Sunday night, Starz premiered the second season of The Girlfriend Experience. The series follows two different sex workers offering clients the eponymous “girlfriend experience,” which is more than just the physical act of sex. As the name suggests, there’s also an emotional and psychological component as well.
For an obsessed TV viewer like me, it feels as though Girlfriend is only the latest show of 2017 to explore sex work. There was already March’s Harlots, September’s The Deuce, and even Top Of The Lake: China Girl, which followed the investigation into a sex worker’s violent murder.
Still, there were shows before the likes of Harlots and Girlfriend Experience that delved into the topic du jour long before they were a glint in some TV executive’s eye. To help put these series in context, we put together a gallery of the many ways modern television has portrayed sex work over the years. Keep reading for the TV education you didn’t know you needed.