BBC documentary filmmaker and host Louis Theroux, who controversially explored the porn industry in two previous films, delves into the lives of British sex workers in his new doc, Selling Sex—and before the film has yet aired, two of the sex workers depicted in the film are already accusing Theroux of misleading them about how they would be portrayed, and misrepresenting their lives and work.
“It seems to be what Louis says goes,” wrote Georgina Tyson, one of the two sex workers who aired their objections in an open letter posted on Twitter. “Seems as though he’s an expert on my life despite knowing me a week.”
Tyson is caregiver to another sex worker shown in the film, Ashleigh Williams, who is autistic. But in the open letter, the sex workers allege that Theroux openly questioned whether Williams had autism at all, once asking her, “are you sure you’re autistic?” according to a report by the site Dazed Digital.
Tyson claims that Theroux and the film’s producers at one meeting told her that they would discuss how the pair’s “art work was inspired by our sex work.” Instead, she said, the meeting quickly became “about Ashleigh and how her friends feel about her being a sex worker.”
Tyson also said that rough edit of the film that she viewed included a non-sex worker friend of hers, and that she felt that Theroux and the film’s producers were “egging my friends on to admit I was a bad person.”
She also alleges that Theroux appeared to subscribe to the stereotypical belief that “sex workers (are) sex workers because something bad happened to them.”
Theroux earlier told Dazed that he was attracted to the topic of sex work due to its “ethical wrinkles,” and because sex work is an issue “in which good-hearted people can come to opposite conclusions. The debate around selling sex is exactly that kind of story.”
The BBC in a statement defended Theroux’s documentary and his treatment of Tyson and Williams.
“We are confident that Ashleigh gave informed consent to be a part of the documentary as is evidenced by ongoing communication with her,” the statement read. “Louis is well-versed with handling sensitive cases and has always had the utmost respect for the subjects of his documentaries.”
But the BBC also said that it had “addressed their concerns in the final edit of the film.”
No air date is yet scheduled for Selling Sex, which will air on the BBC 2 channel.
Photo By Zscout370 / Wikimedia Commons