex work that won't devolve into snickers?
2. When, if ever, is a dead hooker joke OK?
3. What—if any—obligations do sex workers have when telling their own stories, whether in journalism, memoir, or fiction?
4. How can media consumers, producers, and critics elevate the discussion around sex work?
5. Why does Tina Fey hate sex workers?