I’ve pulled together a short list of sex work characters from some of my all time favorite films and tv shows. Collectively, they symbolize the fortitude, resilience, and entrepreneurial spirit of the sex worker. Warning: spoilers ahead!

Shae from Game of Thrones

Photo Source: The Daily Express

Considering the never-ending list of characters on Game of Thrones, I won’t fault you too much if the name Shae doesn’t ring a bell. Played by Sibel Kekilli, Shae is the mysterious prostitute who charms Lord Tyrian into falling in love with her. Not much is known about her background, other than that she fled her abusive father in search of a better life. The ultimate pro, she is able to tactfully deflect patrons like Tyrion from prying too much into her personal life, getting them to open up to her instead.

For instance, she quickly bonds with Tyrion by giving him the safe space he needs to open up about a childhood trauma in which he fell in love with a woman who turned out to be a prostitute hired by his brother, Jamie, as part of a cruel joke. Though she plays the demure damsel well, what makes Shae the real baddie she is is her quick wit and ambition. She has no intentions of growing old in a brothel. She shamelessly climbs her way up the social ladder, first as Sansa’s handmaiden, whom she provides a much needed education about the harsh realities of the world to.

Later on, when a love triangle forms between Sansa, Tyrion, and Shae, she switches her alliance to Tyrion’s nefarious sister, Cersei, and father, Tywin, in what appears to be part shrewd power move, part emotionally charged impulse. Though she plays the game well, her chess moves ultimately prove too bold, and she ends up getting murdered by her ex-lover and patron, Tyrion. While Shae’s plot line is fairly minimal compared to characters who lasted longer than four seasons, her elegance and hootspa make her an iconic character worthy of celebration.

Marion from Requiem for a Dream

Marion from Requiem for a Dream Sensuali
Photo Source: Goodfon

A go-to comfort movie during my sad girl days, Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream conveys as much raw human emotion as it evokes. The film follows four characters – Harry Goldfarb (Jared Leto), his mother Sara (Ellen Burstyn), his best friend Tyrone (Marlone Wayans), and his girlfriend, Marion (Jennifer Connelly) – as they struggle with addiction. Harry, Tyrone, and Marion are all heroin junkies, while Harry’s mom, Sara, gets hooked on amphetamines that are advertised to her as weight loss pills.

The movie paints a chilling portrait of substance abuse, and as the plot unfolds, each character becomes increasingly desperate to find ways to sustain their drug habit. Marion and Harry start out as an innocent, young couple madly in love but things change when dope starts to overrun their lives. Harry and Tyrone begin slinging heroin, but when a supply chain issue surfaces,

Harry pressures Marion into putting out for her creepy therapist in order to get money to fund their drug habit. Later on, Harry and Tyrone leave New York in hopes of scoring big, leaving Marion to her own devices. The film ends with a jarring scene in which Marion is engaged in a sexual act involving a dildo up her ass and another woman. The duo is performing in front of a room full of businessmen, with the understanding being that Marion has begun selling her body in order to fund her drug use.

Though it’s undeniably heartbreaking to watch Marion’s descent into madness, Requiem for a Dream does an excellent job of conveying the dark and sometimes exploitative nature of sex work, while simultaneously demonstrating that even the most seamingly pure characters can morph into shadow versions of themselves when subjected to certain conditions. It doesn’t get more human than shedding light on the lengths a person will go to just to survive.

Wendy from Breaking Bad

Wendy from Breaking Bad Sensuali blog
Photo Source: Uproxx

A minor character in the critically acclaimed Breaking Bad series, which follows a high school chemistry teacher’s metamorphosis from upstanding citizen to feared drug lord, Wendy nonetheless made her mark on me. Like Marion, Wendy seems to have fallen into the profession of prostitution to fund her drug habit. Unlike Marion, Wendy’s drug of choice is meth and, as a far more seasoned sex working professional, she appears to be way less affected by her decision to exchange sexual services for money.

A single mother, Wendy exudes mama bear vibes. Not only is she depicted as providing emotional support and sexual relief to a number of clients, she goes out of her way as to provide an alibi for leading protagonist, Jessie Pinkman, when he is accused of a crime. Though mainstream society marginalizes her, painting her as an unstable, wanton woman with no moral compass, she ends up having more integrity than anyone else on the show. She is a woman of the streets, who refuses to let police bully her into snitching. Wendy is tough when she needs to be and has a heart of gold – two qualities that have certainly contributed to her longterm success as an independent sex worker.

See below for the scene that really made me fall in love with her. The way the creators of Breaking Bad pair music with action scenes is fantastic. I’m obsessed with this montage of Wendy being her badass self and can 100% relate to the going-through-the-motions grind that is sex work. It’s quite difficult to depict the way in which sex work can be just as humorous, playful and intimate, as it can be gritty, harrowing, and impersonal. Breaking Bad was able to do so through the oh so lovable, imperfectly perfect Wendy.

Linda from Enter the Void

Linda from Enter the Void Sensuali Blog
Photo Source: IMDB

Like Requiem for a Dream, Gaspar Noé’s Enter the Void is a deeply disturbing psychological thriller. The film follows the life, death, and afterlife of Oscar (Nathaniel Brown), who is / was an American expat living in Tokyo and selling drugs to support himself. The movie is filmed from the first person point of view of Oscar, who gets gun-downed at a nightclub before continuing on in spirit form in this “psychedelic melodrama.” The movie’s leading lady is Oscar’s sister, Linda (Paz de la Huerta), who works as a stripper at a club owned by a man named Mario, with whom she is romantically involved.

The combo of experimental imagery, crane shots, and a trippy playlist blurs time, space, and metaphysical dimensions, as the film takes us on a whirlwind adventure of Oscar’s past, present, and future lives. Formative memories depict how strained his and Linda’s childhood was. After an accident that left them orphaned, the siblings were sent to live in different foster homes. Despite being separated at various points throughout their lives, their bond is strong. All they have ever had is one another.

Oscar and Linda both make the brave move from America to Japan, doing what they have to do to build better lives for themselves. Though clearly traumatized, Linda is not depicted as lacking autonomy. She has complete agency over her body, shamelessly using her sensuality to make a living. Her brother’s death hits her hard, and we watch her become increasingly isolated and depressed as the storyline progresses. This is only made worse when she gets pregnant and undergoes an abortion. Through her display of fragility, we are able to see just how strong Linda is. No matter what tragedy comes her way, she persists.

Willa from Succession

Willa from Succession sensuali blog

Perhaps the least sympathetic character on this list, Willa (Justine Lupe) embodies all the negative stereotypes of an entitled millennial. She wants to be rich without putting in the work and can’t stomach the idea of hunkering down and being a cog in some corporate machine, opting instead to pursue her theater dreams with the financial backing of her client and lover, Connor. Connor himself is a lazy jerkoff who happens to be the first born son of billionaire media tycoon, Logan Roy, and thus has the ability to pamper Willa and provide her with the lifestyle she thinks she deserves. Though Willa has her faults, she is far from being the most insufferable character on the show.

For starters, she is not born into the 1% and is therefore not as horrifyingly out of touch with reality as members of the Roy family. At social functions, poor Willa is constantly made into a punch line, as it’s an open secret that Connor started out as her escorting client before falling in love with her and asking her to be exclusive with him – something she reluctantly agreed to. At times her iciness towards Connor gets annoying, but given the circumstances, can anyone really blame her?

Constantly being belittled by the Roys must get real old real fast. At her core, Willa is a bohemian living out her creative dream of producing plays with the help of a loyal patron. So often, we are exposed to narratives where women who are taken care of give up on their dreams to pursue creature comforts, but Willa is not just another gold digger. She is a strategist, making use of her good looks and conversational skills to advance her career, while setting healthy boundaries to boot.

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Jules

Jules

Author

Based in Brooklyn, Jules has dedicated her twenties towards harnessing her pussy power, exploring the muse, whore, and wild woman archetypes along the way. When not blogging, you can find her sweating the toxins out in a hot yoga class or sipping a matcha latte at a pretentious coffee shop, whilst she scribbles away in her journal.


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