The “ethics” of sex work have been in question since the beginning of time. Yet in Jezebel, the morality of the trade is rarely in question, and it certainly isn’t the focus.
Viewers meet nineteen year old Tiffany suffocated— suffocated from a crowded living situation, suffocated from worries about her sick mom and suffocated in a world where it seems she has no control over what any given day looks like. Her sister Sabrina (Numa Perrier, also writer and director of the film) is taking care of five: herself, Tiffany, their brother Dominic, their younger sister Juju and Sabrina’s boyfriend David. In a late ’90s Las Vegas, a city that thrives on gambling and lust, we find Tiffany’s sister scraping for enough money for next week’s rent.
In their small apartment, that emulates more of a motel, it’s no secret that the head of household is a phone sex worker. While she works the phones, David rarely expresses judgement, while Dominic can rarely keep quiet about his distaste for Sabrina’s job—though that job is what financially keeps him afloat.
After Sabrina encourages Tiffany to apply for a job as a cam girl and Tiffany accepts the job, viewers follow her on a rollercoaster of lessons and she learns the game of online sex work. She faces a number of trials in dealing with racist customers—and ignorant coworkers—along with a manipulative boss. Her troubles extended to her home life where she and her sister were the only two breadwinners for a chunk of time. Yet and still, a once shy Tiffany blossoms into a more confident woman who knows how to fiercely manipulate clients’ thirst for the mere idea of sex in pursuit of cash.
We learn her newfound confidence and embrace of her sexuality couldn’t beat her big heart when she falls for a customer, Bobby, who frequents her cam line. Tiffany’s vulnerability with Bobby reminds viewers that her job is just that, her job.
Jezebel’s scenery didn’t vary much past the family’s apartment and where she worked, and while it felt like a win to see Tiffany transition to a more comfortable life than we initially meet her in, it feels like we only get to know Tiffany for a mere moment. Her growth took main stage while her future lingered. But maybe that was the point.
This film was screened as part of the Black Harvest Film Festival’s 25th year screening.