New Reality Show Aims to “Rescue” Sex Workers in 8 Minutes

North American & Caribbean Regional Correspondent

Sex workers are responding with outrage about a new reality show named "8 Minutes" set to air on the A&E channel. The show follows vice cop-turned-minister, Kevin Brown as he arranges to meet sex workers in hotel rooms and, within eight minutes, tries to “rescue” them from the sex trades.

"They’ve got eight minutes to talk her out of prostitution," executive producer Tom Forman, who also produces “Sex Box” told Entertainment Weekly. "If she says yes, that’s great. If after eight minutes she hasn’t, they give her a phone number and tell her they’ll always be there, but they cut off the intervention."

As Vulture reports; “according to Forman, though Brown tries to stage interventions specifically targeting women who are forced into prostitution, he rarely has any evidence that that is indeed the case, instead operating on a gut feeling. "He doesn’t know when he calls," says Forman. "But after 20 years on the job, he can decode an ad or solicitation or posting on the Internet like no one you’ve ever seen."”

Forman says that he was inspired to create the show after reading a Los Angeles Times article about Brown, who joined forces with his church to create a prostitution intervention programme. The article reports that even the police department is skeptical of Brown’s methods.

“Brown told his congregation that for 20 years he’s had to arrest these women when what he’s really wanted to do is help them.” Forman told Entertainment Weekly. “It launched a drive within his church to run these undercover operations. We read that and thought somebody should put a camera on this, it’s the most incredible thing I’ve ever heard.”

Forman says that Brown has a 50-50 success rate, which, Vulture writes, “is remarkably low if you consider he operates under the assumption that all sex workers are helpless victims waiting for a pious dude to swoop in and rescue them from their terrible fate.”

Even anti-trafficking advocates are troubled by the show. Melanie Matson of Emerson’s Violence Prevention and Response, who specialises in assisting people affected by sexual and interpersonal violence, said. “It reeks of colonialism and imperialism. It re-creates the very system they’re trying to supposedly save people from.” Matson also expressed concern that women who are “saved” in 8 Minutes are often being removed to so-called safe houses in different cities or states.

“They’re removing the person from social networks and support systems,” she said.

A petition has been set up at urging A&E to not show the series, saying that it is highly offensive and intrusive on the lives of sex workers.

“Sex workers lives are not entertainment.” The petition reads. “This show is not only degrading in nature, but it doesn't find sex workers, it tricks and manipulates sex workers into allowing him to come into their private space and then sets about abusing their human rights and expects these women will later consent to him using their face on television - this man is not only delusional but dangerous and this program should be cancelled before it starts unless the broadcaster wants a law suit for aiding and abetting this abuse.

 “If this ex cop / Church group/ TV station really want to assist sex workers they should be lobbying to recognise sex work as a legally recognised occupation and pushing for full decriminalisation of the sex industry. This would mean that those who do want assistance to leave could do so without being criminalised and subjected to this kind of discrimination and stigma, while allowing those who continue sex work to be treated equally to all other citizens.”