The ugly truth about “Pretty Woman”

Posted by on March 24, 2015 in Updates

Pretty Woman Opera Scene La Traviata 2

This month marks the 25th anniversary of the release of the film Pretty Woman. Many are reminiscing about the movie and its “fairytale” romance in popular media, including a reunion of the cast on the TODAY Show.

Demand Abolition and our allies are using this moment to further a national dialogue about the harmful and exploitative nature of the illegal sex trade. Many articles and op-eds have been written to coincide with the anniversary, which debunk the Pretty Woman fantasy by clearly explaining the many harms of illegal commercial sex.

  • Marian Hatcher, survivor leader and Cook County Sherriff Project Manager, in the Huffington Post.
  • Peter Qualliotine, co-founder and Director of Men’s Accountability for Organization for Prostitution Survivors, in the New York Times blog.
  • Kaethe Morris Hoffer, the Executive Director of the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation, writes An Open Letter to Richard Gere on Pretty Woman’s 25th Anniversary.
  • Detective Donna Gavin, head of Boston Police Anti-Trafficking Unit, in
  • Mitch Morrissey, Denver District Attorney, in the Denver Post.
  • Donna Hughes, professor of gender and women’s studies at the University of Rhode Island discusses the ways her research counters the film’s plot in the Providence Journal.
  • Susan Smalley, Ph.D, describes how she became “enlightened” to the truth about prostitution in the Huffington Post.

Journalists and analysts are also weighing in through a variety of media channels. Here are a few examples:

We hope our friends and supporters will share these stories and your own online, and help present a more accurate view of the sex trade and sex buyers than the myth that Pretty Woman portrays. 

We are not criticizing the movie’s fans for enjoying it, but we do want to use the national attention as a way to educate others about the real-life damage caused by this illegal industry. As Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey wrote,

“Movies like ‘Pretty Woman’ do not create the situations that lead to sex trafficking, nor are they the reason sex trafficking continues in thousands of cities and small towns across the country. But they do present an opportunity. This is a chance to start a real dialogue about how damaging commercial sexual exploitation is for the most vulnerable among us, and then come together to end it.”