The Girlfriend Experience

The Girlfriend Experience by Stephen Soderbergh follows the life of Christine (Sasha Grey) a successful New York based escort who runs her own business. Her life involves balancing the demands of her personal relationship with her fitness trainer boyfriend and a profession of trading intimacy for money. She is self-determined and ambitious but eventually Christine begins to crack from the pressure of which her life demands.

To be honest I thought the film was slow moving and well mundane. Although, I think Grey did well in her depiction, I can’t help but feel she was playing up to a life that is all too familiar to hers. Having built a successful career within the sex industry (pornography) whilst sustaining a normal relationship with her now husband. Nonetheless, I loved the cinematography and Grey in the film.

In relation to my topic of pornography, it seems that the escort world is somewhat different to the pornography world. Usually I think saying that pornography and prostitution are different is ultimately splitting hairs; both are careers where people exchange sexual services for money.

However, if we break them down there are quite a lot of differences between these two professions. Pornography for one involves a camera. It is a product open and accessible for the whole world to see. Porn is undeniable and real. Meanwhile, the escort industry (maybe a glamorized term for prostitution) is more secretive. Everything is kept behind closed doors. Whatever happens between the escorts and their clients is private and confidential. And so us, the onlookers, can somewhat handle it and can accept it more…. or less, who knows? I don’t know whether society is more comfortable with knowing exactly what something is about, like pornography, that openly expresses some people’s darkest fantasies or whether not knowing is better like within the escort industry, where we don’t have to face what people’s fetishes are. More than likely the things that happen between escorts and their customers aren’t a stretch of the imagination away from what happens in pornographic movies, so what’s the difference?

For me, maybe it’s the fact that an escort may be forced to do something against her will or stuck in a situation she cannot escape. Obviously not all the customers they visit are regulars and so one may come across a man who will just rape her, without any material gain. In “The Girlfriend Experience” an incident like this happens to Christine. She pays a visit to someone who will better her career by writing a “review” on her. He demands sex and she refuses. He rapes her and puts a metal pole inside her. Finally, he writes a terrible review about her services, putting her career in serious danger. In pornography rape on set would never happen. They are consenting adults ready to have intercourse, in whatever way they wish to do so, “A safe environment for sexual exploration” Sasha Grey. So on this stance I would probably say escorts are at more risk of being objectified then porn stars.

However, porn stars are just there to have sex; get in, get off, get out and the job’s a good un’. Meanwhile, in the escort world clients often want “the girlfriend experience” a chance to build a relationship with an escort. They would take them to the theatre, for meals, holidays and not just want them for sex. In “The Girlfriend Experience” Christine offers such services (maybe evident in the title, but hey). She treats some of her clients like a boyfriend. They cuddle, talk, go out and enjoy each other’s company. From this angle it would seem pornography is more objectifying as they only appreciate each other physically and not mentally.  Also, the consumers of pornography are only interested in viewing them as objects. People generally don’t want to know what their favourite book is or where they grew up.

Overall, pornography and escorting are very different on the basis of publicity and privacy. If something is private it doesn’t necessarily make it less objectifying nor does it if it is more public. Or maybe the sex industry is objectifying is just objectifying in general. But how can it due to people having free will and having consented to enter these careers? Certainly is a tricky one.

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