Whores' Glory: A Sad Global Survey of the Sex Trade

As with meat processing and politics, the day-to-day drama, tedium, and heartbreak of prostitution have little to do with our spoon-fed fantasies about the profession. Michael Glawogger's fearless Whores' Glory demystifies trick-turning with a bluntness and artistry that's sure to make even the most jaded among us choke on our next sitcom-hooker-joke chuckle. Glawogger is most interested in the ways whoredom supports and contradicts a culture, and to that end divides Whores' Glory into three distinct parts. The first sets the stage in a "fishbowl" brothel in Bangkok, where middle-class johns live out their glitzy porn fantasies in streamlined, near-antiseptic conditions. The shock here comes from how matter-of-fact it all is—the workaday routine of the girls puts the grind in "bump and grind." It's in the second segment, in a prostitution district in Bangladesh, that the ghastly sadness and lack of options inherent in the trade truly surface, as dozens of women and girls vie (sometimes violently) for a steady stream of primarily Muslim men and forestall impoverished, lonely old age as best they can. The final third, in the Mexican border town of Reynosa, brings the baroque: Drive-through hooking is the norm, while between gigs—and we finally see what whores do for their money here—the women, many of whom were kidnapped into prostitution, bond over hard drugs and a black-magic strain of Catholicism. If Glawogger resists feeling anything besides clinical interest in his case studies, it hardly detracts from their humanity.

 
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