Laverne Cox Walks Away from Sex Work Documentary, Not in 'Emotional Place to Deal with the Outrage'

“I have to take care of my mental, physical and emotional health,” says Cox after overwhelming backlash to her involvement in Sarah Jones’ “Sell/Buy/Date.”

After director Sarah Jones announced a film adaptation of her “Buy/Sell/Date” off-Broadway stage production on January 5, there was an immediate backlash over the show’s content.

The one-woman show tackles the controversial subject of sex work and featured Jones playing various characters inspired by different real people. She’d lined up Meryl Streep, Rashida Jones and Laverne Cox as executive producers, but Cox has already pulled out over the “outrage.”

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It was barely 24 hours later that Cox was announcing that it was all just a bit too much for her right now. Taking to her social media platforms, Cox emphasized that she’d agreed to be part of the project in support of Jones’ “undeniable talent as an artist, as an actor.”

But the backlash quickly proved overwhelming. “I have so much love for her as a human being,” the “Orange Is the New Black” star continued. “But 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.”

Stating quite plainly that she is no longer involved “in any capacity,” Cox concluded her statement by saying, “I have to take care of my mental health. This is all I have to say on the matter.”

She then followed her statement up on Thursday with a clip from a 2014 interview where Cox talked about the need to decriminalize sex work and about the hypocrisy of America’s stigmatization of pornography even as it consumes vast quantities of it.

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In other words, she seems to be trying to make clear that she is an ally of sex workers. Nevertheless, Jones’ project struck a negative chord within that community, and Cox’ brief involvement pulled her right into the fray.

“Just what the world needs. Another movie where non SWers debate whether sex work is exploitative or empowering,” tweeted one person, as noted by E!

That person then challenged Cox’ involvement by adding, “This project is everything you’re supposedly against. Stop trying to tell sw stories by ignoring and doxxing them.”

Another called out Hollywood for “still doing SWer documentaries without talking to actual sex workers.”

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Jones’ play takes on the sex industry directly, examining it as an “intersection of race, feminism, power and economics in our current cultural climate,” per Deadline. Her documentary will explore the “inequality of criminal justice, race, sexism and poverty through the lens of the debate around the sex industry.”

The question the documentary will be exploring, according to The Hollywood Reporter, “Is sex work exploitative or empowering?”

For her part, Jones asked people via tweet to keep “an open mind about the project before judging it.” She also expressed no hard feelings for Cox backing away, telling her, “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.”

She further asked for all those “outraged” critics to “give Laverne her space.”

Further, in response to many of the concerns that sex workers will not be voiced or represented in her film, Jones tweeted that she is “committed to deep listening to folks with lived experience, not only in my interviews, but also in those we hire behind the scenes.”

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“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,” said Jones. “My sisters in the sex industry are no exception”

But even this statement has been met with outrage and doubt that Jones can or will fairly and accurately represent the industry. They were also calling for the removal of Rashida Jones and Streep from the project, as well.

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