It might be the world’s oldest profession, but what do we actually know about its practitioners? Aside from cheap jokes and cliché stereotypes, it’s fair to say that much of the world remains oblivious to the realities sex workers face each day.
Thankfully, these documentaries about sex workers and escorts on Netflix are here to destigmatize the profession through an honest and compassionate examination of the industry around the globe. From stripping to webcamming and prostitution to porn, these films explore a breadth of careers by examining the lives of the individuals who choose to practice them. Check your prejudices at the door and broaden your horizons by learning more about the men and women who count themselves as sex workers.
The best escorts and porn documentaries on Netflix
1) Whores’ Glory (2011)
When it comes to examining an industry as global as the sex trade, where does one even think to begin? That’s the question that daunted filmmaker Michael Glawogger when he began work on this 2011 film. In Whores’ Glory, this documentarian chose to examine sex work through the lenses of three separate countries, each with a distinct form of prostitution. Glawogger ventured to Thailand, Bangladesh, and Mexico to create intimate portraits of these women and their lives through film. Though the brightly lit Plexiglass boxes of Thailand might be a far cry from the brothel ghettos of Bangladesh, this poetic film reveals a universal truth shared by all these women. —Greg Seals
2) Hot Girls Wanted (2015)
There’s no doubt that the internet has steadily revolutionized access to porn. But it’s also made it more feasible to access potential actors and actresses, misleading them into the world of amateur porn with promises of fame and fortune. Hot Girls Wanted undoubtedly gives an intimate view of several 18- to 19-year-old amateur porn “stars,” highlighting the dangers of hiring young, inexperienced performers. With former print journalists leading the project, the documentary is approached both informatively and respectfully while simultaneously bringing to light the troubles of the “girl next door” gone “internet sensation.” —Dahlia Dandashi
3) Tricked (2013)
Tricked documents the spread and influence of the human trafficking industry specifically as it relates to other kinds of sex work. America’s sex trafficking trade generates roughly $3 billion per year and often employs vulnerable minors who are masterfully coerced into the hands of a pimp. The film features interviews with women who were involved in trafficking rings as well as the men who put them there, showcasing the cycle of exploitation many young sex workers have endured.—D.D.
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4) After Porn Ends (2012)
While porn stars might have the undying devotion of fans and the lust of thousands of admirers, it’s not always what they crave most. Most only desire to find a sense of normalcy once the cameras stop rolling, but for many performers, life outside of the industry can be a tough road to traverse. Director Bryce Wagoner invited some of the industry’s most famous faces to sit down and talk candidly about the triumphs and challenges they’ve had since leaving the business. After Porn Ends 2, a secondary installment of the film, was released in 2017. —G.S.
5) La Bare (2014)
In 2012, Magic Mike dazzled audiences with its flashy portrayal of hard-bodied boys who earn a living by thrusting their hips in the faces of adoring women, but that’s not all the film did. In preparation for his role in the movie, actor Joe Manganiello began exploring the world of exotic dancing. After the actor stumbled across Dallas strip club La Bare, he became instantly fascinated and set out to tell the stories of the men who are worshiped onstage. Manganiello manages to capture sex, sensitivity, and everything in between as these performers bare more than just their bodies. —G.S.
6) Naked Ambition: An R Rated Look at an X Rated Industry (2009)
In 2006, famed photographer Michael Grecco set out on a journey to Las Vegas’ AVN Adult Entertainment Expo with his camera and a singular ambition: He wanted to capture the stars of the porn industry in all their glory and humanity, unretouched and entirely real. A crew of cameras followed along to capture the portraitist’s artistic process, but soon the project morphed into something more as performers began talking candidly to the camera about their time in the industry. Experience the expo, the awards, and the fans of the convention through the eyes of these performers. Available on Netflix DVD only. —G.S.
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7) Hot Girls Wanted: Turned On (2017)
In this six-part documentary series, the same team that brought you a glimpse into the porn world with Hot Girls Wanted examines the undeniable intersections between sex, technology, intimacy, and personal relationships. Turned On tackles some of the same glaring issues with the porn industry that Hot Girls did, but it takes a deeper look at how technology—such as webcamming, streaming, dating and hookup apps—is affecting fundamental human connection.
The series has caused significant controversy, with many of its subjects claiming that the producers aren’t taking their concerns about consent and privacy seriously. The issue boils down to some editing decisions that its critics claim leave the sex workers open to harassment.
Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance.