laverne cox
Photo: Twitter | Laverne Cox.
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Laverne Cox withdraws from controversial sex work documentary

Actor and LGBTIQ advocate Laverne Cox has announced she is withdrawing from her role in producing a controversial new sex work documentary.

Cox was set to partner with Rashida Jones, Meryl Streep, and Sarah Jones for the documentary Sell/Buy/Date, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The film will follow Hot Girls Wanted, a 2015 documentary co-produced by Rashida Jones that has been criticised for its excessive portrayal of the supposed dangers of porn, as well as for leaking the real identity of a performer.   

After Hot Girls Wanted, Rashida Jones joined the celebrities calling for international criminalisation of sex work through the much protested FOSTA/SESTA legislation in the US.

Sarah Jones’ directorial debut, Sell/Buy/Date is set to examine “one of the most critical issues at the intersection of race, feminism, power and economics in our current cultural climate: the sex industry”.

Sex workers on social media reacted immediately to the news of the documentary, calling for Cox in particular to withdraw her involvement, given that trans women and sex workers are intersectionally marginalised.

One worker tweeted to ask Cox whether sex worker organisations had been consulted, noting that Streep had been among celebrities referring to them as “pimps”.

“Please, I am begging you, pull out of this project. It’s so harmful,” posted another.

Cox responded within hours, posting “Ok” along with a longer written statement.

“When I agreed to come on as an executive producer of ‘Sell, Buy, Date’ I did so because I was so deeply moved by Sarah Jones’ brilliant play and her unbelievable, undeniable talent as an artist, as an actor,” she wrote.

“I signed on to support her incredible talent. I have so much love for her as a human being.

“But I am not in an emotional place to deal with the outrage by some around my participation in this project.

“So I have decided to pull out.

“To be clear, I am no longer involved in any capacity in ‘Sell, Buy, Date’. I have to take care of my mental, physical, and emotional health.

“This is all I have to say on the matter.”

Sex workers have welcomed the news, though some have criticised Cox for the seemingly passive-aggressive response.

“This isn’t an apology. It’s her saying she can’t be fucked with the backlash rather than responsibility for the awfulness of the documentary and the impact on sex workers,” said one worker.

Others called it “really fucking disappointing” and “a snub”.

Regardless, many sex workers have praised Cox for responding to criticism of the new film.

“Thank you endlessly for listening to our side. I am beyond words,” wrote Gia Page, whose identity was leaked by Hot Girls Wanted.

Cox, 48, rose to fame in the series Orange is the New Black, going on to become one of the best-known trans women in the world.

She has received numerous awards for her activism in the last decade, including from the Transgender Law Center and GLAAD.

The star has not yet responded to requests to clarify her stance on sex work politics.

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