Laverne Cox has dropped out of the sex work documentary “Sell/Buy/Date” based on the play by Tony Award winner Sarah Jones, saying she’s “not in an emotional place to deal with the outrage” generated by the film adaptation.
As announced earlier this week, Cox was set to executive produce the documentary alongside Meryl Streep and Rashida Jones, with Sarah Jones making her feature directorial debut. Following the announcement, sex workers on social media were quick to decry the project, saying Sarah Jones had co-opted their stories in her one-woman play, in which she inhabited several multicultural characters to explore issues like prostitution and female sexual exploitation.
In a tweet late Wednesday night, Cox said she loves Sarah Jones’ “brilliant play,” but is no longer involved in the documentary.
“I am not in an emotional place to deal with the outrage by some around my participation in this project. So I have decided to pull out,” Cox wrote. “To be clear I am no longer involved in any capacity in ‘Sell Buy Date.’ I have to take care of my mental, physical and emotional health. This is all I have to say on the matter.”
“Sell/Buy/Date,” which debuted off-Broadway in 2016, is based on interviews Sarah Jones conducted with sex workers, and explores the thin line between what some people call “sex work” and others call “prostitution.” While the play has received critical acclaim, it’s also been polarizing, with sex work activists saying the story and an upcoming film adaptation would stigmatize people who work in their industry. Cox was further targeted because of her history of advocating for decriminalizing sex work and for promoting sex workers’ rights.
Shortly after Cox announced she’d pulled out of the project, Sarah Jones responded in her own tweet, saying, “I’m so grateful to you Laverne for coming on the journey with me thus far, and I’m looking forward to continuing my work on the film, and only ask that everyone give Laverne her space while keeping an open mind about the project before judging it.”
The playwright had responded to backlash against her film earlier on Wednesday, writing, “I appreciate everyone who has reached out of commented with concerns about how folks currently in the sex industry will be represented in my film. As a Black feminist artist, I have always centered the stories of traditionally marginalized people, especially women and femmes struggling for liberation and self-determination. My sisters in the sex industry are no exception.”
She continued, “I am committed to deep listening to folks with lived experience, not only in my interviews, but also in those we hire behind the scenes.”
See Cox’s tweet below:
— Laverne Cox (@Lavernecox) January 7, 2021