Roller coaster ride of buying and selling sex

Michelle and Jared Brocks' film examines various aspects of the global sex industry.


Michelle and Jared Brocks' film examines various aspects of the global sex industry.

November 25, 2013

With the legalization of buying and selling sex soon to be decided by Canada's Supreme Court, a new documentary is taking Canadians to places where prostitution and sexual exploitation are either flourishing or dying off and asks why this is the case.

In the film Red Light Green Light, viewers hear from former sex workers, a former client (a "john") and advocates for legalizing and decriminalizing sex work. Viewers learn about the violence and degradation that runs rampant, even in legal sex industries, and hear how women entered sex work.

And from this, they will find that vulnerability comes in different forms – for example, emotional and economic – and is influenced by a variety of factors, including abuse, age, race, gender, money, geography and the law.

"Though there is a small percentage of people at the top who made the choice to enter the sex industry, . . . the majority of people who have entered prostitution did so because of the lack of choice, not because of choice. For the most part, the industry preys upon the most vulnerable," said Michelle Brock, who directed and produced the film with her husband Jared.

The Brocks are founders of Hope for the Sold, a Canadian anti-slavery organization. With the question to fully legalize prostitution permeating the film, the law is on trial for its ability to grow or diminish prostitution and sex trafficking.


"Laws often have a normative effect on society. If a country enforces action against the buying of sex while at the same time offering support for those wishing to leave the industry, cultural attitudes begin to change over time," said Melanie. "If coupled with awareness about gender equality and how to respect others, this is beneficial to society as a whole."

But "if the purchase of sex is fully legalized, the market for sex expands due to increased demand, and it exceeds the number of 'willing workers.' Traffickers step in to fill the supply side; an illegal industry grows alongside the legal one, and that cannot be regulated," said Jared.

So the film argues that laws should target johns and sex traffickers to decrease demand. In other words, criminalize the buying, not the selling, of sex.

"Over a decade ago, Sweden decided to decriminalize the selling of sex while criminalizing the buying of it. They created exit programs for those wishing to leave prostitution. Not only has it decreased prostitution, it has also reduced sex trafficking," said Melanie.

The film emphasizes that sex trafficking is a problem that can happen in Canada, and that it is everyone's daughter, sister and friend who could fall victim.

"Many people in Canada assume that this only happens in places like Cambodia. We've met many trafficking survivors here in Canada, and each has a unique story," said Jared.

"One was trafficked from Eastern Europe to strip clubs and massage parlours in Toronto. Another was raised in a middle class Catholic home in Ontario and ended up prostituting herself for a pimp boyfriend she met while attending university."


In Canada, "native aboriginal populations are disproportionately represented in domestic trafficking," said Jared.

"If little blonde Canadian girls started to go missing at the same rate as aboriginal women and girls are, there would be a public outcry," Melanie said.

The Brocks hope to educate people on the complexities of sex trafficking and what they can do about it, especially since Parliament, motivated by pressure from voters, can respond to the Supreme Court's looming decision.

In Edmonton, Red Light Green Light will be shown Sunday, Nov. 24 at 7:30 p.m. at Millwoods Evangelical Free Church, 1559-80 St. It will also be shown Monday, Nov. 25 by Stop the Traffik. The time and place was not available at press time.

For other ways of watching this film, visit