If you’ve browsed through the Recently Added category on Netflix in the last month or so, you’ve probably seen the title Hot Girls Wanted. No, Netflix hasn’t added pornography to its catalog of movies and TV shows, but you should still check out this film.
Hot Girls Wanted premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January, and Netflix quickly bought it. The film first appeared on the streaming service at the end of May, and since then it has sparked a larger conversation about sex workers’ personal agency, exploitation, and sexism.
The documentary, directed by Jill Bauer and Ronna Gradus, chronicles the lives of young, adult women who become stars in the world of pro-am pornography, a genre that features paid but amateur actresses. The women in the film typically appear in films that are marketed as featuring “barely legal” girls, and in reality, they are. Most of the woman in the documentary are 18 or 19. One woman is 25, old enough that she now does MILF roles.
The amateur actresses come to Miami from all over the US with the assistance of an unlicensed talent agent. They all report that they found ads on Craigslist that promised a job and a free trip to Florida for attractive young women. The film does not feature any explicit sex, but little is left to the imagination when it comes to what the women face when they are working; as The Hollywood Reporter notes, “Praise is due to [film editor, Brittany] Huckabee in particular for finding ways to crop, frame and cut away in such a fashion as to avoid showing anything explicit that might further exploit the subjects.”
Exploitative–that is how the documentary sees the am-pro industry. It is this view that has provoked the most discussion from reviewers. Some critics, accepting the film at face value, are shocked by the world into which these seemingly normal teenagers arrive when they get off of the bus in Miami. Writing for Variety, Geoff Berkshire says, “The documentary’s revelations will come as an eye-opener for many parents, the kind that hopefully inspire frank and honest conversations with their kids.” Other reviewers write about the documentary’s failure to acknowledge that the young women in the pro-am industry are fully consenting adults, and many in the porn industry note that the film offers a very limited view of sex workers’ experiences. More traditional feminist websites like Feminist Current and Jezebel criticize both views as missing a larger picture about the societal position of women and problems with general labor practices.
Check out the documentary yourself and see what you think. Then come back and hit the comments section. Are young women in pro-am being exploited or has the filmed missed something about the power they take over their own lives and sexuality?
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