Media depictions warp the realities of prostitution

Last month, FBI Director Robert Muller announced a nationwide sweep on pimps who trade in child prostitutes. Authorities named Tampa as one of 16 cities in which child prostitution is common, the Tampa Tribune reported.

Former U.S. Rep. Linda Smith, who runs Shared Hope International, an organization dedicated to rescuing and restoring women and children in crisis, said that authorities generally do not focus on the pimps or traffickers, but on the children. She also said that many prostitutes have been brainwashed by their pimps to think they are only criminals or are dependent on them for drugs and have been taught not to trust the police.

These factors are likely why Shared Hope found that prostitutes in the Tampa area were seen more as criminals than victims. Neither the authorities nor the pimps, however, can be solely blamed. The media at large has made it difficult to view prostitutes as victims by portraying their lifestyles as ones full of lavish luxuries.

Showtime’s latest racy show, Secret Diary of a Call Girl, is based on the blog of real-life hooker Belle de Jour, played by actress Billie Piper. The show’s depiction of the life of a prostitute is mostly filled with champagne, expensive hotels and limos.

In the first episode, Bella said that she didn’t become a hooker because she was abused as a child or has a drug habit.

“So why do I do it? I love sex and I love money,” she said.

Then there is Ashley Dupre, also known as Kristen, the woman in the very center of the Eliot Spitzer prostitution scandal. In addition to having been a professional escort, Dupre is a singer, and after the prostitution story broke, her Internet single got over three million listens, according to

Dupre was signed with music manager Jerry Blair in April, who also managed Mariah Carey, according to the New York Daily News.

Dupre is also in talks with production house Reveille to join the ranks of other reality starlets like Paris Hilton and Denise Richardson by starring in her own reality show: a mix of Cinderella and Pretty Woman, according to Entertainment Weekly.

In order to get people to see prostitutes as victims instead of criminals, the media must present more accurate representations of these women.

The documentary Born Into Brothels: Calcutta’s Red Light Kids, for instance, shows the struggles child prostitutes face. However, such realities are forgotten amid the TV series and movies that depict prostitution so glamorously.

Shows like Secret Diary of a Call Girl need to present more reality and problems than champagne and sex. They should serve as a reminder of the harsh world of red light districts everywhere, and real-life prostitutes like Dupre should not to be rewarded with reality shows and record deals.

Candace Kaw is a junior majoring in mass communications and history.