Turning a Corner

Turning a Corner tells the stories of people involved in the sex trade and their efforts to raise public awareness of systemic injustice and promote needed reforms. Created in a media activism workshop with over a dozen members of Prostitution Alternatives Round Table (PART), this groundbreaking film recounts their survival and triumph over homelessness, violence and discrimination, and gives rare insights into Chicago's sex trade industry. The new version includes interview updates with many of the participants from the original film. Through Beyondmedia's Women and Prison program, incarcerated women and girls, former prisoners and their families use media arts to voice their stories, promoting public dialogue, healing and community organizing. Since 1997, Beyondmedia has collaborated extensively with women and girls in prison and after their incarceration to create interdisciplinary, multimedia educational forums on women and prison.

00:52Copy video clip URL Assembled group of sex workers discusses some of the pejorative terms used to describe them

01:59Copy video clip URL Brenda Myers Powell from the Prostitution Alternatives Round Table (PART) discusses the role of Madison Street as a hub for sex work in Chicago: “If you have come up on the West Side and […] if you prostituted, you may have turned your first trick or your last trick on Madison Street. There’s still a lot of prostitution going down…the projects are still here and they just don’t pick up the prostitutes like they do, maybe, in the better neighborhoods.”

02:52Copy video clip URL Chasnoff provides background information on the basis for this video, which tracks the locations of transformative or traumatic events experienced by participants in a media activism workshop involving people working in the sex trade in Chicago.

03:48Copy video clip URL Helen Smith highlights the dangers faced by sex workers, mentioning personal anecdotes regarding the violence she and other sex workers she knows have experienced.

04:25Copy video clip URL Samir Goswami, from the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (the organizers of PART), and Professor Ann Russo discuss the correlation between prostitution and homelessness as well as the ways in which the sex industry has been historically stigmatized and criminalized. Professor Russo also discussed how terms like “sex worker” and “sex industry” are used as a means of separating sex workers from the stigma of immorality and criminality associated with the word “prostitution”. 

10:08Copy video clip URL Participants in the panel discuss the many instances in which their lives have been at risk, as well as the inaction of police who feel no incentive to protect sex workers. As the documentary notes, media depictions of sex workers often fail to take into account the extreme dangers of the sex industry, as well as the dehumanizing way in which they are treated by broader society.

13:22Copy video clip URL The panel discusses how, from a young age, events in their lives such as a lack of economic opportunity and sexual abuse at home contributed to their entry into the sex industry. 

16:30Copy video clip URL PART participant Lucretia Clay visits a hotel she used to frequent as a sex worker while reminiscing on how her mother sold her to a “pimp” as a young girl. Though pimps are, in theory, supposed to protect sex workers, Clay explains how, despite taking a significant portion of her earnings, her pimp never did much to protect her during the multiple kidnappings and sexual assaults she has experienced. This, she says, is part of the “trap” of the sex industry. Though pimps provide for sex workers, they become trapped in a vicious cycle from which it is hard to escape.

20:48Copy video clip URL PART takes to the streets of Chicago to gauge public opinion on whether the sex industry should be illegal or regulated.

27:45Copy video clip URL Discussions on the worrying enforcement and sentencing disparities associated with the sex industry, as police target sex workers far more often than customers or pimps. Customers rarely face charges even when caught by the police, while the same cannot be said for the sex workers themselves.

35:22Copy video clip URL Goswami discusses how gentrifying communities such as Bucktown and Lincoln Park have responded to high levels of street prostitution by criminalizing homeless sex workers as a way to force them out of the neighborhood. These community policing programs continue to target and displace sex workers from their communities as opposed to addressing the root causes of street-level prostitution. Furthermore, the vast majority of the sex trade takes place indoors, meaning that the criminalization (primarily of people of color) working or soliciting on the streets does little to actually curb prostitution.

43:07Copy video clip URL Brenda Myers Powell discusses how difficult the stigmatization of sex work makes it for sex workers to leave the trade and live a life outside of it. Many former sex workers are forced to hide and be ashamed of their past in order to have a relationship without being judged or left by their partners.

45:52Copy video clip URL PART goes to Springfield to advocate for greater protections for sex workers and other nonviolent felons at the Illinois State Senate.

54:03Copy video clip URL Credits

56:29Copy video clip URL End of tape



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