Why you should care

Because taking a hard look at the realities of the sex trade makes it seem a hell of a lot less sexy.

Austrian director Michael Glawogger is obsessed with labor.

He wants to know what people do for work, how they do it and, fundamentally, why they do it, since the answer “for money” only goes so far. The third film in his globalization trilogy, following Megacities (1998) and Workingman’s Death (2005), the 2011 documentary Whores’ Glory takes an unsparing look at prostitution in Bangladesh, Thailand and Mexico.

If you consider that, according to Glawogger, there are about 40 million women working as prostitutes (and doing so legally in more than a dozen countries), and that one of every 10 men in the world have purchased their services, Whores’ Glory is a trenchant study of how cash and commerce combine to affect human behavior. Without scolding, the film argues that sometimes it’s not just about the sex, even when it is sex. It’s about politics, religion, aspirations and a kind of true existential horror at commingling lust, fantasy and commerce.

And the best part is that it manages, without moralizing, to point out that professions designed to cater to compulsions can be the worst jobs in the world — no matter what kind of lies we tell ourselves. And that “we” applies to both the working girls and their customers.

A sober and sobering addition to discussions of worldwide sex trafficking and the crisis of sexual assault, the film is mindful of the irreducible facts: Someone is paying, someone is being paid, something is being exchanged, and someone is getting screwed.

Very possibly everybody.

It’s a haunting must-see during a time when sexual bad behaviors around the globe are deepening the dialogue of how we handle our most compelling feeling: desire.

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