Shame on you Broadway! You have an opportunity to create art that would empower and give voice to women, transwomen and people of color. The world would so benefit from musicals that could educate, inspire and bring awareness to social issues. But instead you chose to create a musical about an empty hearted man who grows a heart overnight by rescuing a sex worker and she rescues him right back? You dare to call this empowering to women?
I’m not holding back my anger about this. Pretty Woman is not just entertainment or a musical, the message given is very transparent and dangerous. “Make yourself pretty and sell yourself and you will be rescued.” This musical is perpetuating dangerous fantasies and stereotypes about women and girls in the life and the men who buy them.
I have previously spent years counseling teen survivors of sexual exploitation and also working as a sexual assault response team volunteer. I have seen the real version of “Vivians” and “Kats.” I have heard stories about the real version of the “Edwards.” At ages as young as 15, I remember survivors sharing their stories about being sold by pimps they trusted and loved and were ‘hoping’ to be rescued by. Instead they were physically and sexually assaulted, traumatized and exploited. A man buying a woman can NEVER be considered an iconic love story. Hasn’t the #MeToo movement brought us further than this?
We have to do better. And we also have to boycott this show. Every ticket that is sold, is giving a message that it’s ok to view the women and girls as sexual objects, and if they make themselves pretty enough they too can be rescued. As a therapist and advocate, I’m committed to making the world a safer place. It all starts with awareness and a willingness to be accountable. Below are the real facts about women and girls who are sold in the sex trade. I know this isn’t a warm and fuzzy post. But if we want change (which hopefully we do!) it’s important for us to be grounded in reality and know the facts. Let’s stop the fairy tale, Pretty Woman perpetuates dangerous messages for women and girls. I hope and pray we can be accountable and do better!
The Horrifying Facts (*Trigger Warning: Disturbing Statistics, Many Involving Children).
1. Recent research shows that approximately 2 million children are trafficked and exploited in the sex trade industry.
2. The average age to enter into prostitution is 13 years old. This means that if this is the average age, girls are entering the life much younger.
3. Sex trade is a huge industry. Most of the money goes to the pimps. On average pimps will take home between $5000 to $35,000 a week!
4. Studies have shown that 70- 90% of prostitutes have been victims of incest. The Council for Prostitution Alternatives in Portland, Oregon reported that 85% of prostitutes reported sexual abuse in childhood.
5. Women and girls in prostitution have a mortality rate 40 times higher than the national average.
6. Countless studies show that approximately 85-95% of prostitutes share that they wish to get out of the life but have no other options for survival.
7. 60% of children who are reported runaways were sexually exploited at some point to make money and survive.
8. 58% of prostitutes reported violent assault at the hands of clients. 80% reported violent rape.
9. According to research 76% of all prostitutes considered committing suicide.
10. 204 out of every 100,000 prostitutes are murdered in a years time, making it one of the most dangerous jobs in the world.
11. 1 out of 10 males in the world have at some point hired a female prostitute. Men between the ages of 35 and 44 are the ones who are most commonly hire prostitutes.
12. “The only “plausible line in the … film/play Pretty Woman,” said a prostituted woman, “is when Richard Gere, playing a client, asks Julia Roberts, playing a prostitute, what her name is, and she replies, ‘Anything you want it to be’” (O’Connell Davidson 1998, 109). As Frederick Douglass wrote, enslaved people at auction said what they thought the slave traders and the slave buyers wanted to hear (quoted in Johnson 1999).”
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Sending you peaceful thoughts and wishes for brighter days.