Sex Week film festival shares untold stories of sex workers

    Talking about sex can be intimidating. Sometimes you just want to watch it, er, maybe watch a documentary about it. That’s why Sex Week, Northwestern’s annual stint of workshops, speakers and events focused on examining and discussing sex, is including a film festival. This year’s line-up, “Not That Kind of Film Screening,” is co-sponsored by SHAPE and features three documentaries.

    Paris Is Burning, which kicks off the fest, chronicles the ball community of New York City, an LGBT subculture popular in the '80s in which young members of NYC’s African American, Latino, gay and transgender communities participated in modeling, or “walking,” competitions. The second, which Sex Week Events co-chair D’Laney Gielow says she is most excited about, is The Scarlet Road, a story about an Australian sex worker who specialized in working with disabled populations and people who generally don’t get to have sex. Think autism, down syndrome, limited mobility and cognitive disabilities.

    “We’re so used to talking about prostitutes and sex workers as victims who are always trafficked, and that’s true to some extent, but there’s a whole other flip side to it that I think is important to talk about,” said Gielow. “The sex worker in this film is really empowered and it’s the first time I’ve ever seen sex work portrayed in a light where she’s almost giving back. This film has been on our radar for awhile.”

    The festival is rounded out with Sex Positive, which is a look at the life of Richard Berkowitz, a gay porn star in the '80s who invented the concept of safe sex in response to the AIDS crisis in the gay community.

    “There’s a little something for everyone, whether you’re interested in LGBT subcultures or sex work,” said Gielow. “I hope that it facilitates sex-positive discussion.”

    Gielow also hopes that the film festival will encourage more students to educate themselves in topics on sex.

    “I think film festivals are particularly effective especially on a campus where people are shy or feel uncomfortable talking about these things,” said Gielow. “You can just sit and watch a movie in a dark theater, learn something, and you’re a more informed person for it.”

    The films will screen in Swift 107 from 2-7 p.m. And if the festival ruffles enough raunchy feathers in you, you may feel inspired to head on over to the Celtic Knot for Sex Week’s Speed Dating Mixer at 8 p.m. for same-sex seekers, 9 p.m. for different-sex seekers.


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