Season 2 of Joe Swanberg’s sexually progressive series EASY came out yesterday. Here’s why I’m excited to play a sex worker who’s not a victim. By Karley Sciortino.
In episode 3 (“Side Hustle”) of Easy‘s season 2, I play Sally, a writer who works as an escort to pay the bills. I’m really excited about it, because I’m like, “Finally! A portrayal of a sex worker in media who doesn’t get “rescued” from her “tragic life” by a rich white dude, or end up in a dumpster!” Because literally, those are usually the only two options. But thankfully, Easy offers a rare representation of a sex worker who’s kind, autonomous, and whose work in the sex industry doesn’t fuck up her life irrevocably.
If you aren’t familiar, Easy is a Chicago-based anthology series, written and directed by Joe Swanberg. I’m a huge fan of the series, as I think it’s one of the only shows out there that explores modern sex and relationships in a raw and honest way. Characters are old, young, married, single, straight, queer, and from a variety of different backgrounds. It’s one of those shows where a character can be a lesbian, but her storyline isn’t solely about how she’s a lesbian, ya know? Like, she’s allowed to be a full, complex human being with a life outside of her sexuality—a novelty! Storylines range from a couple on the hunt for a threesome, to friends starting an illegal brewery, to the validity of selfie art, to a married couple toying with the idea of opening their relationship. And other thoughtful slut stuff.
As I’ve written about before, it’s very rare to see sluts depicted on TV or in movies as anything other than tragic victims or sociopaths—and that’s like ten fold for sex workers. There are essentially two narrative: the slut/sex worker either dies or ends up sad and alone, or the slut/sex worker is saved (a la Pretty Woman). Even the slightly more progressive Starz TV series The Girlfriend Experience—which I admittedly love and watched twice—falls victim to this: Season 1 depicts an escort who’s on her way to a law degree (a positive), but then once she enters the sex industry her whole life explodes—she loses her job, drops out of school, her friends and family abandon her, etc.
But of course, these depictions are rooted in stereotypes and clichés. To quote my beloved dissent feminist Camille Paglia, from her book Vamps and Tramps: “Moralism and ignorance are responsible for the constant stereotyping of prostitutes by their lowest common denominator—the sick, strung-out addicts, couched on city stoops, who turn tricks for drug money. . . . The most successful prostitutes in history have been invisible. That invisibility was produced by their high intelligence, which gives them the power to perceive, and move freely but undetected in the social frame. The prostitute is a superb analyst, not only in evading the law but in initiating the unique constellation of convention and fantasy that produces a stranger’s orgasm. She lives by her wits as much as her body. She is a psychologist, actor, and dancer, a performance artist of hyper-developed sexual imagination.”
You can watch Easy on Netflix now :)