John Turturro: ‘There are positive things about what sex workers do’

Apr 23, 2014
Celebrities
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The actor’s latest film, Fading Gigolo, tells the story of a man who loses his job and turns to prostitution. He explains to Karley Sciortino why he chose to explore the ‘real exchange’ of sex work

John Turturro in a scene from Fading Gigolo. Photograph: Jojo Whilden/AP

John Turturro in a scene from Fading Gigolo. Photograph: Jojo Whilden/AP

It’s not often that movies shed a positive light on sex work. Sex workers are typically depicted as down-and-out victims, winding up dead or diseased, because this is the narrative that society is most comfortable with. Yet as a sex writer, and someone who has interviewed sex workers in the US extensively, in my experience, that depiction is often not the case. As Camille Paglia put it in her 1994 collection Vamps & Tramps:

Moralism and ignorance are responsible for the constant stereotyping of prostitutes by their lowest common denominator – the sick, strung-out addicts, crouched on city stoops, who turn tricks for drug money. Every profession has its bums, cheats, and ne’er-do-wells. The most successful prostitutes in history have been invisible.

And yet, in a rare occurrence, Fading Gigolo, which John Turturro wrote, directed and stars in, shows us a more compassionate side of the world’s oldest profession.

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