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Buying Sex

Buying Sex delves into the prostitution debate without selling either side.



Wednesday, May 1, 6 p.m.
TIFF Bell Lightbox (350 King Street West)

Friday, May 3, 1:30 PM
Scotiabank Theatre (259 Richmond Street West)

Sunday, May 5, 1:30 PM
Scotiabank Theatre (259 Richmond Street West)

There is no easy way to wade into the sex-trade debate. The question of legalizing prostitution is a central and sensitive topic for many in the feminist movement, capable of eliciting knee-jerk reactions from all sides. Women should never be a commodity, say some. With legalization comes protection and empowerment, say others. Teresa MacInnes and Kent Nason’s Buying Sex presents both sides, creating a comprehensive—though at times lagging—piece on the topic in a Canadian context.

Centering on the run-up to the 2012 Ontario court ruling that legalized some aspects of prostitution in Canada, Buying Sex focuses on two divergent camps. On one side is Valerie Scott, a sex worker who campaigns in favour of legalization, and who, with lawyer Alan Young, takes the case to the Supreme Court. Her most vocal opponent is Trisha Baptie, a former sex worker from Vancouver’s downtown east side, who is adamantly opposed to loosening up the law. The documentary takes viewers to countries that have legalized (New Zealand) and banned (Sweden) prostitution.

MacInnes and Nason present the trade as something complicated. This stance is the doc’s strongest aspect. In choosing to favour neither side, Buying Sex does what many films on the topic don’t: it lets the women speak for themselves.

See All Hot Docs 2013 Reviews


  • Just the Facts

    Bedford vs. Canada is not about a capitalist free market. The
    documentary does not show that the case was started because Alan Young
    is a law professor first and foremost, and his and many others research
    showed women were being killed because of the construct of the
    prostitution laws. They saw that in Vancouver, volunteers opened up a
    place called “Grandmas House” where street sex workers could do their
    business (no madams involved taking a fee) while Willie Pickton and
    perhaps other serial killers were active. The police shut down this
    safe haven under the bawdy house laws. If you call that a capitalist
    motivation, then you’re sadly mistaken, and the case has been hijacked
    for the purposes of giving a movie about sex workers vs. abolitionists
    more publicity. It’s very sad this movie has nothing to do with Bedford
    vs. Canada, nor what the research says about New Zealand and Sweden.
    Anyone can make anyone else look scary and skew the picture

  • Bedford Parties

    The Bedford parties featured in Buying Sex participated on the assurance that the goal of the film was to raise public awareness regarding the nature of the constitutional challenge to Canada’s prostitution laws.

    Regrettably, Buying Sex provides an incomplete and inaccurate account of the case. Through highly selected editing, the film marginalizes and trivializes the significance of the court challenge.

    Bedford v Canada is not about legalization, decriminalization or the ‘Swedish model’ advanced by some advocates. Nor is this case about polarizing a feminist debate. Bedford is about individual’s constitutional right to security of the person under s.7 of
    the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. For more information about the constitutional challenge go to: