Salvation Army project raising funds for ‘undercover’ documentary on sex workers
A new documentary project raising funds online has drawn criticism from sex workers and sex work advocates for allegedly filming women employed in those trades without their consent.
Freelance journalist Melissa Gira Grant reported Tuesday that the film, “Hard Corps,” is being produced by SAVN.tv, an online network funded by the Salvation Army, and purports to link pornography, exotic dancing and other types of sex work to other forms of human trafficking. The page also features a video statement by Salvation Army “Territorial Commander” Jim Knaggs, who calls sex work “nothing less than slavery.”
“When I saw the first tweet about the project, I was neither shocked nor surprised,” one sex worker, Jolene Parton, told The Raw Story in an email interview on Wednesday. “The rescue industry, sex-negative feminism, and religious organizations have been using sex workers as unwilling fodder for their moral crusade for as long as I can remember.”
The project is currently seeking funding through the online platform Kickstarter, which Gira Grant reported is “looking into” the matter, according to co-founder Yancey Strickler. The site’s regulations do not permit projects raising money for charitable purposes, but donors have reported seeing the Salvation Army listed as the recipient of their pledges.
As of Wednesday afternoon, “Hard Corps” has raised just over $8,000 of the creative team’s stated goal of $100,000 in funding. An email sent to Kickstarter for comment has not been returned as of the time of publication.
In the trailer, director Guy Noland, wearing a light disguise, shows off a camera hidden on a pair of eyeglasses. The trailer also appears to show sex workers without having their faces blurred to protect their identity, leading to accusations online that Noland and his team were endangering the workers’ lives by exposing their identities.
Also, while the project’s Kickstarter page lists interviews with various porn stars, at least one of them, Nina Hartley, said on Twitter on Tuesday that she “did not know” that her interview would be used for this kind of film.
Gira Grant reported that, following complaints to Kickstarter, a post appeared under the project’s “FAQ” stating that, “Everyone on camera signed an appearance release form, allowing us to use their likeness on film.”
But Jolene said the fact that the documentarians’ statement appeared only after the criticism began showed that they didn’t care enough to inform their interview subjects about the nature of their project.
“I don’t believe it for an instant,” she said. “If they actually cared about sex workers, they would have emphasized consent and safety practices from the beginning.”