BBC Two announces Louis Theroux: Selling Sex

I’m always drawn to stories that involve ethical wrinkles - issues that are deeply felt, but are also divisive, and in which good-hearted people can come to opposite conclusions. The debate around selling sex is exactly that kind of story.Louis Theroux
Date: 08.08.2019     Last updated: 09.08.2019 at 13.37
The exchange of sex for money is legal in Britain, so long as it doesn’t involve coercion, exploitation, or any kind of public nuisance.

Now, fuelled by websites and social media, a new economy has emerged - bringing a world of transactional sex to people who might have never previously considered it.

Bafta award-winning filmmaker, Louis Theroux, returns to the UK to meet women legally providing sexual services, either to make a living or to supplement their income, potentially earning hundreds of pounds per hour. But rather than on the streets or in illegal brothels, these women sell sex from their own home or hotels, utilizing technology to share photos, make bookings and vet potential clients - making the exchange more accessible and, according to some, safer than the illegal alternatives.

The age-old issue of whether sex should ever be traded remains, with many believing it to be exploitative and damaging, driven by a society still shaped by the desires of men. Yet there are those who feel that selling sex can be a valid, empowering choice for those who choose to engage in it. As Louis meets the women and men participating in the new sexual economy, he explores whether selling sex can ever be a healthy way to make money.

Louis Theroux says: “I’m always drawn to stories that involve ethical wrinkles - issues that are deeply felt, but are also divisive, and in which good-hearted people can come to opposite conclusions. The debate around selling sex is exactly that kind of story.

"It is one of the most straightforward, yet complex interactions that can take place between two people. On the one hand, none of the activities taking place here are illegal; everything is above board and both parties have mutually agreed on the arrangement. On the other, it’s impossible to deny that for many - maybe most - people, there is something unsavoury in the idea of accepting money for an act that is so intimate. They have a problem with those who do it and see it as a symptom of a society that is controlled and dominated by men.

"For exactly this reason - because it is so controversial - I thought it would be revealing to speak to the women involved in the business of selling sex. Once we started looking we discovered that the sexual economy seems to have been turbo-charged by the prevalence of new websites and social media that allow users to meet up more easily, to write reviews of each other, and swap information.

"What we ended up with was a very intimate look at three very individual women and the different paths that led them to this field of work. I found it revealing and thought-provoking to make - I hope viewers have the same experience. Mainly, I’d like to thank the women who so openly and honestly let me in to their lives and helped broaden my understanding of their lives and experiences.”

Patrick Holland, Controller, BBC Two, says: “This is a challenging and complex film about the modern face of one of the oldest taboos. The contributors let us into their lives with exceptional candour. I’d like to thank Louis and his team for another exceptional documentary.”

Clare Sillery, Head of Commissioning, Documentaries, says: “Louis Theroux’s latest film examines an important and hotly-debated topic, handled in his naturally curious and nuanced style.”

Louis Theroux: Selling Sex is a 1x60’ for BBC Two. It is a BBC Studios Production. It was commissioned by Patrick Holland, Controller, BBC Two and Clare Sillery, Head of Commissioning, Documentaries. The Commissioning Editor is Emma Loach. The Executive Producers are Arron Fellows and Peter Dale.

RG

This release was amended to update production credits