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National Film Board

Buying Sex

Kent Nason & Teresa MacInnes / Canada / 2013 / 75 ' / Anglais


Teresa MacInnes & Manfred Becker
Teresa MacInnes
Kent Nason
Alex Salter
Asif Ilyas
Annette Clarke

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In Production

Zeroing in on two radically different visions of sex work through the stories of those who have most at stake: the buyers and sellers of sex.


Following the recent acts of violence and murder of street prostitutes across Canada, the Ontario Superior Court struck down the laws regulating prostitution, sparking legal appeals and contentious debate. Buying Sex brings forward the voices of sex workers who support law amendments, formerly prostituted women who want abolition, policy-makers, lawyers and even male buyers. All agree that they want to improve the workers' safety, but they have polarized philosophies about how that can be best achieved. To show all sides of this multi-layered issue about prostitution, the filmmakers take us to two countries that have made groundbreaking reforms: Sweden, with its recently adopted, feminist-based zero-tolerance law, and New Zealand, with its decriminalization model. 

Buying Sex carefully presents the many voices in this age-old and contemporary debate. The film serves the public by featuring myriad views. Articulate and impassioned sex workers make their claims for the proposed changes; formerly prostituted women speak out against decriminalizing buying and pimping; and policy-makers, lawyers and even male consumers offer insight and commentary on this issue. 

Additional experts featured in the film include Prof. Alan N. Young (Osgoode Hall Law School), the lawyer who launched a landmark constitutional challenge to strike down Canadian Criminal Code provisions, which he argued preventing sex workers from conducting their business in a safe environment, and who has been named one of the “Top 25 Most Influential” people in the Canadian justice system and legal profession from 2010 through 2012 by Canadian Lawyer magazine. 

Also featured is Prof. Janine Benedet (University of British Columbia), whose research focuses on sexual violence against women, including prostitution, pornography and sexual assault. She is currently researching reforms to Canada's prostitution laws that would support prostitution abolition, as well as the criminal law's treatment of capacity and voluntariness to consent to sexual contact. 

Ultimately, the film asks the viewer to decide which vision would lead to a more just society.