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Filmmaker & Sex Worker Talks Documentary Filmed Partially in NOLA
American Courtesans tackles the sex industry from the workers' perspective, offering a diverse range of experiences. The documentary was filmed in New Orleans, New York, New Jersey, Washington D.C., and a number of undisclosed locations.
Kristen DiAngelo interviewed ten fellow sex workers for the film. Emma Dupree, Erin Marxxx, Gina Robinson, Gina DePalma, Hilary Holiday, Juliet Capulet, Pearl Callahan, Tamsen Crown, Norma Jean Almdovar, and Skylar Cruz shared their stories.
Cruz works in New Orleans. DiAngelo said that both her interviewee and she have spent a lot of time in the Crescent City.
“I’ve been working there close to 15 years. There’s a lot of history for me and Skylar,” said DiAngelo.
The producer explained that Cruz began working when she was still in high school, as a way to support her family. In the film, Cruz gives a tearful account of her beginnings in New Orleans.
“Skylar had to make very adult decisions to keep the family together,” said DiAngelo.
However, the film offers lesser told stories of women who enter the sex trade in less desperate circumstances.
Emma Dupree shares her story with DiAngelo. Her journey strays from the typical narrative surrounding the sex industry. Dupree had a four-year degree, and she was working in real estate when the recession hit. After bar tending and balancing two jobs to make ends meet, Dupree decided to give the escort industry a shot. The experiences she shares with DiAngelo in the film are overwhelmingly positive.
DiAngelo explained to NoDef the difference between “survival sex” and a career in the sex industry.
“Many people who are on the lower end, no matter what it is they are trying to survive from, their choices in life are limited,” said DiAngelo. “They may have no resources in this whole world. [These are often cases of] gay kids or transgender kids who are kicked of their homes. I could go on ad nauseum,” said DiAngelo.
Oftentimes, DiAngelo said, teenagers and young adults in such situations are arrested, which further limits their choices.
DiAngelo is a case of someone who “started out as a kid,” as she puts it. “I myself was a victim of a horrible attack. Any day I’m alive is good enough for me. I fought my way up. The difference is that this has become a profession for me,” said DiAngelo.
According to DiAngelo and accounts from American Courtesans, people working in the industry create a support system for each other, a safety net in the absence of legal protections.
In many cities across the United States, police use condoms as evidence against sex workers. DiAngelo said that she knows people in the industry who have been locked up in New Orleans due to the “condom law.”
“It really is an issue of human and civil rights,” said DiAngelo. “The condom law is, sex workers aren’t allowed to use condoms, or they’ll be used as evidence of your intent [to engage in prostitution]” DiAngelo explained.
The advocate further explained that the law is primarily, but not solely, used against workers in “survival sex” situations. “It’s the people who aren’t going to fight it. It really is a violation of your rights,” she said.
DiAngelo’s overarching goal with the film is to tell untold stories about the sex industry. DiAngelo and the women she interviews emphasize that the industry is flawed primarily because it is criminalized, not because it is inherently dangerous.
“It’s a job. Most people don’t jump up and down about going to work at McDonald’s every day,” she said. “But the difference is that once we get here, we’re pretty beaten up by the world. We have no 911 number, and predators target us,” she said.
The film was released in July 2013. Those interested can purchase a physical copy of the documentary online, or they can rent or buy the film on iTunes.
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