I’ve just watched the documentary ‘Sex: My British Job’ on 4OD (it will be available for three more days), and below are some brief notes on it.
Although Hsiao-Hung Pai is the undercover reporter, taking all the risks, it’s still sold as a Nick Broomfield documentary, and the risks she takes, and psychological pressure she is put under by the madam, and the other prostitutes (who are turned against by the madam), to become a prostitute herself (she is called a retard, mental, cunt and a motherfucker, isolated, constantly criticised and undermined, overloaded with housework, has no days off and very little sleep (she has to sleep on the floor of a room used by a prostitute), and left feeling suicidal by her experiences) makes her seem like Broomfield’s sacrificial lamb, especially at the end of the film when Hsiao and Broomfield confront the madam and accuse her of exploitation.
Hsiao plays the role of an illegal Chinese immigrant, looking to work as a maid in brothels. Tighter immigration laws mean fewer jobs, so women turn to prostitution as a way to pay off the people smugglers, and to send money back home.
They are Chinese women in their late 30’s and early 40’s, but in the first brothel Hsiao works in, there are two Romanian women aged 18 and 20 (this first brothel is a new one opened in Stratford by a Chinese madam, it fails to get enough johns in the first week, and Hsiao is paid less than half of what was agreed and fired).
There is no direct violent coercion, but enormous pressure to send money home, none of the women’s families know what they do, none of them were prostitutes before they came to the UK; one women who started working in a restaurant in the UK, said she wished she had started as a prostitute sooner. She earned £1300 for a 100 hour week, but was drinking heavily, she also suspected she had an STD, but couldn’t access health care because of her illegal status and her complete lack of English.
Hsiao is then employed as a maid in a second brothel by Mary, and the rest of the documentary is filmed in that brothel.
The johns appear to all be white (their faces are blurred, so it is not always possible to tell; the brothel advertises in English on a site called ‘happy orientals’). One john urinates on the bed and floor, then asks for a £10 discount, he appears to be drunk, but is able to get dressed and walk out afterwards.
Another john asks if they do school uniforms.
Another john asks if he can bring cocaine and if the prostitute will take cocaine with him. Because of the drugs, he cannot come, and he stays for two hours.
Towards the end of the film, Hsiao, after the constant psychological bullying from Mary (who Hsiao describes as a sadist who enjoys others’ suffering), agrees to “jump into the sea” (the euphemism used to describe servicing a john for the first time). She arranges for Broomfield to make an appointment with her, and tells him she did this because she couldn’t take being trapped with Mary any longer. It appears she left after this, as after that they show the confrontation with Mary, and that’s the end of the film.