Prostitution, the oldest profession, whoring, sex work, whatever you call it, it’s a cold, hard, delightful fact of reality. The War on Whores asks the questions; should the government have any say in what consenting adults do between themselves? Is punishment, even jail time really an effective use of resources when consenting adults choose to exchange money for services? And it’s hard to deny that these are important questions.
The War on Whores, starring Maggie McNeill is not easy to watch. It presents a gritty and more honest picture than the average public is used to consuming when it comes to sex work. However, it is an important and compelling piece on the injustices faced by sex workers in this country every single day. The film also highlights how easily “otherness” creeps into the public consciousness and insidiously chips away at perceived humanity.
Maggie weaves an interesting tapestry of important points about civil liberties while also, with care, love, and when appropriate, outrage, telling the stories and plights of sex workers who have become victims of laws and legislation that are meant to protect but only harm. But it’s not just Maggie’s perspective, other voices lend strength to her arguments with their own stories and with fascinating facts.
Whatever your feelings on the matter of how sex workers are treated, this movie will shift some opinions. I considered myself staunchly in favor of and fairly informed about sex worker rights, but I was surprised by the wealth of information that the film provides. Sex workers are so often written off and ignored as a corner of society we just pretend isn’t there. But, like it or not, sex workers are people and so are their customers for that matter. The War on Whores takes some big brave steps in humanizing people we often judge without much genuine thought as to why.
I would be remiss in my reviewing if I did not mention the venue chosen by the screening’s sponsors, Prostasia Foundation. The New Parkway Theater in Oakland California is a truly charming venue. The feel when entering is more like visiting friends than going to the theater. The auditoriums are spacious and nothing short of fun and funky. There are couches, easy chairs, traditional theater seats, a dining table and chairs, and my personal favorite, an old fashioned hair dryer, plus something resembling more traditional theater seating. Genuinely something for everyone.
The theater serves the usual popcorn but boasts a topping bar, plus hot food, soft drinks, and beer. Everything is served in reusable dishes to cut down on waste, and the service is friendly and thoughtful. One of my favorite things in a venue is gender neutral restrooms. The New Parkway provides gender neutral, accessible restrooms with thoughtful signs on the doors describing exactly which facilities you can expect upon opening the door.
While The War on Whores and Maggie McNeill were definitely the crown jewels of this Bay Area Premier, the theater definitely played a supporting role.
If you’re looking for a thought provoking, independent documentary that covers sexual politics, human rights, and a way forward, then The War on Whores is a solid choice. Be prepared for uncomfortable truths, honesty, and outrage at the system. Fair warning, you may walk away thinking of sex workers and sex consumers as real people instead of cartoon villains, and a better understanding of the truly positive impact sex work can have on society.